Planet Television

I auditioned for a commercial recently and was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement as to the advertising copy and the product. Er…excuse me? I didn’t get the job.

But I did do a small gig for a forthcoming TV series last month. And just in case, I’m not going to say which one. The role was, as we say in the trade, a “Telling Cameo”. It was that of a British bio-hazard technician, and I had a two-week beard growth when I did the casting.

I got the hoped-for call from my agent’s assistant, Letitia Sideways. This is the call that exposes you as an actor. Inevitably you think to yourself, “They want me…?!” And it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

“And they asked if you would mind shaving?” said Letitia.

“No problem.”

So, they didn’t like the beard, huh? I purchased a razor and some shaving cream. I filled the sink with warm water, and as I lifted the razor, some instinct made me put it down and call my agent again just to check. “They do want me to shave, right?”

“No!” she said, mildly surprised. “They don’t want you to shave.”

“They don’t want me to shave?”


“They want me not to shave?”

“Exactly! Don’t shave.”

“On no account am I to shave?”

“That’s what I said.” said Letitia, pleased to get the point across.

So I didn’t shave.

A similar episode had happened once, some twenty years past. This was when I was a young father and sleep was at a premium. I went to an audition for a commercial for cough medicine, and having been too tired to shave for a month or more, was beginning to look like a character from a 19th century Russian novel. And having been confident that they had not liked the look at the audition, had returned home and shaved the whole thing off, only for the phone to go half an hour later with the news that I was the lucky actor that had been selected.

“Great!” I said, “I’ve just shaved off the beard.”

“Oh.” said my agent. “Oh dear.”

“They wanted it? The beard?”

“They loved it. They said specially.”

“How long before the shoot?”

“A month.”

So I didn’t shave for the next month, and I did the commercial for cough medicine. Nobody was coy about disclosure back then.

Anyway, this time just past with the TV gig, having had experience with how a beard can get you work (or lose it), I stayed my barber’s hand. And just as well.

In due course I arrived on set and donned the bio-hazard suit, along with the character. I played a British bio-hazard guy, bearded as required. 

If you happen to see it, look out for the pivotal scene where a menacing shape emerges from a quarantined ship wrapped in plastic, and takes a few steps along a quayside to report the findings to the brace of lead actors figuring out the latest screen quandary. The bio-hazard suit this enigmatic figure wears includes a helmet with a visor. It’s betraying no secrets of the trade to say that the visor was held open by the cunning use of ‘Gaffer’s tape’. 

My face is visible between the upper nostril, and the lower eyebrow. 

That’s how you’ll know it’s me.

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