How Cathleen Mason got her got her start! – How I Got My Taft Hartley

Written by | The Business of Acting

Cathleen shares her experience of getting her Taft Hartley: from a church notice board to on the set of her first SAG project!

This is a personal story. One that I have only shared with my friends, so it’s a little unnerving for me to blurt it out to an audience of…I’m not sure who this will go to, but here it is. I hope it’ll be okay.

So…I am 37 years old and I keep getting this feeling to go into acting. That I needed to get into acting. It doesn’t stop, it WON’T go away; it has been going on for years and I have four kids and I’m an RN by trade. My mother and my father were actors. I don’t want to go there…just won’t. Then I turn 37 and…well… I finally give in. I see an add for the LDS Church talent file and they want actors. I said to myself, “Okay, I’ll do THAT if I’m going to do it. I’ll do that.” So I go and audition and I had NO IDEA how to do it. I decided to act out the storytime books I read to my kids…yeah…Briar Rabbit. I had no idea what to do. Well, they loved me. I was then thinking, “Great, what if they actually hire me for something and I look like an idiot?” So one of the staff there came up to me (Joe Batzel) and said, “Well, you know, we’re not supposed to say this but Rick and I do do acting lessons if you wanted to learn.”

Acting classes with Rick Macy begin. Everyone says to me, “Cathleen, you have to have a head shot, you just do.” I say, “No, I don’t.  I just want to take acting classes from Rick Macy.” They say (including Rick), “You’re in the business now; you have to have a head shot.” I argue with them, and after six months of this RINGING in my ears and people bugging me, I go to Mark Reynolds for a headshot. All along I’m thinking, “Geeze, I just want to take classes from Rick Macy.” WELL, for some reason, Mark loves me and says, “YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE AN AGENT.” “Hmmm…no,” I say, “I just want to take acting classes from Rick Macy and they’ve made me come and get my head shot.” Mark just becomes absolutely insistent and says, “YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN AGENT! Promise me you will go and audition for one. PROMISE ME,” as he is looking at me intently until I promise and he gives me a list of all the agents in town he recommends (I still have that card).

So, six months go by and I keep seeing Mark’s face in mine saying, “PROMISE ME, YOU PROMISE?” So, I can’t go back out on my word, and I go and audition for McCarty Agency. Well, you guessed it–they love me and Christina Thurmond introduces me that day to the office and says, “Hey everybody, this is Cathleen Mason, our newest talent!”

“Great,” I’m thinking, “Just great.” So, two weeks later they send me out on an audition. The phone call goes as this: “This will be in front of a really big casting director so do your best!” I go in for an audition for Touched by an Angel as the Angry Woman, and…well…you guess. They love me and give me a callback. McCarty is calling me and saying, “Ohmigosh! You got a callback on your first audition! I can’t believe it! Nobody does that! That is so incredible! Etc., etc., etc.

I get on the phone to Rick Macy saying, “Ohmigosh, what do I do, what do I do?” He proceeds to tell me to do exactly what I did before. So, I go to the callback and the director is there and is just laughing and having me do it in all sorts of different ways, and it was quite comical and I really didn’t know what the heck was going on. So guess what? I GOT THE PART! McCarty is beside themselves and I’m terrified.

My first line I’ve ever said (I hadn’t even said any on stage, so this is my first line ever as an actress) in a SAG TV series and I am immediately Taft Hartleyed into the show. 

I get to set carrying my three sets of outfits to choose from and the First AD comes up and says, “Aw, Cathleen Mason.” I almost turn around and go home. I’m thinking Wait…how does he know my name and who I am? (Headshots travel fast.) He shows me my trailer which says “The Angry Woman” on the door. He shows me wardrobe; they immediately stare me up and down and are all over me, looking at what to put on me. I’m thinking Okay…I’m a mother for pete’s sake! I can pick out my own clothes. However, as a professional, I say absolutely nothing, so as to not give away my immense ignorance. Then they show me makeup and they put makeup all over me and I’m thinking
Hello…excuse me…I know how to do my own makeup, thank you, and my own hair for crying out loud. Again, I say nothing and go along with all of this.

I remember thinking that it was getting weird because they then put me in a small trailer and I just sat there, thinking Don’t movie stars do this? What in the heck? I just have a one-liner for pete’s sake! I wait and visit with the movie stars on set, and at lunch time I eat with the crew, cast, and directors while the extras watch and wait. Now I’m feeling weird. Twelve hours into waiting, one refrigerator equipment fixed, I go to the bathroom and THE AD FREAKS OUT AND CAN’T FIND ME because it’s my turn to go on (no one told me I had to tell them when I went to the bathroom). I come out and he’s all over me and walks me to the bleachers where my spot is. In tow is the makeup artist and the wardrobe artists. I’m looking back at them, thinking You’ve got to be kidding me. As I sit in my spot surrounded by extras, they are all over me and everyone is staring at me as this happens. Geez, I just have a one-liner, I think to myself.

It’s my turn and they measure the tape to my nose and the camera is just a few inches from my face. I do my line: “He’s a fake! He’s got a twin!” The director says “cut” and he says “Do it big.” I reply, (showing my ignorance for the first time) “But I didn’t think you were supposed to do it big on film.” The director says, “Go ahead and do it big” “Big?” “Yeah, big.” “Okay…” This is something, if you know me, to never say unless you really, really want it. Because I’ll give it, and I did. I BELTED it out so big it echoed throughout the whole pool scene and the whole room with 300 people or more were so quiet you could hear a pin drop and the director says “Cut!” and the WHOLE ENTIRE ROOM BURST INTO APPLAUSE. I looked around and they were all looking at me. I sunk down into my chair and smiled at everyone and thought let what just happened to sink in. Then the woman next to me says, “You must do this all the time.” I finally broke down and said to her, “This is my very first time.” You should have seen the look on her face.
Life is funny, is what I say. You must follow that inner voice. It will tell you what you need to do in your life. I continue to have similar experiences, especially when I think I might want to stop. I’ll let big experiences roll right in to keep me going. Why? Because it is what is in me. That’s why. Go out and do the same. Follow that voice. It’ll take you places you never dreamed of.

– Cathleen Mason

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Last modified: August 13, 2017

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