Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, 9:20 AM. It's Day One, and I'm late. This is what happens when one travels a New Route in LA. I'm berating myself ("Rookie move! Rookie Move!!") and am in road-rage mode against anyone not speeding but it doesn't help because apparently I'm the winner of the hit-every-red-light lottery (on Venice Blvd? Really??) so I do the side-street shuffle to Van Ness where I Dukes-of-Hazard it over those aggravating speed bumps and I'm so focused I don't even giggle at the sign that says "Speed Humps" (yeah baby!!!) and thank Christ I FINALLY MAKE A LIGHT and I blast across Melrose and into the parking structure.... And just like that, I'm back. Season four. I landed in LA on July 4 after ten uninterrupted weeks in the Northeast. The re-entry has been surreal: everywhere, reminders that this is indeed Los Angeles. Where I live. Kind of. For most of the year. This is my car; this is the bright sun; this is my favorite spot for a beer. The return to routine feels --I don't know how else to say it-- strange. Once again, swiping my ID through the studio gate. Once again, a warm "welcome back!" from the guard. Once again hustling over to stage eight, only to find they've moved our trailers to free up parking spaces for those American Horror Story-ers. (Bastards!) I've done all this before, of course, so I guess it's this: one never imagines these little wonderful things will become habit. And it ends up the setup for the first shot took a while, so I'm not even late. I take it as a sign, and relax, and let in the strangeness-- this deja-vu of the returning senior, the "new-only-not" feeling unique to one's first day back at school as a vet. Strangest, though, is how quickly the newness fades. After all the hugs, the hello's, the "welcome backs," (and a few awkward "...you're back?? I mean-- You're back!! Hey! Great!!"), it's suddenly as if we'd all been right here, doing this, yesterday. Perhaps it's due to experience, or so many familiar faces: our turnover is, apparently, remarkably low. We've got a new crew member, fresh from Mad Men, who remarks that our show is famed for its tight crew and easy days. Easy? Easy??? (Well, OK, that's true: we haven't had many 20-hour days. ) (And I cannot imagine a 20-hour day on Mad Men.) Victor (our genius DP) points out that very few people ever see Season Four on a single show. So this is how it feels four years in: at four years in, you answer questions from the New Guys; at four years in, you find you're chatty with pretty much everyone. (Except Miguel Ferrer - I still think of him as that intense dude in Traffic so he scares me a little. We just say hi.) To you, this all may seem like a given and not strange at all, but to me... I don't know. It's hard to define, beyond saying that it's nice to belong. But I can only dwell on the feeling for a moment-- rehearsal's up for the big scene. Back to work. Which feels nice too. Speaking of The Scene, a quick acting tale from Day One: After a couple of quick walk-and-talks, the first Big Scene of the day --remember, we're talking Day One of Episode One after two months off-- is a flashback. A flashback that is a CONTINUOUS LINK from a very, very tense, cliffhanger scene shot TEN WEEKS AGO. It will be the very first shot of the season for our stars, here at 10 AM after two months of travel and family and birthdays and reunions. (The script, if you're curious, came in on Friday.) Wanna know what we get for rehearsal and prep? For the first Big Scene here on a Big Network Show? A blocking rehearsal. One. Blocking rehearsal. Then it's back to the trailers, where we have twenty minutes to move from Vacation Mode to Big Drama mode. Oh, and since we're a little behind, once the cast is on set it'll move quickly. Grab a master, push in on a few closeups, move on. YES, I know: we're not talking Long Day's Journey Into Night here. It's a television crime procedural. A television crime procedural that's seen be fifteen million people a week. One's acting, for better or worse, judged by fifteen million people a week Funny, how that can creep into an actor's head right about at the moment of "...aaaaand, ACTION." The lesson(s)? Experience counts. The scene's gonna work because it will feel seamless. The seamless continuity works only because the character continuity works. The character continuity works because the actor (and the coach...) (ahem) have lived with it for so long and understand the job. You get the idea. So, finally, I leave you with my constant reminder about this work we do: think it's easy? You try it. Actually, if you haven't already, I truly hope you do. Because it's awesome. And, yes: strange.
Day Two. Emerging from the sea, take 4. Trust me, it only LOOKS warm.


  1. Beats some of our beaches, complete with whale sharks scaring the beejeesus out of one and all-especially one rookie kayaker the other day. Report was that he got his paddling down in a hurry.

  2. Is it totally weird that I hear you describing the process of jumping into the new season, and half of me is scared crapless by how fast it moves and the other half is inwardly jumping up and down at the part about trying it and going "Heck. YES."? :P Cuz uh... that sounds amazing.