Saturday, January 10, 2009

2nd Season Finale for DAMAGES

The blurry patron in the background is... me! (aired: 4/1/2009 in the final episode)

It was the beginning of my real-life working week when lo-and-behold an email from my "agent provocateur", Desiree, had arrived with an offer to be an extra on the second season of DAMAGES! That was great timing since my wife and I just saw the 2nd season premier of the show recently. And it was on a weekend shoot, so I didn't have any conflicts... well, not much. There was supposed to be 6 inches of snow falling that day, changing to ice rain with freezing temperatures... and the shoot was going to be outside. Pshawwww! Piece of cake.

The email was only a few minutes old so I was pretty confident that I'd get the booking if I responded quickly enough. A quick check with the wife and I was "cleared for takeoff"!

The call time of 6:30 AM in Brooklyn Heights was not as easy to make as I thought it would be. PARKING is a miraculous accomplishment in that area. But after 20 minutes of circling around in the pre-dawn streets I found a spot that was just barely legal from the ubiquitous restrictions signs. I got out and grabbed my wardrobe paraphernalia and began my 3 block trek to holding. En route I passed the HEIGHTS CAFE. It was surrounded by lights and crew and I figured that was the set. I flagged down one of the walkie-talkie guys and asked where holding was. Since he was headed there himself, we walked together. After starting up a little chit-chat with him, I found out that Glen Close was not going to be in this scene at which point I had an inkling that my favorite alternate-actress, Rose Byrne, would nevertheless be there. As it turned out, I was right on the money. Oh Happy Day!

Holding was on Remsen Street, a large well lit and WARM room in one of the local churches. Inside, I settled down by myself at one of the tables when I saw a friendly face from the corner of my eye. It was Owen, from the Fashion Rock and Verizon gigs. We immediately clicked and lamented about our past few-and-far-in-between jobs during the past year. And then we were quickly assembled and called to the set -it was time to go to work.

The first scene had to do with all of us walking all over the intersection outside of the Heights Cafe (wherein Rose Byrne was sitting -later to be joined by Tate Donovan). We did this on and off for about an hour in the cold air. Luckily I was dressed in my business suit and warm trench coat. My buddy Owen, was unfortunately in a casual hoodie and was feeling frosty after a while.

Our dizzy parading had ended -it was to provide realism for the activity outside the cafe, and we were told to return to holding. Ah! Warmth again... and let's not forget about the bathroom's comfortably relieving environs either.

When I exited the WC (wasser-closet), I heard the PA telling everyone to switch into our alternate wardrobe: the business casual "acceptably shlumpy" look. I was puzzled! Was that all they wanted out of my business suit? So I went over to the PA and asked for verification. She immediately got on the horn and a second later (really...one second), she said "they need you back on the inside of the set". Wow... talk about a squeaky wheel getting oiled, I zoomed out of holding and down the street only to be catching up to three other perspective returnees ambling down the block toward the coveted set.

When we got there, we all went inside the cafe which on the inside was turned into a jumble of lights and cables and a wild mix of various levels of directors and assistants. One of them immediately ushered us out of the warm belly of the beast and so we wound up waiting outside in the cold for him to get back to us. Tick, tock,... Graciously, the wait was relatively short and our new "handler" gave us all the once-over-look. We all knew the excruciating routine -WHO WOULD HE PICK? WHO GETS THE PRIZE?

Finally, after a looooong "Ummmmm", the Jason Lee-look-alike pointed to me and one of the women to go in and be "placed" on the set. We ambled through the light poles and thick cabling onto the main area where the two of us were seated in a horse-shoe shaped booth, ready with breakfast settings. Alas, my female companion's stint was short lived. For some reason, maybe the green sweater, she was asked to leave and I was placed into her seat. The seat that was directly in line with the back of Rose Byrne's head, Tate Donovan's face and the DP's camera lens. Yesssssssssssss!

Tate Donovan

My direction was to be a lone businessman-patron in the background who is reading the paper while nibbling on his breakfast. Simple enough, but after take-1 I was told to "put the phone down"! I was incredulous at the director's direction so I challenged him: "What phone? Where? I don't have a phone!" I blurted out at the injustice of the apparent criticism. But it was just his way of telling me to put my left hand down from my ears (where I usually cradle my head when I'm having breakfast!?). He told me to not worry and "eat occasionally -it's real food, drink OJ every now and then" and make sure I don't make any "background noises"... !

What's he accusing me of now, inadvertent flatulance? Oh yeah...he meant the fork and glasses shouldn't be heard in the microphone during my motions.

After the 2nd and 3rd take, I was complemented with making it look "very natural" and "perfect"! (Damn! I'm good.)

Director Todd Kessler

But of course, my attention between takes was on the principals. Tate Donovan looked real skinny and much younger in person than on TV. He was good with his lines and the well directed blocking. Rose Byrne had her head back to me...but I noted that she blew her lines once or twice and she was disappointed in herself. The director, Todd Kessler would crouch down at her table and provided a few serious-faced instructions between takes. Later, after the scene was completed, Rose stood up -a shapely figure, almost in silhouette against the cafe's bright window -and gave a glance my way. There was a nanosecond of a moment with eye-contact between us as she paused and then went past my booth to her own holding area in the back. She has alluringly sad eyes-but then that may have been a part of "remaining in character".

The scene: The character of Ellen Parsons, who is trying to warn Tate's character, Tom Shayes regarding the impending doom about to befall their treacherous boss, Patty Hewes (Glen Close). Tom, of course accuses her of being crazy and storms out of the restaurant. End of scene. Later on I learned that this was part of the last episode a.k.a. "the season finale"! Whew...I just made it. Albeit, a 3rd season has reportedly been agreed to by the powers that be.

The third scene dealt with walking down a busy street. I was paired with an elderly woman who had been a SAG extra for quite some time and during the takes we shared the usual stories about our respective adventures as extras. She was recently on the Conan O'Brien show, photographed as a granny who was run down by Santa's reindeer. She was extremely good natured and very comical in describing the positions that she was contorted into for the photo shoot. Talking with her made the discomforts of the cold weather negligible -I would have loved to hear more.

The shoot was done -there was no snow, rain or ice, and we returned to holding where they were setting up for lunch. Unfortunately, we were told that our 4 hour stint was enough and we could leave! And that, of course immediately triggered my hand to reach for my "exit voucher", putting me in first place (a career first) on the sign-out-line. I bid farewell to Owen...and was home in 45 minutes. Just in time to hear my wife tell me that we were getting together with our cousins for ... what else, LUNCH!