Rat, Dragon, Pig?

This week: Dragon tongue-in-cheek

One of my students fumed that the Chinese have the gall in 2010 to egg-roll their New Year over St. Valentine. That got me to thinking (dangerous no?).

There was a little known Chinese-American actor who made a career as the stand-in for Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan and on occasion, when an assistant director was desperate, Lucy Lu. An efficient stand-by for standing in, Stan Bai, had great skill for holding still on the marks of his better known peers. This was all to end in 2008. His life was stamped out tragically at the Santa Monica Pier arcade while working his civilian job as operator of Whack-A-Dragon.

Mourning relatives soon discovered that Stan Bai had another love in addition to acting. Chinese astrology. Hi Bai, while emptying his brother’s one room studio in West Hollywood, discovered a notebook in which Stan had married ancient Chinese principles of astronomy begun in the Han Dynasty to the basic personality types found among thespians. It was Hi Bai’s hope to have his brother’s work published as a legacy. But publishers, who found some of the material contentious, also did not respond favorably to the questionably titled manuscript, Actors Are Animals.

Below is a bit of what has leaked through the industry since Stan Bai moved on:

Rabbit (1951 Feb 6 to Jan 26, 1952  ||  1963 Jan 25 to Feb 12, 1964  ||  1975 Feb 11 to Jan 30, 1976  ||  1987 Jan 29 to Feb 16, 1988  ||  1999 Feb 16 to Feb 4, 2000)

Caring and hates conflict. Peace-makers with many friends. Dislike being the center of attention.

Forever the stand-in, extra, understudy or worse; the demur but sunny actor hired to fill the bare reaches of a stage when the scenery budget has been slashed. The one shoulder upon whom everyone with a problem and/or a cheating lover-of-the-week cries upon. Never one for the politics of entertainment this type is known to leave the business for a pair of pruning shears at the nearest nursery.

Dragon (1952 Jan 27 to Feb 13, 1953  ||  1964 Feb 13 to Feb 1, 1965  ||  1976 Jan 31 to Feb 17, 1977  ||  1988 Feb 17 to Feb 5, 1989  ||  2000 Feb 5 to Jan 23, 2001)

Confident, hardworking and always strive to be at the top. Full of energy, determined and will inspire other people. Doesn’t like routine. Excited by new projects and new faces. Popular and fun-loving.

The leading man or ingénue who will flirtatiously share with others a cup of Mocha Latte Grande but is frigid against anyone nudging into their spotlight or camera shot. The one who looks at your costume and proclaims, ‘Oh we can do better than that’ and then rushes to the costume shop to design, sew, and fit you a new ensemble all-the-while updating their Facebook status heralding the most recent reviewer who is infatuated with their talents. Don’t get too close to this one. They’re restless and often in a project for only a week before getting bored; contacting their agent asking what their contract out is. While simultaneously pondering how to gently break your heart with the, “It’s not you, it’s me’ routine.

This type generally remains in the business but often requires a publicist to insist to the press that; “It was a look-alike and not my client who was drunken and bare with the governor in that video.”

Snake (1953 Feb 14 to Feb 2, 1954  ||  1965 Feb 2 to Jan 20, 1966  ||  1977 Feb 18 to Feb 6, 1978  ||  1989 Feb 6 to Jan 26, 1990  ||  2001 Jan 24 to Feb 11, 2002)

The charmer. Good thinkers. Loves the finer things in life, so only the best is good enough.

The journey-man/woman actor who plays the supporting roles but is often found trailing a producer to promote a rise in stature and pay on the next project the producer engages in. The coy diva (male or female) who while toiling as an extra sweetly demands sparkling water – chilled and in a carafe — from craft services. But when their wants are not fulfilled by others the snake will work quietly behind the scenes to bring about a bite that will cease the ambitions of the unsuspecting.

Often known to leave acting to become producers or talent agents.

Horse (1954 Feb 3 to Jan 23, 1955  ||  1966 Jan 21 to Feb 8, 1967  ||  1978 Feb 7 to Jan 27, 1979  ||  1990 Jan 27 to Feb 14, 1991  ||  2002 Feb 12 to Jan 31, 2003)

Popular. Very hardworking and independent. Will work on and on until a job is finished. Very intelligent, ambitious and expects to succeed. Can cope with several projects at once. Easily falls in love.

The company nymph. Has more romances than Harlequin has novels. The actor who during a ten-out-of-ten tech rehearsal calls out at the end of the tenth hour, “Let’s keep going people! Ten more hours! Go team!” The actor whom every one — when they aren’t searching for a gun to shoot said actor dead because of his/her enthusiasm — wants to bed for his/her enthusiasm.

Often stays in the business long after the business has left them.

Goat (1955 Jan 24 to Feb 11, 1956  ||  1967 Feb 9 to Jan 29, 1968  ||  1979 Jan 28 to Feb 15, 1980  ||  1991 Feb 15 to Feb 3, 1992  ||  2003 Feb 1 to Jan 21, 2004)

Artistic and good-natured. Inclined to worry too much. Peace-lovers who prefer to avoid disagreements. Others may put upon them.

The actor who is always asking others for an opinion to determine every miniscule life and/or artistic choice. The actor who constantly takes up everyone’s time asking the director in rehearsal, “But I don’t understand. Could you explain that for us all again?” The thespian who is surprised to discover movie ticket receipts used as tax deductions will not cause IRS agents to tap his/her phone conversations. Often one for finding the zen of life and art, these actors can generally be found sprawled about on the floor of the green room during half-hour in a tantric position that interferes with your chakra.

If the goat remains in the business they’re the ones who quietly know (wherever they go) where to find ingredients for ‘Grandma’s Special Cookies’ and at least two, 24-hour convenience stores that sell both organic, fat-free yogurt and six packs of Amstel Light.

Monkey (1956 Feb 12 to Jan 30, 1957  ||  1968 Jan 30 to Feb 16, 1969  ||  1980 Feb 16 to Feb 4, 1981  ||  1992 Feb 4 to Jan 22, 1993  ||  2004 Jan 22 to Feb 8, 2005)

Very clever, but mischievous. Love a challenge and can wriggle out of difficult situations by thinking through difficult problems. Highly successful and well-liked.

The affable actor-mole. The one who when you’re not looking will go up to the 1st assistant director and politely execute a well-reasoned theory for why their character should be having all the dialogue in the scene leaving your role ripped of speech. Also the conniving prankster that is your understudy who gleefully brings cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery to your dressing room but, unknown to you, the generally delicious and creamy chocolate icing has been supplanted with Ex-lax.

Often leaves entertainment to pursue politics.

Rooster (1957 Jan 31 to Feb 17, 1958  ||  1969 Feb 17 to Feb 5, 1970  ||  1981 Feb 5 to Jan 24, 1982  ||  1993 Jan 23 to Feb 9, 1994  ||  2005 Feb 9 to Jan 28, 2006)

Hardworking, strong-willed and confident. Finely dressed with a taste for pageantry, the Rooster enjoys a lively, outgoing manner, and is most candid in speech. Enjoys being the center of attention and loves flattery. Often outspoken and hates criticism of themselves though they can be inclined to find fault with other people.

The actor who believes that every director they have ever worked with was a fool. And every critic who wasn’t enamored with them was a sports writer with frustrated community theater ambitions. Often enlightens others online as a serial message board hoarder on theater chat boards. One who leans fashion forward this actor will always be complaining to costumes that what has been forced upon their shoulders makes them look like a yard-sale elephant.

Eventually departs acting and becomes a bitter casting director.

Dog (1958 Feb 18 to Feb 7, 1959  ||  1970 Feb 6 to Jan 26, 1971  ||  1982 Jan 25 to Feb 12, 1983  ||  1994 Feb 10 to Jan 30, 1995  ||  2006 Jan 29 to Feb 3, 2007)

Faithful, honest and ready to serve others. Believes in truth and justice and is loyal to friends. Always willing to listen to people’s problems and is able to gain the respect of others. Trustworthy.

If union; almost always chosen as the AEA deputy. The actor with the make-up kit plastered with political campaign and social cause stickers. They are also the actor who – while you’re waiting in the wings to go onstage – will command, “Sponsor me in the run to save beavers.” At home; in their trailer; dressing room; or cast house cubicle is a candle-lit shrine to Susan Sarandon.

If they remain in the business they vow to follow in the actor-activist footsteps of Janeane Garofalo.

Pig (1947 Jan 22 to Feb 9, 1948  ||  1959 Feb 8 to Jan 27, 1960  ||  1971 Jan 27 to Jan 15, 1972  ||  1983 Feb 13 to Feb 1, 1984  ||  1995 Jan 31 to Feb 18, 1996)

Honest, peace-loving and makes good friends. Will try not to argue and rarely lose their temper. Loves the good things in life and are very willing to share with others. Falls in love easily. Can be untidy at home. Enjoys gossip

The actor everyone goes to when they want to know who’s single, whom is cheating on whom, and who is a walking advert for a requisite shot of penicillin. When back stage fights break out they’re the neutral-party provider of the conciliatory Entenmanns’s and Freihofer’s spread in the green room. Sadly they will always be the person in the company who pines for the emotionally detached, dark and moody techie. Get to know this one if you enjoy day trips of antiquing and outlet malls followed by a visit to the nearest Red Lobster (that is… if you can ignore that their car of which you are squeezed into doubles as their dirty laundry hamper).

This type often remains in the business because they are basically stubborn against defeat and death (which ever comes first).

Rat (1948 Feb 10 to Jan 28, 1949 || 1960 Jan 28 to Feb 14, 1961 || 1972 Feb 15 to Feb 2, 1973 ||  1984 Feb 2 to Feb 19, 1985 || 1996 Feb 19 to Feb 6, 1997)

Ambitious. Clever. Hard-working and imaginative. Not always sure of themselves and rarely plan for the future.

The actor who is always asking if you know of any upcoming auditions; and would you mind if they borrow your copies of Back Stage along with your black market Breakdowns. They’re the thespians that rehearse current character and dialect upon unsuspecting civilians and then break the role play to question the wary, “Was that realistic?”

If they leave the business this type has been known to toil as a role player in the sex -worker industry.

Ox (1949 Jan 29 to Feb 16, 1950 || 1961 Feb 15 to Feb 4, 1962 || 1973 Feb 3 to Jan 22, 1974  ||  1985 Feb 20 to Feb 8, 1986  ||  1997 Feb 7 to Jan 27, 1998)

Born leaders who will work hard to achieve their aims. Dependable, good organizers and not easily influenced by others. Patient, loyal to their friends and expect loyalty in return. Tend to have lasting relationships.

The actor who rallies everyone together to work towards a common goal and in doing so e-mails you a multi-page syllabus PDF detailing your duties towards that end. They will be the one to supportively laugh each time you blow the same line but when off-stage/camera will slap you jovially on the back and then hand you a newly purchased copy of Improving Your Memory for Dummies.

If they remain in the business they often become that rare director who has an original idea.

Tiger (1950 Feb 17 to Feb 5, 1951  ||  1962 Feb 5 to Jan 24, 1963  ||  1974 Jan 23 to Feb 10, 1975  ||  1986 Feb 9 to Jan 28, 1987  ||  1998 Jan 28 to Feb 15, 1999)

Warm and generous to the people they love. Confident, risk takers and dislike taking orders. Good at seeing problems, but less able to see the solutions.

The actor who before the first day of rehearsal has blocked and staged all their scenes. When implementing those choices in rehearsal they’re the one who offer a look of surprise to their fellow actors and state, “That’s not where I have you in my script.” The note-giving actor who comes up to you during rehearsal and says, “Are you sure you want to play the scene that way?” Then when pressed for details and a solution respond with, “I don’t know… just better, that’s all.”  Co-workers tend to forgive this type and their behavior because he/she is the one that after rehearsal who buys the first round of drinks for all.

This type will often remain successful in the business to the bewilderment of colleagues.

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.


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