Saying Goodbye

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April - June 2005  Jacqueline's last days in New York

 

Brittany Murphy came up to kiss me hello not once but for five takes in the backyard BBQ wedding rehearsal dinner scene set up by Ed Burns for “The Groomsmen”.  To say I was elated is an understatement.  Not only being one of my top favorite actresses, she tunes into your soul and draws you into her reality.  Her positive affirmations that she showers on her scene partner can put you into a surreal frame of mind.  I only wished I could have acted with her at the Joanne Barron/D.W. Brown Studio we both attended in the 90’s.  We were shooting on City Island, and a warm breeze caressed my bare shoulders.  At one point in the day Brittany was dolled up in her wedding gown and I was standing in front of the church with her as she got ready to walk down the isle yet again on film.  She looked deep into my eyes amid the chaos of paparazzi and screaming school children and I felt her energy pass through me.  Playing her best friend/bridesmaid was by far the best-featured BG role I have ever done.  Exiting the church after the wedding, I walked arm and arm with John Leguizamo, another favorite actor of mine.  He was a very cool, down to earth guy.  Jay Mohr was a huge flirt and got upset when he found out his bridesmaid partner, Marta Mondelli, was married.  Matthew Lillard was very cool and introduced himself to me in the make-up trailer.  All I could think of was when he played Shaggy since my daughter watches “Scooby Doo” a lot.  He makes me laugh.  On the other hand, Marta could only think of him from “Scream” and was leery. 

Even though I was playing Brittany Murphy’s bridesmaid, the casting director called me to do stand-in work on “The Groomsmen” as well.  I stood in for Jessica Capshaw one night, she seemed like a nice girl, but as per usual principals rarely talk to their stand-ins.  Not to mention the first A.D. decided to introduce me to Ed Burns again, and since it had been a week since the scene with Brittany, he forgot he had already met me.  I worked on the movie four more days and by the end of it Ed Burns knew my name.  I had to say thank you God, because this job was a huge pick me up after finding out SAG wasn’t going to give me the upgrade on the Oil of Olay commercial.   

 

David Platt called me from California; he wanted to know when I was going to get there.  He was trying to line up more directing gigs out on the west coast.  I told him I would be there in the summer.  He had received my letter I had wrote him back in February wanting to know if he was still going to help me out.  He said I needed to relax; that “Law & Order” had rules and once you have done a principal gig you can’t do another one for two years.  That the same went for “SVU” and those were what he primarily directs so…

 

Extra, Extra casting came through with a internet-commercial job for Verizon and it ended up being a really quick, quick 4 hour day.  We were down in Greenwich Village and the pollen was insane, falling on our clothes, our hair and in our coffee!  They had a little girl who was screaming in the scene, throwing a tantrum, while her babysitter couldn’t seem to control her.  Her babysitter was a young early 20’s guy and so they had other moms shaking their heads at him for not being able to control his child.  I imagined what it would be like to have Zyla here doing the scene.  It was amazing the control the little girl had in jumping into character then stopping and being a sweet angel.  Sometimes she would be screaming so loud she wouldn’t hear the director yell cut and she’d keep screaming.  They had her kicking a police officer and proclaiming that she’d been kidnapped.  All the terribly embarrassing things you would never want your child to do.  But what message was the little girl getting, if I act this way I get paid money and lots of attention.  This business is about a lot of mixed messages and playing so many games that how do you really know if your child is mature enough to handle it all?  The casting director, Antoinette, was very sweet and hung out with us the entire day.  She shared with us how she had started up this branch of Extra, Extra here in NY and how she had given LA a chance, but had to come back to her home.  I knew exactly how she felt because I had been here in NY for two years and with everything I’ve learned and gained and experienced, it still doesn’t feel like home and I couldn’t wait to return to Cally.

 

“Guiding Light” called me to work for something other than being bargirl!  The casting director had left, but her assistant was now in charge.  She updated my name change and put me in the diner scene, which was lovely.  Instead of eating peanuts and non-alcoholic beer for breakfast, I got a huge chicken salad and a coke! J 

 

I played a victim again on “Law & Order Special Victims Unit”, but I wasn’t dead. They vanned us out to their New Jersey sound stages.  I had never been out there before, and did not realize that SVU had a different sound stage than the regular L&O and Criminal Intent, which are at Chelsea Piers.  I was in the precinct, giving my statement to one of the detectives.  It was surreal because it reminded me of my first SAG principal acting job where I was in a police precinct as a runaway on “Night Eyes IV”.  In the breakfast room I ran into David Platt who had just gotten back from California.  He said he was thinking of me and would try to get me in something soon.

 

“Law & Order Criminal Intent” called me in to be Olivia D’Abo’s stand-in.  We shot in front of and inside the big Supreme Court house on Center Street.  Vincent was his usual friendly, flirty self, but when Olivia showed up he was all about her.  I sure am going to miss all these NY sets when I leave; it has definitely been an adventure. 

 

I had to turn down a call from Background, Inc. the first time they called me for a job because I had already booked the “Law & Order C.I.” gig.  Everyone on set said I was stupid for turning down Background, especially the first time they were calling me and who knew if they would call again!  I was thinking oh well, live and learn I guess.  Thankfully two days later they did call back and booked me on the Blockbuster commercial they were casting.  I ended up sitting in holding with a great group of people and we had so much fun telling stories and laughing.  They never did get to use us in the commercial due to the weather turning and cutting the shoot short.  None us really cared, we still got paid.

 

Going back to “The Sopranos” after all this time was weird.  I thought the show had been cancelled for good last year, but here they were reviving it.  James Gandolfini was a pleasure to watch with his honest sincerity and professionalism.  I played a conference worker at this trade show, taking place in California.  We were actually shooting at the New Jersey Art Center, so they put us through make-up, and applied base a couple shades tanner than we were; to make sure the conference workers looked like tanned Cally girls.

In the scene James is checking into the conference and trying to get his badge but has misplaced his driver’s license and without proper ID cannot get in.  Out of the four of us working the tables to enter the conference, only one of us had lines.  I asked the other girls if they had been invited to the audition, they all said no.  We were all having a hard time finding decent agents who were in with the casting directors.  Casting Directors only have a limited amount of time slots for each auditioned role.  They call up the casting agents who are in with them and give them a certain amount of time slots for their clients.  Meanwhile there are tons of casting agents trying to get in with them, trying to get their clients auditions as well, but it is an uphill battle.  A lot of the agencies that are in do not want to pick up new clients over the age of 25, making it difficult to find good representation the older you are.  Many talented actors never get to attend the auditions.

But we had fun and tried not to let the politics of our industry get us down.  The only thing we were upset about was not getting paid for travel time.  At first the show wanted us to try to get out to New Jersey by subway.  They did demand all non-union actors do this.  One guy told me it took him 5 trains to get there!  At the last minute they decided to have a van pickup in the city for the SAG actors, which is what is normally done, but they decided to call it a favor and not pay us for the travel time. My girlfriend had worked the show the day before and said they were paid for the travel time as per usual and had no idea why they pulled this with us.  Maybe because by the third day they were tired of dealing with it?  Take money out of BG actors pockets, they don’t care.  Our call time was at 12pm, but we were picked up in the city at 11:15am.  They never fed us a meal and one of the girls, who was a conference worker with me, was pregnant.  We had to beg for someone to bring her some food and she ended up getting two bagels.  When we got on the bus to go back to the city, no one from production came to let the driver know we could leave.  Once we checked out the whole company had moved on to another location, so we sat around another 20 minutes while the driver got upset that this was the second time production had taken off without letting him know what was going on.  We convinced him we were all there and should go.  We got back to the city at 8pm hungry and screwed out of an extra $50.  Background, Inc. called while I was on set saying they wanted me to work on a three-day show for the Olympics for some famous director but it would have to be for free.  I told them I would think about it.  When I asked some of my colleagues what they would do, they all resounded with “NO WAY”.  This is probably the only industry where they have no qualms about asking you to work for free and make it seem like they are doing you a favor. 

 

A week later Background, Inc. called me again to do stand-in work for Christie Brinkley out in the Hamptons for the new Cover Girl commercial.  Sounded like a mini vacation to me so when I was summoned to appear for Jury Duty, not a movie, the real deal, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out of it so that I could go to the Hamptons.  I asked my cousin what to do and he said since I did not sign for the summons I could just pretend I did not get it and not go.  I was worried about being fined the $1500 and paranoid, just decided to go.  Thankfully all the cases were dismissed for the day and the judge told us to return a week later.  After that I will have a credit for serving jury duty and they will stop summoning me for a while.  Extra, Extra Casting called me for a commercial where they needed a mommy and baby, but my baby is 4 years old now and not so babyish!  Criminal Intent wanted me for stand-in work again, but I was on my way to the Hamptons and told them I would be available the following week. 

I arrived in the Hamptons around 10pm and got my hotel key and call time for the next morning.  There wasn’t a whole lot going on at that hour mid-week, so I crashed out in my room watching some “48 Hours” special about a guy who thought his father was the killer of the Black Dalhia.  I woke early and noticed breakfast was being set up in the parking lot of the hotel and a lot of the crew was down there eating.  There were three different call times 6:30am, 7am and 7:30am.  Mine was the last so I figured I would wait a bit before going down.  The call sheet said a horse wrangler was part of production and there would be a scene on the beach of Christie riding her horse.  I thought we would be doing the beach scene first and then move on to the house location.  A lot of the crew hopped on the van to set at 6:30am, and as I was walking to the parking lot the caterer was already starting to put the breakfast food away!  I ended up with a banana and Danish, grabbed some coffee and went back to my room.  Since I don’t have regular TV at my place, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and watch the morning news.  Some rapist in the subways was the top story, thank God I don’t watch this stuff regularly or I probably would never leave the house!  Anne Bancroft had died and they were playing clips from her movies and interviews, another great gone.  I packed up my things and headed to the van.  It was beautiful, warm summer breeze, acres of nothing, and I thought about the drive across country that I was about to make next month.  We arrived to the set, which was a beautiful Hampton home, and started setting up for the first shot.  I found out the beach shoot was going to be the next day, so much for my vacation on the sands of the Hamptons.  Christie looked beautiful; I couldn’t believe she was in her 50’s!   She had her son and daughter with her and they were going to be in the commercial as well.  During my downtime, I returned a call I had received the night before from Winsome Sinclair & Ass. Casting.  They wanted to know if I was available a couple days a week for the next 2 months for Spike Lee’s new project “Inside Man”.   A lot of work to turn down, but I couldn’t commit through the summer since I was leaving for LA the first of July.  They wished me good luck; I knew more jobs would find their way to me I wasn’t worried.  Staying out of the 90 degree weather that had snuck up on us, I sat in my make shift holding area in the production office motor home and overheard them talking about cutting costs on the commercial and worried about overtime and meal penalties that were going to happen when we wrapped at 4pm and still had to travel 2 hours back to the city.  They decided to cut costs and sent me home early.  Officially they wrapped me at 12:30pm and wrote that I was sent to lunch and then got on the express bus back to the city.  What really happened is they told me to hurry up and get ready to be vanned to the bus stop so I wouldn’t miss the next bus (there was only one every hour).  They asked if it would be ok, to say I was fed even though I wasn’t and I said sure, since they had already paid me my per diem for dinner for that evening which they didn’t ask me to pay back.  As I was getting ready to leave someone came in to say the caterer had not brought enough food to feed the whole crew and something needed to be done.  I headed out to the van and was dropped off at the bus stop.  They had given me the $27 fare to get back to the city, so that was cool, but by the time I got back at 4pm I was starving.  Background, Inc. called me while I was on the bus asking how the shoot was going and I told them I had already been wrapped.  They wanted to know if I would work on the free Olympic job on Monday, but I told them I had Jury Duty.  Made me wonder if that was the reason they hooked me up with this great Cover Girl job.  Unfortunately for them I had somewhere else to be.

 

My second day of Jury Duty service ended the same as the first with all the cases being resolved and the jury being sent home, this time with our get out of Jury Duty free card, good for 4 years.  I had to turn down an audition for Meg Ryan’s new film.  The casting agent in LA had called my agent in Florida wanting me for a day player role, but with the clock ticking as I prepared to pack up everything to move across country the timing couldn’t be worse.  At least they were calling and I assured them I would be in L.A. within the next few weeks.  The signal in my building is horrible and because of that I missed a call to work on “L&O SVU” again.  Extra, Extra called to see if Zyla could play a 5 year old and if I had her work permit.  I said no to both.  I don’t feel she is mature enough to be on set yet, so I hadn’t bothered getting her a work permit.  Background, Inc. called to see if I was available for work the following week and said they would call me back if they could book me.  I finally got to a New York beach out on Long Island for the Verizon Wireless commercial.  It was a beautiful day; sands were warm and soft, tide pulled out and a breeze floated past.  Reminded me of the beach we use to go to in Florida at Atlantic Blvd. so peaceful.  I was sad I hadn’t found this beach sooner, a place to escape to from the craziness of the city.  It seemed like NY just kept getting better and here I was packing up to leave.  After all the memories and moments spent here, I know I will always treasure this time in my life and think of NY fondly. 

 

“Law & Order Criminal Intent” called me to be featured as the new receptionist at the chiropractor’s office in the episode “Unchained”.  When I got to set they told me my characters name was Kyra; weird because usually BG parts don’t have specific names.  This was my first time on set with Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra playing the lead roles.  I also stood in for Kathryn Albaelli.  She was playing the first receptionist who gets murdered.  Annabella showed a lot of strength coming back to set after leaving half way through the day for a family emergency.  She apologized to me for not knowing her lines, I assured her I understood and would keep her family in my prayers.  Working this show so much a lot of the crew were my friends and all wanted a chance to say good-bye when they heard I was leaving in less than 2 weeks.  The First A.D. promised to get me back on before I left and the casting director did call me the next day to work the show again.  I think I will miss this set the most; I made a lot of friends here.

 

Zyla graduated from Preschool and they were playing “Greatest Love of All” and I couldn’t stop crying.  The song was played over and over at the boarding school I attended so much so it triggers me every time I hear it.  For my 17th birthday I spent six months of my senior year at CEDU, 13 years later the memories flooding my vision felt like it was only yesterday.  The friends I had there and all the psychological experiments we all sat through together and that song playing and you never think it will end but then things change and you constantly move on to different levels in life and looking back at all the beginnings and endings and circles in life.  Zyla had wrote she would miss her friends the most and I felt the sharp pain of sadness overtake me in what I feel every time I have to pick up and move or change and make new friends and start all over again.  I feel like it never ends, and nothing is ever really solid and will I ever get use to this feeling.  But at least I know my friends are there no matter if we see each other or not, and whenever we talk it is as if we pick up where we left off.  I don’t remember my graduation from preschool, and wonder if Zyla will even remember any of this.  I hope so because I will never forget New York.