A few years ago on Halloween,(also a full moon) I went to a Con not as an actor, but as a writer. Still, somehow, I ended up doing an ‘Acting for TV’ panel.

I’ve been on camera, but mostly I gravitate to a fishtank and a mic. Too, I think being unseen brings out the best in people. They're not confused by illusions of body or sartorial splendor. I don't want my overwhelming physical attributes knocking out anyones speech centers.(It could happen!)  The talkback button causes one to refine feed-back. Sure, if I had a nickel for all the times director Terry Klassen has leaned on the talkback and said: “That was just weird. Can you do it better?” 

Succinct. Elegant. Actionable.

Anyway, on this panel, everyone but me and Maryke Hendrikse worked in live-action, and that was what the audience wanted to talk about. Let’s face it. That’s where the glamour is. The on-camera actors talked how hard 'the craft' was,  the process and depth of it all.  And one very good, well-respected, (other adjectives) actress made pointed remarks about this breed actors with 'attitude" who aren’t really good soldiers and just think they can stroll in and be all jokey. So of course, I made a joke. Of course I did.  Oh. Dear. Escalation.  I was one of those actors. Now herself kept referencing us and talking about slovenly acting habits and people who can't stand authority and how they don't belong in the business. And... I started to blow toony gaskets. Voices were building in my throat. I was on the verge of doing her right back to her. 

"No,' monologued the great arty beacon to other performers-- 'you can't just wear a bandaid on the bridge of your glasses, and be a 'nerd,' for example-- you have to have an inner life. What makes this person tick."

My inner life at the time: 
What if I stick this pencil in my eye?

Outer life:
SHE: " Hawhawhaw, thank you.  Yes mine too. Yes that was one of my favorite characters I've done. ...funny you should ask that. Yes, I find a touchstone for me is shoes. When I put on the footwear I really know who the character is..."


BLAARGGH. I released a stream of silly voices and accents like a completely crazy baby whose Count Chokula has been purloined.  Now normally I'm not reactive, I don't feel the need to top the floorshow and I'm a girl who gets on great with other girls. Who stole my body?  I just remember the wide-eyed expression on Maryke's face.  Hoo-mummy. 

What made me want to jump up and down on this actress head with an anvil marked "ACME" ? Still a mystery. Maybe I was the victim of microwave mind-control.   Maybe in a past life she stole my tube-top. Whatever. It was so bad,  so inexplicable, that all I can do is laugh at myself. Time to drop the pencil. Maybe I shouldn't call her a 'great arty beacon to other performers."

I'll cut that line tomorrow. 

My own inadequacies notwithstanding, on-camera is acting not that hard. It’s not coal mining or sewing in a sweat-shop.  Sure, take classes, get crafty, but when it comes down to it, it's walking and talking. Most have it mastered by 5 years old. Say your lines, try not to crash into the lights. 

It does help to be a bit brazen. 

They give you sprawling meals and treat you as if you can do more than merely imitate the way real humans do things. They treat you like you invented flowers.

Now toons, see, don't work from the inside out. It ‘s not viable. The tooner that has his nose up his petunia looking for the science usually sounds like he's over-working. Who wants to hear the gears? You want that superficial marker. The vocal equiv. of tape on glasses.  Yes, tooning’s a serious job. You have to read the script, arrive on time and know how to spell your name. For the contract. Then you’re a fly on skates, Jeeves. Skim that pond. Look! Down in the gluey brown depths! Could those be people down there be stuck in their own seriosity?

Tooning is serious work you do lightly. A good rule for a lot of life. Let's face it, shoe salesmen lose their nut over 'the new heel for fall.' You can get bent out of shape over anything. Like an incident four years old, Tabitha...

Yeah. Anyway,  so... like... don't.. do like me.

I EAT MY WORDS. NUMMY.

Last week I did an episode of live-action show ‘Supernatural.’  After my makeup was airbrushed on, (graffiti-face!) I moved to the hair station. I was first in the trailer. Then came Dmitri Chepovetsky, (Sweetie actor-boo I know from theatre days,) and shortly the two stars, Jensen and Jarod-- and bugger me, but the two “J” names shorted my only working brain circuit.

They were both extremely funny, Jared kibitzing with the A.D. “You’re fired! Go Fire yourself!” Jensen had the chair next to me. He had his sides in hand. He was very open, had this inclusive capable elder-brother vibe, taking care of everyone and keeping things on track. A supernaturally supportive vibe, you might say, (lol am) but I didn’t try to yank on his attention beyond greeting. They have to learn loads of lines daily.  I had my few lines and I still managed to salad some. J Name and J. Name had woolly suits on under hot lights all day. Not a boo-boo.

12 hours plus per day, the makeup lady said. Three months off to remember how to be human. Then she laughed a long time through gritted teeth. This is their seventh season. 

The camera man said, "You caught us at a good time. We're good on Monday." 
Another crew member piped in, "Not so much Tuesday." 
"Wednesday's bad."
"Thursday there's despair."/ "Yeah, dude, Thursday. Grim" 
"Good again on Friday."/"Yuh. Or not."  

Supernatural is a fun show, but the show I'd give my liver to see was behind the scenes. That crew, fluid and familial, irreverent, bored, engaged, expert and stuffed to the gunwales with personality under pressure.  Quel show! As the French say.  If I had cameras in my eyes I'd plug ‘em into my computrid to show you. Although… Gross images… eyes jammed into ports. Eww. Eye-juice.  Erase.

The thing that makes me laugh every time I work on camera is how unglamorous it is. You sit in your little cubicle in a giant bare trailer that smells of loo disinfectant, you’ve been waiting hours, you smell like a wet bag of mice, you can’t lie down because you’ll put a dent in your hairspray sculpture. When you get to set, you’re an object that all the expensive, important pieces revolve around, the lights, the camera, ladies with brushes. Someone sticks a wire up your skirt and tapes it to your bra.

You’re a lump of monkey. 

Then it’s ACTION and you waddle in and say those words exactly as they are on the page even if the way things are realized makes the exact wording daft and wooden. You try to find the floormarks without looking.  Oh, and don't say anything compromising with a wire up your frock.

Okay, so maybe on camera acting is a little hard.

In the name of relief, here’s a moment of tooning no amount of study could prep you for...

..

 


www.tabithastgermain.com