Yeah I told you that TOGITW isn't gonna catch on as an acronym for That Other Girl in the Wheelchair, but I'm clearly giving my all to make it happen anyway. As promised and alluded to yesterday in this awesome guest post from my buddy Kristine, today's blog is the 'to be continued' portion. As you might have read, she got the gig on Portlandia and has already filmed her part for a season 6 episode. Here is her spoiler-free account of that surreal experience, which I have hastily photoshopped into existence.
by: Kristine NapperAs the filming day approached, I was full of questions about how to prepare, and by the night before, nerves had completely taken over, and I’d decided this was the worst idea I’d ever had. It was the last weekend of summer vacation, which meant I was working-for-free, getting my classroom set up, feeling the annual anxiety attacks set in, and then on top of that, I had to film a TV show that the entire country would be watching?? No. Too much. My insides were saying “retreat!” but of course it was too late for that.
I’d been told to bring four or five wardrobe options—casual or business casual, not too bright, no logos, no tight patterns, whatever that means. I spent forever going through my closet, and finally packed several options, and wore my favorite one. I forgot to selfie that outfit, but I went with a chambray shirt, black pants, and the hipster shoes I’d worn to the audition. I was also told that I should come with my hair and makeup “camera ready,” but they’d have their people do any necessary adjustments.
The night before filming, I was given the address and call time. There was an attached call sheet, which is apparently a thing, and it seemed to have waaaaaay more information than I needed. There was a weather report, and the name of everyone involved in making the show, and all these notes about filming and locations and things that were in secret codes with acronyms and numbers that meant nothing to me. Staring at the page made me feel illiterate.
I had to get up at 5am to allow plenty of time for getting ready and to the set. But my body decided to wake up at 4, because it doesn’t value sleep nearly enough. On arrival, I was greeted by a nice person who led me to a room of other people looking about as fish-out-of-water as I felt. But we had handlers being nice to us and getting us where we needed to be. More paperwork, where I feel like I filled out the same information ten different times. This time I was confident I got my social security number right! Small victories.
The wardrobe people gave me a once-over, told me my outfit was perfect, “very Carrie,” and they loved my shoes. The hair people said my hair looked great. The makeup person complimented my makeup and did some minor touch-ups, while sharing fun facts about how some people are allergic to the color red in makeup because of the crushed up beetle that it comes from. (#TheMoreYouKnow) So I figured that if I accomplished nothing else in my one-day acting career, at least I seemed to successfully meet the fashion requirements.
As they got us in our places on the set, I chatted with the other actor-for-a-day-in-a-wheelchair, and it turns out she’s also a teacher, in the same district where I work. She’s a substitute, has actually subbed in my school before, and the kids who hadn’t met me yet thought she was me! Small world. I got kinda excited. “You’re the other me! I’ve been wanting to meet you!” Guys, your friends in wheelchairs will tell you that no, we don’t all know each other. But, I’ll let you in on a secret… We kinda do.
Just being on the set was cool. I got excited about one of the props, and asked if I could play with it. Permission was granted. All these people were arranging lights, microphones, cameras. I don’t actually know what half the people in that room were doing, but there sure felt like a lot of them. The sound people hid a mic in my shirt. I told them, “I feel like I’m being bugged by the FBI… Are you guys going to send me on a secret mission?” The guy was quick to respond, “Sure, if you want!” You actually have a secret mission ready? “Well, yeah, we all do.” I’m only 85% sure he was joking.
When Fred and Carrie came in the room, I’m only human, and I couldn’t help staring… Then I noticed every extra’s head was turned to stare at them too, so I had to laugh at our collective star-struckedness. (Yeah, it’s a word.) They were very nice! Thanked us several times for coming out and doing this… as if we were doing them a favor!
Fred warned us that “We won’t really follow the script. We’ll hit the points, but we’re going to jump around, go out of order. Just let it flow naturally.” Fred Armisen—Fred Armisen!—was asking me to do this crazy thing I’d never done before. I mean, I knew that’s what my job was for the day. But, Fred Armisen, you guys! No pressure….
After running through the blocking really quick, we were all quiet and in our places. They started calling out directions about sound and whatever; somebody clicked the clapperboard (Just like in the movies! And yes, I had to google to know it’s called a clapperboard.), and they called “Action!” It was happening!
We were in the scene, and watching Fred and Carrie work was fascinating. A few times I had to remind myself, “You’re not watching the scene; you’re in the scene. You should probably say something.” They’re so funny! One could just start going off on a crazy tangent, and the other was right there with them, like they somehow knew where this was going. (And somehow, I was also supposed to know what was happening…) You knew there had been a really golden line when people would laugh, and the director would have to ask for it again, to get a cleaner recording. Some of the unscripted physical comedy had us completely cracking up.
I enjoyed having the makeup lady constantly freshening our faces. I just want to take her with me everywhere, keeping me pretty every moment of the day.
I can’t wait to see how this is all edited together into a final product. I’m sure it’ll only be a couple minutes long. But each time we ran the scene, it was pretty long, just giving lots of material to pull from. After a few times through, I found myself getting a little confused. We were repeating the same basic scene, but it was different each time, so it got hard to keep track of what I’d already said, or should still say, or whatever. Then at the end, they focused in on different groups of us, getting repeats of various lines or reaction shots. “React to when they said this line… Look over there… Say this line again… Now say it a little flatter… Do the part where you talked about this, but explain it more…” I’m sure you get used to that when you actually do this for a living, but I found that out-of-context stuff difficult to do.
Now I have to brag about one of my greatest life accomplishments: On one of the run-throughs, I came up with a brilliant line that made everyone break character and laugh out loud…. I made Fred and Carrie laugh!! I sure hope that makes it in the final cut, because I’m very proud of it! (They had me repeat it a couple times, so I’m hopeful.)
And… that was basically it. They decided they had what they needed, and we cleared out. At that point, I badly wanted to be the geeky fangirl and ask for a photo with Fred and Carrie… but I got shy. So it didn’t happen. I’ll try to capture a good screenshot when the episode airs, and save it forever.
Overall, it was a ton of fun! Playing make-believe with famous people isn’t a bad way to spend a day. And, bonus, I should be getting a handsome little check for doing this… Is it weird that it caught me by surprise when they mentioned payment? I understand this is people’s job and they get paid for it, but to me, this was just a surreal, crazy adventure!
I don’t even know the air date yet. It’ll be a few months. And I don’t even know if I’m looking forward to it or not… It was a crazy cool experience, and I’ve been having fun getting attention for it ever since. But do I really want people to see this? A couple people have told me I should have a viewing party, and that sounds fun, but… What if I look stupid? And/or sound stupid? What if it’s that sitcommy moment, where I discover they edited me out entirely, or dubbed over me? What if this was the worst idea I’ve ever had?
How is this my real life? But no time to worry about any of that now; I have classes to teach. :)