Monday, October 05, 2009

DAMAGES don't show on Martin Short

There are days when it just gets better and better to be an extra. Today was one of those!
(Episode 1 aired on 1/25/2010: I'm the bodyguard in the trenchcoat.)

Holding was at the prestigious Salamagundi Club for American Art. A historical place located in the brownstone section of downtown's 5th avenue between 11th and 12th Streets. Many famous artists were members here, including Winston Churchill, R.B. Fuller, Al Hirschfeld...etc. The perfect crossroads for our mutually artistic endeavors here. Our set was one brownstone #47. Thus I was now part of the 3rd season of DAMAGES.

The scene was explained to us as one in which a Bernie Madoff-like character, named Taubin (Len Cariou), was coming out of his home and a couple of shots ring out... everyone ducks! EXCITING...

I was dressed in my suit and new Ralph Lauren trench coat, which I had just taken off so I can rest from my walk over from 8th Avenue, when we were summoned to go outside and be "onlookers" for the shooting crime scene. Obviously, they were shooting the aftermath of the melee first. So I decided to put on my glasses and amble out from the comfortable chat room that our holding area had become. I was immediately selected to be put on the sidelines and be more of a gawker from a distance near the "taped off crime scene". I must have been a pretty good blurr -along with the 20 or so others around me, because it was a quick take. Back to holding.

A few minutes later they wanted "reporters" I put on my trench coat and went on line for the associated props -surrendering my drivers license as collateral. I received a press badge, a pad and pen, and... a digital recorder. Needless to say we extras had a lot of fun with interviewing each other (and thereby getting into character). I "interviewed" one of the young women who liked to share stories about movies she had been in. My questioning went like this:

Q: What movie were you in the last time you were an extra?
A: I was in "A Couple of Dicks"...with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.

Q: Did you get to see both Dicks?
A: Yes... I saw both...


And we were called to the second scenario. Again, I was immediately picked to be one of about a dozen reporters surrounding Martin Short as he makes a public statement about his client, Tobin. As we're practicing how to jut out our hand-held recorders and microphones toward our target... Martin Short walks into our midst and says a couple of non-challant "Hello"'s.
Although I had seen Martin Short's character in the previous season of Damages, I did not expect him to be so serious in person. After all, this was the immensely talented comic of Saturday Night Live, creating numerous funny characters that bent you over with uncontrollable laughter (my favorite was Ed Grimley). So it was a bit difficult to adjust to the properly coiffed and impeccably suited character portrayed by the "new Martin Short". But I accepted it... how could you not, being 2 feet away from him and watching him practice his lines with a disturbingly stoic face. At the end of his monologue (aka: "statement to the press") he dismisses all of us with "no further questions"... and we are directed to yell after him with a futile attempt to get more legalese utterances. The scene was shot quite a few times until Todd Kessler, the director was satisfied.
I realized that this was the closest I'd ever been to an actor without being introduced. I was kwelling! It can't get any better than this.

Oh YES it can!

When we were told to come out for the third scene, I was (again) immediately picked to "go stand over there -next to that other gentleman". And as I met up with my new African-American gentleman friend, we began a friendly banter. He was about my height, had a white beard, and said he worked with rappers like "Fiddy Cent". Kewl! And as we were chatting it up...a couple of major director-types came up and told us we were being "promoted". Took our "press badges", and gave us "secret service earplugs with the curly wire connected to our shirts". We two were selected to be "Madoff's/Taubin's" body guards. And then we were ushered up the brownstone steps and into the entrance area where we were now introduced to Martin Short, and the elderly actor, Len Cariou, who plays Taubin... and Todd Kessler himself. All of them shook hands with us. Now that's a promotion I've yet to experience!

Our direction was to go out to the oncoming rush of reporters. My fellow body guard would go first, followed by Martin Short with "Taubin" behind, and then me -with all of us shooing the reporters out of our way WHEN, suddenly a couple of shots ring out and we all crouch down on the steps in abject terror of whatever may have happened. The scene went well... numerous times. But the director wanted "Just one more...just for FUN!". Naturally we obliged. But I had developed a kind of rhythm all my own of just how a body guard should behave. And so, after each shot rang out, while everyone else was hiding their heads -I stuck mine up...with a menacing glance to see "where the shots came from". I was sure I would be told to "hide" my prominence with the others -but miracle of miracles, it was acceptable each time. So there's a good chance that I may see myself on this episode. One problem, I forgot to ask which episode this was. Oh well, there's always HULU in case I miss it.
I went to see Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" over this past weekend and she was terrific. I mention this because her wonderful performance was inspiring in terms of "facing up to your life" (not to mention reprising it every night on the stage). And the connection is that both Carrie's one-woman-play "life story" and DAMAGES are... damaged. Both reveal a psychologically disturbing undertone that is the real driving force for the surface story of their respective main characters. The difference is that Carrie's is real, and DAMAGES' is only for a few seasons. Comparatively speaking, an extra's life, at least, remains intact. No waivers, thank you.