Sunday, January 10, 2010

Out of Season

A few weeks ago, they filmed the FX TV show, DAMAGES (starring Glenn Close) ON my street, but did they call me to work on it then? No, of course not. They called me to work on it when we had to trek to the Long Island hamlet of Melville on the day after a HUGE blizzard. We met the courtesy van that would take us to our fake destination of Antigua on the same east side corner in Manhattan where I met the van for BOARDWALK EMPIRE (see my earlier blog). The driver proceeded to get totally lost so a 45-minute drive turned into a 1.5 hour drive. I could have flown to Washington, DC or Burlington, VT in that time, or the ACTUAL Antigua. Did I mention that it was a summer scene shot in the dead of winter, only 21 degrees outside, in Melville, Long Island?

Once we arrived and traversed the icy path to the "Bank of Antigua," it was well worth the effort. As we entered this financial institution in Long Island, right behind the reception desk was a huge floor-to-ceiling indoor aquarium, filled with stingrays and exotic fish and crustaceans that I couldn't have identified in a million years if you paid me, which they did. But since it was an actual bank office, it was like working in Fort Knox. We had to be escorted everywhere, including the bathrooms. Like I was going to steal a fish.

Now, as an extra, while you're not required to bring a change of costume (unless they tell you to and then you get paid more for it) it always behooves one to bring multiple options to keep the wardrobe department happy. In all these years, I still haven't learned to cut down on what I bring, so from my backpack & garment bag with enough clothing to Eurail around Europe for a decade, they picked out a lovely little gold & white outfit that I had bought at a 42nd Street crafts mall, since knocked down to make way for DubaiWorld, or some such thing.

While practicing walking back and forth across the bank in my wrinkled yet festive summer outfit, I was pulled aside by one of the Production Assistants and asked if I would be a stand-in for "the banker," played by Cordelia Reynolds. I said yes, since you get more money for being a stand-in. So, I looked to see the person I'd be standing in for and she was about a fraction of my age, a 16th of my size, blonde, skinny as a rail and 8 feet tall in heels. She's like the cheerleader and I'm like the clarinet player in the marching band (which I really was). Still, don't blame me when the greenscreen image is thrown off!

Had I known that by stand-in, they literally meant STANDING in...! We were on our feet for ages. At one point, I was so tired and so hungry and craft services brought around chili sandwiches for the crew. But I'm a vegetarian! Next thing you know, they're bringing around a tray of tofu chili. Yay! Now, try eating THAT standing up in an actual bank with a camera right on you. Let's just say that all elegance went out the window as I tried to daintily eat a friggin' chili sandwich. I turned around for a second and caught a glimpse of myself in the camera monitor and it was a closeup of my sandwich in my nail-bitten hands and it was crumbling all over the place. Everybody else had finished theirs already and they were ready to shoot again. I had to throw the rest of it out but at least it got me through the next segment of the shoot.

After the shot was set up with the stand-ins, they brought in the "First Team," the principal players. I was sent back to be background again. The P.A. told me that on my cue, I should walk up to the desk of the bank, but then he changed his mind and said to walk around the side instead. They shouted "background action," and for some reason, in my delirious state, I walked up to the desk of the bank. CUT!!! (Did I not tell you that I'm the worst actress ever?) They then send me OUTSIDE the bank, in the actual cold in my little gold and white outfit, and the P.A. signals me to walk in right after Tate Donovan's character walks in. (I tell everyone he dated Jennifer Aniston, but I think maybe that was just her character on FRIENDS. This is how rumors start.) Everybody else has a coat outside but I just have a big wool sweater to throw on between shots, a sweater that was given to me by my roommate after our Amsterdam Avenue apartment was burned down by a junky freebasing cocaine, back in the day. So Tate says something to me like, aren't you cold? I act all cool and say, nah, I'm in menopause so the hot flashes are keeping me warm. He says that he is, too.

I do have to say, the crew was especially nice and the director, Glenn Kessler, had the patience of a saint. One of the long-term stand-ins, Janine, I'd met once before when she first taught me the art of "standing-in," on the set of Law & Order, many years ago. She kept me from being a total moron, as best she could. The other background players were an interesting assortment of folks, including someone named King, playing a beach-goer, who walked around in an American flag robe all day, while off-set, and in goggles, while waiting to roll. I asked if he just had one name, like Charo, and he said his last name was Hollywood. King Hollywood. Right. It was a long but fun day, for which I got extra pay for wearing wardrobe out of season. But at the end of the day, I still don't know if you say Antig-wa or Antig-ah.

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