May I Talk With You? A day on the set of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
A day on the set of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
On August 3, 1995, twenty-five people had the good fortune of being flies on the wall during a typical shooting day of the Kung Fu: The Legend Continues episode titled "May I Talk With You?"
Filming took place in the basement of a church in the Oakdale section of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The location was not a new one for the production crew who had also used that same basement for a flashback sequence in the episode titled "Retribution" (which marked the last episode Robert Lansing had appeared in prior to his passing in October 1994). In "Retribution" the large gymnasium style room was used as a basketball court in an orphanage. For "May I Talk With You?" the same room was used as the location of an underground, pirate radio station.
Series star,Chris Potter, played host to the 25 fans who won a contest to spend the day on set with him. Our group arrived around 4pm, only an hour past the half-way mark of the shooting day (they were to film until 9pm), and were able to watch Chris perform a scene before he was done for the day.
A few minutes after the group arrived, Chris came out and greeted everyone. He was dressed in character, wearing a white T-shirt with a tan jacket and tan pants. He had a few minutes before he needed to be on set, so he led the fans to the Stealth, which was parked right outside the church. He leaned against the hood and posed for photos.
Afterwards, he led everyone into the building, where he filled us in on the episode and answered questions. The set looked like something out of a nightclub, with flashing lights, neon and unique furniture. Paintings of jazz artists hung from the walls. They looked like the same paintings used in the bar scenes in "The Bardo".
David Carradine was not on set that day, but his double was. The man just had to sit in one of the sound booths with his back to the camera. This way viewers would see that Caine is there, but Carradine was not in that particular shot. No other key players were there, except for Jeff McKay, who portrayed Doc Kline in the episode, and Victoria Snow (Skalany), but she was not working that day, just visiting briefly. She stopped by for a moment to say hello to the group before moving on.
Both Michael Sloan and Al Leong were there. Sloan chatted with Chris. Leong stood around making notations, planning a few upcoming fight scenes to be filmed another day.
After a brief tour inside, Chris offered everyone sodas and told us to make ourselves at home, while he went off to the "hair and makeup" trailer.
While Chris went to prepare for his scene, the second Assistant Director (2nd AD) took our group on a tour of the trucks parked outside, which included the camera truck, lighting, grips (2 trucks) and props.
One of the props men showed Peter's and Kermit's guns. Peter had three guns. One of which was not used specifically to fire off shots. That one was merely a prop. When a scene required gunfire, a gun wrangler would be brought on the set to handle the firearm.
Kermit's gun, a Desert Eagle, was as loud as it looked. The prop master said that people's ears were ringing after that gun was fired the other day (during the filming of "Black Widow" which had been finished the day before). Usually, half loads are used when they need to shoot a round, but Kermit's gun needed a full load to have the impact that was intended, so even people wearing earplugs were stunned by the boom.
He also told our group that Peter's brown holster would no longer be used after that episode. If you watch later episodes you can see it was replaced with a black one. Reason being the gun kept falling out every time Peter would run.
Soon everyone was brought back inside to watch Chris' scene. It was simple enough. his character, Peter Caine, had just picked up the location of an illegal arms dealer who had sold a gun to a man attempting suicide. In the scene, Peter was leaving the radio station pursued by one of the on-air personalities, Lacey, who was trying to convince him that his efforts might be in vein.
They had to walk out of the office, down a flight of stairs, walk across the room, then up another flight of stairs, talking the entire time. The scene was a serious one, though Chris still managed to joke with people on the set when the cameras weren't rolling.
In its final form the scene lasted less than five minutes. Production, as usual, was much longer. While the number of takes they needed for that one scene was small, the amount of time between them was long, mainly for adjusting the camera and the lenses used.
The scene consisted of three camera angles. The first set-up was a shot of Peter and Lacey walking out of the broadcast booth, down a flight of stairs and past the camera. The second started with Peter and Lacey ascending another flight of stairs and then became a lone shot of Lacey talking to Peter, who is off-camera. While the third shot was a reverse of the last one; a shot of Peter speaking to Lacey who is off-camera.
The scene took roughly three hours to film. And that included lighting adjustments and four camera moves. The large room had no air-conditioning, and, since it was a very hot day outside, everyone was baking. The crew had set up fans to alleviate the problem, but - understandably - they weren't allowed to run during filming. At one point between takes, Chris pulled his jacket down to his elbows, trying to find some way to keep cool. Another time, he sat in a chair near the fans.
After a few takes of the first shot Chris said, "What do you think? It's like watching paint dry." Everyone laughed, including some members of the crew who joked with him.
In another instance, while Chris waited for the crew to set up his close-up, he walked over to our group and asked with a touch of concern, "So they pushed you guys back here with no way out?" To that someone replied, "There's always another way."
Allan King ("Temple", "The Possessed", "Citizen Caine" and "Eye Witness" to name four) was the director of the episode. He was nice enough to turn his video monitor to our group to watch the scene from his point of view.
Many people on the crew were nice and helpful. One of the make-up artists said that Chris is the nicest guy to work with and she'd be happy to answer questions.
Another tidbit about the production: in the episode there was an urban militia leader, and a few of his scenes took place at his headquarters, which were at another location. But in reality, the room they used to film the scenes in the headquarters was located in the same basement of the church. When you watch the episode, keep in mind the shot of the man running down the stairs and into the office. The stairs don't really go anywhere. They end at the top step with nowhere to go but down. While we were there, we stood at the bottom of those stairs (some sat at the top for a better view) just in front of the room that they used for the militia's headquarters, watching the action that started across the main room and ended in front of us, practically.
Naturally, the viewers were lead to believe - and rightly so - that the headquarters were elsewhere. But in reality, for the convenience of filming purposes, that small room in the church was used. So while we were supposed to believe they were in different locations, the reality of the production revealed that was not the case. Welcome to movie magic.
Chris Potter was an excellent host. After he finished for the day, he joined the group for dinner, where he chatted and answered questions. He showed up at the restaurant before the fans did (we were driven there by the crew shuttle), and he led everyone inside.
I joked that it looked like we were on a field trip, following the leader, which happened to be Chris. He towered over most of us. Though he wasn't carrying a colored umbrella, he did tote a large cardboard box with gifts for us inside. Incidentally, he wore the very shirt he had worn on the cover of the Toronto Sun TV magazine. He pointed it out later on, when I pulled out a copy for him to sign.
At one point, one of the fans took a group photo with Chris leaning into it from the back of the table. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting in the shot. I laughed it off and teased my friend next to me, "Oh no. You blocked me out of the shot." Well, I didn't realize that Chris heard me until he joked, "Oh well. You missed out on the next newsletter."
He is receptive to his fans. He answered questions as if friends were asking them. When asked how he perceived himself. He joked, "That sounds like a Barbara Walter's special. 'How does Chris Potter feel about Chris Potter?'" He laughed. Then he added that he's just taking things one step at a time. He'd love to get "Kevin Costner" type roles - ones with integrity, but then he said he has to take what he can get until he is recognized enough to be offered those type of roles.
He said that at least 4 out of 5 people on the street recognized him from the show.
When asked about the ring on his right hand he explained that he had seen some nice rings made by a craftsperson and had asked her if she would remold his ring from its original form. He had told her that he was an actor and that he wanted her to mold it to reflect that (ever since this event, Chris said that he has her remold the ring every three years or so to reflect his life at that time).
At the end of the meal, Chris opened the large cardboard box and pulled out a bunch of white T-shirts with the Kung Fu: The Legend Continues logo on one side. This was his gesture of appreciation to his fans. He signed his name to each one and posed with each recipient as he handed them out. Then, at the end of the evening, said good-bye to each person as they left the table, then walked the group to the vans to take us back to the hotel.
A very memorable experience by a very gracious host. Thank you, Chris Potter, for a great day.
More Photos from this event here!