If Brad Pitt and John Travolta were somehow fused in the cloning lab, the result would look something like David Bryson, 28, an actor who — when he ventured to Los Angeles in 1991 — seemed to have the stuff movie stars are made of. Unfortunately, he also had the typical hopeful’s experience in Hollywood, which he’s chronicled in a manuscript (as yet unpublished, natch) entitled The Starving Actor’s Guide to Starving. This excerpt is culled from 1993, the year Bryson began doing extra work full-time, hoping to join the Screen Actors Guild; three SAG ”vouchers” — earned by speaking a line, doing stand-in work, or filling in for an absent SAG member — are required to join the union. ”If you don’t have your SAG card, you’re less than nobody,” Bryson explains. ”If you have it, you’re just nobody.” Here, a year in the life of a ”nobody.”
January 26 LA LAW
Played a reporter in a courtroom scene. Susan Dey was struggling with a monologue and was on her seventh or eighth take when a grip’s (lighting guy) beeper went off. The director blew her top.
January 27 I’LL DO ANYTHING
A long boring day at a strip mall out in Agoura Hills. Saw my first star, Nick Nolte (no offense, Susan). Fifteen people on the set were given lines, and that was good for the morale of the extras. Everybody also said that a lot of people on the Sliver set last week were given lines. I have SAG fever.
January 30 NFL EXPO
I was the Washington Redskins’ mascot, so I had to walk around in a 10-pound suit and a 3-foot-tall foam head. It scratched me, and I could hardly see out of it, plus I had a cold. I was praying for death and wondering how I got myself into this situation.
January 4 MELROSE PLACE
Beach scenes on the Santa Monica Pier. It was a really hot day, and I decided to catch a nap under the entrance to the wardrobe trailer. I later found out that Heather Locklear went in for a costume change and was startled to see me there. She had to be reassured that I was with the show and not a homeless guy. At lunchtime she was the only star who stayed to eat with the crew. She said to me, ”You’re the homeless guy, aren’t you?” I said: ”Yeah, that was me. I usually only scare women when I’m awake.” She laughed and sat down not far from me. She was amenable to my dumb questions about how she juggled parts on T.J. Hooker and Dynasty when she was doing both shows at the same time. Did I mention how good-looking she is in person?
February 6 HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX
A hot, boring Saturday at Union Station in downtown L.A. I kept hoping that this would be the day I’d get my first SAG voucher. It wasn’t to be. The highlight was watching Charlie Sheen get rained on.
February 8 CONEHEADS
I was seated next to Chris Farley in a scene. I told him my girlfriend and I were going to be in New York over the weekend and asked him whether he could get us tickets to Saturday Night Live. He said he’d already given his tickets away. Never hurts to try.
February 12 WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT
On the Universal backlot, where I’d always dreamed of working. I played a soldier, and they gave me a haircut. Now I looked like everybody else in L.A. — long on top, short in back. It was a scene where Angela Bassett, as Tina Turner, comes in on the bus and is greeted by her mom and sister. I was supposed to get off the bus, grab my luggage, and move on. On the seventeenth take, Angela and I smacked into each other. The director went ballistic, but Angela spoke up and said it was her fault. That was really cool of her.