I have no idea where I was when I first heard that producers were looking for an actor to play opposite Lisa Bonet on the Cosby Show. I was probably standing on a street corner in Manhattan wondering why I was unemployed. Back in those days, I did that a lot. I would stalk the city streets, weaving in and out of the foot traffic, walking with a determination to get someplace — anyplace — and every once in awhile I would stop on a corner and ask myself, “Why aren’t you working?”
I would answer myself, “I don’t know.” Then I would put my head back down and keep walking, truly pounding the pavement in frustration. So, more than likely, I was standing on some corner in Manhattan, contemplating my unemployment when the news first trickled down to me that fine ass Lisa Bonet was returning to The Cosby Show and that the program was looking to cast an actor to play her husband.
Information often trickled down to me. In fact, I often found myself talking to a fellow actor, who would say: “Hey, I’m just getting back from my audition for the next big show that could make me rich and famous.”
Typically, my mouth would drop. Then I would hustle to the nearest pay phone and call my agent. “Hey, I hear that they’re casting for the next big show that will make me rich and famous. Why wasn’t I seen for that?”
My agent would usually reply, “Oh. I’ll get right on that.” It was then even money if I actually received an audition. Most often, my agent would offer me some song and dance along the lines of, “We submitted you, but the casting director thought you were too smart for the role.” What the hell does that mean to be “too smart” for a role? I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years and I still have no idea. However, Given the number of times over my career that I’ve heard that, I am undoubtedly one of the most brilliant actors in Hollywood-a genius! Unfortunately, I’ve not been smart enough to figure out how to work consistently. Apparently, neither could my clever agent. My agent might also say, “Casting loves you, they just want to save you for something better.” I’m still waiting for something better. (Whatever it is that casting is waiting for is going to be really FANTASTIC.) So, I was used to trickling, and it was not completely lost on me that I was hardly, if ever, the one doing the trickling. Most often I was the one being trickled upon.
This instance was no different, and this particular conversation with my agents played pretty much to the script: “Hey. I hear The Cosby Show is casting someone to play (fine ass) Lisa Bonet’s husband. Can I get in on that?”
I had been on the program once before. During the second season, I had played Sondra’s blind date, Daryl. That episode was the second highest rated episode in the program’s history. My getting in on this audition should be a no-brainer.
My agent replied. “You were submitted, but they aren’t going to see you because you have been on the show before.”
In the pause that followed, I recall thinking that somehow that didn’t seem quite fair. In fact, I distinctly recall thinking that it was the biggest load of bull-shit I had ever heard. There wasn’t much to say, except, “Oh.” So, I said, “Oh,” and hung up the phone.
In all my years as an actor, I have never been able to understand the ebb and flow of show business. One minute one is on the unemployment line and the next moment one has more work than they can handle. Such was the case that summer. The casting director’s insistence that being on the show before made me ineligible for the role of Martin inexplicably changed to, “Of course we’ll see him.” At the same time, one of the local daytime dramas (As the World Turns, I believe) called and scheduled an audition. Back then, understanding the reasons and logic behind my career pattern of “feast or famine” was unimportant, whatever the reason, this sudden wealth of opportunity was right on time. I had not worked in perhaps four months, and my coffers were extremely low. When I went to the ATM to see my bank balance the ATM responded, “Rest in Peace.” I needed a gig. To make matters worse, I was living with Corey, my girlfriend of three years, and we were in the death throes of our relationship.
Corey was my brother-in-law’s cousin. I had first met her at my sister’s wedding when she was a freshman in college. We had started dating mid-way through her junior year, fallen in love, and had visions of getting married. Following her graduation from college, she had chosen to attend law school in Virginia. The distance was difficult, but we were determined to hang on until she graduated law school and we could at long last be together on a full-time basis. Prior to the beginning of that summer of 1989, we decided that she should take an internship in New York City and move into my apartment. Living together would be a precursor to the life we would have together as husband and wife. We couldn’t wait. Fools!
If that summer was any real indication of what life was going to be like as a married couple, all I can say is, thank God we didn’t get married!
The summer began well enough. We laughed, hung out, and screwed like rabbits. That lasted all of about a month. Four weeks after she moved in, the bloom began to quickly fall from the rose. We began snapping at one another, fighting over silly things like where to eat dinner, or who moved the shampoo in the shower. We stopped laughing together and often found ourselves sitting across from one another like Ali and Frazier waiting for the bell to ring. At one time, Corey and I would lay in bed in the evening telling stories and laughing – she had a terrific laugh. I could be silly with Corey. I would do something silly, her nose would wrinkle, her smile would spread all the way across her face and she would laugh and say, “You are so stupid.” And I would fall in love with her over and over again. All that stopped. Some evenings, we barely spoke. The love life we had both enjoyed devolved into one perfunctory time per week. We had just stopped. Early in the mornings, I would sometimes hear her quietly crying to herself. It was turning into a long summer!
None of our relationship issues were helped by the fact that I was depressed and angry. Anger and depression are not normally aphrodisiacs. Women don’t dream of a sad, angry lover. That’s what I was. Broke, broken-hearted, and depressed is no way to go through life.
At that time, my depression wasn’t a “can’t get out of bed” depression. I just felt a dull, blue haze that seemed to color everything I did. My daily routine became an exercise in malaise; dreary repetition, boredom watching minutes tick away on the clock. Mostly, I was awash in a feeling of worthlessness.
…Next: The screen test and the break up with Corey