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Photo courtesy of Henrí A. Sallis.

Success Story: Henrí A. Sallis on Playing “Bear Hug Betty” for Amazon

Henrí A. Sallis started out doing background work in Chicago four years ago. A fashion designer who makes her own clothing, she initially wanted to work in wardrobe but was bitten by the acting bug. She followed her dreams to California in January 2020, signed up with Casting Networks, and hasn’t stopped working since. We had the chance to sit down with Sallis to discuss her experience with Casting Networks and her success as “Bear Hug Betty” in a viral Amazon commercial she booked from a self-submission on Casting Networks.

So, how did you discover Casting Networks?

I went on Casting Networks, and I saw background work, and I did maybe four background jobs for videos, and then I just started looking at everything else that was there. I thought, “Wow, they do commercials. Wow, they do voiceovers” and so I just signed up.

How did it go?

I literally get 99% of my work from Casting Networks because I do it full-time. A lot of people don’t have time to do it full-time. You know they have to work and things like that, but I say try it out for one month.

That’s a pretty good endorsement.

Well, I’m serious about this. I don’t let up. I’m on Casting Networks for three hours every day. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful blessing, and I didn’t think it could be this easy. I know it isn’t easy for everyone, I really do, but I think the reason why it works for me is because I’m not Hollywood. I’m just me.

So you started booking things pretty quickly?

Three months after I was doing background for a video, I had my first in-person audition through a submission on Casting Networks, and it was for Bear Hug Betty in an Amazon Commercial. Yeah, I booked my first in-person audition. Everybody was like, “Oh, isn’t it good to be back?” And I have never been in person before and didn’t have an agent and booked it. So I got encouraged from there, so I decided to get an agent, and they submitted me.


Did you get your agent via Casting Networks as well?

Yes. There’s a box you can check if you are looking for representation, and I checked that box, so an agent contacted me. I was literally contacted by an agent within seven days of my profile being on Casting Networks.

Wow. Do you have any tips for those just signing up on the platform?

I never leave a note section blank, ever. I don’t care if I have to say something stupid like, “Hey, pick me!” I always put my phone number in and everything, and I do think that’s the reason I get called in so much. I mean, I’m talented, yes, but you don’t know talent from a picture. So that personality helps.

Anything else?

Go on Casting Networks several times a day, because there’s always something. I’ve seen some auditions coming at 6:30 in the morning. I personally have leisure, so I go on sometimes six times a day because the work is there. If you’re serious about being a professional and getting out there, go on Casting Networks often because sometimes I think it’s a numbers game. I have worked every month since I arrived in Los Angeles, even during COVID.

Wow. What’s your favorite job you’ve booked through Casting Networks?

It’s so hard because every single time I get on set, I’m like, “This is the best.” I will have to say the Verzenio breast cancer drug commercial because that was the first deal I ever brokered myself, and they liked me so much that they let me do the voiceover and then asked me to do the voiceover for their radio spots.

That’s amazing.

Yes, and then Amazon. Amazon was fabulous, and it kind of put me on the books. Everybody saw that commercial because they ran that commercial like 20 times a day around the world. I had literally had friends calling me from Ireland and Jamaica, and Germany to say, “I saw you!” I mean, I walk through the airport, and people call my character’s name! But, honestly, I’ve never been on a set where it just wasn’t 100% mind-blowing.

Is there any on-set advice you have?

There was an emotional part of the Amazon commercial, and the cameraman came up to me, and we were talking, and he said, the talent determines the whole flow of the commercial. If you come in there and you’re grumpy, or you have a bad attitude, or you’re tired, and you’re not paying attention or whatever, it messes everything up. You come in, you’re smiling, you’re talking, and you set the tone for the entire commercial.

That’s true.

Yes. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I was like, they’re right. So every time I come in, even when I’m going for an audition, when I get out of the car, I’m on point from that time until I drive off. I feel like it’s my responsibility to show you why you picked my picture because unless I include my reel, you don’t know how I act, and you don’t know anything about me. So it’s my responsibility to show you why you picked me over everybody else.

Do you have any last tips or thoughts?

I’m 63, and so coming to Los Angeles at 61, I don’t think that I ever expected that it was going to be like this. I make some good money, I make friends, and you know I’m building relationships, and the really heartwarming thing is that my friends are like, “Wow, this can really happen” and especially in L.A. I’m to the point where the casting directors send me sides and casting notices. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem real that all you have to do is keep your profile up to date and submit, and people are just like, “OK, come in,” and the rest is history.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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