It's late April. I'm in a van coming down from a glacial lake 70 miles east of Vancouver in British Columbia. I've just finished shooting a movie for the Sci-Fi channel entitled "Pole Reversal." It's only been a three week shoot but it seems longer, being away from home and having to work in rain and cold for the first time since, well, since the last time I worked in Vancouver. I grew up between Philadelphia and New York, but after years in California, I have become a Weather Weenie.
The rain is beating down on the windshield and though it's only 6:30 PM it has already been dark for hours. I call my wife and crow into the phone that I'm done, I'm coming home, and I can't wait to take it easy for several days.
"The first Heroes script has arrived," she tells me.
"Oh, no, already?" I whine. "I need some down time. I'm exhausted. "Take a look and tell me how much I'm in it."
After an interminable pause, she says, "I don't see you in the script at all. I don't think you're in the first episode."
"What?! How can I not be in the first episode?! It's the season premiere! What do you mean I'm not in it?! Look again!"
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is an actor in a nutshell. The only person who complains more than an unemployed actor, is an employed actor.
Not that I'm complaining. Heroes is the best gig in television. It's in town, a major plus when you have a family and have lost the taste for the gypsy life. It's an ensemble, which means you don't have to work every day. An ensemble also means you do not make as much money (do I hear violins?) but you are more than a life-support system for the show. I may be wrong but I would bet a substantial amount that if Hugh Laurie had to choose between less money and less work right about now, he would be taking that pay cut and tap dancing all the way to his favorite getaway spot. (That's his lawyer on the phone. They're suing me.)
For our crew, it is a different matter. No crew in television works as hard. There is not a show on TV that takes as long to shoot or has nearly the degree of difficulty that ours has. I'm sure other crews would argue... but they would be wrong. And unlike us coddled actors, the crew does not get days off. They barely get hours off.
Ever notice how being president ages a person? It's amazing to watch what an episode of Heroes does to a new director. And by new, I mean new to the show. There are no "new" directors on Heroes. They would spontaneously combust. At the end of an episode, new directors usually have the thousand-mile stare. They've just directed Spider-Man in 12 days. Several of them have absolutely knocked it out of the park and they quickly have gotten worked into the rotation but I don't think I would get any argument from any of them that Heroes is the hardest show on television to direct. (Pushing Daisies may be close. PD was created by Bryan Fuller who came from... Heroes. Coincidence?)
My point here, such as it is, is that the next time you read Beaming Beeman or hear Alan Arkush talk about the show, try to remember that, as directors of Heroes, they work like dogs to create an hour of television entertainment. Add to that their producorial (not a word, should be) duties, Alan with massive post-production responsibilities, Greg with hiring and overseeing all directors and you get some idea what I'm talking about.
We actors learn our lines, hit our marks and take the bows. Oh, sure, there is the occasional wedgie from flying harnesses or burns from an errant squib, or the terror of having to learn Japanese overnight, but in general, our job is a lot easier. Except if you never get a day off. That is no picnic. Face broke out? Too bad, you're on camera. Relationship problems? Too bad, you're on camera. Got the flu? Too bad, you're on camera... You know what? Scratch what I said earlier, those people behind the camera have it easy.
Let's see them cry on cue take after take like Hayden. Or hang upside down all day without looking like they're about to have an aneurism, like Sendhil (spoiler?). Or wear Horn-Rimmed Glasses that make them look like a shop teacher from the '60s who never had time for a wife! Yeah, let them try that!
See? An actor always has a way to bring it back to himself.
So, in this little blog o' mine, don't expect the in-depth analysis of a Beeman or an Arkush, because frankly, I'm just not around when some of the coolest moments on the show go down, and, honestly, I couldn't tell you what lens they were using or how Kurosawa influenced the shot. I don't care. I'm an actor. It's about me, remember? If I had wanted to work that hard, would I have become an actor in the first place? That's a question that answers itself.
But I will tell you this: it was great going back to work on the show. Everyone was so happy to be back, to see each other, and to smash their noses back onto that grindstone. It took weeks for the bitching to begin in earnest, and in show bidness, that's forever. The show crackles with energy and everyone is excited to read the new scripts, even when you can't freakin' believe you're not in it!!! (I am in it, just barely. Whew!)
Nerves on my first day back.
"They're villains, Claire."
And some shameless self-promotion for my movie -- the one I wrote and cast myself in, even though I wasn't my first choice for the role.
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