Saturday, April 13, 2024

124 - That's...ACTING!

I'm a little bit worried that readers will think this is totally self-serving, so I want to start by saying that the TV episode I am discussing terrible....TERRIBLE! badly conceived and terribly written, even cringe-bad at times.

I had not watched it in full since it was new 30 years ago. Trust me when I say, I watched you don't have to.

What we're talking about is an episode from the final season of L.A. Law from 1994. I was hired as an extra, a jury-member. It was a 3-day gig. I would not have any lines. Extras don't speak on camera. But I had been through my actor-training, and acting teachers will often remind you that acting is often just listening, listening and reacting.

So... I showed up on the set ready to listen and react. As terrible as the show was, sometimes I look at some of my reactions and think, "Maybe that was the best acting I've ever done in my life."

That has to be a joke, right? I don't really want you to agree with it...or do I? I mean, I have new stuff. Just in the last month I completed and released the full audiobook of my novel How To Confuse A.I. and, you know, it's voice only, but I think as a bit of voice acting it ain't too bad.

But back to the no good horrible terrible episode of L.A. Law, the episode that maybe, just maybe, was the best acting I've ever done.

Dark sweater, glasses, just off the lawyer's left shoulder.

The court case we were deliberating involved three mountain climbers. They were unexpectedly trapped in a blizzard, on the side of a mountain, for 22 days. One was in pretty bad shape, but the other two weren't far behind him. know, the two who were not quite as bad off did the only thing that made sense under the circumstances...they killed their friend and ate him.

As the trial played out, we sat through a series of lawyers - both prosecution and defense - questioning their way through the tragic story. It was gruesome at times. As an actor - as a jury member - I just tried to, you know, listen and react. So I'm just going to run a half-dozen screen shots in a row. that's me, this time in the dark red sweater, listening to different lawyers takes on the events at hand:

And then there's this one. Down toward the end of this row, with my hand to my mouth, looking like I'm about to throw up, this is my reaction directly after the prosecutor said something along the lines of, "Maybe you should have thought about that before you killed your friend, hacked off his leg, and cannibalized him."

Ladies and gentlemen...That's...ACTING!

And in the end this brings us to the close-up. I still remember that shot. They put the camera right on me. It was intimidating. Don't let anyone tell you that acting is easy. Having a big square camera lens right in your face, knowing that you have to ignore it, stay focused, and continue with what you are doing - listening and reacting - is a big deal. One of the defense lawyers was giving his summation. I had to stay focused.  Not only did I have to stay focused. I also had to put out of my mind the fact that I thought this whole story, this whole episode was absurd, bad, the result Hollywood pressures and deadlines taking precedence over quality writing or story-telling. But there it is. That close-up...

That, my!

Peter Wick
April 13, 2024