As usual, I had difficulty sleeping the night before the shoot, not because of nerves, but because I feel such great excitement and anticipation about the work which I am privileged to be permitted to do.
Fortunately, the call time was pushed back from 09:30 to 11:00, which enabled me to get some sleep and to do some writing, without feeling that I was being delinquent about one in favor of the other.
To lessen the likelihood of unpleasantness due to traffic difficulties, I took a taxi from my studio to the location, an art gallery located in a building whereat I have auditioned (unsuccessfully) several times over the years.
When I arrived, the crew were still loading in the equipment, so I knew that I could afford to be somewhat leisurely for the next couple of hours. I had brought with me some comics to read, and a novel.
Unlike the crew of "NIKITA", nobody knew who the Assistant Directors were, and when I found someone who was willing to talk to me, they assumed that I was a supernumerary, then directed me to Extras Holding.
That term has always offended me at the semantic level, and whenever it is spoken,I fancy that I can hear the dulcet, resonant tones of the late SIR JOHN GIELGUD:
"We have all the REAL actors we need; those people are completely superfluous, utterly redundant and totally unnecessary! Can't you put them SOMEwhere? That corral over there looks empty enough...."
The label invites a particular kind of treatment from the crew, which in turn foments resentment, hostility and antagonism in the people who are being herded like cattle.
Consequently, I thanked the bloke before setting him straight, then he escorted me to the studio gallery where we were to shoot.
I then found myself in the way of everyone, no matter where I stood, which is what comes of being passed off to others who do not want the responsibility. Eventually, someone asked me what I was doing, which gave me an opening to ask for the 2nd AD, who was at the mobile dressing rooms several blocks away.
I was then driven to that place in a shuttle vehicle, accompanied by a Production Assistant who announced my imminent arrival from one side of the street to the other - using a walkie-talkie!
I experienced a sense of the absurd, as I noted that my progress across the street was being monitored and commentated upon (in case I was struck by a car or a stray bolt of lightning?) in the 10 yards it took to leave the shuttle!
I was greeted by another PA who radioed the other PA that I had indeed successfully crossed the road - despite the fact that they were in full view of each other! - then escorted me to my dressing room, where my costume awaited me. One of the pairs of shoes had been worn by OWEN TELL in "NIKITA" #507, so I chose not to wear them.
As I put my hand upon the door, I was greeted by a quite decent Wardrobe bloke with whom I had worked on "NIKITA". He informed me that I could choose either of the footwear options available to me, and that I should don an off-white designer shirt to wear for my maquillage.
The shirt took my breath away, as it cost easily half my best-ever weekly theatrical salary! THIS was what I was being told to wear in order to protect my costume shirt, which was also something I wanted to keep for my own wardrobe!
I LOVE working for WARNER BROTHERS™! Once again, it was impressed upon me that Film & Theater are separate worlds, a universe apart: both wield swords, but WITCHBLADE™ is definitely not HAMLET!
When I entered the makeup trailer, I was greeted by the most pleasant team assembled for that purpose that I have ever encountered, one of whom I had worked with on a film called "HAUNTED" (2000), and who remembered me a split-second before I clocked him. (I confess that my eyes had lingered on his colleagues and their respective subjects, each of whom had rather striking noses!)
When our maquillage was completed, we were summoned to the shuttle vehicle for our on-set blocking with the Director (a man who I would later learn has directed HIGHLANDERtm: The Series & KUNG FUtm: The Legend Continues, among others), and was pleasantly surprised to find that both women were quite genuine and charming in very different ways, there being a 20-year generation gap between them.
Normally, I find that beautiful actresses and models who are being paid to act are so wrapped up in their looks that they don't bother to develop their personalities, but these women shattered that precedent, I am happy to report.
When the Director told us of his concept for the scenes, I nearly wept with joy, for I was to be permitted to freely improvise my dialogue with the other characters!
When he deadpanned an arid response to a quip of mine, I knew that the day was going to be a joy, for I was being included in the plans for the proceedings, which some of you may recall was the exact opposite of what happened with the fencing duels in "HAMLET".It is rare for me to be permitted such latitude with a character in a television shoot, confined only by the technical demands of the medium, and I felt a surge of epinephrine thrill through my body as I ruminated upon what the day would bring.
We were driven back to our dressing rooms, where we donned our costumes, and where I read the WITCHBLADEtm & PUNISHERtm comics I had brought with me to fill whatever time was available to me over the course of the day.
We were eventually driven back to the set, where we shot a succession of takes while I was surrounded by models numbered in double digits, quite a curious phenomenon in and of itself.I am aware that beautiful women - strippers, prostitutes & models, especially - can be quite dismissive of male attention, partly because most men become stultifyingly stupid in the presence of an attractive woman, so I was careful not to engage any of them in conversation unless they engaged me first.
Because I was granted such latitude with my character, the crew & cast were hard-pressed to keep straight faces during each take, and the more outrageous I became, the more the Director encouraged me to do so.
Because I enjoy some notoriety for a successful SHOPPERS DRUG MARTtm campaign, because I currently have a commercial on the air, and because I was driving the scene, dialogue-wise, I found myself the subject of attention that I have seen accorded to MS. PETA WILSON.
Suddenly, everybody wanted to be my New Best Friend, offered me sexual favors, jockeyed for position next to me in shots, and so forth.
Cast & crew alike were surprised that I engaged them and supernumeraries in conversation between takes, and this pleased me well, for I have never liked the affectation of superiority & supercilious unctuousness that so many "stars" inflict upon the workplace and the public.
Even the models remarked about how they found me "cute" and "adorable".
What I found most pleasing was that the Director would take me off to the side for private chats that enabled us to get to know each other in a personal way, and that rarely touched upon the footage being shot. In this way, he made it known that he completely trusted me to do the job for which he had hired me, and it made me in turn want to do more for the production and for him: a remarkable and sensitive man, and a fine leader, for I saw him inspire such devotion in all present.
I have always thought that JULIUS CAESAR & GENERAL PATTON were such men, and when I learned that the Director was Liverpudlian and he that I am Mancunian, we bonded even further.
At lunch, I was invited to join the 1st AD at his table, which is unprecedented in my own experience, as they are usually so engaged in discussion with Directors & subordinates that the last thing they want to do is dine with actors!
When I went for my dessert, I encountered MS. YANCY BUTLER for the first time, and was made aware of the power of her presence.
A Gypsy would say that she cast a glamour on me, but I experienced a sensation that I would liken to the solidification of the air between herself and myself, coupled with rarefaction of the oxygen molecules contained therein.
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", indeed!
When the woman smiled, it was as though one found oneself looking into the face of the sun.
I felt acute discomfort, as though I had been punched just below the heart by MR. BRIAN DENNEHY. (I have worked with him, so I know what I'm talking about!)
Understand that I am not describing a lustful response to a nubile and comely wench, but rather an awe, inspired by an example of human physical excellence that one rarely sees outside of Classical statuary.
For those of you familiar with comics artists, I felt that I was in the presence of a BARRY WINDSOR SMITH character incarnate!
The only other celebrities who have done this to me are MS. GINA GERSHON, MS. MIMI ROGERS, MR. DOLPH LUNDGREN, & MR. ADRIAN PAUL.
I was suitably impressed by the fact that MS. BUTLER did not sequester herself in her dressing room or otherwise cloister herself away from the rest of us, and behaved in a gracious manner to all, even when they interrupted her meal and conference with the Director for whatever reasons they had to do so.
The 1st AD was complimentary of my work, saying that those personnel not inside the studio were being told over their walkie-talkies of my efforts, which was very gratifying indeed.
His words meant much to me, as I was quite impressed with the way that he did his job with pragmatism, humour & tact. 1st AD is roughly analogous to Sergeant-Major or Top Sergeant, so it is not an easy job, by any means, and a good 1st AD is worth her/his weight in gold.
Further evidence of his good work was that he was willing and able to delegate to subordinates, each of whom reflected his capability, enhanced with their own peculiar style.
The Director joined us about halfway through the meal, and he and I talked of our favorite swords and fighting styles, among other things. (It was at this time that I learned of his other credits)
We rode back to the set together, talking of MR. ORSON WELLES' "TOUCH OF EVIL", and the more he spoke, the more I liked him.
MS. BUTLER introduced herself to me when she reported for duty (again, I was impressed), at which time I told her how much I had appreciated her work in "MANN & MACHINEtm",and we had an immediate rapport that made me sorry we did not have more scenes together in the episode.
She was utterly present, pleasant, professional & accessible, never taking herself seriously, but making herself totally available to the material and to her colleagues in a way that was unobtrusive and welcome.
We had a closed blocking of the next scene, which greatly improved the efficiency & efficacy of the work to be done, as the great number of supernumeraries had created a fairly constant noise level when they had been in the studio/gallery.
There was an 8' Boa Constrictor named JULIA SQUEEZER as part of the set decoration, and she was GORGEOUS! Normally, I give reptiles a wide berth, but I wanted her draped about my person as soon as I set eyes on her. I don't know whether it was because of FRAULEIN NASTASSJA KINSKI or what, but every free moment not filled with conversation and/or work went to silent communion with the beautiful creature before me. (The snake, not MS. BUTLER!)
There came a time when MS. BUTLER & I were dismissed from set temporarily, and instructed to return to our dressing rooms.
I was familiar with the building and she was not, so I escorted her to her vehicle while she engaged me in conversation about living & working in the city of Toronto versus NYC.
When we arrived, she insisted that I accompany her in her personal vehicle, and so I accepted her gracious hospitality. Her chauffeur had driven me earlier that day, so he & I had a relationship that was furthered by this personal endorsement of hers.
They both regaled me with what they had heard from the crew about my work, and she said that she was "looking forward to the rushes", at which I thanked them profusely.
I told her of my favorite episode of MANN & MACHINE™, and how it had made me cry. At this, she squealed with joy, as it was her own favorite episode, too!
MS. BUTLER expressed surprise that I even remembered the program, and told me that she was very proud of the series, even though it was canceled for reasons she still does not understand, after a mere 9 episodes.
"How do you feel about autographs; what's your policy around that practise?"
"Oh, I don't mind at all! That's part of what we do, isn't it?"
Gobsmacked, I noted that this woman had a Working Class outlook on her position: I was a guest on HER show, yet she saw us as colleagues, and was not copping attitude about how everyone & I was unfit to lick the soles of her boots after she had trodden in canine dysentery!
I showed her my MANN & MACHINE™ poster, and she nearly went through the roof of the car, she was so shocked & delighted!
When I showed her my WITCHBLADEtm comic & TNT WITCHBLADEtm pilot promo poster - both of which feature her likeness - I thought she might explode, and she laughed quite hard in disbelief, irradiating us with her dazzling choppers, tickling our auditory canals with her robust laugh, blinding us with her sparkling eyes.
I hope that I grow up to be just like her if/when I ever find myself in a similar position to her own, for she is a paradigm of grace under considerable pressure to which we can all aspire.
When she dropped me off at my dressing room, she said that I should bring whatever I wanted her to sign to her before the end of the shoot.
DAVID CHOKACHI asked me about whether it was "hard to make a living as an actor in Toronto", and when I told him that I had done so for the past 11 years, he expressed a wistful fascination, which I thought odd, given that he is the male lead in a brand-new Fantasy/Drama series that will result in his personification in effigy as an action figure, at the very least.
Could this be what it means to be a "Hollywood™ man"?
MS. BUTLER made me feel that we had known each other better than a decade, showing me photographs of the previous day's hair/makeup on her. (I don't want to spoil it, but you WILL be amazed!)
She then told me how she found it more difficult to work for a short period on a shooting day after a rest, than to work incessantly all day every week. Again, I could not help but be impressed by her work ethic, as I have heard many others in her position do a lot of whining about how tired they are, and why doesn't somebody else do the scene for them, et cetera.
After a change of wardrobe, redone maquillage, a PUNISHERtm comic, and about 0.5h, we were driven back to set, now filled with thronging supernumeraries once again, and shot some more scenes.
I was amused to note that they all wanted to know who the star was, what the show is about, and when she would be coming to set, despite her circulating freely among them and sitting on her designated chair.
The Properties Woman was extremely solicitous, as there were several cameras from which to choose, and she customized a camera to which I had taken a shine, a manual job that made a series of satisfying ANDY WARHOL/f-stop FITZGERALD-type noises when it was deployed, just the way a camera should!
The models had an even greater comfort level with me by this time, so I made use of that in the dialogue I continued to improvise, thankfully, to the continued surprise and pleasure of all the audience present.
The supernumeraries were wrapped; we did more work on the scenes remaining, then I was wrapped.
Immediately, MS. BUTLER came running over to see me:
"Don't leave without letting me sign your posters, okay? I mean it!"
What a Lady, and what a Consummate Professional!
She worked more on her scene, then signed the comic & the M&M poster, all the time saying that she was grateful that I was being so patient with her.
"'Patient'?! YOU'RE doing ME the favor, MS. BUTLER! You're still working, here!"
"Oh, please, call me YANCY; I've been calling you MALCOLM all day...!"
She did more work on the scene, then returned to sign the WITCHBLADE™ poster, asking how I had obtained it. I told her of how I am an avid comics reader, and that the manager of DRAGON LADY COMICS & MEMORABILIA had put the poster aside for me as a surprise, rather than throwing it out as rubbish.
I thanked her profusely, and made sure to thank everyone in the crew & cast before leaving, particularly the Director & 1st AD, each of whom had been exemplary.
I also had a photograph taken of JULIA SQUEEZER draped about my person, courtesy of herself & her wrangler, who had very kindly awaited me while I was awaiting MS. BUTLER.
In my dressing room, doffing my costume, I took my time, wanting to savor every second of the experience. My euphoria was such that I was genuinely concerned that I might inadvertently hurt myself if I moved any faster!
I returned the costume to Wardrobe and thanked them, then loitered a further 10 minutes discussing the NIKITA™ wardrobe versus WITCHBLADE™ wardrobe.
I stopped in Makeup to thank them, also, before finally walking to the streetcar stop, reading another PUNISHERtm comic in the 12-issue series written by MR. GARTH ENNIS, and continuing to do so all the way home.
As fortune would have it, I was delivered from the location almost right to my door, and I had not known that by that time of night/morning, the route was diverted in my favor.
The perfect end to The Perfect Day.
If it be GOD'S™ Will, the first of many more yet to come!
"...Be seeing you!"
ADRIAN FAME, Fashion Photographer
WITCHBLADE: The Series™