James Van Der Beek Recalls Thinking He 'Nailed' “Law & Order” Audition at 16 — Only to Find His Headshot in the 'Trash'

The 'Dawson's Creek' star shared the failed audition story during a panel at 90s Con, moderated by PEOPLE's Breanne Heldman

<p>Presley Ann/ Shutterstock     </p> James Van Der Beek at 90s Con 2024

Presley Ann/ Shutterstock

James Van Der Beek at 90s Con 2024

Even James Van Der Beek isn't immune to an awkward audition story.

Over the weekend, the actor shared a relatable story about the early days of his career during a Dawson’s Creek cast reunion panel with Kerr Smith at 90s Con in Hartford, Connecticut.

“I auditioned for Law & Order when I was, like, 16,” Van Der Beek, 47, revealed during the conversation moderated by PEOPLE's Breanne Heldman.

He recalled being told, "'If you don’t get this role, you could get another role,' and I'm like, 'Okay. Wow.'"

“So I went in, and kept very green and I prepared and this guy’s sitting at a desk, I remember, and I give him my headshot and resume and then I read, and I walked out, and as soon as I walked out I realized I’d left my backpack in the room,” he continued. “I was like, 'Oh god. Just nailed an audition.' and now I gotta, like, awkwardly walk back in. And I walk back in and I picked up my backpack, which was next to one of those wire-mesh trash cans, and my headshot was in there.”

Related: Actors Who Were on Law & Order: SVU Before Making It Big

The actor joked that it was a “long ride” back home following the failed audition. However, he later noted that he still managed to appear in several spinoffs of the long-running franchise.

“I was in every single Law & Order except that one,” Van Der Beek said. “I was on SVU, I was on Criminal Intent … but not the original.”

In 2011, he appeared on a season 10 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent as drug addict CEO Rex Tamlyn. The following year, he guest starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Sean Albert, a sperm donor trying to have children with one of his own kids in a season 13 episode.

<p>Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty</p> James Van Der Beek guest stars on 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'

Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

James Van Der Beek guest stars on 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'

During the panel with Smith, 52, the former costars reflected on some of the fun they had off-set during their years filming the hit The WB (now The CW) series in Wilmington, North Carolina from 1998 to 2003.

“A couple of the guys on the crew had boats and, you know, we had the guest stars come in and the writers come in every episode, and we would take them out on the water on the weekends," Smith said. "We'd stop and eat crab in the morning. And we'd fill up the boats with whatever we needed. We would barbecue out on the island. We all had jetskis."

The actors got up to some trouble on said jetskis, as both Smith and Van Der Beek then revealed.

"I'm surprised I didn't actually kill myself!" Smith said of his time using the watercraft.

Related: 98 Degrees' Jeff Timmons and Drew Lachey Heat Up the Night at 90s Con Afterparty

Warner Bros./Getty 'Dawson's Creek' stars Katie Holmes, James Van Der Beek, Michelle Williams and Joshua Jackson pose in 1997
Warner Bros./Getty 'Dawson's Creek' stars Katie Holmes, James Van Der Beek, Michelle Williams and Joshua Jackson pose in 1997

"I don't know if you guys know how the intercostal waterway works down in Wilmington, but there's a lot of grassy area and when the tide is higher, it kind of becomes a race course. When the tides lower, it's all mud," he explained. "So, I used to go back there and get this thing up to 70 miles an hour on the water. And I remember one time, I hit a sandbar and I flew 100 feet over the handlebars and made some waves."

Van Der Beek recalled how the annual hurricanes that would hit the area would prompt even more dangerous trips for the actors. “I would book the first flight out the next morning and I would get on my jetski and would ride the hurricane waves,” he shared.

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Dawson's Creek aired from 1998 to 2003 on The WB. It also starred Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, Joshua Jackson, Mary-Margaret Humes, John Wesley Shipp, Mary Beth Peil, Nina Repeta, Meredith Monroe and Busy Philipps.

Dawson's Creek can be streamed in full on Hulu, Prime Video and The CW app.

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