* Names and details have been changed to protect the guilty.
I was working on a pilot, and we were filming on location. I was managing basecamp, making sure actors were getting ready, giving them their sides, getting any breakfast orders before the caterer stopped serving breakfast, and giving them estimations on how long until camera would be ready for them.
“Laryssa, please tell Jimmy that we don’t need him first off anymore, and that he can go get breakfast and hang out for a bit,” the 1st AD told me over walkie.
“Copy that,” I chirped. No problem.
I walked over to the trailer where Jimmy was, and knocked on his door. He swung it open hastily, looking down at me expectantly.
I explained the situation to him briefly, but cordially: “Hiya Jimmy, a few things changed, and they won’t need you right away – so feel free to get breakfast if you’d like, the caterer’s still serving for another twenty minutes.”
One of the mistakes I made in my delivery, apparently, was that I assumed both Jimmy and I were human beings.
“Are YOU telling ME to get my own breakfast?” he scoffed, looking down from his lofty three-banger trailer as if he were Pharaoh.
I was taken aback. I’d dealt with method actors before, but all-out drama was something new. “Well, no, I’m just letting you know you have the time, if you want to hang out, get some coffee-”
This sent him out of the trailer, down to my level. “NO ONE has EVER told ME to get my own breakfast!” he retorted, the screen door slamming shut behind him.
I feel it necessary to explain here that Jimmy wasn’t the main character. He wasn’t even really a minor character. He played the boyfriend of a minor character who might’ve had two lines in the whole script. However, he had contributed to a cult classic film of the 1990’s, but has failed to ever fully attain stardom.
I wasn’t sure what to do as I stood there, with him staring at me expectantly. I knew he wasn’t my main priority. I needed to make sure the main actors were getting ready for their scenes, and that they had everything they needed. But, it’s never good to be the one responsible for sending an actor into a spiraling mood prior to 9am.
“Um…well, I can get it, but I need to stay here, so it may take awhile-”
“I’m trying to get ready for my scene.” He huffed, folding his arms across his chest, bothered that babying him wasn’t my main concern.
“I know, and I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said, kicking it into kiss-ass mode. “I just didn’t want you to miss out since the kitchen is closing so soon. The guys over there would be happy to whip you up a delicious burrito.”
He mulled this over for a second. I threw in a sweet smile to seal the deal.
“Okay,” he said with defeat, shrugging exasperatedly. “I’ve just NEVER had this happen before. Where is it?”
“It’s on the other side of the complex–” I began, and I thought he was going to punch me in the face when a transpo driver went whizzing by on a golf cart. (Not the first time I thanked the Good Lord for Transpo.)
I flagged them down immediately.
“Here’s a golf cart for ya!” I said to Jimmy gleefully, as if I’d planned it all along. Jimmy stared at me with pursed his lips and squinted eyes, but climbed into the front seat of the golf cart, and away they went.
Jimmy returned a short time later in a better mood, and seemed to have forgotten about our previous altercation. I escorted him to the makeup trailer, and as he sat in the chair, admiring himself in the mirror, I heard him say to the makeup artist as I was shutting the door, “See, I’ve been doing this new thing with my nose…”
I shook my head to myself, laughed a little, and went back to work.
The Moral(s) of the Story
#1: The moral of the story for production staff: Always treat actors with respect, even if they’re a jerk to you – because, see #2…
#2: Karma’s a B: I found out later that the writers of the pilot were planning on killing off Jimmy’s character if the show went to series because he was so difficult to deal with. Chances are, if an actor is that disrespectful to a PA, they’ve been equally rude to ADs, directors, executive producers etc. So, if you’re an actor with modest success, please remember to treat ALL of your crew members kindly.
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