Last October, I am let go from the corporate job that I had at the time and I finally see it as my break to return to acting. I was excited to get back on track with landing Theater and Television and Film jobs. Since it was the fall season, Theater happened to be in full swing with Halloween shows so I land a gig in Blackout, a haunted house for six week. I was box office last time, so now being an actor in the show, I already felt like I was on my way back into the arms of my community.
I continued to explore gigs at the same time and I signed up with two background casting companies Casting Networks and Central Casting, the two big names in NYC. They both padded my schedule well with walk on gigs one or two days a week and within 3 weeks I found myself on big names like SVU, so clearly things were happening I thought.
I knew I wasn't quite making big moves yet, but I was happy to think that without learning or line or self taping, I could at least peek further into the world I wanted to storm into. In reality, the days were very hard. Showing up for a 8- 10 hour work day for $100 and a catered lunch proved quickly it wouldn't be sustainable even short term.
I thought about my options and becoming union seemed like the next obvious step in moving up through the ranks as an unrepresented actress, so I pointed all efforts towards joining SAG-AFTRA.
Four weeks after my career return to acting, I saw a casting call looking for a group of girls that looked high school age that would be willing to shave their head. Casting Networks at the time was sending upwards of 40 casting notices a day so, I think I saw it at least 3 times before it occurred to me to really read the details. It said: “18 to look younger or high school aged girls with SHAVED HEADS or willing to shave!”
It was the description though that it was heavily advertised that the role came with $1,000 pay bump and SAG Waiver. I needed a SAG Waiver, well actually, I needed 3 but 1 was a great place to start I thought. The cash certainly caught my eye too and I would find out after the fact, from other background actors on set, that a bump of $1000.00 was nothing to sneeze at. Multiple people I spoke to had claimed to do partially nude, simulated or full frontal for a cash bump much less than a quarter of a thousand dollars, which was always a horror to find out.
So I submitted to the call for the first time and I got an email back from the casting department requesting all my information. I copied in my standard email template with my sizes and pasted in my images and sent it. I was really really nervous, for the first time since returning I felt like I was about to take a step closer to being part of the scene.
I was ecstatic when I got the email back from the casting director asking for a quick phone call with me to confirm the role requirements. Namely, I assumed they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be shifty on my commitment to handing over the biggest part of the deal, my hair. We chatted briefly, I agreed that I was ok with the compensation and to shave my head and she told me that I would receive an email with further instructions once I was confirmed for the role.
When I received that email, what had turned from one step in the right direction turned out to be my winning hit. Not only was I confirmed for the day of shooting and head shaving, but in addition to that, because I truly looked like a high school student at the time, I was also eligible it said for 3 additional days of background work leading up to the big day, and I would receive a union waiver for each additional day.
So there it was 4 union waivers to enter into SAG-AFTRA and $1,000.00. The entire email exchange was happening between guests coming through in the haunted house. I was so thrilled by the news that I set out to scare the crap out of the next person who came into my room in the haunted house in celebration.
Finally two weeks later I was on set and it was a great experience to be treated as a Union actor. All things just generally seemed a bit more organized and intentional when people spoke to us as a group. I appreciated that and it made the first three days of shooting go quickly.
On the big day, my call time was 5:00AM. All the girls met a black transportation van that drove us to set. All of us wrapped in jackets and hats trying to keep our eyes closed a little longer. When we arrived we all walked in and sat at one table. We began introducing ourselves and asking all kinds of questions as the production crew set up the hair and makeup stations around us. Apparently, we were part of the very first call of the day.
“Does anyone know what the scene is?” one girl asked. “I heard we’re field hockey players” another girl answered who had been on set the past 3 days after also also opting to do the additional days like I had.
“Has anyone shaved their head before,” I asked looking around. Three girls at the table had pretty short hair at present and two had in fact shaved it off previously. Even thought I only had chin length hair at the time it was in fact the second longest and naturally, the thickest.
When the hair department was ready, they came over and assessed that I would of course be first because it would take the longest. I laughed and didn’t argue, knowing that my wild thick hair would always be my claim to fame.
They shaved my head and it did in fact take an hour and a half. First they clipped off major sections, then shaved it down with guard after guard until it came to change to a different buzzer all together. Finally someone else jumped in and assisted in holding my head wrinkles apart as they got an even shave all he way down to the skin. The last part was a shock to me, the last stylist told me to take a deep breath and he swabbed my entire head with rubbing alcohol. I swear my soul jumped icy cold out of my body and I will still get chills to this day whenever I remember feeling the nerve endings on the top of my head like I did that day.
The rest of the background was now showing up and their mouths consistently dropped in horror as they observed piles of sheered hair on the floor and cute girls now walking around looking like cue balls. We thought it was quite funny as we had all agreed mutually at the table that our hair would grow back and none of us were stressed to see it go.
We were finally ready, we looked the part, we had our costume on and now we wanted to know what the scene was. A PA came to our table and shuttled us out to our first shoot location, when we arrived the director spoke to us. It was explained that in the story the main character tells someone she has cancer. She is lying though and she tells the lie because she wants a boy to like her. Unfortunately for her, the whole school finds out and people start showing her overwhelming support. Our roles that day were as Field Hockey players that play on her team and we make her a banner, and here it is, WE APPEAR TO HAVE SHAVED OUR HEADS IN SUPPORT.
In the two scenes we filmed that day, the first one appear with our newly saved heads and cheer her on in her fight against cancer and she does not correct us. In the second scene we confront her, because the entire school finds out that she was lying. She leaves unscathed as we hurl insults her way and that wraps it up. Now we weren’t part of any scenes after the fact to see if she has to own up to herself or someone else for her baseless lie but it felt like the scales were tipped without real repercussions.
I cannot speak for anyone else that shaved their head but from my point of view, I could not understand how these scenes were going to aid in painting a picture sympathetic of the main character. Lying about cancer is a terribly selfish thing to do and she was flaunting her privilege not only in being supported by the lie but also by being able to walk away from the mess after the lie is revealed.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the show so high brow that it had a way to level out a misdemeanor such as this quickly? I decided I would have to know more about the show and the character when it aired to find out. It would be graphic and offensive if the tone wasn’t set for a ‘punchline’ such as this to appear. The main character would have to be very obviously flawed and would have to spend considerable time in the show coming back from committing a selfish act. I tried instead to hold onto the idea that maybe the show had an underlying air of satire that was written into the language that I was unaware of without being given a set of sides.
It was the fifth episode in the series it would have appeared in but all scenes with the field hockey team were cut. After watching the first few minutes of the first episode it became abundantly clear to me that what we filmed would be in poor taste if it were to air within the context of the Rom-Com that it was packaged into.
I want to be clear in saying, I think they made the right decision in cutting it if they weren't going to spend the time to unpack the main characters psychology, and I am abundantly proud in whomever made that decision. It was more than obvious to me by the time we finished shooting that it had been written in to be a comedic moment, but from the moment I took on my mark on camera, I knew that it was going to be a very tasteless one if it didn't actually matter to the main character or the plot.
It wasn’t exactly my Wolf of Wall Street moment, shaving my head on camera in the den of wolves but it was exciting to be part of and ultimately I’m very proud of the shows decision to withhold the scene from airing.
Check out another picture from behind the scenes.
Thanks for reading!