Rhys Darby

Comedian Rhys Darby on life in New Zealand

Rhys Darby: Keeping a cool hand - er, head - for auditions

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Pilot season puts an expectant buzz in the Los Angeles air.

James Dean, the 1950s heart-throb in Giant, strikes a pose reminiscent of Rhys Darby esquire.
James Dean, the 1950s heart-throb in Giant, strikes a pose reminiscent of Rhys Darby esquire.

Pilot season is in full swing here in Los Angeles. Thousands of actors and actresses are zipping around town in their hybrid cars anxiously going over their lines while sipping coffees in the traffic. Auditions are happening in remote studio bungalows on every side of town. There's a kind of buzz this time of year. I think it's the sense of hope that's in the air.

I've done my fair share of auditions already, managing to get down to the final stages of two of them. I've come to realise that the only way to get through these things is to have fun.

Of course it helps that I very rarely take anything seriously and that all my auditions are for comedies. I'm up for male parts (mostly), usually odd characters, losers or geeks. I waltz on into the waiting room, sign the register with the word "present" and sit amongst my peers.

We eye each other up while exchanging pleasantries. Everyone has their scripts out as they pace and mouth their lines. I stand in the corner scriptless but not scared, leaning up against the wall with one leg cocked.

If I had a cowboy hat on I'd look like James Dean from Giant but I don't have a cowboy hat on. Not this time. I'm cool though, I keep telling myself. Cool and confident like Cool Hand Luke. Why was his hand so cool anyway? Maybe he jammed it in the freezer door?

I can tell some of the other actors recognise me from something but they're all too focused to recall. "You're thinking of James Dean," I say.

At that moment, though, I've blown it. My voice has been revealed. It's me. The Aussie guy, or is he from New Foundland?

"Ah Mr Darby ..." the casting director arrives "... we've been expecting you."

Now I'm in a Bond movie. Good, about time.

"How's it going?" I reply.

"Can you give us an American accent for this role?"

"I could," I say, "but I won't. I feel that this character is from New Zealand."

"But ... it's set in ancient Rome."

"There were some ancient New Zealanders in ancient Rome," I reply. "In fact my great-great-great grandfather was the governor of Atlantis."

The long and the short of it is that I didn't end up getting that part. But hey, I'm a Kiwi crusader, what can I say. It's my mission to get the New Zealand accent into a Hollywood show. I'm proud of the way we talk and I'm here to represent it.

Kiwis are everywhere, they're in every city of the world. I've checked. We have a voice ... it's a bit of a funny one at times but it's one that I want to promote. On the way out I wish my fellow actors well.

Especially the guy by the door dressed in a toga. I smile and give him one of my special handshakes, no doubt leaving him thinking ... "wow that guy's got a cool hand".

- NZ Herald

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