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Ready for My Close-up

by Robin Rieger

I’m not a news reporter (anymore), but I will play one on TV. After a few auditions for television news reporter roles in different shows for the fall season, I managed to land two parts. At this point, I can’t disclose any details about either production but I can say both experiences left me very excited about trying something new and having some success. I know ... being a television news reporter isn’t new to me, but memorizing lines, going to auditions, meeting casting agents and directors was all new. It was nerve-wracking and incredibly fun.

The first role I successfully auditioned for had me scrambling to find someone to get our kids after school since I had to be at my appointment late in the afternoon on a weekday. Dressing wasn’t hard; I dug out what I used to wear locally to cover stories for CBS 3. At the casting agent’s office, I nervously waited with two other women to audition for the same role. Others came before and after us; there is always plenty of competition. As well as I had rehearsed at home, I felt like I stumbled quite a bit when my turn came. I thought I could chalk that attempt up to “better luck next time.”

“You got a callback.”

Those were the words of my excited agent about a week later after hearing from the casting director. I was to go to the show’s production office and do a second audition, this time in front of the director. Nerves times 10! I thought that audition went better than the first and had that confirmed when my agent called to say I was “pinned.” What that means is the director liked me, but the network had to approve me as well.

“Are you sitting down?”

That’s what my agent said a week or so later when I answered her call (hands free) in my car.

“Yes, I’m driving,” I replied.
“We’ll, don’t wreck your car; you got it!” she exclaimed.
Excitement mixed with relief and a little bit of anxiety made my stomach flip, but I managed to stay on the road.

Shooting my scene (I got it all correct on my third take) wasn’t much different than what I would do when covering a TV news story, standing in front of a camera with a microphone and the activity behind me. However, what you see in a scene for a few minutes in a television show takes a lot of people several hours to set up. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get my part right quickly. While I always did my own hair and makeup for my former job, a makeup artist and hair stylist created the look for my part after I put on one of two dresses chosen for me by the wardrobe department. It was quite an opportunity to see how it’s all done. A production assistant carried the heels I was supposed to wear and a down coat to keep me warm.

A “cast” chair was brought out for me so I could sit while I waited the final few minutes until my scene was ready to shoot. While I loved my “real” TV job a lot, I would have enjoyed it even more with all of these people and perks nearby. Usually I’d be hoping to get through a live shot at a crime scene before the police left ... and if it was snowing, raining or sweltering ... I was on my own.

I went home after that first job on Cloud 9 and can tell you the second audition and job went much the same way. Both experiences reinforced what I had been telling myself since last April when my official TV news reporting career ended: “Another door would open.” I have been trying new things and it’s been the most freeing feeling.

In a year, I have gone from being someone who felt more comfortable always driving everywhere I wanted to go to catching the New Jersey Transit River Line to Trenton then hopping on an Amtrak train to New York. I would take a cab to the audition and reverse my steps right back to my front door before or shortly after our kids got home from school. It’s funny that the round trip might take four or five hours, the auditions usually last less than 10 minutes.

That’s probably why most actors live in New York City or L.A.

I don’t consider myself an actor, but I will still look forward to the next audition. I will also keep in mind that while I am anxious to see both shows make air and hope I don’t end up on the edit room floor, I will be OK if that’s the way it goes. The most important part of it all for me has been the satisfying transition to something new, different and oddly enough, comfortably familiar.

Robin Rieger is a former anchor and reporter with CBS 3. A lifelong South Jersey resident, she lives with her husband, Philadelphia 76ers Radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom McGinnis, and their two children in Burlington County.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 2 May, 2014).
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