My life has been one big audition.
I can’t even remember the first audition my mom dragged me to. It was for a diaper commercial back when we were living in LA. I was six months old. While most kids’ first memories are of playing with friends, mine are of sitting in cold reception areas waiting for my name to be called. The only plus side was that after I auditioned, Mom rewarded me with McDonald’s. That was the only time I ever truly felt like a normal kid.
After I got cast in the first Kavalier Kids movie, I didn’t have to go on that many auditions. The roles came to me. By the time I was nine, I was on the cover of People magazine and a presenter at the Oscars, the basic go-to kid for cute. I was the on-screen “son” of every big-name actor. I’ve worked with the best. And with the Kavalier Kids franchise, I was featured on countless lunch boxes, pillowcases, Happy Meals — you name it, my face was on it. (I don’t think I’ve recovered yet from seeing my toothy grin on a roll of toilet paper. Really, toilet paper. Apparently the studio’s marketing division had no shame.)
I’d shoot a big-time movie during the spring and a Kavalier Kids movie in the fall (for a major summer release). And even though my childhood was anything but normal, I look back fondly on the Kavalier Kids movies. The other child actors were like friends to me. At least they seemed like my friends, or what friends should be. But we only hung out on the set. There were no sleepovers or pizza parties, just on-set tutors and line readings.
Things were great, but then there was a — let’s call it an altercation between my mom and the producer. I got kicked off the franchise. A new wave of cute kids came into Hollywood and I was relegated to being a featured guest star on network crime shows.
So I made a decision. It was the one thing that scared Mom more than anything, even more than crow’s-feet and taxicabs. And it wasn’t moving to New York City or starring in a soap opera that was “beneath” me. No, we did those things so I could do the thing that was even scarier to Mom:
Yes, Carter Harrison, former child megastar and current soap opera actor, wants to go to school.
But as I sit in the hallway at the New York City High School of the Creative and Performing Arts, I know that this isn’t a normal school. It’s one of the most prestigious performing arts high schools in the country. I knew I could convince my mom to let me go if I talked about how this would help me with my craft.
Yes, I actually used the word craft to describe what I do. But my “craft” is more on a par with the caricature artists in Times Square than with a true artist.
I play pretend. I’ve been doing it my entire life. I’ve been doing it so long, I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’m more comfortable being someone else than being me. I don’t even feel like me when I’m “Carter Harrison.” The paparazzi were waiting outside the school today when I arrived, and I flashed that famous grin at them … but that wasn’t me. That was a role.
As we wait for my name to be called, I glance at Mom hiding behind her oversize sunglasses. She didn’t seem all that surprised to see the photographers outside. Gee, I wonder who leaked that my audition is today? It’s not like being on a soap opera gets you a ton of press, but when you were the biggest box office draw at the age of ten, people like to follow you around. See what you’re up to. It’s like my life is a never-ending episode of Where Is He Now?
At least I’ve gotten used to the attention. I’m really good at blocking it out. Plus, it helped me get a role on a show that only requires me to work a few hours a week. This way, I stay on television to appease my mom and I get to go to school for me.
I’m not even nervous as I wait for my name to be called. Stepping onto that stage and reciting my two monologues (one from Our Town and the other from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown) will be easy. That’s a normal day for me. But the thought of getting to go to school is what will make me nervous.
What’s ironic is that Mom is the one who doesn’t want me to go to school. She thinks I won’t be prepared to handle being in a school with other kids.
Let’s see, I’ve spent my entire life being judged, critiqued, and picked apart.
I think I’m more ready for high school than anybody could be.
It’s all going according to plan.
This audition is just one more box to check off on Sophie’s Plan to Superstardom.
Basically, the list so far has consisted of me performing at every possible talent show, wedding, sporting event, bar mitzvah, birthday party, etc., in the Brooklyn area (check!), getting Emme to write me a can’t-lose original song for my audition (check!), and getting into CPA.
Of course, once I’m accepted, I’ll have my work cut out for me. I’m not that naïve. So once I get in I need to become the star pupil, land the lead in every play, get the most coveted spot in the Senior Showcase, and then get a record contract by the time I graduate.
I will have a Grammy before I turn twenty. Even if it kills me.
I’m not even nervous. Are you kidding me? I LOVE being onstage. I LOVE the glow of the spotlight. It’s the waiting that’s killing me.
I look around and notice a few other contenders for the vocal department at CPA from different talent contests that I’ve done … and won. They’ve got nothing on me and they know it.
All the singers (at least in Brooklyn) are jealous of me. While they’ll be auditioning with songs from West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music, I have an original Emme Connelly song written just for me.