You CAN teach an old dog new stunts!
Actors of a certain age are excused from doing fights and action sequences and all that other dangerous stuff. At least that is what I thought until I arrived on set for my guest star assignment on Shooter yesterday. My scene partner, Ryan Phillippe, who also serves as Star and Producer on the show pointed out that, when our scene is interrupted by an assassin who tries dispatch our hero Bob Lee Bragger (played by Ryan Phillippe) there is no reason for me to stay around and that it made no sense for my character to linger while the fight is going on. The best solution would be for me to get involved in the fight, get incapacitated, and thereby be present when it comes time for Bob Lee to get the Truth. The Director took on a look concern and asked me if I was “up for it”! I smiled and said Hell Yes!!
In my youth I was involved with stage combat, staged fights, and rudimentary stunt work. I got to meet and work with some great fight arrangers; B. H. Barry, Steven White, David Leong and the amazing Rick Sordelet. It was so much fun and always exciting and challenging.
Now, although I’ve reached that “certain age” I’ve kept in shape, watch my weight, do yoga and other exercises and try to keep my body strong. Yesterday it all payed off as the Stunt coordinator padded me up and put me through my paces. My bit was small but important to the story. At the start of the fight the assassin pulls a gun and it is slapped away. Hero and assassin start to fight and I go for the gun. Our hero sees me reaching for the loose firearm and lands a back kick to my exposed ribs that knocks me down and renders me immobile. Then he puts some finishing moves on the assassin.
Once the other baddie is tied up, Bob Lee Swagger interrogates me and gets the truth about why he was being set up.
I had a great time. We did the whole sequence in two takes and nobody got hurt. Kudos to Ryan and Tierre (Stunt Coordinator) and Eric (Stunt Man/Assassin). They were amazing.
It was a great day on set. One to remember for sure.
Guesting on SHOOTER this week
March has come in like a lion this year. I garnered two bookings for this first week of March. One for a very interesting short film out of AFI that I really pushed to do, the other a guest star shot on the USA Networks series SHOOTER with Ryan Phillipe. And the icing on the cake was…?
Both jobs were scheduled for the same day. Such is the life of a freelance actor. Big kudos to my reps for their heroic effort to make the schedule work for both assignments. Alas it was not meant to be though and I’m going to have to wait for a later opportunity to do an AFI film.
Looking forward to working on SHOOTER. The role is a juicy one!
Toronto is not an edgy city. It’s a place of balance and equity, harmony and symmetry. It sits on the edge of Lake Ontario and smiles and it’s not an edgy city. It’s a good town for food, for beer, for culture, for inclusion, for meshing cultures, heavy traffic and television/film production. I like it fine. A city doesn’t have to be edgy to be good.
Big day on set today. A harrowing scene involving Rebel soldiers terrorizing a busload of Americans they have kidnapped. We had them in a thatched roofed shack and were shouting in their faces, pushing them around and just generally causing havoc. All well and good until one of the hostages started fighting back against our oppression. He swung at me and missed, I thought it was on purpose, I supposed he had made the actors choice to be the “defiant” hostage. I respected that and opted to take our improv further. I took him by the shoulder and held him at arms length. I cocked by fist and hesitated. Then I called one of my henchmen and told him to “take this one outside”. My guy took hold of the “rebel” and got a sock in the eye for his trouble. The “thwack” of the collision of flesh and bone was unmistakable. There was a pause and the my henchman broke the silence with “Excuse me, I don’t think he’s supposed to hit me”. Outside the director yelled “cut”.
As ever there were two sides to the story and the poor guy who threw the punch was aggrieved and angry and frightened at the way he was being treated. He came to the set unprepared for the kind of moment we were playing. The Director took charge of the situation and got everyone calmed down. He’s a really sweet guy and very actor friendly. There was no bad blood between the two actors involved and I didn’t even mention the punch I slipped seconds before the one that landed. The day ended well and the extra with the mean right cross stayed on. Twenty years ago he would have been sacked. It’s good to see that the industry has evolved in some way. And frustrating to know that some of the people with power in our business are still abusing that power.
Loving Toronto. I could definitely spend a lot of time in this town. The people are friendly and welcoming. The city is clean and modern. The food is fresh and varied and delicious. And the beer is cold, cold, cold.
One more day of shooting tomorrow, and an early morning flight on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll have some time to catch the Dia De Los Muertos festival at Olvera Street.
Up late. Packing, sitting, looking at my sides, glancing at my carryon to be sure my passport is still sitting atop it. It’s the ritual, it’s the pattern, it’s what I do when I go on the road. I stay up late, saving up weariness for the flight. I check and recheck my necessaries. “Do I have what I really need?”. I push aside thoughts of air disasters, and keep a positive outlook. I look up museums and metro maps in the city I’ll be in. Toronto is a very cultured town. It has a metro system and the museums seem to be top notch. No doubt there are some good restaurants. And Beer? Hell it’s Canada.
Of course I wonder how I’ll be received. I’ve been a hired gun all my career. A day here, a week there, folks are usually friendly and welcoming. I remember Blair Brown making an effort to chat me up and put me at ease when I was guesting on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, it was my first network job and her kindness helped me so much. Mark Harmon on Navy NCIS welcomes guest stars as though he is welcoming guests to his house. That man is a class act.
I’m an old bunny now and much less needy. But even so I’m still the “new kid in class” whenever I’m guesting on a show.
Oh Canada! Here I come.
The life of an actor is a bakeshop filled with fresh baked surprises and nectarous delights, dusted liberally with disappointment. On the surprise and delight side of things, I’m happy to announce that I just booked a really good gig. Gonna do a guest star job on Designated Survivor in Toronto next week. I’ve never been to Toronto and I’m a great admirer of Kiefer Sutherland. This is the first time I’ll be working in Canada, and hopefully, not the last.
From time to time you get a gig where you can really rely on imagination and just go wild. I’ve had such an opportunity lately. It was a lot of fun and such a joy to be working with an outrageously creative crew and cast. Here is a clip –
For the last 6 rehearsals the Troilus and Cressida company has been focused on table work and physical conditioning. This period has been a dream come true for a long time journeyman like myself who, even now, has aspirations of becoming a true theatre artist.
Every day has been a full day of script reading, discussion, clarification, consultation with our voice coach, Shakespeare scholar, director and each other, and just plain getting to know the story inside and out. What we are discovering about Troilus and Cressida today is going to have a profound effect on how we tell the story to our audience next month. Table work is foundational if one is serious about Theatre.
In my limited experience of LA Theatre, table work was limited to a group read thru of the script and some light discussion. This effort usually consumed half a day. DIscussions about scenes, the arc of the play, it’s characters, it’s actions would come up during staging rehearsals and usually involved the director and the actors who were on call for that moment. Granted I have never worked at ACT, whose Artistic Director Carey Perloff, is a big believer in table work. I know this from working with her at the Classic Stage Company, in New York City.
The typical Los Angeles theatre does not have the luxury of long rehearsal periods and on call scholars and dramaturgical experts and yet many excellent productions come out of the LA Theatre. For me though, it took coming back to the New York theatre to renew my appreciation for a more intellectual approach with lots of table work. Good theatre happens in both cities. I guess I get more personal and artistic enjoyment out of the east coast approach and sensibility.
On top of all this goodly table work. Our company is gathering 3 mornings a week for physical conditioning. We do an hour of group calisthenics and strength exercise that leaves us all sweaty and breathless… and energized. The need for this physical work comes from the way we are staging Troilus, very physical, very action oriented. Also, to work in the park you have to be inshape, it gets hot and sweaty and you can get sapped of all your strength in no time flat.
This is an amazing and rejuvenating experience. I feel like I never left while at the same time feeling like it’s my first time. Ha! I’m a born again theatre virgin.
Not many people know this about me, but for many, many years now I have coped with tinnitus, a constant ringing in my ears. It is part of the reason that when conversing with friends I am constantly asking them to repeat themselves, and why I always have the volume up loud on the television or while listening to music, and why I sometimes talk too loud. I’ve gotten used to it and have sort of grown a callous around it .
Today is day one of rehearsals for Troilus and Cressida. The Stage Manager has sent out schedules and has placed calls. He has beautifully set up our expectations for the day and for the entire rehearsal period. It promises to be a physically and mentally challenging rehearsal. There will be movement sessions and even a “bootcamp” for some military training. (all those years I served in the Marine Corps will finally pay off)
Knowing that it will be a demanding rehearsal I went to bed early last night and, lucky me, dropped right off. I awoke this morning after nearly 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. As I lay in the gray of the morning, gazing at the hot red numerals on the digital clock across the room, watching the numerals change to 6:51, the decades long ringing in my ears suddenly stopped. Is this an omen? I think so. I think it’s going to be a wonderful day.