Thursday, November 3, 2016

My 10 seconds on COLD CASE

"I saw you on Cold Case last night."
I spent five hours in cool comfort on a hot Wednesday in September 2009 playing Sam Tasker, a homeless man who witnessed a crime, on Season 7, Episode 7 (Read Between the Lines) of the popular CBS drama Cold Case. When the show aired, I was on-screen for about ten seconds with one of the stars walking right by me. In background acting terms, that's major screen time.

In the episode, the team explores the 1991 case of a 14-year-old girl, who, months after she and her sister were placed with new foster parents, was killed before she could establish herself as a gifted rapper within the local gang-infused Hip Hop community. I was a witness to her murder.
All around me on the set that day were Philadelphia police detectives and white boxes of unsolved cold cases of murders in the City of Brotherly Love. Of course, we were not really in Philadelphia; we were on historic sound Stage 22 at Warner Brothers in Burbank. The scuffed floor was real and the set designer had littered the large room with "pieces of Philly" ranging from police officer merit awards to Philly restaurant menus which certainly set the mood.
I hung out with a half-dozen guys in suits in a tiny room with folding chairs and a fake elevator. The elevator doors were real but the room didn't go anywhere.

I was costumed in jeans, a Vietnam era green jacket and scruffy shoes. A wardrobe guy added a stupid cloth hat at the last minute. I was your typical homeless guy as seen through a Hollywood lens. The guys in suits were detectives.

    COLD CASE is a drama about Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris), a dedicated female detective in the Philadelphia homicide squad, who finds her niche when she's assigned to "cold cases" - crimes that have never been solved. Previously, she used her instinctive understanding of the criminal mind on current murders.. Also on the team are Det. Scotty Valens (Danny Pino), Rush's confident and strong-willed partner; Det. Will Jeffries (Thom Barry), who's been around long enough to serve as Lilly's link to the past, Det. Nick Vera (Jeremy Ratchford), a tough cop who's considered the go-to guy for getting a confession and Kat Miller (Tracie Thoms), the new girl on the team who is eager to prove her worthiness.

I had parked the PT Cruiser in the parking structure at Warner Brothers Gate 8 and crossed Forest Lawn Boulevard to Gate 7 about an hour before my call time. Emptied my pockets of metal for the security guard and walked to Avenue E and hung a right. Soon, I saw famed Studio 22 looming before me. It was a real thrill to be on the same studio floor once trod by Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis and Matt Damon.
    Among the many places I've worked, the Warner Brothers lot ranks near the top. There's something beautiful about looking beyond Studio 22 and seeing the mighty Griffith Park/Hollywood Hills right there, overshadowing the lot. Warner Brothers is probably the largest studio lot in Los Angeles. There's so much history there, and Warner Brothers put out many of the movies I've loved through the years, so it was awesome to be working there.

    The Warner Brothers VIP tour is a fascinating, realistic behind-the-scenes look at movie-making, since nothing is staged for the benefit of visitors. The brothers Warner, lead by Jack, moved to this one-hundred-acre facility in 1929, and throughout the ensuing decades some of Hollywood's most notable celebrities - among them Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Errol Flynn - entered its front gates.

In addition to full-length feature releases, it's been a major force in television production, numbering Friends, ER, and The West Wing among its successes. Because this tour visits active sets, it's not usual to see performers at work or relaxing between takes. Indeed, that happened to me as I returned my costume to wardrobe after the shoot. A tram filled with tourists came by, several snapped pictures of me and I waved. They'll be wondering for weeks who the hell I was.

When the episode aired, I was thrilled to see that the camera stayed on me and the detective who was interviewing me for the entire time that co-star Danny Pino walked by, talking on a cell phone. Altogether, a great experience.