One of the great things about being back in the game is you never know who you’re going to run into. Or who you’re going to get to work with. On Black Box a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of working with two extraordinary actors. Black Box is a new medical drama that stars Vanessa Redgrave and a slew of other great actors. No, my scenes weren’t with her but I did get to work with Ed Herrmann and Eric Stoltz.
Ed is the consummate actor who, if you watch TV, is everywhere. For years he was a regular on The Gilmore Girls and lately, although not a regular, he is on The Good Wife so much he could be. I played Ed’s older brother (not sure about the logic behind that since I’m several years younger – but hey, that’s show business). In the show Ed is sick and takes some medicine that causes him to hallucinate. While hallucinating he sees me even though I’m dead. Don’t want to reveal more than this because it might ruin the episode for the readers who want to watch it.
Working with Ed was a dream experience. From the first moment we sat down to run lines and we looked at each other, boom, we were in a relationship. I felt there was a bond; even though we had never met each other I felt we had history. And again not wanting to reveal too much (you can read about it on Ed’s Facebook page) but Ed had had a serious emergency operation four weeks before and there were plenty of reasons why he could have been distracted. One of those reasons being the full-time nurse who was on the set just to monitor how he was doing. Plus his lovely wife Starr was also on set for the same reason. Ed had shot earlier scenes of the episode a few days before his surgery and was back to finish his work. Talk about a pro.
But as I said from the moment we started rehearsing he was focused. He had a lot of scenes to shoot that day besides the ones we were in. It was indeed a privilege to look into his eyes and feel everything he was bringing to our relationship.
Eric Stoltz, who is also a great actor—if you’ve seen any of his work you know what I mean. The two films that leap to mind are Mask and Pulp Fiction. Whenever I’m channel surfing and I come across Pulp Fiction I wait until one of Eric’s scenes comes on and I watch it before moving on. Great, great work. On Black Box though, Eric was directing.
He was at the callback and after reading my scenes with me (yes, he read with me – don’t see many directors doing that) he said, “Let’s try something else.” He gave me a direction that took the scenes in an entirely different direction. It was so great to have his input and his energy as we went exploring. I loved what we did in the callback and when I got home I told my wife, “You know, even if I don’t get this part, I already had a win today.” When my agent called to book me that was the icing on the cake.
Being on the set with him was a treat. When a director is working his attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions at the same time. But regardless of that when Eric needed to give Ed or me a direction it was as if we were the only two people there. After rehearsing Eric gave me a note that we hadn’t explored in the callback, something that he thought of on the set, and it had a huge and wonderful impact on the scene. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much but trust me when I tell you it made a difference in how I played that scene.
It’s crazy how our business works. Here were two guys I have always admired and I got to work with them. Will I ever get another chance to work with them again? I don’t know but I hope so. But I do know I’m richer for it. Maybe next time I’ll be directing and they’ll be acting. Crazier things have happened.