“All right, sweetness, tell us your name again.”
“Katherine Price.” She cleared her throat and resisted the urge to rake her hand through her hair. “It’s Katherine Price.”
The red-haired woman with the horn-rimmed glasses and garish pink lipstick glanced at her tablet, then right back at Katherine. “You don’t look like a Katherine Price. Is that a stage name or--?”
“Katherine Price is such a boring name,” said the man sitting next to the lady. His hair was in braids and he was wearing glasses that looked identical to the lady’s. Even his posture was similar: left leg crossed over right and elbow propped on the armrest, fingers framing one side of the face. “So generic, darling.”
Katherine’s stomach churned, like her intestines had turned into a mass of earthworms. Sweat was pooling under her arms despite the antiperspirant she borrowed from her cousin this morning, and rolling down the sides of her body. “It’s my real name. My mother is Filipino and my father is Irish.” She hated having to explain her ethnic background to anyone. “My family and friends call me Kiki.”
“Ah. Kiki Price. Much better.” The red-haired woman nodded. “Good mix. Eurasians are hot right now. What have you got for us today, dear?”
Kiki swallowed, clenching and unclenching her fists at her sides, coaching herself to calm down. “Umm...” Crap, what was it? She’d been rehearsing that monologue non-stop for a week. “It’s from the movie, ‘Monster.’ A monologue by Aileen Wuornos.”
The man, whose name she remembered now was Casey, raised his spa-groomed eyebrows. “Really?” He shared a glance with his partner, then looked back at her. “Are you sure, baby girl? I mean, you don’t exactly look--”
“Oh, let her do it.” The red-haired woman, whose name was Dolores, smiled at Kiki.
With the yellow halogen light beaming down on her and isolating her from everyone else, Kiki sweated a little more and chewed on her lower lip. Why did she have the feeling that the woman was not encouraging her, but goading her? “I have another piece prepared, if you don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s from ‘Election.’ Tracy Flick.”
A wolfish grin crawled across the female casting director’s mouth. “Oh, no no. You’re auditioning for a dramatic role, after all. Let’s hear your Aileen Wuornos.”
Doubts nibbled around the edges of Kiki’s confidence. This morning, she forced her cousin Alita to sit down and watch her one more time before the woman had to rush off to work. To her surprise, Alita grabbed her shoulders afterward, kissed both of her cheeks, and told her she was going to kick ass. Kiki had believed her older cousin was firmly in her mother’s camp. Nina Ramos hadn’t yet forgiven her for majoring in Theatre Arts, instead of Nursing.
She can do this, she can do this. She had zero experience in film, but it couldn’t be that different from theatre, right?
She took a deep breath, bounced up and down on the balls of her feet, while shaking her limbs. Acting! She opened her eyes. She was now an emotionally-damaged woman, a shattered shell of a human being, trying to explain that she was once a girl with dreams.
“I always wanted to be in the movies. When I was little, I thought for sure, one day, I could be a big, big star. Or maybe just beautiful. Beautiful and rich like the women on TV.”
She paused for a dramatic beat, wondering if she made the right choice in copying Charlize Theron’s hoarse, ragged voice and inflection when she played the role that won her an Oscar.
Mortified that her pause might have been too long, making it seem like she forgot her lines, she rushed through the next part. “...yeah, I had a lot of dreams. And I guess you could call me a real romantic because I truly believed that one day, they’d--”
Casey held up his hand. “Child, I’m gonna have to stop you here. According to your bio, your background is in theatre. It’s obvious.”
Because she was cut off just as her monologue was gaining steam, Kiki felt herself deflate like a three-day-old birthday balloon. When she’s in acting mode, she put herself in another mindset and dove deep into the character. Sometimes, it took her a few moments to shake it off.
“You over-enunciate, dear, and your movements are too big. Exaggerated. Your voice is very loud, too.” The male casting director tapped his ear with the tip of his finger. “We like your looks, however. You have that toothsome, small-town JC Penney catalogue look we’re seeking.”
Dolores glanced at her partner before giving Kiki a scrutinizing scan again. “Yeah, I can totally see you on a ‘Have you seen this girl?’ poster. You have the look that gets casted on GAP commercials, for the sake of diversity. Which is perfect for this role, really.”
“We’re just not sure if you have the experience--” Casey started to say.
“Wait!” Kiki said in a panic. She only got this audition because Alita had a makeup artist friend dating a film editor who knew Dolores and had passed along Kiki’s headshot. “I can do vulnerable. I have an Ophelia monologue from Hamlet.”
Casey crinkled his nose and shook his head. “No, not a theater piece. You see, we’re looking for subtlety. This is a very big part, a lead part. You’d have to be able to carry the movie on your own.” He shot Dolores a sidelong glance. “I honestly don’t know why Fincher wants an unknown for this one.”
Dolores rolled her eyes. “It’s for the sake of cinema verité. The girl gets kidnapped as a child, confined to a room, and lives there for several years on her own. David thinks it would be better if the actress didn’t have a familiar face.”
Kiki sighed, her shoulders slumping forward. The call sheet had asked for a woman in her mid-twenties to play someone emotionally battered and bereft of all hope, having endured a lifetime of hardship. That was why she picked the Aileen Wuornos monologue. The call sheet didn’t specify anything else about the project, other than it was a major Hollywood production, and was seeking to cast a fresh face for the female lead.
“Umm… should I go now?” she eked out in a small voice.
The two casting directors who had their heads together and flipping through some headshots, looked up at the same time. They both appeared surprised that she was still standing there.
“Oh. Yes, yes.” Dolores waved her manicured hand in the air, her rings flashing in the dark. “We’ll call you if we need to see you again, dear. Bonne chance!”
Kiki lowered her head and walked out of the audition room. Bile churned in her stomach, threatening to rise up her esophagus, and spew out of her mouth. She didn’t really have anything to eat this morning. Just black coffee and an apple. She still had another seven pounds to lose, after all.
She strode past the long line of women rehearsing their lines to themselves with varying degrees of skill. They were black, white, Asian, Latina, skinny, chubby, blonde, brunette, ginger, and dressed in a myriad of colors. She pretended not to hear the ones who asked her how the audition went.
Normally, she wouldn’t have been so rude because that’s not the way her momma raised her, but she just couldn’t make nice with anyone right now. Her face burned with mortification and her eyes brimmed with tears. She was on the verge of a full-on bawl. She had to get out of the building before she started ugly-crying.
She walked straight into an immovable object that she first believed was a wall. But walls didn’t have arms. Nor did they smell like expensive cologne. With her eyes, she traced the length of the man’s paisley tie, followed it up to a double windsor, the muscled column of the man’s slightly tanned throat, and gasped when she reached his handsome face. Though her knees shook, she took a step back from him, muttering apologies.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she repeated, brushing the front of his tailored suit jacket. Gosh, he was tall. “I didn’t mean to--”
“Well, just bloody pay attention next time,” he snapped in a crisp English accent.
Taken back by his bad attitude, Kiki put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Excuse me, but you weren’t looking where you were going, either.”
He lifted one imperious eyebrow and regarded her with interest glittering in his gray eyes. “I beg your pardon?”
Kiki wished she could take back her words or for the ground to open up and swallow her whole. Alita warned her about shooting her mouth off. She didn’t even know who this guy was. He could be some Hollywood big-shot. His suit looked expensive as hell. “Well, you bumped into me, too.” In for a penny, in for a pound. “You must have seen me coming. Otherwise, who do you think you are, bulldozing people who don’t automatically get out of your way?”
Instead of getting annoyed, he laughed. “I’m Adam Norwood. I just bought this production company.”