I'm going to be in Episode 506 of Six Feet Under
Scheduled Air Date: July 11 on HBO
I had a whale of a week shooting my small bits for the new season. I’ve been biting my lips wondering what I can and can't tell you, prerelease. After all, a great deal of my script is necessarily secret.
I can’t tell you who died. I can’t tell you what state Nate and Brenda are in— NO WAY! You are going to die when you see what Clare has gotten herself into. The Keith and David drama made me cry, but I can’t tell you why. I can’t say a darn thing about the best parts of this soap opera until after it airs.... it’s unbearable.
I can tell you that I play myself, a dear friend of the “deceased” in the episode I appear in. The deceased is not a total stranger, (as in some episodes), but rather a character who is known to those who follow the show. How’s that for suspense? I think I could plan a wicked contest around this.... but it seems a little early to start. I can’t give you five months to guess, can I?
But some of you are more interested in backstage gossip. Is Peter Krauss as handsome as he looks on screen? Yes. Everyone in this show is made up quite naturally. There were no shocks. The hotties are hot, the redheads are red, even the pregnant are really pregnant.
I think I look more different on screen versus real life, than anyone else in the cast. Perhaps that even because I play "myself" in this script, I play more of a New-Age-Me than the real Never-Say-Die-Karl-Marx Me.
For example, in real life, I'm an athiest. In the show, along with the other mourners, I sang a song about angels over the body of our dead friend. In real life, I’d be more likely to be singing I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. I’m not an angel person, and when people ask about the enormous white feathered angel wings I've hung over my bedroom door, I tell them it’s my Haight Ashbury Cockette Drag Outfit.
As for the work on making the show: it is very hard. People work 12-18 hour days without anyone thinking that’s peculiar, day after day, until the season is done. There’s about 100+ people who work on each episode.
When you leave at night, you are an idiot of fatigue. I’m sure you have nothing to say to your family when you get home except, "Good Night Nurse." I had big plans to see all my friends in the evenings, but I could barely call them up to beg off.
Being an actor in these sort of things, more than anything else, is an exercise in tedium and patience. You shoot some little moment over and over again, where you say two words and move one inch. It’s like being a doll in a doll house. Your make-believe mettle is tested as you are asked to replay emotional moments over and over until they seem nonsensical. this isn’t SFU, per se; this is conventional film and TV making.
I’ve had quite a bit of live theater experience, where you often rehearse scenes all the way through. There’s a lot of room for improvisation when you're putting it together. You get to have your performance catharsis. In front of an audience, it’s electric; the adrenaline is always pumping.
I couldn't help tickling myself with the comparison between a mainstream shoot like this, versus porno, where moving expeditiously is the name of the game. When I saw the luxury of time at 6FU, the opportunities afforded for postproduction, I said to myself, “That’s not the porno way!”
I imagine the people who have the most fun on a TV set are people who get to do a lot of hands-on work, who make creative decisions. That's the porno way, too, since a few people wear all the hats. I envied the 6FU make-up and costume artists, the DP, the lighting and sound directors, and of course the writer and director, because they got to DO STUFF all the time, and even though they’re working hard, time moves more quickly, because they’re cranked.
Los Angeles, as I have remarked before, is a company town, since the 1980s, as much as any Kentucky holler. A town's values tell you about the product they make. Coal speaks volumes about miners, and “entertainment” tells you everything you need to know about showbiz communities.
Prerecorded entertainment is illusion, it's the fantasy machine. It is ephemeral, and it is only as successful as its last five minutes. The insecurity, the narcissism, the emptiness that you hear about in Sad Hollywood Tales is a function of the factory... it could hardly be anything else.
What’s interesting about a show like 6FU is that the writing and conception of the characters has worked against stereotype. I’ve never watched women characters in a serial drama that had so much sexual depth— real women with erotic desires and conflicts. To create female characters who are more than cute virgins, vicious fatales, or boring matrons has been quite amazing. Those chicks on Sex in the City don’t have an ounce of sexual guts compared to Ruth, Brenda, Clare, or their compatriots. I knew my appearance, as the "Feminist Sex Author,” was one more wonderful little outrage in this tradition.
My favorite adventure on the set resulted in the picture you see above. I staged my own death at the funeral parlor, and made one of the other actresses use my camera to record it. What I wouldn't have give to move around all the dolls myself!
As the time gets closer, I’ll tell you more about the episode, and let the guessing game begin in earnest. I promise to spill my guts out after the debut. In the meantime, if there’s any questions you want to ask me about the experience, or you own two cents from TV production, feel free to post here!