The Montage Co-Star: A Most Unique Role
This article first appeared in Stage 32 by The Actors Suite founder- Kevin Marshall Pinkney
You’ve seen the scene countless times again and again. Our hero goes on one job interview after another or is giving one job interview after another. The prospects and HR managers are just terrible and bring home the point that our hero is in trouble. Maybe, they are on a date, and we follow them as they burn through Tinder after the breakup halfway in the movie. There are no good men or women out there. Perhaps, they are at a party, and every single person there is not interesting, completely self-absorbed, or petty. All of these roles are co-star roles filled by actors, or star actors looking to make a cameo. These scenes are usually rooted in comedy, with strong opinions from your character, and about your character. They are there to make a point, and our hero is faced with a decision on how to move forward. Keep going the route they’re on now, or change course? Here are the traits you’ll find in these roles, and how to effectively audition for them. If you’re fortunate enough to book one of these, you could become involved in a classic scene, become a meme, snag a catchphrase, or all of the above.
The Focus is Actually on Them
Unlike other co-star roles, which the sole purpose of moving the plot along. The scene featuring the montage co-star places the focus on the character, albeit very briefly. Our hero is the secondary character placing them in a temporarily vulnerable position. This role might get juicier lines from writers, or specified guidance from a director, longer camera time, and enhanced collaboration from the lead actor. Use this focus to have a strong beginning AND a strong ending in whatever is presented.
Whatever Outrageous thing they’re saying, doing, or being is completely normal...to Them
Hey, I might be biting my nails, believe in aliens, have a negative attitude in every sentence. What? You don’t do these things too? If you have a problem with it, that’s on you. Sometimes these quirks would be spelled out in the script. Other times, this might be an interesting actor’s choice to add flavor. If it is a choice, stick with it, go all out.
This person has something abnormally wrong with them physically. It is either revealed right at the very beginning of the scene and exacerbated throughout, or revealed at the end (which probably becomes “Secret Safe Person” (see bottom)). The character either doesn’t know about the abnormality OR they wear as a badge of honor. No matter the scenario, it comes as a shock for our hero who usually makes the conscious decision to ignore and be silent.
The Constant Talker
Your scene might involve an entire monologue. Your purpose is to illustrate that your continual talking is boring or aggravating our hero character. Whatever you’re talking about is the most important thing in the world, it’s a subject that you’re very passionate about, and you believe by bringing it up, you’re helping our hero. Secretly, you hope that they’re just as excited and interested as you are. The second scenario is that this person is just rambling, mostly because their mind can’t settle on one thing. If one question is asked, it’ll turn into a tangent due to several ideas swimming around at the same time. The root might be based on insecurity or indecisiveness.
The Secret Safe Person
Whew, after going through all that hell with everybody else- I think I finally found the one that fits the description I’m looking for to fit the hero’s (fill in the blank) needs. That’s until their last line or action completely ruins it. This usually ends the montage with a look of exasperation, an act of aggression (like storming out), or maybe a plea of assistance (breaking the 4th wall and talking to viewers). When you get your sides to the audition, look in the crossed off sections of your page. If the scene right after yours is a completely other scene...you know you’re at the end of the montage. Prepare a button (either a look or physical action) at the end of your last line. Creators are looking for a statement that defines or summarizes the whole montage experience.
Kevin Marshall Pinkney is the founder of The Actors Suite, a website providing resources to emerging actors on their way up. Check out www.theactorssuite.com for the latest e-books, and consulting services for relocation for actors, online course creation, and business development
E-Books & Paperbacks
Back to One: How to Work as a Background Extra in Film & Television
On the Mark: How to Work as a Stand-In for Film & Television
Hollywood in Atlanta: The 40 Studios You Need to Know Now
“Coming to America” (1988)