New York City has always been home to me, but for some people it can be a lonely, scary place. It can make you feel like crowds are carelessly pushing past you like you’re just a piece of inconvenient scaffolding or dog shit on the sidewalk, more in the way than human. But there are also moments when you find that magical intersection of peaceful and bustling, where people walk seamlessly past each other like silk strands embroidering a carpet right in front of your eyes. Like they were choreographed by ADs and Background PAs except it’s real. No matter how the city can make you feel, we all want some security in our lives and it’s important to have close friends you can depend on, that will have your back no matter what.
As I binge-watched the new season of Orange Is the New Black this past weekend, something became really clear to me. Everyone has a tribe. Even BG actors have a group of friends just like the characters on the show have their gangs; people they see on sets again and again, and sometimes, if they are lucky, people they become friends with in real life when they are out of wardrobe and off-set.
And it made me think:
Who would be in my prison gang?
The day I did BG on Orange Is the New Black I was in a flashback scene that took place at Homefield Bowl’s bowling alley and while I never portrayed a prisoner there were definitely some moments when I felt like one.
“No cell phones anywhere on set, leave them here. If you bring your cell phone with you then you will have to deal with our legal department and get a lawyer and nobody wants that.”
-Verbatim quote from a PA as BG was being escorted out of holding
No, nobody wants that although I am sure the legal department is not going to want to handle a case of a BG bringing their cell phone on set and not using it to take any photos or disrupt the day either. But I listened and I left my phone in holding and now I’m bored as shit and am probably missing phone calls offering me work on other sets, work that will no longer be available by the time I get back to holding. I could have kept my phone in the back pocket of my jeans, so here’s a note to anyone that is thinking of doing BG or is new to BG work:
Always take your cell phone with you- it is your right to have it but it’s their right not to allow it on set. Keep it in your pocket, use it outside or in the bathroom, and whatever you do, make sure the volume is off. Don’t be a douchebag that ruins it for the rest of us. Don’t give the PAs a reason to be dicks, especially on a show where prisoners get mistreated by the people in charge of them. Don’t be a bad pun.
As I sat there, pitifully watching a crew member continuously fail as he tried to bowl a strike for an insert shot, I overheard groups of BG talking and I thought, they have their group, they have their gang and I'm an outsider; I'm not an actor, I am a director:
I’m a black sheep. If I were in prison would any of these BG people shiv a bitch or steal my phone back for me?
Last weekend a friend of mine had a birthday celebration at Hofbräu Bierhaus, located in the rotting liver that is midtown Manhattan. Beers are served in mugs the size of a bag of Takis and as soon as I entered I felt like Wednesday Addams stepping into an episode of Glee. Everyone was having fun and all the different groups of friends cheered together as a live band played covers of cheesy pop songs. I love my friend, and everyone who knows me knows that venturing into midtown is a true testament of my affection, but again I was the black sheep. It happens to everyone sometimes, no matter how many friends you might have, and that’s okay. Plus, I look pretty good in black.
There are no major personal revelations or clever words I have to end with this week so instead I ask that you pause for a second and think:
Who would be in your prison gang?
P.S. I ate that whole bag of Takis after I took the photo.
P.P.S They were so good that if someone tried to take them from me I’d want to cut a bitch too.