Skylar Astin Used His Time as a Teenage Telemarketer to Develop His Accent Work

Seth Rudetsky   Skylar Astin Used His Time as a Teenage Telemarketer to Develop His Accent Work
 
Plus, this week Seth talks to Joel Kim Booster on the podcast and performs with Shoshana Bean.
Skylar Astin
Skylar Astin DFree/Shutterstock.com

Welcome to the last week of October. I mentioned last week that Seth’s Broadway Breakdown is extended now til the end of November… but I forgot to say that I’m doing a special performance on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. My regular schedule is Friday/Saturday 7:30 PM and Sundays at 4 PM but after the November 26 show, I’m going to do another at 11 PM. This is for Broadway cast members who want to come after their show or if people are visiting NYC and want to see as many shows as possible. All those tix will be $20! Get thee to AsylumNYC.com.

Last week, I had Skylar Astin on Seth Rudetsky’s Back-To-School, my SiriusXM/Pandora podcast that’s all about celebs in high school. I asked him about his after-school jobs and turns out, he worked as a telemarketer which, to me, is a job you do in your mid-30s. He gave me some inside telemarketer scoop and revealed that you’re told to never to use your real name to protect your anonymity. So, when a telemarketer says with extreme friendliness “Hi, I’m James,” they’re actually lying. Since Skylar was a budding teenaged actor, so he would constantly come up with creative names and use the phone call as a chance to work on his dialect skills. I’ll tell you what I don’t want: A telemarketer from Westchester who says “Call me Ishmael” and then speaks to me with using an Upper Class Welsh lilt.

Skylar Astin in <i>Zoey&#39;s Extraordinary Playlist</i>
Skylar Astin in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

Anyhoo, Skylar then got a job at the clothing store Hollister and had to greet customers with their specially designed corporate greetings. It couldn’t be “Hi, can I help you find something?” It had to be “Hey, can I help you find some good-fitting jeans?” or “Do you need some breathing room for your arms?” He was decidedly not comfortable with what he called the “vague flintiness” of the mandated greetings and eventually quit. Or maybe he asked his boss, “Hey, can I help you relieve one of your associates from a job he only wanted to have a fling with and not marry?” Anyhoo, I also asked him about any high school injuries and he told me that he “knocked knees” with another student while they were playing basketball. Skylar completely went down and it led to a chronic condition he has now called “Osgood Schlatter”. Skylar told me it’s just a fancy word for tendonitis but admits “Osgood Schlatter” sounds like a dentist and/or accountant. Skylar’s episode is here.

I also had comic-writer-filmmaker Joel Kim Booster on one of my episodes and he told me that he grew up with very religious parents who tried very hard not to allow him to have any secular books or TV shows… but he always found a way. In terms of TV, he would have the Cartoon Network prepped on the last channel button, so whenever his parents walked into the room where he was watching TV, he could quickly hit last channel. They picked up on that trick and took away the remote. So he, gymnastic style, was soon able to get his foot to the TV in time to push an appropriate channel every time they walked in. Well, they picked up on that trick and he was then told he had to sit at least five feet away from the TV. The whole thing sounds exhausting. They finally realized he was much more far gone than they realized when they found his diary and there was an entry literally called “Things I’ve Lied To My Parents About.” He says it was very itemized and likened it to a Buzzfeed list. He made it so easy for them. As he tells it, “They didn’t even have to sift through hopes and dreams.” They next entry was even more literal: “Boys I’ve Hooked Up With”—well, that sent them over the edge. To find out what happened next, listen to the podcast.

Shoshana Bean
Shoshana Bean Joan Marcus / Marc J. Franklin

This week on The Seth Concert Series, which is the live concert I do every Sunday night at 8PM ET, I have the amazing Shoshana Bean. Way before she was starring in Wicked or Waitress, I saw her in Godspell off-Broadway. I became obsessed with her incredible version of “Bless The Lord.” I then cast her in the ensemble of my Actors Fund Dreamgirls concert and, a few years later, gave her a solo song in my Actors Fund Hair concert. There are a lot of songs in Hair and I wanted a different star to do each song. However, for every showstopper like “Easy To Be Hard” (which I got Jennifer Hudson to perform), there are songs that aren’t normally bring-down-the-house tunes. I knew I needed amazing singers for those songs so they could stand on their own. So for “Going Down,” which doesn’t have much going on vocally, I asked Gavin Creel. And for “I Believe In Love,” which is almost like a fast folk song, I asked Shoshana who added her crazy impressive riffing and her whistle tones to make it a tour-de-force. She was brilliant! Here’s my deconstruction of her Godspell song and her Hair performance.

After the Hair concert, Shoshana soon wound up becoming the standby for Idina Menzel in Wicked and eventually taking over the role. Turns out, Shoshana was able to nail her audition because of amazing help from Stephanie J. Block. Sho was asked to sing "Defying Gravity" for the initial audition and I asked her how she learned it since the CD obviously wasn't out yet. She told me that she called Stephanie J. Block who did all the first readings of the show. Shoshana left her a message asking her how the song went. She expected Stephanie to call back and sing a little of the chorus and verse… just enough to give a sense of the song. No. Shoshana said that Stephanie left a message and was obviously calling from a street corner because you could hear traffic noises in the background. She said "Hi" and then proceeded to sing the en-ti-re song… full out. With all the acting choices and every fully belted note. Shoshana said it was hilarious and AMAZING. This story is in my book Seth’s Broadway Diary, and, during my book release, Stephanie recreated the phone call with the singing. Watch it here.

Once Shoshana took over the role of Elphaba, she was the first “no fly” show at Wicked. She strapped herself in to the cherry picker during “Defying Gravity” that, as usual, would then rise when she got to “It’s me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!” Well, she got to that moment and nothing happened. But the song kept going! Uh-oh. She unstrapped herself and came downstage to finish the final verse. Well, she knew the audience was expecting something amazing and she didn’t want to disappoint them. She couldn’t impress them with flying but she could impress them with something she could do: riffing. Yes, she riffed the hell out of the song to make up for the lack of flying. In my opinion, that’s an even trade. However, the ensemble was freaking out backstage; they were supposed to run on and sing “Look at her she’s wicked!” while pointing to her above them in the sky. How could they do that since she was not towering above them, she was stage level. And not only was she not in the sky, she’s around 5’3”. So, they thought fast and realized the only way they could point up to her is if they all laid on the stage floor. So, that’s what they did. They ran out, laid down and pointed to her in the air. Shoshana indeed towered above them. I purposefully booked Shoshana for my concert this coming Sunday because it’s Halloween and she played a witch. Here she is with the not-often performed Act 2 dramatic diva tune, “No Good Deed” from Wicked!

Watch me and Shoshana live in concert this Sunday at 8 PM ET on TheSethConcertSeries.com and see you in November!

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