An Actor Scrambles for Health Insurance

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Actor Charlie Shroeder shares his story about finding himself $90 short of the minimum earnings he needs to qualify for health insurance from his union, the Screen Actors Guild. So he got creative with his chosen profession...


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

The TV talent show American Idol ends its season tomorrow. An estimated 50 million Americans are expected to vote for the winner.

ADAMS: In honor of American Idol, we present two stories today about the difficult task of trying to make it in show business.

Mr. CHARLIE SCHROEDER (Actor): To be eligible for insurance this year, I needed to earn $13,790 acting last year.

BRAND: We begin with struggling actor, Charlie Schroeder, who says when he checked his earnings last December, he found he was $90 short.

Mr. SCHROEDER: Ninety bucks is a lot to an actor. Think about this. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, there were 157,000 jobs for actors, directors, and producers combined in 2004. When you consider there are 120,000 actors in SAG and that Jude Law had seven of those jobs and Hillary Swank had another four, well, you get the whole supply and demand picture.

I'd do anything to earn SAG insurance for my wife and me. Prop me up and stick me next to a plant. I'll be an extra. I don't care.

I called my agent. He said, look, I know your ego is too inflated for this, but like, you know, one day of extra work on this job pays like $100. The job? I was supposed to dance hip-hop in a club. Not good news for a guy whose idea of getting funky is the white man's overbite. Remember Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally? Mm-hmm. Still, when action was called, I did what every actor desperate for a year's worth of coverage would do. I raised the roof. Gave a couple big ups, and one time, by mistake, I think I may have even crunked. Whatever that is.

My only salvation was to spend the entire four hours on set facing upstage away from the cameras so nobody at home would see me. After all, I consider myself foreground material. I just couldn't bear it if one of my friends saw me getting jiggy with it in the background.

So the next time you watch TV or see a film, take a look at all those out of focus people milling around behind the celebs. They're probably there selling their souls for a measly $90.

Oh, and by the way, I'll be using my insurance as soon as my card arrives. I've got to see a back doctor. I think I hurt myself dancing.

BRAND: Actor Charlie Shroeder. And now part two.

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