Last week I was fortunate enough to be cast in an episode of NBC’s Chicago P.D., shot here in the city. It happened so fast it made my head spin. I auditioned late Monday morning, had my fitting on Tuesday afternoon and shot my scene early Thursday morning.
I have gotten to do my fair share of parts in TV and film productions that have come to Chicago over the years, and I wanted to share with you some insider tips I have picked up by being on the set that have made my on-camera experience a little easier and a whole lot more fun.
- Don’t Stress Out
It can be tempting to really freak out when you get cast on a TV show or film because you think this is going to be your big break — the one that will really make you famous. But let me tell you something. This is not your big break. No one is going to discover you because you played “Guard #2” in one episode.And once you realize that, it should take the pressure off of you to do an even better job and to enjoy your day on the set. Of course, I had to learn this the hard way. When I first got cast in some of my early day parts (Natural Born Killers, ER, The Untouchables), I put so more pressure on myself. I thought I was going to be catapulted to LA. I wasn’t. Instead, I was trying too hard and over acting. At one point, the direct came out and said to me: “Just say the words.”Day players are there to serve a function in the scene, not to win an Emmy. You are there to support the star, your part is not that important, so shut up and do your lines and hit your mark.
- You don’t have to be everyone friend
Yes, you want to be pleasant and friendly on the set, and you want to stay loose, but remember that you are a guest in their in home. The cast and crew have worked all together for long time, they have bonded, they are like family. You are coming in for one day and remember that everyone there really wants the shoot to get over as quickly as possible. So choose your spots to make small talk. If an actor talks to you, it’s ok to talk back, but overall, I am very conscious of not wasting the cast, crew or director’s time. When you are on the set it’s always important to read the room. If you don’t know when to say something, it’s better not to say anything.
- You will be learning on the job.
Since a lot of Chicago actors don’t have much experience being on film or TV sets, it’s natural that you’re going to be learning certain things on the job. When I first started getting parts, I thought I was supposed to know everything to do on set, which is impossible since I had very little experience.Today, my attitude has changed. I realize that I am not only there to do my job, but also to learn so I am even better then next time I am cast.For example, last week when I was filming my scene, on the first take I needed to take a slight pause between when the other actor said his line and when I said my line for the sound editing. They pointed it out to me, and since I was coming in with the attitude that this was a learning experience, I didn’t beat myself up for making a mistake.
- Don’t look for praise
You may get praise on the set, or you may not, but that has nothing to do with you and how well you’re acting. Don’t take it personally. They don’t have time. They have to shoot eight other scenes that day and they have a million other things on their mind than to make sure they compliment the actor playing Prison Guard Number 2.Last week, I went in prepared not to get any compliments, so when I did get a lot of praise from one of the actors I was shooting the scene with and some of the crew, it was just gravy.
- Match The Other Actors’ Energies
When I did an episode of the Playboy Club a few years ago, I realized that acting on one-hour dramas had changed a bit. The actors were talking much softer, almost whispering as they delivered their lines. Thank god I had come from improv; I just matched their volume and energy so I didn’t come across as shouting in my scenes.
- Look Over You Script
TV is famous for changing things up until the last minute, so even though I had the scene memorized the for the audition on Monday, by the time I got to the shoot on Thursday, the writers had changed some of the lines. I am glad I checked it and had gone over it the night before.
- You Will Have an Emotional Hangover When It’s Over
It is normal to feel depressed or little irritable a couple of days after a shoot, especially if you have to go back to a crummy day job. Getting a part, even a small one, on a TV show or movie is a huge accomplishment, and when it’s over, you’ll feel let down. You’re grieving. This is something you had worked really hard to get and the day went so fast, plus you had freaking New York strip steak with grilled asparagus for lunch and now you’re back in your cubicle deciding if you have enough money for Chipotle. That’s okay, you are coming to down to Earth, but it sometimes it not so easy, so be gentle on yourself.Catch Jimmy Carrane on Chicago P.D. on May 2 at 9 p.m. on NBC.