Sunday, December 30, 2012

An entry into The Carrie Diaries

Anna Sophia Robb as the young Carrie Bradshaw

December was starting to look pretty bleak on my background calendar.  Perhaps Hurricane Sandy had put a damper on the filming industry for a while -stalling all previously scheduled work.  For me, there were no call-backs until mid-month when I got a notice to go for a fitting at Steiner Studios for the Carrie Diaries.  I’d been submitting to this on Central Casting for quite a while and FINALLY I got the gig.   I began doing my research on IMDB to see who the principals were.  Just wanted to make sure I’d recognize them in the event that they would actually be in my scene.  Of course, I was hoping to see the main character of young Carrie Bradshaw: Anna Sophia Robb.

Two days later I self-reported to a college in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in the afternoon.  It was an upscale neighborhood and parking was easy on the winter-scaped campus.  Holding was in the gym and I camped out at one of the sparse tables in the front near the PA’s station.  There were about 80 extras, most of whom were teenagers taking part in a high school dance (I wasn't slated for that scene).  They were cute but rather blasé about the whole thing -their 1985 period shoes seemed to offer only discomfort and torpor.  An hour or so later, my table began to have more life to it as five guys and a tall young woman found their places here.  Since we weren't going to be used until dark, our dragged-out conversations got livelier and livelier.

The tall young lady at our table discussed health foods and safety on the subway, then left for long periods of time. As expected, whenever you have a couple of guys left alone at a table, the conversation always turns to sex.  One of the 50-ish guys began commenting about how he generally has sex thrice a day!  That certainly made him the immediate center of frivolous commentary from the rest of us.  Another guy began to tell about all his encounters with big-name stars like Marlon Brando.  Since he didn’t look that old, we all began to side-glance at one another with questionable looks –but listened intently nonetheless at his anecdotes.  The third guy was a youngish actor who really preferred to work in theater on the stage rather than in this obscure background gig.  He liked being the life of the party and told me about how he’d been turned down for theater auditions even before he had a chance to show his stuff.  In his words, “At the Broadway level of acting… EVERYONE’s talented!”  But only the “insiders” really land the jobs.  Newbies only have a 1 in a million chance.  Still, he liked the business and so he persisted.  The guy on my left was a writer and was trying to break into getting a publisher (other than himself)… he found it very tough, but he continued to believed in himself.  And then there was “Broadway Bob”!

Broadway Bob, as he wanted to be called, was a short well-dressed elderly man with a snappy cigar in his jacket pocket who had just gotten into doing extras work recently.  Comedy and tragedy exuded from his lips for the better part of our afternoon.  He began by pointedly asking us if we could tell that he was wearing a taupe?!?  He had very neat hair –but now that he called our attention to it, we noted the flaky sides starting to curl up from his scalp.  We all played “dumb and dumber”.  Other stories dealt with him crossing paths with the mob and shyster lawyers who fleeced him during a divorce proceeding that included an inadvertent police arrest.  It was one personal story after another –all of which had an increasingly deeper emotional effect on him.   There was a point where his eyes welled up with tears and his voice began to strain –but it seemed that he just had to get it off his chest.  I soon realized that our little circle of men was really acting like a group therapy session for him.  He was genuinely giving us a rare moment of reality –absorbing our attention with his natural George-Burns-like character in the world of a Broadway Danny Rose.

 At some point after it got dark, we were called to the set.  It was a theater scene in which Carrie’s father, played by Matt Letscher, and her sister played by Stefania Owen had exited the theater after seeing the Nutcracker Suite and we extras were placed around them.  The call-sheet showed that Nanette Burstein was our director, but most of the shots were apparently being directed by a very exuberant woman with stringy white hair. She was stern but friendly.  I was paired with a short woman who was to exit the theater with me (as a couple) and we would mime to each other “What a great presentation we just saw!”  As we chatted between takes, it became clear that we were both unemployed from similar industries and doing these gigs was a kind of “escape”.  Her story was not much different from Broadway Bob’s angst-ridden plight into this world of fantasy that seemed much friendlier than any of our respective “realities”. 

A second shoot that was to take place outside had been cancelled due to the inclement weather and we were released early.  I was second on line to get my voucher signed by the PA when Broadway Bob sat down at this table, began to fill out his form and constantly kept  peppering the PA with questions about filling out the form (not unlike Peter Falk in the Columbo TV series).  It was another half hour before I (and a series of other frustrated extras) got our papers processed.  Nonetheless, you had to love Broadway Bob –he was a natural!

My longstanding astute observation that “the real show takes place backstage” was yet again validated.