An Update from Fatty: I’m no longer sitting in the airport, and this post is now done. If you’ve already read this post, though, be sure to go to the updated “Upgrade” section, which I’ve changed to include something ridiculously cool Timothy Hutton did for me that I didnt even know he had done (and, oafishly, therefore never even thanked him for).
I’m sitting in the PDX airport, which has — astonishingly to anyone who has visited a good number of airports — really fast, free wifi and cubicles with power. I’ve got two hours ’til my plane leaves. Let’s see if I can tell the story of my trip to Portland and my adventure in “acting” on Leverage during that time.
And just for the fun of it, I think I’ll continuously update as I write.
I got to Portland late Sunday afternoon. It was raining. No, just kidding. It was sunny and perfect outside. In fact, the weather was perfect. I tend to have that effect on places. Have me come by your hometown someday. I’ll bring good weather with me.
I had a couple hours before Paul Guyot (honcho at Leverage and guest blogger here) were to meet for dinner, so I took a walk, just to see Portland. The thing that struck me, in my 2-3 block radius walk, was the incredible number of parks and open space around, even though I was pretty close to the city center:
I didn’t photograph all the parks. That would have gotten repetitive. I did, however, get a picture of a statue walking home from work, with his silver laundry in tow:
After this, it was time for dinner with Paul.
We met at the hotel lobby, where he gave me a big ol’ hug, in spite of the fact that this was the first time we had met in person.
Paul, as it turns out, is just that kind of guy. As in, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, who still obviously manages to keep a big ol’ television crew humming along very smoothly.
We went to a great steak place, called Ringside. We got both onion rings and fries to go with our steaks.
Though I got a salad to offset the massive amount of food I ate. So I’d call it a calorie-neutral evening.
Since I needed to be in the hotel lobby at 6:15 the next morning and Paul had to be on the set even earlier, we did not party as if it were 1999. Even though we are both old enough to remember that song from when it came out.
I went back to my hotel room and practiced my acting. Since I was not slated to have a speaking part, I worked on conveying meaning and emotion merely using facial expressions.
Disgust! Bemusement! A call for help! I can do all these things with a raised eyebrow, a flared nostril, and compressed upper lip.
I’m that good.
The Big Day
I got a ride to the set — a pair of converted warehouses in an industrial area — with a couple guys who looked very familiar — I’ve seen them both before in TV and movies. I wondered to myself whether they were hoping I would speak to them so they could ask me for my autograph without it seeming awkward.
They did in fact begin talking, but apparently were too shy to ask for my autograph. I didn’t mind.
They finished the ride to the set, watching, in stunned silence.
Once we arrived, Paul found me and started showing me around. Starting, of course, with the food services tent, where we each had big ol batches of scrambled eggs with everything made for us.
Paul and I are a lot alike. Except I’m more beloved, I’m pretty sure.
Next, I got shown to my dressing room. Yes, I really had my own private dressing room, which was almost as big as half a standard prison cell.
Still, it’s more than I expected, and it’s nice to have a toilet you can call your own.
The costume director was called “Critter,” so I said, “Hi Critter, my name’s Fatty.” It was like we were secret agents with code names or something.
I showed her the suitcase full of Fat Cyclist gear I had brought along. She told me to put on the black Smartwool t-shirt, my Fat Cyclist hoodie and and cycling cap, the orange Jawbones, my Giro fingerless gloves, my MTB shoes (which would make a loud clacking sound on the concrete the whole day) and my awesome new Twin Six 3/4 pants (which I had Twin Six rush to me last week special for this part).
Then — finally! (at least I imagine you’re saying “Finally!”) we went on the stage.
And that’s a bizarre experience.
On the Set
When you enter the warehouse, it’s dark. Cold. And fog-generator foggy. Like you’re on the set of X-Files or something.
I had about four hours to wait before it was time for my scenes (I was to be in two), so I settled in and watched.
There was a lot to be amazed by.
First, it was pretty amazing to step into one of the sets. Suddenly, instead of a dark warehouse, you’re in a nice brewpub.
Except, of course, the brewpub has a ceiling made of scaffolding and wires and whatnot.
And there are cameras everywhere. And people and monitors. And lights. Above all else, lights everywhere.
Next, it was
incredible how many people were there. I don’t have the foggiest idea what they were all doing, but they were all amazingly busy. But it wasn’t so much that there were a lot of people there, or that they were all busy.
What was amazing and fun to watch was how well everyone was working together. Perhaps some sets are full of freak-outs and high drama and emergencies, but — and of course I just had one perspective on one day — everyone at Leverage seemed happy and engaged in their jobs and amazingly friendly. From the actors to the sound guys to the props guys to “The Oracle” (the woman in the bottom left of the photo above, whose job it is to ensure shot continuity and to make sure all scenes are shot in all appropriate ways), everyone was great.
The next thing that caught me off-guard was how quietly all the actors spoke. For no good reason, I just assumed they would be projecting, like stage actors. But no. They use their indoor voices, talking totally normally. Maybe even more quietly than normal. From 15 feet away, watching from behind the cameras and monitors, you could not hear them at all unless you had a headset on.
After a couple scenes, it was almost time for my scenes. First, I got made up:
Obviously, she took the grey out of my beard. She also filled in my eyebrows (because I keep them trimmed extra short — otherwise they grow into crazy mad scientist eyebrows that get into my peripheral vision) and covered up the circles under my eyes, and de-shinified my face in general.
No eyeliner or anything though. And — sadly — no vampire teeth or gaping wounds. I would’ve loved to get a part that would give me a gaping wound.
My job was — as a bike messenger — to deliver a package. Check me out, getting all directed by the director and stuff:
And here’s how I looked on the monitor, looking over the cameraman’s shoulder:
Again and Again and Again
Here’s the part that stood out from the day above pretty much everything else: how many takes they do of every scene, and from how many angles.
For every one-minute scene (including mine), there would be rehearsals.
Then the crew would set up one big shot where they filmed everyone.
Then the crew would move things around and train the cameras on just one or two people. Then moe things around and do the same scene, trained on the other people. Then the same scenes, with cameras trained on just one person’s face.
It’s an incredibly labor-intensive process, and pretty eye-opening to observe how much work goes into the making of a TV show.
And in short, I delivered that package a lot of times.
Then they moved things around, I went and changed into a different jersey (because I was supposed to be delivering another package on a different day), and we did it all again, some more:
Interacting With the Actors
I am — as you know — quite beloved and famous in my own right. Still, I was curious what it would be like to be around other famous people.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to talk with Beth Riesgraf, the actor who plays Parker on the series. And my interaction with Gina Bellman was pretty much limited to terrifying her and making her look around for security when I came from nowhere and told her how awesome she was in Coupling.
But I did get to talk with Aldis Hodge (Hardison), Christian Kane (Eliot), and Timothy Hutton (Nathan).
Aldis is an amazingly funny person, and a remarkable improvisational actor. He’d deliver his lines perfectly each time, then go on to add some hilarious additional lines of his own. Funny and different, every single take. I looked forward to every take, just to hear what he would say.
Christian is an amazingly nice guy, and went out of his way to talk with me, offer helpful suggestions, and just chat. Then, when it was time to act, he’d suddenly turn on this pissed-off stare, and it’s like he’s a totally different person.
And Timothy Hutton, when I told him what a fan my sister Jodi is of his work, looked up her site, then let me get a photo of him holding up a photo of her.
Jodi said it was the best birthday present ever. And it certainly was the least expensive, so that’s doubly awesome.
And as it turns out, without my knowing it — because I was dealing with sensory overload at about twelve different levels — Timothy had given me a present, too.
Originally, I was slated for a non-speaking role. I delivered a package and left. Which is way cooler than any other acting experiences I’ve ever had (i.e., none) before, but still, you know, non-speaking.
But — due to a case of coolness I can’t even describe (and failed to thank him for because I wasn’t even aware he was the one who effected this change), Timothy Hutton made some calls and used his own real-world kind of leverage to get me upgraded to having a couple of lines in the show. Paul and Aldis then came up with a couple lines for me (one straight line, one funny line).
Having a speaking line meant I had to sign a bunch of places on a surprisingly thick contract. And it meant some new (kind of strange) guidelines.
Mainly, it meant that I could no longer stand on my “mark” (the place where I was to be filmed) while the camera and light crews set up the shot, but instead had to have a stand-in stand there for me.
Union rules or something.
But it’s not like I had anything better to do, so I just stood there right by my stand-in, talking to him.
And rehearsed, over in over, the four words I had to remember. And how I would say them.
Here’s how much of a wimp I am. I wasn’t able to make it through the whole day. At around 7:00pm — at which point I had been there for 12 hours — I told Paul that I had to get to the airport early, and I headed back to my hotel.
They were still working when I left, and probably would be for another couple hours.
What an amazing day.
PS: The show will air sometime in August, I believe.
PPS: Time to fly!