That email stunned me. It was March now. I’d been at this for three months. After my first disaster audition I was trying to rebuild my confidence. I got it, my first booking, my first principal role. I can’t put into words how I felt. I wanted to yell, I wanted to scream, I wanted to run down the street throwing my own fucking parade.
Of course, I couldn’t do that because I was freezing my ass off in the middle seat of a decommissioned airplane. I had to just sit there in silence as we set up the shot.
And that’s when I embarrassed myself in front of a principal.
Let’s rewind a bit.
So I was a core extra on ‘Manifest’, we were in a frigid hangar shooting shots in an airplane. We were getting placed in specific rows for filming and we would be locked into those places for the rest of the shoot. You have to maintain continuity, passengers don’t randomly jump around to seats on a plane. As we were lining up, the assistant director up to me and said, “You, come with me.” I was placed in row five of the plane along with another extra. I was one of the first people on the plane, and soon after, someone sat down next to me. They had been grouping rows by ‘family’, and the right side of row five was entirely Asian. Because of course, Asians only marry other Asians. As she sat down in the aisle seat, I introduced myself and she introduced herself as Julienne. I made a quick joke about how cold it was and then mentioned that I hadn’t seen her in holding. She gave me a puzzled look for a second, then replied, “Oh, no, I was in my trailer.”
I just implied that this principal actress was a damned extra.
I wanted to swallow my tongue. I wished that I wasn’t such a jackass and actually listened to the rule of “don’t talk to the principals”. But it was too late. Throughout the course of the year I’ve had my share of ass-kickings, but that’s also been counterbalanced by fortunate happenstance.
Speaking to Julienne was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me. Far from being insulted or otherwise offended by my absent-minded comment, she didn’t really care in the least. Little did I know how this small comment would impact my future, but back to the moment.
I remember being in row 5 so clearly, because it became the ‘hero row’. The ‘heroes’ are parlance for the protagonists of every show, which in this case turned out to be Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh. Our row because cemented and locked in place because we had to essentially anchor the plane when the camera shifted.
Checking my phone now after calming down a bit, I realized that I had a problem. The principal gig was the same day as one of my committed days on ‘Manifest’. This, obviously, was a good problem to have but at the same time I had never been put in this predicament before. Out of desperation, I ended up asking Julienne what I should do. Her advice was simple, ‘Manifest’ was going to be a night shoot for that day, meaning that I had a chance to do both the principal work in the morning, and hopefully catch the bus out to the hangar in time for the shoot. Under no circumstances should I give up the opportunity for principal work. That began my long running stance on stretching yourself as much as possible to hold yourself to your word while balancing your ambition and steps you needed to take to look out for yourself.
So it was decided, after leaving the frigid hangar and getting back into the city at 2am after a night shoot, I would get some sleep and report as a principal for the first time. After that, I would book it to make the call time for ‘Manifest’ and then shoot all night for that.
Easier said than done.