Weird Stuff That Happened to Me as a Marginally Successful Child Actor

“I never expected you to be the Marlboro Man or anything like that” — my dad

I think I was wearing caution tape.

I filmed an industrial video where they painted a laceration on me, and I had to pretend to be concussed and bleeding from the face for hours. That night they called and told us something was wrong with the equipment, so I went back the next day and did it all again. After that, I peeled the fake cut off my face and took it home. It’s still sitting on my dresser at my parents’ house.


I did a video at an assisted living center and spent the afternoon being coddled and kissed by an elderly actress who was definitely not my grandmother.


In a play in kindergarten I improvised all my lines and ruined the entire show.


I starred in a bus safety video for the Ohio Department of Transportation and played a kid who is so obsessed with bus etiquette that he invites his mom on a bus ride to show her how well he disciplines his classmates on the subject. For some reason, they filmed parts of the video at my house. It opens with (the actress who played) my mom sleeping in my actual parents’ bed, which is weird on many levels that I haven’t fully explored.

I’ve been told that at one point the video was shown in every public school in Ohio. I don’t know whether that’s true, but for years people would approach me to say they were flipping through channels at 3:00 AM and there, in between bad infomercials and ads for phone-sex hotlines, was 11-year-old me yelling at kids to keep their arms inside the bus and to refrain from hitting the driver in the face with a Frisbee.


My mom sent my potential agent some photos of me to see if she’d agree to an in-person meeting. “Do his teeth always look like that?” the agent wrote back.

One script was about a surprise birthday party. I didn’t know the word “surprise” had an R in it, and I figured they spelled it like that in the script because they wanted me to pronounce it phonetically. I spent the entire shoot saying “sur-prise.”


I was an extra in a movie they filmed at a local high school. Later, I saw a few minutes of it on TV and was unimpressed by everything, especially the star. “That’s the last time I’ll ever see her,” I thought to myself. Years later I caught her in a little movie called Twilight. Touché, Kristen Stewart.


Apparently I lived in the most generic house in the state, because after the bus safety shoot, the Ohio Department of Transportation filmed lots of videos there, like one on teenage drinking and driving. It was weird seeing strange high schoolers in my kitchen chugging from cans labeled “Beer Lite.”


As an 11-year-old I rocked frosted tips (largely inspired by Rich from LFO), blue-framed glasses, and two earrings in my left ear. That year I booked a commercial for an air hockey table, and we filmed for, like, 14 hours. When the commercial came out, I was nowhere to be found; guess my scenes were cut. Then we watched it again and my mom spotted a split-second cut of a left earlobe with two holes in it.


My grandpa took me to an audition once. When I finished, the casting director saw my grandpa sitting in the waiting room and offered him the role of the grandfather in the spot. Papa turned it down because he didn’t want to drive out to Toledo. I never got a callback.


Ben Kassoy is the Managing Editor of DoSomething.org, the coauthor of eight books, and a former online columnist for Glamour and Details. You’ll probably be shocked to find out he has a Twitter, a Facebook, and a website.


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