I’ve handed the reins to Don for today. Say hello to him! Claudia
When my agent emailed me to say that there was an interest in me for a film shoot in Prague my first thought was, “Yeah..sure…they’re gonna send ME to Prague…right.” Okay, my confidence was perhaps a tad low. But then, more positive thoughts surfaced. Thoughts like, “Well, the audition DID go well…” and then,”My passport has expired!” The second thought took over and sent Claudia and I to the website for “expedited passport services” and to the checkbook register to see if we could afford the $182.00 it would cost to get the passport to our mailbox before the plane would be leaving for the Czech Republic. And all this on the proposition that I might get the offer. And might not.
Good thing we went ahead because before the ink could dry on my shiny new passport my agent had fired off another email with the subject (in all caps) reading: YA GOT THE JOB!!
When an agent uses two exclamation points it’s a pretty big deal. So, a week later I flew off to Prague (via Zurich) to spend a week in the middle of Europe, in a great city (everyone was more excited than I, who was more into worry mode), and playing a great part in a quality film on a prestigious show for that most excellent network: PBS!
The PBS part meant it was a classy gig. It also means it pays little, but hey: Prague on their dime with a per diem to boot! Yep. The slot machine of life had just come up with three cherries. Ca-Ching!!
We flew all night. I slept seven minutes. We got there and the “springtime in Prague” snapshots people had been putting in my mind’s eye didn’t match the very cold weather and the snowflakes greeting us at the airport. However, that’s the last negative thing I have to say. Prague was all everyone had been saying, and more. I felt as if I were in a beautiful dream.
We got to our hotel which I must say was quaint and classy and art deco-ey and everything you could want in a hotel. Even a free breakfast would be waiting. I got up fairly early and made my way for the buffet. “Buffet.” Is there a better word? Well, yes, there is. “Free buffet!” Those are even better. When I got to the dining room I got my first visual clue that the people in the Czech Republic were NOT vegetarians. I kept wondering what Claudia would think if she had been standing there, plate in hand, gazing down at hot and steaming trays of tiny grayish wieners. Yes, gray wieners. For breakfast.
Of course, there was also bacon, sausages, thin, raw strips of some unknown species, and, well, you get the message. This was the land of the carnivore. Now, I’m not, strictly speaking, a vegetarian. Away from home, I will tuck into a tuna sandwich, some unfortunate salmon or even a poor chicken from time to time, but even I was a bit put off by the cornucopia of corpus delicti staring up at me in the morning European light. Luckily there were also eggs, danishes of varying sizes, baked beans, fresh bread loaves you cut yourself, yogurt, melon, cereals, and everything else you could ask for. And I did.
The hard part was getting my charming Czech waitress to understand what “decaf” meant. (This astounded me. I mean if you run a popular hotel shouldn’t the word “decaf” been pretty much ironed out by now?) Finally, after a lot of awkward miming on my part, she understood: “Ah! Coffee with no coffee, right?” “RIGHT!” “COFFEE WITH NO COFFEE!”
And very soon after, the pot arrived!
Next on my schedule was what I had been dreading, but it was something demanded for my art. In fact, it was in my contract. It was….a haircut. A serious haircut.
The haircut done, the period clothes tried on and adjustments made by the Czech-speaking wardrobe head and her assistants, I then had lunch with the director (American) and we discussed the way I would be playing Charles Norris, who was the first Chief Medical Examiner of the city of New York and one of the founders of what would become known as forensic medicine. No Charles Norris – no CSI on TV ninety nears later.
The set for the lab – it’s cold in there!
I think this is going to be a fascinating episode of American Experience. The writer-director, Rob Rapley, has done a marvelous adaptation of The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. An almost exact replica of the lab in Bellevue Hospital was built in the freezing, empty building we would be filming in – a building on the grounds of an active mental facility. Our trailers and trucks took over a sizable area of the location. And it was quite cold. My personal trailer was toasty however, and I was grateful for it.
More to come in Part 2!