"Thank You, Sidney Lumet!"...Eric Millegan Recalls The Break The Great Director Gave Him
[NOTE: Eric posted this on Facebook, but allowed us to share it here.]
April 2001. I had just done my first TV show. A guest spot on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Then, I got an audition for "100 Centre Street," Sidney Lumet's televison drama on A&E. I was called in to meet with the casting director, Lou DiGiamo, who put me on tape doing a scene from the show as Michael Truskie, a young man who sets a homeless man on fire. The scene was in my jail cell, talking to my court appointed lawyer. In the scene, there was a long monologue in which I tell my version of what happened. I did the entire scene off book and felt okay about my performance.
A week later, while I was rehearsing the Encores production of Hair directed by Kathleen Marshall, my agent called me to say that I was being called back to audition again. I had my agent call the Hair people to excuse me from a rehearsal for the day of the callback but because, there were limited amount of rehearsals (only ten days), my agent was told that I could not be excused to go to the callback. However, the next day, the day of the callback, the Hair schedule for that afternoon showed that they were rehearsing a number that I was not in. Thank you, Kathleen Marshall! I called my agent to tell him that I could go to the callback after all. I ran home, changed into clothes that I felt suited the character, and rushed off to Sidney Lumet's office. When I got there, I sat in the waiting area, getting into the mind of my character.
Once Sidney arrived, I was called into his office. Sidney sat at his desk. The other producers and Mr DiGiamo were also there. I was introduced to everybody and then I sat across from Sidney at his desk. I said hello while trying to stay in the head space of the character. Sidney asked me if I had any questions about the scene and Mr DiGiamo said "He's ready, Sidney." Sidney then launched into the scene, reading the role of the lawyer. I was acting with Sidney Lumet! As I began the scene, I didn't feel good about how I was doing. After three lines, I put my hands on my face in attempt to find the character's anguish. Sidney stopped me. I hadn't even gotten to the monologue! He said "Thank you, Eric. That's all I need from you. I want to save time and get you to work." I thought it meant I booked it but in retrospect, as I type this, maybe he meant that he wanted to get me back to the rehearsal for Hair (I was on the rehearsal schedule for later that day). So I said thank you to each of the other producers in the room, showing that I had remembered their names and then turned to Sidney and said, as a joke, "I don't know who you are" and left.
Later that day, I received a call from my agent saying that I had indeed booked the job and that Sidney felt bad and was worried that he had offended me by cutting my audition short. Wow, I thought. He was worried about MY feelings and not offended that I had made such a joke that in retrospect, was maybe a little disrespectful.
A few weeks later, I booked a workshop and production of a musical called "Letters From Nam" but had to turn it down since the workshop conflicted with the shooting dates for "100 Centre Street" which had been pushed to July.
I had a great time shooting the episode. My episode was not directed by Mr Lumet but I still had a great time working on it. After I wrapped my work there, I felt a bit of a depression. I so badly wanted to keep working. It would be awesome, I thought, to be a series regular on a TV series but knew that the business was competitive and that there was no guarantee as to when I would work on TV again, if ever. A whole 4 years later, I booked the role of Zack Addy on the FOX television series "Bones."
I'm so thankful to Sidney Lumet for giving me the shot that led to my love for television acting. Reading with one of the great movie directors of all time in his office, even though it was just three lines, will always be one of the great highlights of my career.