After blogging about a heavy and complicated topic last week – the Wilmot Proviso – I decided to give my readers and myself a break this week. Let’s have some fun today with my brush with fame.
Do you remember a suspenseful television series from a decade ago that was filled with political intrigue? The name of the show was “Homeland.”
Before it was named. I had my brush of fame in it as an “extra.”
Most of the show’s early seasons were filmed in Charlotte. A segment was to be filmed at Avondale Presbyterian Church on Park Road because it resembled a New England church sanctuary.
The production people wanted a full sanctuary for the filming of a funeral scene. An email went out to the churches in the Presbytery of Charlotte, part of the Presbyterian Church USA. The secretary at Rocky River Presbyterian Church sent out a notice to inform members of the congregation that extras were needed for the filming on August 12, 2011.
My sister and I had never considered doing anything like that, but it sounded interesting and exciting. We were advised to wear appropriate clothes for a funeral. We weren’t going to be paid, but lunch would be available.
We had nothing better to do that day, so off we went. It turned out to be a learning experience and one of those incidents that people who know me would probably be surprised to know.
Upon arrival, we were herded into the church’s fellowship hall. We sat with strangers around round tables. It was immediately time to “hurry up and wait.”
After several hours, we were led into the sanctuary. Sound and lighting were tested. I can’t remember now if the stars of that episode of the show, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, were involved in our first visit to the sanctuary.
We were told in no uncertain terms to memorize where we were sitting because later in the day we’d have to arrange ourselves exactly in the same place and in the same order. That was a bit stressful when you’re sitting on a church pew in a sanctuary you’ve never been in before and all the walls are covered in plastic to control the lighting.
It must have been at that point that we were served lunch. I can’t remember what it was, but I never turn down a free meal.
After that, we were left to just hang out in the fellowship hall. I’ve never had good timing. I took a minute to take a bathroom break. When I came back to the fellowship hall, my sister and a man we’d only met that morning were gone. The remaining extras at our table told me that someone came and asked them to go outside for the shooting of another scene.
This man had irritated us all morning, and now Marie was stuck being with him for filming outside. He was a loud know-it-all and we’d wished we could move to another table. Even so, I was a little envious because Marie was at least getting to do something, but I mostly pitied her for having to spend more time with this obnoxious man.
Marie and her new “husband” eventually returned to the fellowship hall. They’d had to walk together up the sidewalk leading to the church entrance over and over and over and over as if arriving for the funeral. Marie looked shell shocked and feared people would think they were an actual couple.
A little while later, we were instructed to return to the sanctuary. (All this time I’d been playing over in my head the clues I’d tried to detect that would help me sit exactly where I had earlier.)
As soon as everyone seated themselves where they’d sat that morning, members of the production crew started pointing and saying, “You. You, go sit over there. And you. You go sit over there.” This drill went on for a while until I’d completely lost sight of Marie and I was nowhere near where I’d started. I hoped she wasn’t being paired off with “obnoxious man.”
I liked where I ended up. I was near the aisle, and Claire Danes stood just feet away from me while she waited for her cue to walk forward. We even made eye contact while we waited. It was probably because I looked like a deer caught in headlights.
Filming finally started. Damian Lewis eulogized his deceased best friend from the Army. Over and over and over and over again. Claire Danes eventually got to walk up the aisle (over and over again) to her appointed seat.
In the middle of Damian Lewis’ eulogy, an actor portraying another of their Army buddies as noisily as possible dropped his crutches. The sound was quite startling to those of us in the audience who didn’t have a clue what was happening. That quite loud segment was filmed over and over again.
At one point, they were filming as if we were all sad and talking among ourselves about how sad it was that this Army veteran had died. It was hard to keep from laughing as we turned to the complete strangers sitting next to us and were instructed to quietly make specific comments about how tragic the whole thing was. By then it was late in the day and most of us were a bit sorry we’d volunteered for this unknown television show that probably would never even air.
“Homeland” did air. It was a successful series that lasted eight seasons. Marie and I watched almost every episode. It was fun to pick out local sights in the various episodes during the first several years when it was filmed in the Charlotte area. There was the staged explosion at Marshall Park in downtown Charlotte and even a scene at a small mom and pop motel in Mt. Pleasant here in Cabarrus County. And, of course, there was the episode that included the funeral at Avondale Presbyterian Church.
When the episode aired, we learned that Damian Lewis’ character had in fact murdered the man we heard him eulogizing.
It turned out that Marie and I were both seated so near the back of the sanctuary that we couldn’t even pick out ourselves in the crowd when the episode aired. Much to Marie’s relief, the entire segment of her and “obnoxious man” walking arm-in-arm to the church ended up on the cutting room floor.
Nevertheless, we know we were in Season 1 Episode 6 (“Good Soldier”) of “Homeland” and in the process we learned that it can take eight hours to film a two-minute segment of a television show. I don’t know how actors stand it.
We came to like the part Mandy Patinkin played in the series and regretted that we didn’t get to see him during our day of hurry up and wait.
It was more than a bit out of character for Marie and me, but we were glad we did it. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but parts of it were fun and it gave us a whole new appreciation for the tedium actors must endure.
Since my last blog post
I continue to work on the family cookbook, The Aunts in the Kitchen. It’s time to figure out the cover and write the bios for each of the aunts.
I also continue to work on my genealogy.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Librarian Spy: A Novel of World War II, by Madeline Martin.
Until my next blog post
Find time for family, friends, and a hobby.
Don’t forget the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, and Highland Park, etc. and the people in Kentucky whose lives have been turned upside down by flooding.