Tips on Sick Days for Actors
Listen, sick days suck no matter the job. What makes them harder as actors is that our voice and physical appearance is what sells us in auditions a lot of the time. And we all know those are hit the hardest after a cold, flu, stomach bug, or my flavor of the week: food poisoning.
And it's hard to take a day "off" because audition windows these days rarely span more than a day or two, so it's now or never really. But we have to take care of ourselves too.
So let's say you are actually sick. Let's take the case by case basis here and see what we can do to help.
Cold: Ugh, this is a tough one because some people get a stuffy nose or fatigued while others get knocked on their ass and can hardly get out of bed. If you can, push auditions to the sunniest part of the day, between 11-2pm. Colds can be manageable but we all know the later in the day it gets, the more your body starts to shut down. This is an ok time to ask your reps to move your audition time if at all possible. Sip on some hot water + lemon + honey (sick or not, that shit is delicious) and take a hot shower. Obviously, you should never shake any ones hand in an audition room anyway BUT this is especially pertinent, casting has big jobs to do in a window of time so they are all hyper-aware of getting sick. *If you can't speak, stand up-right, are coughing up a lung, etc, DO NOT GO. It's not worth 1, pissing off all the people in the waiting and auditioning room who don't want your shit and 2, you won't ever do good work when you feel like a blob, and using sickness as an excuse for a poor performance is not a good choice.
Stomach Bugs: Honestly...this is a hard no across the board for me. Nausea is so hard to fight through and it will show. Mix in some nerves and anticipation, and you have a molotov cocktail of disaster.
Severe PMS: This is another one that is really personal. I think most of the tips from the Cold section will play true (along with some pain killers) but when you call to ask for a changed audition time, you don't need to explain to your reps that you are riding the crimson wave, just say you're sick. Men especially will apprecaite this (I'm all for feminism and the truth of the period and all that...but let's not mix that in when you're asking a huge favor from your agent, k?).
Injury: I'm kind of ok with working though this. If you have a cast or sling it makes everything a little more obvious, but you can be open with casting. Actually, first you need to make sure your reps know, the last thing you want is to potentially be on hold for a role where you have some epic running scenes and you have a sprained ankle. But with that laid on the table, it's probably fine to go in and let casting decide if it works for them.
And sometimes, you can throw all this shit out the window. Here is why I think it's important to acknowledge this: In college, I used to drive 5 hours to Norman, OK to audition for Chris Freihofer occasionally (I know, it makes driving to Santa Monica and back at 4pm seem like a DREAM). On of the many drives, I got to the office and got randomly cripplingly ill. So bad that I checked myself into a local hospital. I think I was dehydrated (#college) and also had a bad cold or a version of the flu on top of that...I can't remember specifically. They gave me fluids and said that was all they could do beyond an RX, so they let me go. With all the fire and brimstone of a 21 year old, I drove straight back to the casting office and asked to do my audition. Chris was so kind that he kept the producers there to wait for me and they let me run though it...with my hospital bracelet still on.
Well you know what happened next (well what actually happened next was that I slept in the car while my friend drove us the entire 5 hours home). Yes, I booked my first movie. And skipped 3 weeks of senior year of college to film it in Nebraska.
Did I book it because they felt bad for the girl in the hospital bracelet? Probably not. But maybe it made me leave that tiny extra but of an impression...who knows. The point is that if you can do the work and do it well, suck it up and make the effort. If you know it's in your best interest (and everyone else's) let your people know and move on. As much as we hate to admit it, there is always a next audition.