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Photo credit: David Noles Photography

Success Story: Janine Hartmann on Booking Taco Bell

Janine Hartmann began college as a business major, but then she fell in love with dance. From there, she joined her school dance crew at the University of Buffalo, discovered acting, and changed majors. She went to graduate school in California for acting and then went back to New York and took the leap into the world of self-tape auditions in the COVID era. The risk paid off with her recently acquired SAG-AFTRA card and huge booking in Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza: The Musical alongside Dolly Parton and Doja Cat!

So, you’re a dancer, and you’ve had some pretty big commercial success. When did you sign up for Casting Networks?

When I joined Casting Networks, I hit the ground running. I was booked throughout that whole year, and I used Casting Networks to do so, even before Taco Bell. During COVID, I saw an ad for a short film that takes place in the future where people are attracted to robots, and I was like, this is so interesting. I knew it was a legit project because Casting Networks had posted it. But I was like, I’m not going to apply. It’s probably not for me. But I did, and it was for director Alden Peters. I looked up his work, and he’s a great filmmaker and a great director. I auditioned, and it was my first booking during COVID. It’s called The Robosexual, and now we are doing the film festival circuit, and that was the first time I got nominated for an acting award. I won Best Actress in a Drama at the Bridgeport Film Festival.

Congratulations. So that was your start with Casting Networks?

Yes! So I always submit, and then I got the Taco Bell TikTok commercial. They told me who was starring in it, like Victor Kunda, a big TikTok star, and Doja Cat, but then they said Dolly Parton, and I was like, wait, wait, wait, bring that back because I grew up on country music. My father was a big fan of Tom Jones, Hank Williams Junior, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, so when I told him I got it, it was crazy.

How was the shoot?

We rehearsed for a whole week, and they kept changing and editing the song every day, and then we had to re-learn the song. Barlow and Bear, who won the Grammy for their Unofficial Bridgeton Musical, were coaching us, and I was just like, Oh my God, this Texas, it’s crazy.

So, you sang in the commercial too?

Even though we had the track prerecorded, we would still sing while performing. We practiced every day that week and filmed that Friday from 7:00 AM to midnight. We changed costumes, and we had setups. They had strings coming down for the Taco part, and seeing the final product after was amazing because I got to work with amazing musical artists, not only the stars but the dancers, choreographers, and crew. It was awesome, and I got my SAG-AFTRA card.

Do you have any advice for your fellow performers on Casting Networks?

You know, sometimes the first thing people do is check their phone in the morning. I check Casting Networks and submit when I wake up. I check at around 9:10 and then at 1:00 PM. That’s when the good stuff starts coming in, and I check again at 3:00 PM. I use the settings where I get emails, but I also go on Casting Networks myself because my mantra this year is to try things out of my comfort zone. I’m just going to have fun. You have to believe in yourself because I almost didn’t apply for a lot of jobs like the Taco Bell commercial because I felt like I didn’t look right physically or have the chops. Just submit—you never know what’s going to happen.

What is coming up for you next?

I have a couple of projects coming up. Cherry Bomb will be distributed this summer. It’s a TV show with two young girls in New York City, and it’s like a female Fight Club. I also just got the opportunity to choreograph for one hundred kids on the Broadway stage. My name was on the Playbill, and that was really exciting for me. One of my dreams is to be on Broadway, so it’s going to happen.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Don’t forget when you are on set, you are there to work, you’re there for the character, and you’re there to show off the arc of the storyline. That should be the number one focus. Just keep submitting on Casting Network. They helped get me there and are a really valuable tool that helps us do what we love.

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This interview has been edited and condensed.

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