It was time. They needed me on the set. I walked down my little stairs and they pointed me to the awaiting van that would escort me to the set, a real life music venue just down the street called The 5 Spot.
The next three hours were filled with controlled chaos. I was determined to soak it all in, not knowing if I’d ever have this kind of opportunity again. Crew guys were running all over the place setting up lighting and cameras, and arranging the tables and chairs for the scene we were about to shoot. People were continually coming up to me and introducing themselves. I learned who to listen to, and where to go when I wasn’t filming. (They had the Director’s chairs set up to the side. One had the star’s name on it, and mine simply said “Cast.”)
The scene was going to be a dialogue between me and Jonathan Jackson, the famous actor who plays Avery on the show. He would enter The 5 Spot and walk over to me (sitting at the bar doing some paperwork) and try to convince me to let him play his music at my venue.
Jonathan arrived without any hoopla or fanfare. All business here. We shook hands, and the director explained the scene to us, what she was hoping to see. Then we rehearsed it a couple times, and then he left to go change clothes.
They called in the stand-ins while the crew continued to work on the lights and camera angles. I’ve never had a stand-in before. I’ve been one! But I’ve never had one. I’ve also been an extra so many times, that I had to take this opportunity to go over and talk with the background actors they had brought in for our scene. They were so surprised that I would come talk to them, because unfortunately, most key actors never talk to the extras. We shared our stories about where we came from, and took pictures with each other. Don’t ever forget where you came from, or you might lose your way to where you’re going.
We shot the scene so many times. Probably six or seven times from five or six different camera angles. Each time required intense concentration at the drop of a hat, in the midst of all the craziness swirling around us. Many shots were redone simply to re-choreograph the background actors.
In between takes they’d call in the 2nd team (the stand-ins) and me and Jonathan would retreat to our chairs, or the bathroom, or wherever. I’m grateful we had a chance to talk. He’s a great guy and we share a deep desire to be authentic men of faith. Then they’d call back the 1st team, and I’d high-five my stand-in, thanking him for his great work sitting there pretending to be me.
I couldn’t believe that I was sitting there acting with someone I’ve only seen on television before, like someone was going to come in at any moment and replace me with the real guy. It was easy to feel very insecure; I was certain my hand gestures were too big, and my facial expressions too dramatic.
I kept thinking about Joey on “Friends” when he got his big break playing Al Pacino’s “butt double” for a movie. Even though they only saw him from the waist down, he put way too much thought into it and the director ended up firing him for overacting so much. Somehow I have to rest in the fact that they picked me for this scene for some reason, and while I wasn’t sure exactly what that was, hopefully they will be glad they did.
The director was the right mix of encourager and coach. I found out later that she has directed tons of high-profile television shows like “ER” and “The West Wing.” I can only imagine what she’s had to deal with over the years. My character was compassionate at first, but she steered me to be less so as we progressed. We did the scene until everyone was convinced they had what they needed, and then told me I was done. Again, a handful of people (producers, etc.) came over and shook my hand and thanked me.
They shuttled me back to home base and my trailer. I grabbed my clothes and left. As I drove off to find some celebratory ice cream, I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck just happened?!
There’s been no mention of whether this amazing character that I brought to life will ever return to the show, but the director said, “Hope to see you again.” There’s always a chance, but I know for now, my job is to not ever think about that, but simply to soak in how incredible it is that I got this one shot.
Yes, I’ll be on national television in a couple weeks, and then later internationally. And there’s no way of knowing if my life will change any, if at all. But one thing is certain—people have been amazing. Not only at the shoot, but also on facebook, at church, or wherever. People are so excited, not only for me, but for the fact that they can look at the screen and say, “Hey, I know that guy!” Proof to me that everyone wants to be a part of a bigger story than (what feels like) their own simple life. We want to believe that dreams do come true. And that while life is very difficult for most people, every once in a while we get a glimpse at how good things can really be. And that if they keep believing and never give up…maybe, just maybe, it could happen for them, too.