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Photo courtesy of Tai Brown.

Success Story: How Tai Brown Merged Acting and Dancing to Book ‘SNL’ Alumni Kyle Mooney’s ‘Saturday Morning All Star Hits!’

Tai Brown is a fighter. Starting with her audition for Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Brown’s “never say die” attitude brought her to the entertainment world and has been a beacon for her acting career.

Doubling as a professional dancer, Brown combined both skill sets to book a role in former Saturday Night Live cast member Kyle Mooney’s wacky Netflix show Saturday Morning All Star Hits! Brown shares the story of how she found the role on Casting Networks and auditioned, plus her acting superhero origin story.

How did you get started as an actor?

In high school, my friend decided that she wanted to go to LaGuardia High School, which is the school the movie Fame [was based on]. I was like, “All right, I want to audition for it, too.”

I’m from the Bronx, and unfortunately, there’s not a lot of resources [for actors] in the Bronx. I didn’t know what exactly I needed to audition to get into LaGuardia, so I wrote my own monologue. After auditioning I was asked, “Who’s this by?” And I was like, “Me.” They said, “For auditions, it needs to be by a published author.” I was pretty bummed.

My mom is super Caribbean and she was like, “No, we’re not going to give up. There has to be another way.” We asked the security guard and they were like, “There’s one more tomorrow. If not, you’re gonna have to wait until next year’s cycle.”

We were determined and went to my public school library and figured out a way to get these monologues by a published author. I had never memorized before, so I taught myself. I memorized two monologues, went back the next day and then auditioned again.

When I was waiting after my audition, I overheard one of the teachers say, “These are the students that we need, someone who’s determined.” Obviously, my work was good [because I got in].

How did you first discover Casting Networks?

Casting Networks was the first site that I got introduced to when I moved to LA almost 11 years ago. I don’t know exactly who told me about it, but it was always in the ether. The first people you meet are other actors when you come to LA to do acting. There were always little whispers and stories about people booking through Casting Networks, so I joined the site, put my headshots up and some demos.

I’ve been on the site pretty much for the past 10 years and I love it. I feel like it allows actors— who are just starting out, intermediate or advanced—to continue to hone their craft. There are so many opportunities to submit to different castings.

Even if you’re not super busy filming or auditioning for TV or film, you still have this opportunity to go out for other projects. Some of them are big, some of them are lower budget, some of them are commercials, but it’s so diverse in terms of the opportunities. It’s something that’s been very consistent with my career.

Tai Brown smiling in a sleeveless gray shirt. Photo courtesy of Tai Brown.

Tell me the story about how you got booked on Netflix’s Saturday Morning All Star Hits!

It seemed as though it was just a regular casting call and it was asking for dancers. Acting is my main priority, but I’m also a professional dancer. Whenever there are auditions that have a combination of both, those are really exciting for me because I get to use two skills. [They] needed about three minutes of freestyle dance of two different styles of dance, so I went with jazz contemporary and hip-hop.

I have a studio that I set up in my apartment that came out of 2020, because we had to find a way [to keep working]. I just went for it—[filmed the self tape in my studio] and then submitted it. About a week or so later, my team—my agent and manager—we heard back from casting and they were like, “We really like your tape and we want to book you. This happens to be a project for Netflix.”

That part wasn’t on the casting call. We didn’t know that it was for such a big streaming service. That was even more exciting.

It was four of us—four dancers—and we were called “The Smash Sisters.” It was almost like a video game 90s-style TV show that was kind of quirky. It had so many different layers of comedy, dance and performance, and even some audience work.

What was your experience like on-set?

It was a really fun day. We were dancing a lot. You definitely had to be a dancer to be on-set that day, which I loved because it was something that we all shared. We got along really well and we still stay in contact on social media. It was fun to work with names like Dave McCary and be able to collaborate with people that are doing meaningful work in the industry.

Working with Kyle Mooney was exciting. He’s been on SNL, so he was very quick on his feet and was playing two characters, Skip and Treybor. Working in that environment, everyone was very inclusive in terms of [asking us if we had] any ideas. I felt like we could really pitch our two cents in.

For example, [when it came to] the choreography, we were able to point out, “Hey, these are some moves that are probably going to work best for all of us.” It was a community where we could really pop out ideas.

What about Casting Networks keeps you coming back, and what features do you find to be the most helpful?

For me, it’s been the success. I have had a good amount of bookings through Casting Networks because I feel like it does give opportunities to actors like myself who maybe haven’t been seen in certain casting rooms. These are casting directors that have projects that are super diverse or that give an opportunity to an actor like myself who’s trained in multiple skills.

The feature that I like the most is that you’re able to submit with your demo and your headshot. Each audition that I go for, it’s very specific, and I have a lot of different demos for comedy, drama, dance, performance-based yoga.

I’ve definitely gotten booked a few times doing yoga with Casting Networks for lower-budget commercials or internet commercials. One that comes to mind was one for a laundry detergent, back in 2016 or so.

I have the package where I can submit as many times as I want, which is great because I have the notifications that are automatically attached to my email, and I’m on my email all the time.

As soon as one pops up that I’m a good fit for—I have it set up where if it’s for my look and my skill set, then I’ll get a notification—I can just submit right away on my phone, on the go, as long as I just go on my email.

What would you say helps someone succeed on Casting Networks?

Make sure that you fill out all of the information that’s requested for your resume. All the skill sets that you have—whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced—make sure that you’re letting casting know that these are the skills that you have, because you really never know.

There are so many different job opportunities that can be so specific. As long as you’re letting others know what skills you have, it gives you the opportunity. I don’t remember who [said this], but a quote I really love is, “Don’t give yourself that first ‘No.’ Let someone else tell you ‘No.’” Put yourself out there.

Being able to have unlimited headshots up is great because there are different looks that you have. Having that opportunity to always be able to update [headshots] and demos is really important.

When I get bookings or when I do short films or other projects, I have these demos that are professional videography. I get to have a clip of that and put it on Casting Networks. And when there’s a submission that’s the exact role for that, it shows that I can be in this kind of setting and it shows my skills in that area. I love that it gives me the opportunity to be able to do that.

Casting Networks has also been really good on the back end. Whenever I’ve had an issue like uploading, or an issue when they’ve updated pricing or anything like that, I can call and get service very quickly.

They’ve always been very accommodating, even with email. There was that one point where I needed to upload headshots. For some reason, I don’t know if it was the JPG or how the image was, but it just wasn’t uploading. I let them know what was going on and they allowed me to send those headshots to the studio, and then they uploaded it for me.

Having that quick service and feeling like they actually care about you being on their site, I feel like that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back because I feel like I’m not “just another actor” there. Of course, I am another actor on Casting Networks, but I feel like I have that support if I need that one-on-one attention.

Tai Brown and fellow dancers in an 80s style multicolored dance studio. Photo courtesy of Tai Brown.

What audition tips or advice do you have that you could share with your peers, whether it’s how to be the best at an audition, how to get better at self tapes or what not to do in a self tape?

My best advice in terms of auditions is keep going. I feel like that’s an overall theme in my life with my career, and I also feel like that takes place with auditions. You just have to keep going.

When you keep going, it allows you to get better at your craft because you’re learning from mistakes. You’re getting your footing. You’re realizing what feels good to you [when you are] not trying to be anyone else.

I feel like I spent a lot of years comparing myself to other actors that I went to school with, wondering when my shot is coming. Instead of putting your energy on that, it’s more positive and more useful to utilize your energy in doing the best that you’re able to do with who you are, and how you show up in the world.

The way that you look, where you’re from—all of these things—that’s unique to you and that’s a part of your identity. That’s the only thing that you really need to focus on sharing with the world and sharing with others—being true and authentic to who you are and not trying to be something else to get a booking.

Even if that doesn’t work at first or even maybe the callback level, at the end of the day, if you’re going to do a show and you’re going to be a series regular and you get booked based off your audition, you’re going to be that person, that character, hopefully for a few months. You want to be the authentic version of who you are, and it doesn’t really matter what that is because everyone has a space. That’s the really amazing thing about our entertainment industry—there’s a space for everyone.

Being confident in who you are, learning about the craft, studying it, taking classes, it’s basically like you’re an athlete. You want to continue being in training so that you can get better at what you do and just keep going.

Find other ways to be creative that’s unique to you. If there’s something about your look or your style of acting that sets you apart from another person, highlight that. Even if it’s a path that has never been done before, that’s okay. You can be the one to create that new pathway and find that community with other actors and even other non-actors, directors, casting, producers.

Find a community of people that you feel are also on the right path and [are] focusing on building others up. Having that community is really going to set you apart and help you to not stay down when things are not looking the exact way that you want. It’s going to be okay. You’re going to get to the other side.

If you just keep going, there’s no way that you’re not going to book, and there’s no way that something’s not going to happen positively for you because you’re on the path. Something’s going to happen. It just may not look exactly the way that you had dreamt it—or it might—and that’s okay. Be open to the surprises and the unknown.

Did you know that Casting Networks Premium memberships now include access to health and well-being benefits and discounts? Click here to learn more about Thrive!

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Chris Butera is a voice actor specializing in commercial, eLearning and corporate narration voiceovers. When he’s not helping clients achieve their goals, he’s playing guitar and bass.