A ‘Friends’ Casting Director Told A Current ‘Abbott Elementary’ Star to Quit Acting 30 Years Ago

William Stanford Davis recalls the worst result he’d ever had at an audition thanks to a sadistic ‘Friends’ staffer
A ‘Friends’ Casting Director Told A Current ‘Abbott Elementary’ Star to Quit Acting 30 Years Ago

Whether it’s auditioning for a smash hit sitcom or asking a beautiful person out on a date, we’re always told that, when we put ourselves out there and ask for what we want, the worst thing that can happen is that we’ll be told “no.” Mr. Johnson knows that to be the biggest lie since the government said that there’s no colony of lizard people living underneath the Denver Airport.

Before signing on to play the conspiracy theorizing, endlessly enigmatic janitor Mr. Johnson on Abbott Elementary, veteran TV actor William Stanford Davis was best known for appearing in 20 episodes of the crime drama Ray Donovan. But long before he was on either show, Davis spent the early 1990s trying to jump-start an acting career before sniffing out a role that could very well have been his big break. Like most aspiring comic actors during the decade, Davis considered the opportunity to audition for a small role on Friends to be an absolute golden ticket, and, 30 years later, he still considers that part to be the most memorable one that got away.

In a recent conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Davis recalled how, not only did he not land a spot on Friends, but a particularly callous casting director astoundingly decided to phone up Davis’ agent after the audition and implore them to tell Davis to give up on his acting dreams and do something with his life. Three decades later, Davis is working as a janitor at an underfunded public school. 

Who’s laughing now?

When asked if there was a role from his three decades in entertainment that he desperately wanted to land but couldnt close at the audition, Davis answered, “I auditioned for Friends, and the casting director called my agent and told him that they thought I needed to quit, that I needed to go back to doing something else. And thats the way it was told to me.” 

Davis was perplexed by this kind of feedback when a simple “no” would have sufficed, saying, “I thought they had me confused with someone else. I said, ‘My audition couldn’t have been as bad as the one they’re describing.'”

However, in retrospect, Davis has a positive, constructive outlook on the worst rejection an actor can receive, saying of his failed Friends audition and its aftermath, “That was the best thing that happened to me. It made me decide that no one was going to have those kinds of remarks or comments about my work. I’m not going to book the gig, but no one is going to ever say, ‘Boy, he sucked.’”

In fact, that Friends casting directors advice couldnt have backfired more — following the feedback, Davis changed his entire trajectory, saying of that stage in his career, “I was on the road doing stand-up comedy, and I put all of that on the back burner and concentrated on being the best actor I could possibly be.”

Ironically, despite the fact that Friends changed his life in the opposite direction than one staffer intended, Davis says he doesnt even remember what the part was in the first place. “Its been so long ago. And once I didn’t get the gig, it’s like everything else, you kind of forget about it,” Davis explained.

Funny how, 30 years later, Davis is a star on a hit sitcom and no one cares who cast Friends.


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?