Creative Inspiration – One Thing Leads To Another

by M.K. Perkins on November 23, 2012

The idea to write a suspense series about a struggling young actress grew out of my own experiences trying to make it as an actress in New York City. I dreamt of acting in plays by Shakespeare and Chekhov. Instead I walked onto countless soap operas and movies with nary a line, and acted in summer theater that paid barely enough to cover my groceries.  But I had some successes too – like singing Day By Day in Godspell to a standing ovation. I reveled in singing at the Gaslight Club for inebriated patrons calling for more. And then there was the time I almost landed a part on Broadway in Look Homeward Angel (which closed in less than a week, if memory serves me correctly.  Some things just are not meant to be.)

Yet despite the trials and tribulations, these were exciting times I remember with fondness. Everyday I leapt out of bed in anticipation of what might be waiting for me around the corner. Like falling in love with my husband.

He was teaching at Columbia University at the time and I was working on a made-for-television movie starring Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner. I was Penny’s stand-in, which is kind of like being human furniture. All the shots were set up on Rob’s stand-in and me. Then someone shouted “first team,” and we faded into the background while the stars took over. Filming took place all day and all night, winding through different neighborhoods around the city.

One marathon shooting session wrapped up in Columbia’s neighborhood. So I called this guy,  John, I had met recently at a party. When he answered the phone, he politely asked me if I knew what time it was. I didn’t. 6 AM, he pointed out.


Undeterred, he came downstairs and followed our film crew around with his camera. Then he took me to dinner. A year and five months later we were married. So you see, one thing leads to another.


A fledgling actress inspires a writing life

by M.K. Perkins on March 27, 2011

Acting auditions pasted in a spiral notebook Acting auditions pasted in a spiral notebook

I recently came across a small spiral notebook that I used to organize my days the year after I graduated from college – my first year as a professional actress in New York. The cover is made out of medium-blue cardboard, nothing fancy. Inside, I hand-wrote the date on top of each lined page. Obviously I’d never heard of a personal agenda. Many of the pages are blank, testament to my difficulties landing auditions and interviews with casting directors and agents. Some pages contain pasted clippings of open casting calls I planned on attending, cut from the pages of the bibles of the business, BackStage and Show Business. Each week I’d run to the corner newsstand and buy both papers, and then hunker down at a table in the coffee shop down the block from my apartment. Filled with optimism, I’d snip from the papers any auditions I might possibly be right for, however remote my chances, and glue them into the spiral notebook.

But more than casting calls and newspaper clippings lie between the covers of this little book. The joyful self-confidence of youth leaps off the pages, especially those containing names of people I intended to call. No matter that they were some of the most powerful people in show business, I was steadfast in my belief that they would come to the phone and talk to me.

One of those names was Sam Cohn, the most powerful agent in the film business at the time. He happened to be the stepfather of a friend who introduced me to him at a wedding. Several drinks later, he informed me that I would be perfect for the ingénue lead in a new movie by famed director Paul Mazursky. I tried calling him the next day with no success. Little did I know that he had a legendary reputation for never returning phone calls.

Undeterred, I dressed in a daytime facsimile of what I’d worn to the wedding and showed up at his office at the talent agency, I.C.M.

When I asked to see Sam Cohen, I could tell the receptionist was trying hard not to laugh.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.

“No, but tell him his stepdaughter’s friend is outside.”

A smirk broke through her chilly expression as she picked up the phone and called him.

Long story short, he set up an audition with Mazursky for me, which turned into several callbacks before ultimately resulting in a rejection. After learning that I didn’t get the part, I remember sitting down at the counter of a coffee shop, too stunned to order. A strange man seated on the stool next to me asked if I was all right and I found myself pouring my heart out to him. I don’t remember exactly what he said to me, but it had something to do with my being young and having other opportunities, all the platitudes you’d expect from a kind stranger.

Somehow I managed to get up from the counter and, with the resilience of youth, move on with my life. Although I’ll never forget that first searing rejection when I yearned for a life in the theater, I mostly remember my unwavering belief that anything was possible and it would all turn out right in the end.

And ever since those early days, that same confidence resurfaces from time to time, spurring me on to try something new. Like writing a novel about a struggling young actress named Kate Sachs.

What early experiences shaped your writing life?