Ah, the life of the successful actor. Not only must you worry about your craft the diving down to the depths of your soul for a role, the relentless need not only to portray but inhabit your character as you search for truth and light but there's all the fuss that goes along with the glamour.
We're talking about the adoring fans. The glossy photo shoots. The obligatory fawning celebrity interviews.
For Nick Johnson, the 8-year-old star of the Reedley River City Theatre Company's production of "Annie," one thing makes the stress and hoopla of it all much more tolerable:
A Grrr8 salmon treat.
I feed one to Nick, and she yes, Nick is a she, so get past the gender stereotypes opens up to me in a way that few subjects ever have. She crawls into my lap, all 62 pounds of her, and I rub her belly.
With the help of her adoring human companion, local director and actress Karan Johnson, I sussed out Nick's take on life, acting and the core of her acclaimed performance as the dog Sandy in the Reedley production.
Question: What's your hardest moment as Sandy?
Answer: Staying still when Annie (played in the Reedley production by Elizza Sanchez) sings "Tomorrow" to me. When you've heard this song as many times as I have, let's just say I already know what to do when I'm faced with a day that's gray and lonely.
You're certainly an "Annie" veteran. Tell us about that.
I'm a dog, so I don't have much of a sense of time, but my mom tells me that it was in 2011 that I played Sandy in the Children's Musical Theaterworks production of "Annie" in Fresno. And I've played the role in two school productions: one at Clovis High School and one at Reedley.
Do you ever worry about being typecast?
I'm a Goldendoodle a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle so I've got a certain look. Unfortunately, the roles for big, sandy-colored dogs are limited on the stage. That's just reality. I'd love to have a shot as Bruiser in "Legally Blonde," but even I don't think I could pull off a Chihuahua.
I understand you're treated pretty well at Reedley. Is it true your contract requires a nightly limo ride all the way from Fresno?
I hate the way this stuff gets blown out of proportion in the media, so let me be clear: It's a Prius. Not a stretch limo. My good friend, Denise Norwood, who is directing me for the second time in the role, is kind enough to transport me to and from the theater. We take a walk up my street in the Tower District before we get in the car, and then another on the Rails to Trails path once we get to Reedley. From then on, all I ask for is my bed, some raw dog treats and lots of hugs from the orphans. I don't even require a private dressing room. (Are you hearing this, Audra McDonald?)
I've heard some tail-raising tales about life in the canine-actor fast lane: wild bully-stick parties, gold-plated water bowls, extravagant chicken-liver-themed sleep-overs. And I understand some of your actor colleagues, both four- and two-legged, aren't as grounded as you. Care to share any dirt?
I'm pretty much the nicest dog in the world, so you aren't going to hear me dish on anyone. I even get along with cats. For my day job, I'm part of the local chapter of Tail Waggin' Tutors, the reading program of Therapy Dogs International. I go to local libraries, and children read to me. Only a very few dogs have the laid-back temperament required to belong to this organization, by the way. I had to pass a test.
What's your life like when you aren't working?
My favorite thing in the world is the beach at Carmel. Throw me a ball on a beach and I'm in doggie heaven.
I don't want to pry into your personal life, but I have to ask: How'd you get a boy's name?
It's because my mom lost a beloved cat named Nick and wanted to honor him when she got a dog. She assumed she was getting a boy, but then she fell for me. I love my name, even if it does confuse people sometimes. And isn't it appropriate? Here I am, a girl dog with a boy name playing a boy dog in "Annie." I'm always for gender-blind casting.
After all these times on stage in "Annie," have you learned anything?
It's no hard-knock life for me. If you received a treat every time someone sang "Tomorrow," you bet your bottom dollar you'd be happy, too. Now, did someone mention a Carmel road trip? That's my paycheck, right?
If you go
"Annie," through Sunday, River City Theatre Company, Reedley Opera House, 1720 10th St., Reedley. reedleyrivercitytheatre.org, (559) 638-6500. $19-$25
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, email@example.com and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.