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My So-Called Life's Principal Foster on a Key Principle of Auditioning Talent

Bennet Guillory on bringing out the best in an actor.

Bennet Guillory appeared in just two episodes of My So-Called Life as the principal Mr. Foster, but as with everyone on that production, he made a distinct impression: first by wrestling with the (at the time) rare instance of guns in school ["Guns and Gossip," Ep. 3], then by censoring an issue of the Liberty Lit because of the racy poetry written by Angela's class ["The Substitute," Ep. 6].

Frequently cast as an authority figure on television, including as judges, lawyers, and at least one other school principal (“because I’m tall,” the actor says with a chuckle), Guillory has dedicated much of his life to educating audiences about social injustice through The Robey Theatre Company – named after famed actor/singer/activist Paul "Robey" Robeson – in Los Angeles, which he co-foundedwith actor Danny Glover. (The theatre has an amazing history, which I hope to go into in a later post. In the meantime, check out the documentary The Robeson Effect which explores their creative partnership and the birth of the Robey.)

Twenty-five years later, one of Guillory's strongest memories of My So-Called Life is his audition with executive producer Marshall Herskovitz.

"Some auditions are kind of slam bam thank you sir, but he took time, and that to an actor going into a cold audition really makes a difference in the work you do," he explains.

It was an approach that the actor later took with him when he served as a diversity consultant for ABC and CBS during the early 2000s.

"Often I’m on the other side of the table auditioning people and seeing young actors come in so tense they can hardly speak. It does no one any good because you don’t see their real work, and you certainly don’t see their best work. It only takes a word or two to have them release that tension, and to see them at their best."

So Beautiful it Hurts’ is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with ABC, The Bedford Falls Co.,or anyone involved with the making or distribution of “My So-Called Life.”


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