For many actors the audition room can become an overwhelming place fairly quickly, especially if they are new to the process or unprepared; but, it’s one that they need to get comfortable with just the same, that is, if they ever want to book work in the increasingly competitive entertainment industry. Having the time to develop a character prior walking into the room is ideal, but it’s a luxury that doesn’t always happen. Being able to immerse oneself in the character in an instant and intuitively gauging how they’ll be read best on the fly, is one challenge that separates the select pool of working actors from the ones who never get their callback. Seasoned actor Cory Dagg knows all about the art of auditioning. The amount of film and television roles he’s landed over the last 30 years prove it.
For Dagg, thriving under pressure has always been a strong suit, especially in the audition room. He has a unique gift, an inner-knowing if you will, of how a character should be read, as well as how casting directors want to see them brought to life. While audiences at large got to see him on screen as Jack Strassman in the season two finale of Paramounts’ adventure crime TV series “The Sentinel,” few know the interesting chain of events that led to Dagg’s landing the coveted role.
It all started one morning when Dagg’s Canadian agent (from Lucas Talent Agency) called him with the details for an audition to guest star on the series, an audition that would take place later that day.
He recalls, “She said to show up 30 min early for the audition to get the sides, normally this is given to the actor at least a day in advance, I didn’t question it, no problem I’ll have a half hour to look it over, and besides all the other actors would be in the same situation, that’s fair.”
When he arrived however, the casting director was nowhere to be found and to make things more nerve racking, as the other actors arrived Dagg quickly noticed that they all in fact did have the sides; but the skilled actor he remained calm and collected just the same.
“She finally shows up and I get my sides, I barely look down at the page when the casting director says, ‘We are going to ask everyone to wait after they read and we will give you our decision, it starts shooting tomorrow, whoever wins the role will go straight from here to wardrobe fitting.’ Before I had a chance to respond I was told, ‘Cory you’re first up.’I am walking in literally not having read one word on the page,” explains Dagg, adding, “I was excited, I’m at my best under pressure.”
After Dagg and all of the other actors up for the role read their lines in front of the producers and casting director, it was announced that Dagg had earned the sought after role, and within hours he was in wardrobe preparing to shoot his episode of “The Sentinel” the very next day.
“While other actors might have demanded more time to prepare, I knew from past auditions that getting on the casting director's bad side doesn't win roles. Winging it proved to be the formula for success, and my reading was exactly what the producer and director were looking for,” says Dagg.
Dagg had already performed a number of guest starring roles on popular TV series including Gus Merino on the Golden Globe Award nominated series “The Commish,” Jarvis on the Gemini Award winning adventure comedy “The Beachcombers,” Simpson on “Danger Bay,” the Sheriff on “The New Adventures of the Black Stallion” starring Mickey Rooney, Steve Chmil on “Top Cops” and Jack Davis on the multi-award winning drama “Street Legal,” and his capacity for getting into a character on the fly was well-known throughout the industry.
Jack Strassman though, Dagg’s character on “The Sentinel” proved to be exceedingly more complex than most. A genius scientist who had spent years working on environmentally conscious energy alternatives, Strassman is forced to take his family on the run when the government learns that his research is the answer to efficiently developing nuclear weapons.
“A role like this required immense adaptability, shifting from an intellectual scientist to a man on the run in a matter of seconds. Feelings of joy, power, fear and anger were inter woven into the character,” says Dagg.
The episode was a success, and actor Cory Dagg earned industry wide praise for his effortless portrayal of Strassman, so much so that his phone started ringing off the hook even more than it already was. Besides being a diversely talented actor who comes across believably on screen, Dagg’s ability to rise under pressure and nail his auditions, even when the cards seem to be stacked against him, have been crucial in establishing him as a leading force in the entertainment industry.
His dedication to perfecting his craft, which he admits is a never-ending pursuit, is one of the keys to his success, he explains, “Always pushing myself and growing as an actor, this is everything! Never let yourself fall into a comfort zone and fall back on any success you have achieved, it can be dangerous and is tempting for all of us. I feel so blessed to be a working actor!”