Tuesday, May 31st I spent a 15 hour day on the set of the award-winning drama "LAW & ORDER: SVU(Special Victims Unit) thanks to Grant Wilfrey Casting in NYC. (Visit the show's website at http://www.nbc.com/Law_&_Order:_Special_Victims_Unit/index.html ). On at least 3 different occasions I had been called to do one of the "Law & Order's" but a musical gig conflicted with the date. It's ironic that on this said date--a NYC engagement at Nino's Tuscany fell through and my regular Tuesday gig at Whitemarsh Valley Inn was cancelled due to it being Memorial Week--so it cleared the way for this great experience. A veteran of doing "extra" work by now(I've done 5 episodes of the CBS show "HACK" filmed in Philadelphia, an episode of "Sex & the City", several films and other TV shows), this was my first time on a "Law & Order" set and it was special because it's probably going to be my most featured opportunity--as a jury member on an episode called "STRAIN"--airdate Tuesday, October 18 at 10PM E.S.T. on NBC. I drove to their North Bergen NJ studios for a 7AM call time that day--arriving a little after 6AM so as to be in plenty of time for their mammoth breakfast(one thing you can always count on with a great TV show or film is being fed all day!) The craft service tables are usually well-supplied, and then you have a formal sit-down lunch or dinner (The crew and main cast members eat first, followed by background SAG actors, then Non-Union--there truly is a "caste/cast system")[pun intended]...we began working fairly early--on the set about 7:30AM--I was placed in the front row of the jury second to the end--we had two wardrobe changes to indicate two different days of the trial--this first scene I was in a blue shirt and gold tie. What is still fascinating to me is watching the crew set up for each scene--most folks who watch at home obviously have no idea of the meticulous plotting and planning that goes into each shot and scene. Almost an hour can be allotted in "blocking the scene" with the stand-in actors for the stars--who walk through the movement, stopping at areas on the floor that have colored masking tape to mark their "stops"(the camera people use measuring tape to measure how far the actor's face is from their cameras at each "stop", and a light guage is placed against their face to sense how much or little light is needed to illuminate that specific area)...various hand-held screens or gels placed in the cameras are set up to allow just the right amount of light through. Eventually the "first team rehearsal" is called for and the actual stars and guest stars appear on the set to do a run-through of the scene. Actress Diane Neal appears, seated closest to us--she is Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak on the show. Today her hair is pulled back and braided beautifully on the back of her head--she looks like a stunning Grace Kelly--wearing a black pin stripe blazer and skirt. Though she is a former model, Diane greets us affably and sets a tone early that she is accessible and lots of fun. She begins to chat with us about the particular case we are trying today when she is interrupted by the director to do her walk-through. Her funny quip under her breath to us indicates she'd rather hob-nob with us then "get serious"--I found that to be an awesome attribute when most stars do not mingle with "the background actors"--later in the day she and I would exchange some quick small talk--"What flavor of gum, Diane?"--I asked once--"Nicorette" she retorted. I later read an article on the wall at the studio about her personal fight to quit smoking and it all 'connected'--ironically, her closing statement as the prosecutor in today's case made an analogy to the tobacco industry. The show has to do with a young man murdering two men to avenge the death of his brother--who he felt was intentionally killed via a new strain of the AIDS virus that is associated with the drug "meth". Though the rumor was that the shooting schedule was moving briskly today--there sometimes were 2 hour breaks before the jury was brought back in to shoot again--and by the end of the day a good 4 hours went by before we were brought back at 9:30PM to shoot the jury's REACTION shots to the closing arguments of the attorneys--the cameras are placed directly on us as the main actors repeat their lines for the umpteenth time and we react facially to their words. (Here I am wearing a light brown suede casual shirt). Yawns, red eyes and general weariness abound throughout the cast, crew and extras and after a one-take on these reaction shots the director yells the long-awaited "THANK YOU! GOOD NIGHT!"...the fellow jurors had been discussing how close we SAG actors were to receiving "Golden Time" pay rate--when we wrapped at 10PM we were an hour away from receiving the FULL day rate of $118.00 per day to be paid PER HOUR starting at 11PM--we already had night premium and overtime--and what they call "meal penalties" had accrued for the day--which means our sit-down lunch at 2:10PM(much later than it should have been) and no sit-down meal later puts more money in our pockets--it's great to be in "the union" as all these particulars are taken into consideration and written on our payment vouchers--which are signed at days end by the gentleman in charge of us...in closing-- this was jury duty I didn't want to get out of--and it certainly pays better!

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