Chantel Riley – From Open Call To Broadway
Chantel Riley was working at an insurance agency in Toronto,CAN and pondering if she should become a dance instructor at the school where she had studied. Then IT happened. A friend told her about and open call for Disney. For THE LION KING.
Let’s put a hold on Chantel Riley’s story for just a second. Time for a reality check.
Open Call – Cattle Call
Google search the term OPEN CALL or alternatively CATTLE CALL and, if you’re an inexperienced, hopeful actor/singer/dancer, prepare to be jolted into reality.
Open Calls are just that – OPEN. To anyone who fits the basic profile of the talent sought – age, gender, height, body type, sometimes even ethnicity can all be relevant to what the producers are searching for.
Still since we are talking Open Calls, there is almost a certainty that if the casting call specified the producers are looking only for blonde women at least 6 feet tall, there will be a certain number of hopefuls who show up not even coming close to the desired specs. They’ve heard the stories about actors getting discovered in stranger ways and JUST MAYBE THEY will be the lucky one who gets picked ahead of the mass of actors who DO actually meet the desired spec. Stop it. Throw cold water on your face and get a grip on reality.
Chantel Riley has been in THE LION KING on BROADWAY for several years as of this writing and now she’s landed her first role in a major Hollywood film. RACE from Focus Features is the film about American track star Jesse Owens and his experiences at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. After seeing the trailer for this film several times recently, RACE has the look of a good film and hopefully, a big hit.
Chantel Riley, Paging Chantel Riley
Typically everyone is told to arrive at the same time. The actor (or the actor’s parents) will sign in and take a seat. Then they will typically wait. And wait. And wait.
According to Chantel Riley, when she arrived at the open call she attended, it was packed. She signed in. And she waited. Just like everyone else.
At some point, if the actor is actually in the ballpark physically, she/he will be called to audition. If the audition goes well, the actor may get a callback. Or, as with any other audition, the actor may be terrific, but just not what the producers are seeking. Such is the nature of the business.
That’s the good news.
Open Calls – The Bad News
The bad news is that the experienced, trained talent is grouped, at least initially, in with the likely majority of ‘talent’ who have little or no training and a similar amount of experience. This is one reason experienced, trained actors stay away from open calls. There is no filter for who is allowed to attend.
I’m not even going to get into the total SCAM OPEN CALLS that purport to be casting for Disney or some other reputable entity when in fact they don’t. Does that really happen? Again, just take to Google or your favorite search engine and do some research.
The bottom line on Open Calls and Cattle Calls is this: If you have the time and patience and if you have little training and no agent representation, then go for it. If you have training and experience but you’re not booking work then you might want to consider an open call. As long as no one asks you for any money, ANY MONEY, all you’re likely to be out is your time. You might even get some good from the experience.
Back to the Chantel Riley story
Chantel Riley was working at an insurance agency in Toronto,CAN and pondering if she should become a dance instructor at the school where she had TRAINED. (Keep that word TRAINED in mind.)
Then IT happened. A friend told her about and open call for Disney.
Chantel Riley was a talented, TRAINED dancer/singer but a largely untrained actor at the time. Still he had the desire backed by her extraordinary talent and she was able to perform at a high level under a stressful situation.
Following her initial audition, Chantel Riley received a callback. She came back with prepared to perform some new material she had been given. That callback went well but still she would wait to see if this open call was the beginning of a new adventure, maybe a new career, or just a false alarm, an afternoon diversion. Promise with no payoff. That’s certainly what it was for the majority of the other performers who waited their turns with Chantel Riley that day in Toronto.
But the call DID come and Chantel Riley was flown to Germany to AUDITION again, this time for the German company of THE LION KING.
After learning THE LION KING show IN GERMAN, learning it phonetically as she did not speak German, Chantel Riley joined the cast of THE LION KING and performed as NALA in that company for a year.
Then the opportunity came to AUDITION again, for the BROADWAY company. Yes, she had been hired and had been performing the character for a year and still she had to audition again to make the BROADWAY cast.
Chantel Riley – RACE and THE LION KING
What a story, eh? Yes, the improbable…almost impossible it seems, does happen now and again. It happened for Chantel Riley.
She’s been in THE LION KING on BROADWAY for several years as of this writing and now she’s landed her first role in a major Hollywood film. RACE from Focus Features is the film about American track star Jesse Owens and his experiences at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. After seeing the trailer for this film several times recently, RACE has the look of a good film and hopefully, a big hit.
Let’s Be Clear
The Chantel Riley success story that I’ve briefly described above is a LONG SHOT. A very long shot. Even with great talent Chantel Riley’s story could have had a very different outcome.
I say that not to be negative to put some caution out to all the hopefuls who will hear her story but lack her talent and work ethic. If you have THE DREAM, by all means GO FOR IT. But go for it with training and preparation.
Give yourself a chance to rise above the masses of people who will show up at an open call untrained and unprepared for what is required.
Chantel Riley has a great story. Let it inspire you but not deceive you into thinking that what she has accomplished has been easy or for the faint of heart. Could you learn a book and a score in a foreign language, perform that show not really understanding what you were saying and do it convincingly enough to remain employed until the language barrier became a lesser issue and you could finally begin to rock your talent? That’s what Chantel Riley did and I have great admiration for that kind of hard work and great talent.
So YOU Want To Be On Broadway?
Work hard. Maximize your talent. Always keep training. And follow your dreams knowing you’re ready to do your best.
MAYBE,just maybe, you can be the next Chantel Riley. And maybe I’ll get the chance to tell your story one day.
That would be really cool. Go for it.
Actor Michael Bott
Join me in early March for Actors Talk Podcast Episode 66 when I’ll be interviewing British actor, Michael Bott.