Casting Director’s Shame. An Actor’s Reward. | Answers for Actors

One lightweight. Two Mai Tais. A lemon vodka potion. A scarlet blushing incident.

Oh the shame….

Paul Russell
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One lightweight. Two Mai Tais. A lemon vodka potion. A scarlet blushing incident.

Oh, the shame….

Recently I had dinner and drinks with an ol’ friend, his partner, and my hubby. We were getting quite happy during Happy Hour at a poshy P.F. Chang’s.

After I downed far too much happiness my friend J.P., a former actor from my summer stock days, suggested we skip over to the neighboring Barnes & Noble for desert.

Sure. Why not? J.P.’s an executive for the bookseller and with a flash of his corporate card he gets a gracious discount when visiting a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble. Plus, I was feeling mightily happy and the tony mall we were at, boasting a Tiffany’s and similar mortgage busting shop fronts, suddenly seemed affordable in my Mai Tai haze.

Weaving our way into the Barnes & Noble my diner dates head for the café. I scurry to an escalator, slide on up to the second floor, and make my way to the performing arts section to visit ‘my first born.’ Something I do whenever I visit a bookstore. I go and find ACTING: Make It Your Business. If the cover is not facing the customer I turn it out so the title can’t be missed.

I jaunt back to the café. J.P. asked where I’d been.

“Visiting my child,” I gleefully replied.

“Did you turn it out?” he asked. J.P.’s tone was very accusatory.

I bashfully admitted my shamelessness.

J.P. glared at me. “We hate when authors do that.” He then turned to the barista behind the café counter (who really wasn’t interested with our drivel) and announced, “Do you know what he did? He turned his book out!” The barista had more pressing matters to attend to like my Vanilla Frap.

J.P. then pulled me over to a stern looking, gray-haired fellow behind the semi-circular information counter. I felt like I was about to be placed into detention by the assistant principal. When arriving at the owlish man J.P. loudly proclaimed, “We have an author here. He wants to sign his book.”

What?! my inner shyness screamed in my sloshed skull. Couldn’t I just enjoy the sweet silkiness of my Vanilla Bean Frap in inebriated bliss?


I was instructed to retrieve ‘my child’ which I did sheepishly. When I returned like a dog apologetically returning his master’s hidden slippers, I was handed a large, black marker and ordered to sign my book. I could have just scribbled my name hastily like a bulging breasts-Reality TV-bimbo who had a ghost writer pen her ‘wisdom’ of twenty-something years of tanning. But I’m a fair-skinned Virgo. I crisp in the sun. And I worry that offering one hundred and ten percent efforts might be considered lazy. So with Mai Tais teasing my sensibilities I penned a suggestive sentence or two. No one will see this right?

I handed the book back to the manager.

“We need to get you a sticker,” he began, “and an easel.”


“See,” J.P. merrily chimed, “you get a sticker and an easel. So everyone can see your book!”

The manager placed a green ‘Author Signed Copy’ sticker on the cover of ACTING: Make It Your Business and then placed the book on an acrylic easel. Stickered book and easel were then prominently displayed on the information desk counter.

Oh God. I just wanted to slide down into my straw and disappear into my vanilla bliss. All I did was turn out my book.

J.P. (who has been very generous in booking me into Barnes & Nobles across the country for book signings) wasn’t being vindictive for my indulgent book turning. No, he was teaching me something that authors are supposed to do. Apparently when books are signed by an author the book cannot be returned by the bookstore to the publisher (Penguin Random House). J.P. instructed that during my future (non-event) visits to bookstores I, as an author, should always request to sign copies of my book. Whether or not I’ll have the ambition to do such when venturing into quickly vanishing booksellers while seeking a read for my own enjoyment…I don’t know. But here’s how my embarrassment can benefit you.

Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!I’m not divulging here what I signed in that copy of ACTING: Make It Your Business. But it’s way more than just my name. You want to read my sloshed salutation and call the book your own? You’ll have to purchase it at the Barnes & Noble, The Shops at Riverside Square, Route 4, River Edge, NJ.

This copy is unlike any I signed.  Mai Tais and egg rolls were to blame.

My (ashamed) Best,

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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 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

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ACTING: Make It Your Business

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