Two clichés describe the experience of making television shows fairly accurately: It’s always “hurry up and wait” for people on both sides of the camera, and the production side is always “herding cats.” Hundreds of people of different backgrounds and skill-sets have to coordinate their efforts and come together in precisely the same moment — over and over again. There are so many junctures at which mistakes and frustration could take over, so many opportunities for things to go completely wrong.
Based on the original 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty (Harper & Row), The Exorcist is being made into a TV series for Fox this fall. By sheer coincidence, I am friends with two of the Assistant Directors on the show. I was booked as a featured extra. I play a Papal Emissary. I spent two full days on set, and it was one of the most inspiring experiences in my recent memory.
The crew on The Exorcist is such a solid collection of humans. Everyone from the Director (Michael Nankin) and the main cast (I was in scenes with Geena Davis, Alfonso Herrera, Kurt Egyiawan, Kirsten Fitzgerald, and Brad Armacost among several great others) to the ADs (I worked with my friends Jimmy Hartley and Lorin Fulton), PAs (Ben, Chelsey, Patrick, et al.), award-winning make-up artists (Tracey Anderson and Tami Lane), Wardrobe (Laura), Props (Jeff), and extras (Kevin, Chuck, Dale, Tim, Phil, Bill, and Jennifer, among many others) was there to get the work done. No ego. No bullshit. Aside from being the most hectic, it was the most positive working environment I’ve ever been in. The fact that it was both simultaneously is utterly astounding.
I’d been out for roles before. I had a speaking part in with Tom Green in his movie Road Trip (2000), but filming happened during midterms at my first attempt at grad school in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Georgia. I was buried by studies I couldn’t handle. At the time, I was still trying. I dropped out not long after though. Then I was up for a co-hosting role on a show called Paranormal Investigators with Kevin Nealon on TLC. I ended up in second place for that spot. I did screen tests for Smallville and Charmed, but never followed through. This was my first experience with a show that will actually show my face on the small screen.
On my way home from the set on the second day, I was riding my bike along a busy Milwaukee Avenue when another cyclist cut me off. He then proceeded to hold me up because he was unable to negotiate the traffic at a timely pace with his giant handlebars and mirrors. I put this up to his inability to predict the narrowness of the path ahead when he passed me. Then, when he blew a red light and nearly mowed down a pedestrian in the process, I knew he was just an inconsiderate asshole. No one needs to behave that way toward anyone else. I had to remind myself of what a positive, supportive environment I’d just been a part of. And I continue to remind myself of that everyday.
Many thanks to Jimmy Hartley for taking care of me and for getting me on the show in the first place, 4 Star Casting for handling everything, and everyone on set for an amazing two days in television. See you when the Pope comes to town!
The Exorcist premieres tonight at 8pm/9c on Fox! Lily and I are in Episode 3, which airs Friday, October 7th.