If “every writer is a frustrated actor…,” as Rod Serling is quoted as saying, then shouldn’t the chance for a journalist to act in the medium they cover be equally thrilling? Yes… thrilling and terrifying, as I found out when I got to do a small part on ABC’s One Life to Live. My scene with Bo (Bob Woods) and Rex (John-Paul Lavoisier) airs today, so you can judge how it all turned out. But I can tell you what it was like getting through it.
By the time I showed up on the show’s Manhattan set at 8 a.m. in late January to film my little scene as a slightly sassy airline employee, the other actors and crew were in full swing. J.P. (yeah, we’re close like that now) was already in his dressing room, grabbing a bite, and watching a movie on his iPod as he waited to do his blocking. As a movie junkie, he was only too happy to talk pop culture and movie trivia as we hung out.
Next it was on to the hair and makeup room, where I got done-up alongside the fabulous Hillary B. Smith as she ran lines with her on-screen son Eddie Alderson. So I got to listen as Nora tried to convince Matthew of his uncle Clint’s many treacherous acts. Then Smith, Woods, J.P., and I went into a non-descript room to rehearse our scene with director Jill Mitwell. Yes, managing to remember my five very brief lines was very important to me, so I was glad for the chance to practice. The trio of real actors created a very congenial, welcoming vibe as we rehearsed, which carried over later on the set.
But first I put myself in the very capable hands of the wonderful people of the wardrobe department, under the supervision of award-winning costume designer Susan Gammie. They got me dolled up in my blue airline employee outfit, complete with a strategically placed scarf. And took me on a tour of the extraordinarily organized closet, where I saw Jessica/Tess’s famously altered wedding dress hanging in wait.
The pace on the set was controlled, very fast, and all about problem-solving, as the crew, a jovial and very professional bunch, quickly filmed our scenes in Llanview Airport. (I’ve always loved that in all these little cities on daytime TV, you can always hop on a plane to just about anywhere.) I chatted up the other extra players in the scene, the real actors, in the brief moments between takes. It turned out it wasn’t so hard to get ready to greet Bo as he got on to the plane, and then turn around and stop Rex.
Exec producer Frank Valentini, who set this whole little escapade up, was on set and gave me a little more direction: be sassier. It was actually kind of easy to play off of J.P.’s frantic energy. And then, like that, it was over.
It was the experience of a lifetime and reaffirmed my respect for the professionalism of daytime players, and I’m glad I did it but I’m sticking with what I know.
Abby on Twitter: @EWAbbyWest #notquittingmydayjob