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Why Did He Say That?

Within the last few years I've had discussions with many people about actor's approaches to their roles. Some of the people I've chatted with expressed surprise and concern over some of the comments they've heard their favorite actor's say.

I really can't remember what happened when we filmed that scene.

Ask a TV actor about a scene in an episode they did of a show sometime back and, if youíre lucky, they may remember it and be able to answer your question. However, if they canít recall it, you might get this response. When they say they can't remember it's not because he doesn't care about his work or the job. It's because youíre talking to someone who has done 22 episodes in a row for roughly six months. That's continuous weeks of five to six 14+ hour days, where scenes are shot out of sequence, script pages are revised at the last minute and the filming of episodes are sometimes mixed together, depending upon availability and locations, etc. After a while it becomes a jumble. So unless they have the chance to watch their work in its entirety it's hard to remember who did what when.

But what I really want to do is direct.

Most actors want to direct, because they feel they can connect with the characters better than someone who has never acted before. More so in the past than now, there would be actors who would complain that directors were people who never acted, and hence never knew what it took to delve inside a character. The end result being that they just never understood what the actor saw and never connected with the character the way the actor did. These days more actors are directing and the relationship is more of a team effort.

Hurry up and wait.

We've heard this expression a lot. So what does it mean in TV production? Well, since most filming is done with only one camera, a lot of time is spent on lighting the set every time the camera is moved to avoid shadows and/or obstructions. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours to get the lighting right. Not to mention ensuring where the actors will be standing, walking, sitting, etc. (which involves a rehearsalÖaka blocking). Once everything is ready to go, the actor is called to the set and the filming commences. Usually there's no time to fiddle around. They film one shot (a ďtakeĒ). If it's not good enough they immediately shoot it again, and again, and again, sometimes with little break in between. Once they get the shot they want (i.e. a "print"), then the actor leaves again and waits around for the crew to set up the lights for the next shot. Actor David Carradine was once quoted as saying, "Let's hurry up and shoot this so we can go back to lighting." It's absolutely true.

It's like watching paint dry.

We've heard people say this line and the one above in response to those who want to visit the set and watch filming. If you're not directly involved in the production, then you do spend a lot of time standing around waiting for the scene to be shot. It can get very boring, especially when the actual take is only a minute long. You stand around for hours only to see a one minute scene and then more equipment moving. Next!

Donít get me wrong, however. If you're on the crew it's actually quite interesting. It just depends on what job you have on the crew. However, more often than not, most people are waiting for the lighting.

Actors donít care about their work if they canít remember scenes or episode titles from their TV series.

Of course they care about their work. However, when you do it day in and day out for 12 - 14 hours a day for eight months a year, it gets to the point where all the scenes run together. What's more, scenes are filmed out of sequence. In the case of a TV series sometimes different scenes from different episodes are filmed in a single day, especially when they have to reshoot a scene from a previous episode for one reason or another. So it can be confusing matching the scene to the episode. Unless an actor has time to see the final work on screen, he gets to a point where he canít remember what scene went where or what happened in a particular episode. The busier the actor (the happier we are, and) the more likely for him to forget certain aspects. And sometimes the episode in question might be re-titled, or it might not have had a title during production, instead being referred to by an episode number. And if those episodes are aired out of order and without numbers for the viewers to follow, then there is a disconnect between what the viewer knows it as and what the actor recalls it being.


Reading this all over Iím left with one conclusion, actors are very good at what they do. If fans can believe the above misconceptions, he must be doing something right. However, fans do have to know that acting and reality are different and if you can separate the actor from the role - even for a little while - and see that he is a person just like the rest of us, it makes it much more fun to watch him in different roles in the future.

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