The Beginning, Middle and the End

Ok, as promised, here is my full debrief on the “Kelly and Matt spend six months in Budapest for The Alienist” experience.   I’d planned a heartfelt look at the perseverance, grit and determination it takes to win a series regular role on network television, because it’s considerable.  This would have been so inspiring, and compel you to “keep at it” and “never give up” and all that stuff.   But, when I started writing, this came out instead.  I’m sorry.  I don’t control these things.

The Beginning (months 1 and 2):

Moods are bright and anticipation is high.   This will be so fun!   We finally GOT the coveted job we’ve persevered for months and years to obtain.  We will be working with revered actors, directors and producers and become best friends with them all and get invited to their weddings.   Our performance will be the quintessential marriage between years of training and the perfect showcase of character and material.   It will more than likely be lauded by the Hollywood Foreign Press.   The paparazzi will lift their heads in our direction like wraiths in Lord of the Rings.

Not only that,  in our downtime we will accomplish those tasks we’ve always wanted to accomplish, but never have had time for, like say, writing a book.  We will have loads of days off in which to slay our self imposed daily word count in the shadow of St. Stephen’s Basilica, while our cherubic child actor does his three hours of required school work.  What an opportunity for him to study abroad, we think!   What a fabulous writers retreat for ourselves.

We will go to the market every Saturday morning and buy the fresh fruits and vegetables in the open air.  We will visit all the landmarks and become encyclopaedias of Hungarian history.  We will both Hop On AND Hop Off.   Not only that, the rest of Europe is merely a train ride away.  We will see ALL OF IT.  Every last inch.  We are sure.

We decide to actually learn Hungarian.  This is necessary and a sign of respect, we solemnly agree.  The first twenty minutes of school time is devoted to HungarianPod101.com   We practice on the crew members and local vendors, and they smile benevolently at our terrible accent and limited vocabulary!   This is not even hard. By the end of the summer, we promise, we will have a full on conversation with them in their native tongue!  Immersion is a fabulous teacher.

This whole thing will be both a phenomenal work and travel situation.  Life could not have offered us a greater plum.   How will this NOT be everything we hoped for?

This phase can be summed up with the following algebraic equation:

The Middle: (Months 3-5)

We are in a pleasant mood.  Steady plodding occurs.  This is definitely an experience.    An experience to remember.   A longer experience to remember than we realized.   We’ve gotten to go home once in three months and wow, do we remember how much we like it there, but our attitudes are still grateful as we board the plane back to Europe for leg two.  We have not yet obtained BFF status with our fellow co-workers yet, but these things take time.   The A-List can’t let EVERYONE IN.  They would die of exhaustion.  We get this.  We need our space too!   For the most part, we feel we’ve done exactly what we’ve wanted to do with our job situation.  Of course there are times when we feel the direction we want to head with the character we’ve been given is thwarted by the notes of far off executives who are not at all actors or even on set which is somewhat discouraging, but it’s all part of it!   Our job is to convey THEIR vision and tone, not ours!!  Right?

We are making steady progress on our word count.  Writing a book is definitely not the easiest thing we’ve ever undertaken, but we are doing this anyway even though we are a bit weary of staring at the same computer screen in the same street cafe day after day.  We realize that even writers need a break.  Sometimes binging Game of Thrones on Netflix is a productive undertaking.  The brain needs to recharge and revitalise before further creativity can be inspired.  This seems a wise course of action.

And, oh,  we’ve traveled!  We have seen some things we would not ordinarily see.  Yes, our exuberance at these sights was tempered somewhat by the fact that we are also traveling with a teenager who would prefer to slay zombies on a flat screen, not look at paintings in the palaces of dead people.   But we make sure he knows that this was SO GOOD for him.  He will remember all of this and thank us later, without question.  We are parenting so well.

While our daily tourism is not quite as active, we still give our neighbourhood Hop On/Hop Off Bus guy a very friendly smile as we pass by on the way to the local grocery.  Speaking of which, we DID go to the famous market that one time, but we have settled on shopping more locally because the market is, in fact, one subway change and four stops away.  No one can be expected to keep that up indefinitely.   Speaking of which, we HAVE also backed off learning Hungarian, but it’s only because we found out it’s generally thought of as the hardest language on the planet, which we did not know when we first undertook the task.  Learning a language that is only spoken in one country would just not be good time management.  We still do speak in Hungarian for basic pleasantries which we feel is very gracious of us.

This is a wonderful, wonderful experience.  It really is.  We are happy with it so far.  We are fairly certain that everyone wishes they were us.  Even us.

Current equation:

The End  (month 6 and a little bit of 7)

Our steady plod has ground to a complete halt.  We no longer can be expected to stay here in the land of “pay to pee” and no Chick Fil A.   There is nothing to eat here that we have the wherewithal to make and even if there was, we would have to shop YET AGAIN to prepare it and starving seems not un-pleasant maybe.   Our desire to leave our apartment is no.   Everything has been seen, done, and found extremely dumb.

When fight the urge to grab our Hop On/Hop Off buddy by his red vest and shriek “HOW DO YOU ABIDE THIS, 10 hours a day, day in and day out when THERE IS AMERICA!?”  We are not even exchanging Hungarian pleasantries when we buy a water bottle.  These people all know English anyway, as they should, because it is the best.

We have cut off contact with most people we are working with except when we are actually working because we are certain that we all hate one another.   Everyone’s character flaws have exposed themselves in bas relief.   Especially that one person’s.  You don’t want to go to their stupid wedding anyway should someone be dumb enough to saddle themselves to that person for life.  The ship is going down and everyone is grabbing for a stray door.

We are also certain that we don’t even know to act at all.  Everything was wrong.  It was terrible.  This will be a disaster.  The world is Simon Cowell and is ready to eviscerate us with a smirk and a cutting one liner.

School has started again for the cherubic young one, but no one cares.  We don’t mention it and neither do they, because they are as over this whole thing as we are.   If they bring it up we will just tell them shhhhhh. We are not actually here anymore.  You are not seeing us.    The child actor has taken to staying up all night and sleeping all day, a practice we would never tolerate at home, but for some bizarre reason, we find acceptable in this situation.  We let it happen without batting one eye.  We aren’t speaking to him anyway.  Not because we hate him, but because after so much one-on-one time, there is simply nothing left to say to one another.

When not called to set, entire days are spent in bed which is littered with Oreo crumbs despite our usual devotion to health and wellness. There is not a show in any genre that has not been viewed in its entirety.  The thought of being productive is anathema.  We should probably wait to write about this experience until much later when balance and sanity are restored, which makes us suddenly realize that we have been, all this time, speaking in first person plural when there is only one of us talking.   This experience has driven us to the point of talking out loud to ourselves in writing.  All excitement at this fabulous opportunity has been systematically reduced to a daily summoning of the will to live.

Equation:  

Forturnately, there is one more stage of this experience and why there are actors who continue to subject themselves to this sort of shenanigan.

The Aftermath (months later)

The weeks after returning home are similar to the weeks after giving birth.  We are convalescing.   We hobble around in padded underwear and talk quietly.   The incision is healing.  We are up a lot at night, and while pain meds are necessary, the memory of intense labor is receding further and further away and we look at the newborn with a fond smile.  Isn’t he perfect?  Wasn’t it so wonderful?  Won’t it be a prodigy?   Look at it!  WE MADE THIS.  And while this metaphor is now breaking down into something a bit creepy and Norman Batesy, the fact of the matter IS……..we are totally enamoured with the whole experience.   While we were worried that the child might have some special needs, we now see that it was the perfect performance at the perfect time with the perfect actor.  The final product will be amazing.  The hardships endured were worth it a hundred fold.  The story about to be unleashed on the planet was one worth telling and we were so fortunate to have been a part.  Final equation:

After this phase, we could almost see themselves doing something like this again and say things like,  “Here’s to season 2!”

(Note: we are not at this phase quite yet.  It takes time and we’ve only been home for 6 days. I’m just anticipating what WILL happen.  Also, please don’t send emails faulting my algebra.  The fact that I’m terrible at math is why I play pretend and write things for a living.)

Roger the Sketchy Ticket Guy

Back in May, Mackenzie and I planned a surprise graduation trip to London for Madison that included a visit to Leavesden Studios, where all eight Harry Potter Films were shot.    This was the best idea ever in the history of ideas.  My kids grew up during the span of time when the Harry Potter books were a brand new thing.  We actually had to wait a year or so before each book would come out and then we were the crazy people that actually dressed up in character to go to the midnight launch…….

 

I clearly am Professor Trelawny.

Our family is weird.  Once the new installment was in our grasp, we would race home and stay up till dawn getting a head start.  I read each one aloud IN character with corresponding accents.  This was BEFORE the movies came out by the way, and when they finally came along, I was rather proud that I had actually NAILED the essence of each character (with the exception of Professor Umbridge who went in a completely different direction from what I’d imagined, a sacrilege we still struggle to forgive.)   We have several copies of each book.  All eight films have been watched at least 1,956 times.  One time Mackenzie and Madison went to Universal Studios and stayed within the confines of Harry Potter World for ten hours straight without even peeing.   To say that the girls like Harry Potter would be like saying that teen girls sorta kinda like One Direction.  Or that Rose and Jack were a little bit in love.  Or that suburban housewives somewhat enjoy a glass of wine.

Mack and Madi are Harry Potter psychopaths.   Norman Bates would admire them.

So when I surprised Madison on her birthday by announcing the trip, and added the fact that I had also obtained the nearly impossible to get tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is the 2 part, 6 hour stage play…..I’m not sure how to describe her reaction.  A gazelle on crack sounds about right.

Now….. I had thought that they were absolutely sold out until the end of time.  But somehow I was able to obtain tickets through a stub hub like ticket centre.  Wow, were they expensive.  But I didn’t care.  We HAD to go.  Madison would only graduate high school one time.  This had to happen.

This is where where the sketch begins.

The website said that I would be receiving a phone call within 24 hours confirming where we would be staying in London.   The day after I booked the tickets I was on a flight back to Budapest, where Matt is filming The Alienist and I got no phone call.   The first day back in Budapest, I got no phone call.   I started to worry.   Credit card info had been given.   I sent the following email:

No reply to this email ever came.   But finally I did see a number from England come through my phone and when I picked up, I met Roger the Sketchy Ticket guy for the first time.   He had a thick cockney accent and used the term “luv” excessively.    I told him I had been worried and was relieved he’d finally contacted me.   He said something like, “Luv, Oiv been tryna call ya for dighs, so you’re all set, you’re good, just call me when you get to London.”

I was like, “Wait….that’s it?  Don’t you, like send me the tickets via mail or something?”   He replied in an irritated tone that “No, we don’t dew it loik that,  just call me when ye get to London. Ok? Graight, bye.”

“No wait!  Roger…..do I just call you at this number???”

But Roger was gone.   Hmmmmmmm……..

Two months went by and off to London we went.  As soon as I arrived, Roger was my first call.  He picked up right away.  “Yea, yea, luv, oh-kigh, so your here, graight.  I’ll call ya soon oh-kigh?”  Click.

What?

The next day, when no phone call came, I called again.  “‘Ello, luv, call me back at 11:30 roight?”   Click.

No……..

I called back at 11:30 and was told that Roger was in a meeting and to call him back in five minutes.   I called back in five minutes and he made to put me off again with a “Luv, Om STILL in a meetin’, I’m gonna need to call ya back alroight?”

‘NO! ROGER!!!!!” I broke in with my best don’t-mess-with-me mom voice, “DO NOT DARE HANG UP!”    Roger seemed wounded.  Baffled at my angst.  Why so mistrustful?   I said, “What is going on here!?  Why can I not get you to stay on the phone with me for more that 15 seconds!?”

The girls looked on while biting their fingernails down to nubs.  Lisa Phelan, a good friend traveling with us, shook her head and said something about him not wanting his calls traced.  Fantastic.

Rog assured me that he had my tickets and asked where I was staying.  Ha!  Um…..yeah…no…… Rog was not finding out that little piece of intel so I said we were staying NEAR Paddington Station and perhaps we could meet there, but wouldn’t it make more sense to leave them at Will Call or something like normal people?  He said no, it wouldn’t luv, and to meet his friend Wayne at Cambridge Pub the next day at noon.

Cambridge Pu…..wait… who the hell is Wayne……what in the……..!?  This prompted the following email which was also never responded to.

Madison was kind.  At least out loud.  She assured me that even if we didn’t get to see the play that we would still have Leavesden.  But I’m nothing if not tenacious.   Later that evening I got an email from the website that said……

What!!!?  Didn’t Roger tell me to meet WAYNE at the Cambridge Pub at NOON on THE DAY OF THE SHOW!?  Was there no communication in this operation? This was getting worse and worse.   Roger had provided me Wayne’s number, so first thing the next morning I called Wayne, who was a less amphetamined version of Roger and who actually stayed on the phone for a good 30 seconds.  He assured me that not only did he have the tickets, but that they had upgraded our seats.  He would meet me himself at the Cambridge Pub, which I’d found out is right next to the theatre at noon.   Okey doke. Wayne.  Cambridge Pub.  Hope we don’t die.

At noon, there we stood.  Outside the Cambridge Pub, looking uncertain and dubious which I think mean the same thing, but in this case redundancy seems necessary.   All of a sudden, a young, well dressed man came sliding around the corner.

“Kelly?” he said.

“Yeeeees?” I replied giving him skeptical side eye.

“Here are your tickets.  You have the best seats in the house.   Well two of you do.  The third seat is unfortunately the worst so you’ll have to decide who sits there.” (Ha! As if there was any question. Does he KNOW my daughters…..?)

“Listen, Wayne, are these tickets legit? Because you guys are sketchy as hell.”

“Who’s Wayne?” he asked.

“And you JUST GOT SKETCHIER!” I shouted.  “Who’s Wayne!?  Aren’t YOU Wayne?  You just told me you’d see me in a minute!?”

He smiled benignly, the way Voldemort might when he’s sizing up Harry Potter before administering the crutiatus curse.   “I don’t know, Kelly.  I was just told to meet you here at noon.”

“So THIS isn’t your number?” I showed him.

“Oh. That’s my brother.” He smiled.

“How can you FORGET that your brothers name is Wayne?” I spluttered.

“Listen,” Wayne who wasn’t Wayne soothed.  “You’re good.  You’re fine.”   Then he slid off around the corner, back to the land of people who don’t know their brother’s names.

“Mom,” Mackenzie said.  “There’s something really fishy about this.”

“You’re absolutely right, Mackenzie,” I said, eyes narrowing.   And just like an episode of Scooby Doo at the end of act 3, I firmly stated, “And I’m going to find out just what it is!”

(The three girls march toward the box office and we fade to the commercial break.)

AFTER THE COMMERCIAL BREAK

The man at the box office was shaking his head.  It was not a good sign.

“Yeah, unfortunately, I”m going to have to confiscate these tickets.  They’ve illegally imitated our website.  These guys have been doing this and we’re trying to catch them, but well……they always use different people.”   Ha!  Yes, we know about that nice box office guy.

My heart sank.  Madi and Mack looked sick with disappointment.   We turned, sadly, to go.

“The good news is,” nice box office guy volunteered,  “These seats are actually available because he bought them from us with cash this morning, so we can sell them to you for face value and then give you a form that will allow you to charge your credit card back the amount that Sketchy Roger charged you.  He was charging you 3 times the real amount, by the way.”

We raced back to him with glee. Nice box office guy was a ray of sunshine through the leaden London sky!   Joy!  Jubilation!

True to Sketchy Rogers word, the tickets WERE fantastic.  Best seats in the house.  Well, Mack and Madi’s were anyway.   I had to crane my neck like an ostrich anytime something happened on Stage Left, but I had a clear view of the rhapsodic look on the girls faces during the entirety of Part 1 and like the sacrificial mother that I am, that was enough for me.  (beaming smile with a tooth gleam).

During the break, I picked up the letter that would allow me to get the necessary refund from Roger/Wayne/Voldemort and I sent him/them the following email.

This brought on several IRATE phone calls from Wayne. He called me eleven forms of stupid and accused me of bringing this all on myself because I’d gone to the box office instead of just attempting entry.   I told him that he needed to fire both Sketchy Roger and Voldemort because it was their behaviour that caused me to question him in the first place.  He whined and wheedled and said said he’d paid cash for the tickets and now he would be out of pocket.   I told him that the box office said that they would happily refund him if he brought in his proof of purchase, but I doubt he’ll try.  He knows they’re looking for him.

There were a few scary moments after Part 2 that evening where I was certain we would be followed home by Sketchy’s henchman and taught a lesson.  We walked home at lightening speed, furtively sliding behind buildings and peeking around corners the entire way home.   I even considered getting off the subway at a different station so as to further elude them.  The girls thought I was insane.  I say a mother’s gut is never wrong, and my elusivity(?) was surely the only thing that kept us safe.

If you listen closely, you may be able to hear Sketchy Roger’s haunting, plaintive cry all through out London:

“And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you crazy kids!!!!!”

So My Kid Isn’t Going to College……..

There.  I said it.  Judge away all you parents of valedictorians.   Just know that I am as dubious about this prospect as you are for me.  I am not sitting over here with some pie in the sky attitude that my way is better than yours.  In fact, you may actually have the last laugh here.  And as the school year began last fall, and all the Facebook posts were popping up with photos of grinning high school seniors holding acceptance letters captioned, “He’s an Aggie!!!!!”, I literally had to sit on my hands to keep from typing “LAST MINUTE ON LINE COLLEGE OPTIONS” into google search.   But the fact is, Madison is not going to college.  She is moving to Los Angeles and going to work.

Hang on a sec while I pop an extra Xanax.

It’s a gap year.  We’re calling it a gap year.   All the kids in England do it and they’re cool.  In fact, there’s something to be said for giving a kid a year to go work somewhere and figure out that they don’t want to just work somewhere.  It seems to up their motivation to succeed in college exponentially, and clarifies both where they do and don’t want to be for the rest of their lives.  I’ve seen this process up close and personally with my older daughter, Mackenzie.

After graduating high school, Mackenzie did the “right” thing and headed to Auburn University.  (I HAVE to go to college mom, I’ve been dreaming of this since I was 3!).  She was working as a series regular on Under the Dome simultaneously and had to leave Auburn her spring semester to shoot the show.  She took online classes, but then went back to Auburn the following fall.    Surprisingly, aside from college football season, life at Auburn was not the rhapsodic experience she expected.  In fact, after already working in the adult world from the time she was fourteen, it seemed dumb, expensive and actually pointless.  She felt like she was going backwards.  So when Under the Dome was cancelled, she left Auburn, and moved to Los Angeles to make a go of this thing.

A gap year was all it took for her to come to us with a clarity I have rarely seen.   She was absolutely certain of three things.

  1. She would rather live in the remotest corner of Alaska without heat than live in Los Angeles.
  2. She did not at all like the idea of pursuing a career that would potentially be so financially unstable.
  3. She was coming home, and going back to school with the intent of heading to law school.

Say wha……????

She was so resolved in fact, that while I absolutely had to micro manage her college application process, and completely Olivia Pope her move to LA (It’s HANDLED), she actually called Auburn, and un-enrolled herself BY HERSELF.  She requested her transfer documents to the Georgia college she’d applied to ON HER OWN.  Once she was accepted, she figured out what classes were best for a pre-law student with ANOTHER ADULT THAT WASN’T ME!

Was she even a millennial anymore?

We had success with the gap year.  We like what happened with that thing.  So at the end of her junior year, when Madison announced that she would not even be applying to college because why…….you would think I would have been relatively calm about it.  And I tried, you guys.   I was good for most of the year!

But while all the other kids were getting blessed by the pastor on graduation Sunday and naming the universities to where they’re headed, and Madison said,  “Madison Lintz- Hollywood, California,” I had to put my head between my knees.  I had to breathe deeply and silently repeat, “She is going to Los Angeles already employed.  Her salary at 18 is more than her father and I make combined.   You do not need a college degree to be an actor.  Can I have a cheerio?”  (there was a toddler on the floor in the pew behind me.)

What is wrong with me?   Why do I care so much if she gets a college degree?   I have a college degree and I have always said that I learned more about how to act in my first season doing regional theatre with the Orlando Shakespeare Festival than I ever did in my four years at Penn State.   I have never gone to an audition and had them say “Well, we’re not sure……”, then held out my diploma and had them say, “OH!  You have a degree in performance from Penn State!  Well in THAT case……”   Come to think of it, I have never had a single job that has required my college degree.

Over the past year, when I would get yet another email from the school guidance counsellor saying, “Um….it’s getting late……is Madison going to be applying ANYWHERE?”  I would console myself with the fact that at least Madison would not exit college with a mountain of debt, only to move back home, like so many other college students in this day and age.  What is happening?  Why is no one hiring them?  Why are they still waiting tables like an out of work actor when they did the deal!?  They followed the correct protocol!  They got the degree!

I would argue that it’s because so many kids are sent to college because it’s the thing to do, but because they have no idea what they WANT to do yet, it just becomes a very expensive holding tank.   A  larger playpen.    Yes, they know how to study.  Yes, they can ace tests.   But do they have a viable skill?  My parents, who have owned their own company for decades told me they won’t even interview the college graduates of today.   Why?  Because most turn up their nose at starting pay. They expect to be paid like someone who has worked for decades.  Also, my dad says,  “Eh, most just don’t really know how to do anything.”

Dang, Dad.

I recently read an article entitled,  “What are the Valedictorians of your Class doing?  Not Much.”   It basically said that if you take a look at all the valedictorians in the world, that yes, most did wonderfully in college.  Yes,  91% are employed.  But if you take a look at all the innovators of society….the Steve Jobs…..the Bill Gates….. the Mark Zuckerbergs,  most weren’t even college graduates, let alone valedictorians.   So basically the people who don’t necessarily colour between the lines are the ones changing the world.   That said, not everyone who doesn’t graduate college invents Facebook.  There is a lot to be said for not changing the entire world, but supplying your own family with the rewards of consistent gainful employment.  The valedictorians seem to have this down.

But I think it’s time for it to be OK for a kid to say, “I’m not going to college.  I have specialized in something else.”  I think there are some kids who should absolutely say, “I don’t believe I’ll give a university two hundred grand of my money when a degree from them will not serve me one little bit.  I have a different path.”   If you want a career in  medicine, or law, you need college.  If you want a career in the arts, you will need the money you would spend on tuition, trust me.  But lets admit that both are viable choices.

On graduation day, I walked into Madison’s school and looked at a bulletin board with all the graduates photos. Underneath of each was the logo of their chosen college.   Under Madison’s was the logo for BOSCH.  Like it was a University.  I was laughing with the secretary about this and saying how self-conscious Madison was feeling when the headmaster overheard me and hurried out of his office.   He said,  “No, no Kelly!  You tell Madison that in my speech about her tonight I’m going to make what she’s doing instead sound VERY, VERY legit!”

Knowing Mr. Arnold* the way that I do, I know he meant well with his comment.   However, all I could think was……Madison will be earning in five months what most students will leave college in debt for.   How much more legit can you get?

 

*Johnathan Arnold is the headmaster of Covenant Christian Academy who has supported our unorthodox journey from day one, allowing the kids to study remotely when they are working.  We could not have done this without him and are eternally grateful for his support.

The Top 10 Reasons Matt and I are Excited to Reach American Soil!!!!!

Welcome to the latest episode of Life In the Honeywagon where the sky is my office and it’s freshly carpeted with sleep deprivation!     Matt and I wisely decided, since we had a 4:00 a.m. pick up anyway, NOT TO GO TO BED last night.   I haven’t pulled an all nighter since college.  We are a barrel of laughs right now.

So now I am ensconced on our flight preparing to bring you God only knows what.   Everything seems so strange and hazy and sharply in focus at the same time.    I feel drawn to stare at people with a befuddled yet intent expression.   Is this what drugs feel like?  I think I have the same exact expression on my face that Seth Rogen does in every single one of his movies.

Ah…..we are taking off, and the hum of the engine is fueling my creativi………….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

(3 hours have elapsed.  Somehow we are in Frankfurt.)

No.  No, no, no.   WHY did I promise to write a blog post after being awake all night!?    My burst of adrenaline has been eaten by a chasm of underachievement.  I don’t want to write this AT ALL anymore.   I’m so tired.  And Lufthansa’s seats are so soft.  Like Luft balloons.

(beat)

My head is exploding.  I JUST REALIZED,  30 years after that song was released,  that “luft” must mean “red”?  Why would anyone name their airline Red-hansa.   What is a hansa?  We’ve caught you red hansa-ded and we are forcing you to write a blog post.

UGH!   I DO NOT WANT TO WRITE A BLOG POST.   I’m changing the name of this blog post to the Top One Reason I Cannot Write This Blog Post.

  1.  Because I can’t.

Sigh.  Ok.   I will try.   I will carb fuel with a Bavarian Pretzel in the Frankfurt airport and press on.

Listen, first let me say this in case Hungarians are reading.  WE LOVE YOUR COUNTRY. We have had such a delightful time exploring your cute little streets, eating at your outdoor cafes, and learning more about your history.   Your architecture blows us out of the water. The fact that you have castles and things called Basilicas make us feel like we are in another century. I frequently feel I should introduce myself as the Duchess of Alpharetta.    You’re wonderful people and you all know several languages which makes you smarter than us by far.    BUT….. there’s just a few things you do differently that make it….. not home.   Can you understand and not be offended?   While we LOVE YOU……..we just need America right now and here are 10 reasons why.  (Actually, it’s mainly because you people do not use ice ever.   I don’t know how this can stand.  Why has no one brought this up to Parliament, which by the way is absolutely the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.)

THE TOP 10 REASONS MATT AND KELLY CAN’T WAIT TO FEEL AMERICAN SOIL (besides fountain drinks with ice)

10.   The English Language:    We were so gung-ho at the beginning to learn Hungarian and be all bi-lingual, but you guys, that language is just not learnable for real American people who only speak English.  There are too many K’s. You have 4 different pronunciations of the letter O and another 4 for U.  Seriously?  Did you do that to keep children from talking?   We do know some basic phrases, which endlessly amuse the Hungarian crew, and we can even understand some.   But we just need to hear our native tongue.  We want it to wash over us like a tsunami and drown in English words.

9.  Free Pee:    We (ok, I) want to go to the bathroom in public without paying for it.  Having to go the bathroom as often as we (I) do is already pain enough.  Having to search out the proper coinage to make it happen is just too much to ask of us (me.)  WHY the train station doesn’t just charge an extra Euro per ticket to cover elimination remains baffling.  Do you really need to keep a few jobs available for these people?  Come ON.  I am sure that when they are asked what they do for a living, they do not enjoy saying “I’m a pee money taker.”  Set them free!

8.  Normal electrical outlets:     Having to have power converters to work our electrical appliance/phones/computers keeps me in a state of low-grade irritation.  Especially because our ratio of power converters to things that need power converters is very unequal.  We are constantly misplacing/transferring/borrowing each others converters so I am always raging around the apartment yelling “MAAAAAATTTTT!?  DID YOU TAKE MY ROUNDY THING?”  The idea of just plugging something into the actual wall without having to locate a separate roundy thing puts an expression on my face similar to one of the people in those videos who sees color or hears sound for the first time.

7.   Driving:  I have never gone so long without driving!  Aside from our adventurous journey to Poland (which was so stressful that a pinched nerve in my neck caused me to lose all feeling in my arms the next day), I haven’t driven at all.  We walk or take public transportation everywhere.   This is urban and cool, but also exhausting.  Sometimes you find yourself just not leaving the apartment because you don’t want to take two subways and a tram to the movie theatre.   You want to just pull up next to the AMC and 5 minutes later be eating a large tub of buttered popcorn with Swedish Fish standing by.   You want to pull into Publix and be able to ……speaking of Publix, OMG……..

6.  Grocery Stores:  Sweet baby Jesus and his brother James, I CAN’T WAIT TO GROCERY SHOP, American style.   If you have followed me long enough, you understand what an incongruent statement this is.  I frequently express my absolute distaste for the infinite chore of providing food for my family.   But if it’s irritating in the states, multiply it by 100, and divide by “I’d like to die now” when you’re in Budapest.    Not only can I not find anything familiar to cook, but the aisles are so small that when you slide by someone you also have to repent of adultery.   You can only buy as much as you can carry (see Driving), and I’ve already told you about the bag sitch.   As soon as I get home I am going to Publix and filling two entire carts with stuff I will never eat just because I CAN!   There IS a large Tesco in Budapest, but again, it’s 2 trains and a half a mile walk away so let’s just starve instead.   Also,  it really wants to be Target, and is only a poor relation with no dowry, leading me to……

5. TARGET:  I LOVE YOU SO MUCH TARGET.  There is nothing anywhere like you, with all your clean, well organized, wide aisles filled with all the things all in the same place.  No having to go to one place to find food, and another to find pharmaceuticals.  I have yet to locate a bottle of Visine because by the time I’m done finding food and committing adultery, I’m just too tired.   I’ve had chronic dry eye for two months.   As soon as I get done at Publix, I am going to come and just lay down and do snow angels in the cough and cold aisle.

4. OUR KITTIES:   This one is for Matt.  I don’t actually miss the kitties.  Or their monstrous jungle gym that is the eye sore of my living room.   I don’t hate the kitties, either, so please don’t write me hateful emails about how can I not miss the kitties!?  I have four kids who I’ve kept alive for a cumulative total of 65 years, OK?   I don’t have room to love anyone else and anyone says that your heart grows to add more room or whatever is just lying.  There is a finite amount of love room and I’ve reached it.

3. OUR PEOPLE:  I’ve experienced this over and over as both an actress and a stage mom.  Working on location is just isolating.  You don’t have your people.   And while you’re grateful as hell to be there at all, you’re silently dying of loneliness.  There are no other kids regularly on this show and the adult cast never thinks to invite the kid cast to any fun outings and frankly, even when they do, they aren’t “your people” so that is still work.   So basically, it’s just a lot of me.  And a lot of Matt.  Thank God for Sat the Set Tutor who provides at least some diversion.  Hold days yawn ahead and you try to create fun and exciting adventures, but they are usually more exhausting than they are worth and make me feel like Julie the under-appreciated cruise director.   We have an understanding that once we land on American soil, we will cease speaking to one another.  Not out of hatred.  We have just used up all our words.   We will pass each other in the kitchen and pretend we didn’t see each other.  No one in the family will question this.

2.  FOOD:    I’m sorry, Hungary.  But I’m really Hungary.   Due to #6, it’s just too hard to find things I want to cook in you.  So we go out entirely too often.  But it’s hard to find my American equivalents in your restaurants.   I tried the goulash.  And the goulash is good.  But there is just an awful lot of meat.  Not a lot of healthy choices.  And OMG, a salad!  A salad!  My kingdom for a salad with a dressing I can recognize.  When I get home, after I fill two carts with Publix groceries, and do snow angels at Target, we will be going to Sweet Tomatoes where I will lay atop a bed of Romaine and anoint myself with balsamic vinaigrette.

But before all of these activities……..on the way home from the airport even…………we will seize upon the #1 missed thing from the United States………a thing we cannot abide  one more moment without……

CHICK FIL AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

They have chicken.   And sweet tea.   And ICE!!!!!   Lovely, large, styrofoam cups filled to the brim so that when you shake it you can’t even hear the liquid move!!!!!!

It’s the sole reason we made certain NOT to fly home on a Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budap(ever)est

Jo Reggalt!

We made it!   We are in the country of Hungary on the continent of Europe!  It was a twenty hour travel day, but the journey to this point has been well over a decade if you count the years of commercials, industrials, day players, and supporting roles it took Matt to be prepared to actually inhabit the role of Stevie Taggart, a reformed, murderous, street thug in the 1800’s with a New York accent.

It wouldn’t be a proper blog post without details of some of our mishaps so here are a few!   At the Atlanta airport where we arrived buried under six suitcases,  carry-on bags, and our passports, the check in lady asked us where our Visa’s were.  Record scratch!!!!! (Millennials, google it).  A Visa!!?   I explained that I didn’t think we needed a Visa as no one from production had ever made a single mention of needing one and they are on top of things like this, but she insisted. After some more back and forth she disappeared behind the curtain to speak with Oz.   Matt and I looked at one another uneasily and I said a quick prayer that went something like, “God!  Budapest!  Fix it!”

Then just like God inhabits Octavia Spencer in The Shack, He chose to inhabit another British Airways employee, who happened to walk up to the desk to ask what our hold up was.   We explained,  he pressed a few magical buttons on the keyboard and said that we did not, in fact, need a Visa at all.  Just a passport.  Despite the original lady’s protests,  he calmly tagged our bags and walked away.   As we gathered our remaining carry on bags, original desk lady said to fellow desk lady (sotto) “What was he even doing out here?”, which means that normally he would not have crossed our path!   Divine intervention for the win!

Our next snafu came at boarding time.  If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past, you know of the inviolable Lintz “right hand” ritual (for more on this, see “Sepulvatory”).   However, on international flights they require you to show your passport one more time as you enter the actual plane.   So my right hand was otherwise occupied as I boarded.  In order to complete the ritual, I would have had to shift everything to my left hand, and take an additional few seconds before boarding while everyone behind me wondered what the heck I was doing, WHICH I ABSOLUTELY DID DO, but in an abbreviated way.   My usually well thought out prayer of “God, please do not let this plane crash into the Atlantic because that would really suck,” turned into more of a “SHMFRMOEF!!!”, while Matt was only able to blurt out a mental, “Please G…..!!”   Fortunately, God understands strong non-verbal sentiment….because here we are.

This next incident is painful.   Without me knowing, and somehow clearing Atlanta security, Matt had packed his BRAND NEW Rodan and Fields Unblemish Skin Care regimen in his carry on bag, and the vigilant security workers at Heathrow in London confiscated it.   This regimen costs well into the $200 range so you can imagine the heated mother/son dialogue that took place where once again it was determined that even though it was Matt who had packed liquids over 3 ounces in a CARRY ON BAG (how many planes have you taken, son?), it was still somehow all my fault. (can I get an amen from mom’s everywhere?)  In a fit of extreme irritation, I leapt up onto the metal bag examining table and shouted for an audience of hundreds, “THIS IS THE DUMBEST RULE EVER!  WHY CAN I NOT TAKE LIQUIDS GREATER THAN 3 OZ. ON YOUR DANG AIRLINE!?  WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!?  HIJACK THE PLANE WITH TONER?  DEATH BY EXFOLIATION!?”   The woman thwarting us matched my ire, holding aloft a long staff that she borrowed from Gandalf and screamed, “YOU SHALL NOOOOOOOT PASSSSSSSSSSS!”

Mother of God.***

FINALLY, 20 hours later, we arrived in Budapest.   It’s been…..………daunting, not gonna lie.    The cast and crew are lovely, so no worries there.   Matt will have a ball on this project.  The people of Hungary are friendly, kind, and accommodating.     But living in a foreign country where we do not speak the language is overwhelming on a good day.  Everything is so different, which isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just uncomfortable.   The following issues have already made me yearn for my motherland.

Everything is small:  Like for small people.   When Matt and I tried to fit into an elevator at our hotel with our 6 suitcases, the elevator barely fit the cart itself, let alone Matt and I.   I was squished behind it flat as a pancake (thank GOD I’ve been using Plexus) and Matt was basically suctioned to the ceiling like Spiderman.  In our suite, the stair case is so narrow that I had to turn the suitcases side ways to fit.  We have Anne Frank’s staircase.    And there is no actual room in the bedroom to FIT said suitcases.  They are in the hallway.   I mean, what is the DEAL Europe?  Could you be a little more roomy maybe?   I honestly think this is why Christopher Columbus went to America.  He was like “Good lord, I cannot MOVE here.  All the big boned people, come with me!”

The shower:   Our shower points straight down from the ceiling.  There is no getting your body wet before your head.  You have to either bend at the waist to keep your head out of the spray until you’re ready to rinse or turn backward and do a sort of sun salutation.  This is not all bad as not only do I get my shower out of the way, but I also experience a complete yoga class at the same time.

Electronics:  Ok, so you know how in America you are always hunting around for your computer or phone charger and cursing about it? (Just me?)   Well, here, you also need an adapter to convert American power to European power.   So not only do you have to keep track of the chargers, but the converters.  This is simply a recipe for disaster in my case, and I’m going to learn to curse in Hungarian so I can express myself when necessary.

(Additional appliance note:  American hair dryers do not work over here.  Apparently, they are powered by NASA and cannot be converted to European electricity without burning down the entire hotel, which might not be a bad idea, to knock a few walls out and make more room.  The ones in our hotel do not have an on/off switch.  They have a button that you have to mash down the entire time you are drying your hair.   When you let it go, it turns off.   This can be quite tiring if you have long, thick hair. If you have arthritis, time to drip dry.   Let me just ask you, Hungary…….why?   Unlike curling irons, no one in the history of the world has ever left a hair dryer on all day long.)

Grocery stores:   I was told that this would be the most challenging aspect of our journey at first, which is absolutely correct.  I walked into the local corner store, and immediately started sweating.  Kroger, it was not!  Nothing was in English, of course, but I thought I would at least be able to recognize certain products.   When I stumbled upon a box that actually said Kellogg’s Cornflakes, I grabbed it like a 13 year old grabs for any member of One Direction.  I don’t even eat corn flakes, but I was so happy to see something I recognized that I bought it anyway.   The only way I knew that the milk was milk was from the cow picture on the front of the carton.   Most things I couldn’t recognize what it actually WAS from the picture on the front, and I couldn’t find any of my usual items anywhere.  I honestly was stumped at what we were going to prepare for ourselves.   I did find Activia yogurt, and Jamie Lee Curtis patted me on the head and said not only won’t you starve, but you’ll be super regular.

Our apartment again:  Doesn’t have an oven.  It has two stove top burners and a microwave.  This may not be a problem as I cannot find anything at the grocery store to cook anyway.

The language:   While many people do speak English, especially those in the hotel and tourist industry, this does not include people that work at the local grocery store.   I could communicate absolutely zero with my check out girl which proved to be a problem when I realized they did not provide bags.   I did not know how to ask for a bag, so I just pointed and said bag in a Hungarian accent (BEG), hoping that would suffice.   It kind of did, in that she gave me one, but ONLY ONE, and then began checking out the next person leaving me to BEG about half of my groceries, and then figure out a way to juggle the rest in my arms for the walk back to my hotel.  I looked completely ridiculous and all of Budapest mocked me.

It is clear to me that Matt and I are going to have to actually learn some of this language to at least appear polite.  We have downloaded a Hungarian language learning program and one of the set P.A.’s is set to give us daily short lessons that won’t make us cry.   Because this language is HARD you guys.  I can’t even pronounce half the stuff they say.  But we are resolutely immersing ourselves.  There is just no other way.

While I am overwhelmed, and a little homesick already, there is much to be grateful for.  So in closing this “initial impression” essay, I do want to list some things that seem awesome about this adventure.

  1. Budapest is beautiful.   Budapest szep!!    Matt’s eyes were agog as we drove past a castle in the middle of the city.  They call Budapest the hidden jewel of Europe and we are looking forward to having the chance to explore it for ourselves.  Not to mention the surrounding countries.  I can get to Rome in 2 hours.  Whaaaaat!?
  2. The food is actually pretty good!  It’s fresh, and tasty!  I haven’t eaten anything yet that makes me gag.
  3. Getting back to this job, to say that we are grateful to be here is an understatement. As a family, we have always wanted to break into the international scene, and this is easily the most international project we’ve ever worked on. There are actors from Germany, Ireland, England, Belgium, and America.  They have built an entire back lot simulating six full blocks of 19th century New York City that took our breath away. TNT is calling this their Game of Thrones.

In the last 18 months, Matt has screen tested nine times and received nine no’s.   Then, when finally he was cast in a movie, it was shut down two weeks into production.  To have him actually be the “chosen one” this time, on what promises to be an enormous period drama is vindication at the end of the rutted road of disappointment and despair we have traversed.   We literally feel like we’ve climbed Mt. Everest.   Or maybe the Alps, where we are standing this very minute, hands on hips, satisfied looks on our face, staring off into the distance.   The difficulties of life in Budapest……I can handle.

I know the Alps are not in Hungary, just go with me.

Sziastok!

***A big thank you to Rodan and Fields and our consultant Marci Smith, for agreeing to send us a free replacement regimen as a one time courtesy.   Matt’s skin is saved.

PILOT SEASON BOYCOTT

Forbidding sign “No Video” on white – vector

Let the record state that Team Lintz will not be attending pilot season this year. Nope. Not doing it. A spiritual being that none of us can see planted a large hand on my head whenever I thought about heading west and pressed down firmly while my limbs windmilled helplessly. STAY, it said. Ok, invisible spiritual being that none of us can see, you got it!

And guess what? I am so so fine with that you guys, because pilot season sucks so, so badly! If you’re not an actor, pilot season is when you basically uproot yourselves to a temporary housing situation in Hollywood for 1-2 months, homeschool the kids, help them prepare auditions that come in at a fast clip, get them to coaching sessions at the last minute that cost over $100 a pop and drive them to opposite ends of the greater Los Angeles area at all hours of the day in, hands down, the worst traffic on the planet. I’ve been known to weep aloud upon receiving a last minute email about an appointment in Santa Monica at 4:40.

Not only that, you are doing this knowing that the entire enterprise will most likely be an exercise in futility because 10,000 other child actors are in Hollywood doing the same thing. Only so many jobs, guys. In the five years that we have gone to pilot season, we have booked exactly one pilot and this is a successful ratio. You arrive with high hopes, and leave wishing you were dead. But like child birth, you forget the part where you were screaming and punching your husband in the face when he was demonstrating breathing exercises for you during a particularly trying contraction (not that that ever happened to us), and there you are again on the 405 at rush hour a year later.

However…….I’d like to let you in on a little industry secret. This is something that your agent won’t tell you. Your manager won’t tell you. If you hesitantly bring it up, they will immediately start verbally flailing around and saying it’s non-sense, but it’s not. And I, the pied piper of anti stage-moms, will tell you the truth.

You don’t have to go. You. Don’t. Have. To. Go. YOU DON’T.

I will now support this point with several real life examples. The very first time we went to LA, we got lucky and Madison booked a pilot. Easy peasy, thought I! However, the second year we went there, Mackenzie decided to stay home. She wanted to focus on school, and discouraged by her last LA expedition, didn’t think she would book anything anyway. The rest of us went out there and performed several ritual sacrifices to no avail. Meanwhile, back home, Mackenzie booked a series regular role on Under the Dome off tape. From our house. In Atlanta. Somewhere Alanis Morissette nodded sagely.

The next year, Matt and I went out there again. Madison and Macsen too. Zero. Nada. Defeated utterly. We came home and Matt booked his largest role to date, a lead role in Pixels. Off tape. From our house. In Atlanta. The next year, Matt and I went out there AGAIN. Madison, daunted by “the great studio apartment debacle” of the year before (you have to save money somehow), stayed home and landed a series regular role on Bosch. From the taping room in our basement. In the state of Georgia.

What the hell are we doing? Why are we draining our bank accounts, and our reserves of sanity with these futile expeditions when it seems to me, that if you send in a good enough tape, and are exactly what they are looking for that you could land a perfectly great job from the comfort of your own home. I’ll pause while you skeptics (led by our beloved manager) hem and haw and say words like getting in rooms and face time!!! I’m all about face time! Literally. Face time me into a callback.

Nevertheless, even I did not believe my own hype and so last year, Macsen, Matt, Mackenzie and I, for the fifth time, made the trek across country. Lest any of you are still unconvinced that this was a bad idea, I have one more trick in my bag and it’s called let me relate the account of just DAY ONE of pilot season 2016. I wrote it down.

8:00   Wake up early, try to get right with the Lord. It works not at all because God does not ever go to Los Angeles.

8:30  Prep Matt for a feature film audition that we have to tape.

9:00  Get Macsen’s school work set up and wrestle him into his desk chair. He asks for a pencil.

9:01 Realize that with the 9500 things I packed for school, pencils were not one of them. Dig around in the bottom of both back packs while shouting something along the lines of, “NEITHER OF YOU HAVE A SINGLE FREAKING PENCIL IN YOUR BACKPACK? HOW DO YOU SURVIVE AT SCHOOL!?” They stare at me blankly.

9:10 Drag Macsen away from the iPad he retrieved while I searched for the one nubby pencil I found in my suitcase that they will now share as I refuse to be defeated.

9:15 Teach Macsen a math lesson while simultaneously making breakfast.

9:45  Drag Matt away from his PS4 that he secretly played while I taught Macsen his math lesson and tell him to begin school. He says he doesn’t know what he has to do.

10:10  Email Matt’s teacher to find out what he has to do, then drag Macsen away from his iPad to do spelling.

10:30 Drag Matt away from the PS4 he snuck back to while I was doing spelling with Macsen to tape his feature film audition.

11:00 Assemble and send tape for feature film while yelling into the other room school-like instructions for the boys. None of these instructions will be remotely followed.

11:21  Yell a lot about iPads and PS4’s and where I’m going to put them. The words up your butt and around the corner are used.

12:00 Gather all things necessary for Macsen’s audition that afternoon.

12:05  Lose keys.

12:30 Find Keys. Head to Mackenzie’s house which is 30 minutes away (don’t ask) because before we go to Macsen’s audition, I have to coach Mackenzie for her audition. Grab lunch on the way. Lunch will never cost less than $50 no matter where you go.

1:12 Leave boys at the neighborhood basketball court to play while I coach Mackenzie. They aren’t happy with the type of basketball rim on this particular court and say it won’t do. I roll my window up against their protests and drive away.

2:30 Coach Kenz for her audition.

3:00 Pick up boys from basket ball court. Prep Macsen for his audition that afternoon.

4:00 Drive an hour during rush hour into Hollywood for Macsen’s audition.

5:00 Drive an hour and a half in rush hour traffic BACK to Mackenzie’s house while wondering if meth is really that addictive.

6:30 Make dinner then head to Walmart because Matt has an audition tomorrow, but has not packed any pants. Not a single pair. I would think packing items to cover the lower half of your body would be a fairly obvious inclusion, but no. I also need to get the school supplies that no one thought to pack because I have to live everyone’s lives for them. Mackenzie also requests batteries for her fairy lights in her new room at her new house. I don’t even make a mental note of that nonsense.

7:30 Just AFTER I’ve paid, gotten back in the car and have driven away from Walmart, Matt texts me and says he has no socks either. I hang up on him, and turn to give a deadpan look to the imaginary camera filming our imaginary reality show.

8:00 Begin prepping Matt for his pilot audition the next day.

8:30 Leave Macsen at Mackenzie’s house to spend the night because Matt’s pilot audition is super early the next morning and I don’t want to leave Macsen alone at our house.

8:45 1/2 way home realize I forgot the pants I bought for Matt at Mackenzie’s house. He has no pants to wear to his audition the next day and no socks. My arms literally refuse to execute a U-turn. I just cannot. He will have to go pants-less and sock-less, like baby who is potty training.

9:00 Cry.

9:05 Do one more prep session with Matt for tomorrow’s pants-less audition.

9:30 Collapse into bed. Realize I can’t find my phone. Spend 39 minutes ripping apart the entire house, car, and every orafice on my body to find my phone. I cannot NOT have a phone in LA.

9:31 Cry again.

9:32 Pray.

9:38 Promise God I will never go to pilot season again if He finds my phone.

9:39 Find it. It’s in my shoe………what the….no memory of how it got there.

9:45 Watch the last 15 minutes of the Bachelor. Realize that at least I am not as pathetic as the women on this show. Then again, they are gorgeous and drinking wine and I am
catatonically staring into space clutching a cell phone and eating handfuls of M and M’s in a strange bed.

Ok.  So.  Multiply THAT day by about five weeks and you will find yourself wondering if this is, in fact, what a nervous break down must feel like. You will write to the President to suggest, rather than water boarding, that he may consider sending prisoners of war to Hollywood and putting them in charge of multiple child actors because in about 3 days they will tell you whatever you want to know. Or like me, you will total your rental car on the very last day in town and as you sit there, concussion forming, both airbags deployed, you will whisper to the sky, in final, irrevocable defeat, “Never. Again.”

So we didn’t go this year. I didn’t care what the ramifications of that decision were because nothing would matter anyway if I DIED, which I would have done had I gone back to that city this spring.

And here it comes. Wouldn’tcha know. Point proven yet again.

After three taped callbacks, and a taped screen test, Matt landed his first series regular role on a television show called The Alienist, opposite Dakota Fanning. From Atlanta. In our house. In our very own comfy taping room. Unbelievable. We don’t call it the magic taping room for nothing! (thumbs up and a cheesy grin)

So HA! Take that Los Angeles! Up your butt pilot season! The invisible hand didn’t send us out west this year because He knew that we would be going East instead!  Yep. You heard me!  We’re going to Eastern Europe.  Budapest to be exact! Where we will spend the next four months……and four months next year maybe…….and arguably four months a year for the next several years of our lives.   Four months a year in Eastern Europe, where I’ve been told to bring my own peanut butter, taco seasoning, and salad dressing. And where they don’t use ice.

I might should have gone to pilot season…….

The Barb Phenomenon

Let’s talk about Barb for a second.

If you know who I’m talking about, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, I’ll enlighten you. Barb is a character on the recently Golden Globe nominated Netflix show, Stranger Things. Poor Barb is the unfortunate side kick friend of Nancy, the gorgeous girl who usually gets everything while the unfortunate sidekick friend watches. Barb, lamenting her station in life at a high school party where she has been predictably left out, gets taken into the “upside down” by the “upside down” monster.

Aside from perhaps one or two lines of, “Hey…anyone seen Barb lately? No? K.”…her whereabouts are largely undiscussed. This is because they are too worried about their own son/brother, Will, who is also a captive of the upside down monster in the upside down. I don’t have time to explain to you what the upside down is, watch the show, but it’s bad. No one is signing up for vacation rentals there.

Anyway, even when they finally get young Will back in the season finale, no one even thinks to say… “Well gee willikers, I wonder if Barb is ok down there in the upside down? We might should try to find her too…” Nope. Barb is out of luck. They just assume that even though Will managed to make it out of there, yeah, Barb probably wouldn’t. Didn’t have it in her. Unfortunate side kicks are usually dead at this point in the story, so let’s just call it a day, and LEAVE HER THERE.

Ok. Now. Barb was in only three episodes out of the eight and is arguably a very minor character. But the appalling lack of Barb mourning unleashed such an outpouring of “BARB!!!!!” from the entire population of this country, that Barb immediately became an iconic metaphor for the parts of all us that have felt invisible and forgotten.

What this meant for Shannon Purser, the actress from Atlanta who played the role, is a metaphor for how the entire entertainment industry works, which will either leave you wildly hopeful or extremely depressed.

Barb began trending on twitter. Barb memes popped up on social media in the thousands. Shannon was asked to appear on Chelsea Handler’s talk show to discuss the Barb phenomenon. She immediately was snapped up to recur on, what I am certain will be the CW’s next hit show, Riverdale. She just landed the lead in a new feature film that is a modern day retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, and the cherry on top…… she was heavily featured in Jimmy Fallon’s Golden Globes opening musical number, much to the delight of the entire Stranger Things watching populace. All of the people wanted Barb. And then all of Hollywood wanted Shannon Purser. Yep. From booking zero jobs, to fame in sixty seconds flat.

Unbelievable, innit?

A disclaimer before I go into a full on stage mom at her least attractive rant: Shannon is a lovely person. We share the same agent and my husband has met her and spoken with her several times on the phone while helping her with appearances at fan conventions. We are thrilled for Shannon and laughing out loud in disbelieving hysterics right along with her. I am not in any way jealous for my own children, or staring at this Barb situation with a slack jaw. Not me. The world has been begging for the next Molly Ringwald, and clearly now they have her. I swear to you that I am not AT ALL, in my head right now, standing on the top of an ocean side bluff in Ireland, buffeted by sheets of rain shrieking “WHYYYYYYYYYYY????” to the heavens. Nope. I am so supportive of this thing.

However, this does bring to my mind several inviolable truths about this business as a whole that I, and all who participate, must face. I am so thrilled to share them with you:

Inviolable Truth #1:

Seniority does not always equal notoriety. Sometimes it DOES. But the number of years, collectively, that myself and my children have been working away in this business is about 52. While there are pockets of people who do know who we are (The Walking Dead fandom is like nothing you’ve ever seen), we have not remotely achieved what I would call water cooler fame. Shannon Purser, in three episodes of Stranger Things, has done so handily. We have never appeared on anything greater than a local news station, let alone hung out with Chelsea Handler. We have never attended an awards show. The number of Lintz’s who have been number one on a call sheet is exactly zero. How can that happen!?

Inviolable Truth #2:

This business is 10% talent. And 90% being in the right place, at the right time, with the right role, on the right project, at the pitch perfect moment in American zeitgeist. Now, granted, if you do not possess the 10% (talent), it will not matter what happens in the 90% (zeitgeist). But if you do, as clearly Shannon did, and you nail something right on its head, there is no telling what can happen to you seemingly over night. And you cannot predict this. Which brings me to……

Inviolable Truth #3:

The level of zeitgeist nailage that occurs is directly proportional to the amount that the zeitgeist nailage is NOT predicted. In other words, if you hope for, fantasize about, or even THINK whatever project you’re involved with may catapult you to instant fame, I guarantee it will do the exact opposite of that. In a parallel universe somewhere is another Shannon Purser, who very unfortunately said out loud, “I think this is the one guys!”, and was never seen or heard from again. Fortunately, Shannon was sincerely grateful just to have booked her first job. (Note: The key word is “sincerely”. You can’t pretend to be humble while conjuring grandiosity. The universe knows if you’re rehearsing an Oscar speech.)

I have to wonder if there had been even one or two more lines where someone said, “It is imperative that we spend an entire episode hunting for Barb,” if I would be writing this blog post. Again, no disrespect to Shannon. She played the role pitch perfectly! I am not methodically punching holes in my studio walls or crushing my audition taping video camera underneath my combat booted feet in any way! But think about it. Because the writers did not show concern for Barb, it was left to US to do so. We rose to the occasion, and flooded the internet with a veritable Barb milk carton. And if you’re trending, Hollywood will snap you up faster than middle schoolers snap up pizza.

In all honesty, we have been the recipients of such good fortune on a smaller scale. Madison’s audition for The Walking Dead was one 30 second take in our basement, because she wasn’t feeling it that day. She got the job, no one had any idea that The Walking Dead would be what it was (Rule #3!!!), and boom, she has a career. Mackenzie didn’t even want to DO her audition for Norrie on Under the Dome because she wanted to focus on school that spring and didn’t think she had a shot in hades of booking the job anyway. She grudgingly taped it in her pajamas with a messy bun, and that is the absolute truth. Three seasons later college is paid for, thank you Under the Dome!

All I am saying is the best you can do in this crazy business of ours, is do the work because you love the work. You can not plan for, or predict the resulting accolades. You can not execute a fame plan. And I would argue that perhaps you don’t want to. Some of the most miserable people I know are famous. Some of the happiest are what I call working class actors. But that’s another blog post. For now, we will watch Shannon with huge SMH grins on our faces, while we are absolutely NOT burning an enormous pile of audition sides in our cul-de-sac, and continue to labor, very gratefully, in our relative obscurity.

Actually, there IS a guy out there somewhere who has a tattoo of Madison on his arm……that’s pretty cool………

Why I Stopped Watching Westworld

Tonight I stopped watching Westworld.

I’m so massively bummed.  It was such a great idea.  The script was so unique, so intriguing.  I literally couldn’t wait for the next episode.

But then I’m pretty sure it became porn.  And I just can’t.

Why, Westworld?  Why must you assault me thus?  Why in the middle of a really unique compelling story that I am devouring like a bag of kettle corn at the Cumming Fair, do you have to slam a gigantic orgy scene?   Do people want to see this?  Am I the only prude?

You eased me into it subtly with your show about robots that look remarkably like humans who live in a theme park where real people live out western fantasies.  The robots, called hosts, get killed in saloon shoot outs or stage coach robberies over and over again as new guests arrive.  When they are repaired, you see them naked on the robot repair table.   Ok, I get it, it’s not “real” naked, it’s “robot” naked.  I can deal.

They are also naked as they sit on stools having conversations with the park techies for evaluation purposes.  Ok, I guess.  I mean, I don’t visit my therapist for evaluations naked; I usually have clothes on by then, but fine.  Be naked.  Even though the entire time I’m watching, I am wondering how Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton FEEL about being naked so constantly, and did they put up a fuss, or are they “true actors” understanding that naked makes you vulnerable yet powerful at the same time! (according to interviews I read with both actresses, the latter is true).

It’s not just the women in this show.  The writers were so fair.  Lots of full frontal for the men too.  About time ya’ll got a taste of your own medicine, but man!   Is it just me that has no real desire to view the male genitalia, or have I just been married too long?  (Love you, honey!)

I hung in there because it seriously is the most imaginative script I’ve seen in a long, long time.  I needed a show.   The Gilmore Girls reunion was not available just yet.  So Westworld.  Awesome.

But tonight, there was a brothel scene that had me like HOLY HAIL, that is a visual image that I do not want to be having.   My reaction reminded me how one of my daughters felt when she worked with a kid who would regularly flash pornographic text messages in front of her face.  “Hey look!”, he would say, then crack up.   My daughter’s response was an exclamation of disgust and arms in front of her face.  As it continued, her protests became more vehement, and I should have had the little punk fired 100 times over because this clearly falls under the heading of sexual harassment, a policy which is strictly observed on film and movie sets.   They have very intense meetings with cast and crew about it where they word things very seriously with grave faces.  Sexual harassment is bad!  Never, never do this!   And yet, when the characters in their show flash me similar imagery, it’s art.

Or maybe, Westworld, you’re sexually harassing me.

Too sensitive?  Legalistic?   Was I just not understanding the over arching themes of real humanity here?   I didn’t know.   So I posted something to this affect on Facebook asking if Westworld was simply porn disguised by a hell of a story line.  The reactions were not surprising.   100% of the women that responded agreed with me.  I hate that too!   So gratuitous!  Just gross.  Isn’t there a way to create good entertainment without it?

There were three men that responded.  One accused me of being hypocritical because previous posts had shown my love for Game of Thrones, which dances along similarly pornographic lines.  And also that my daughter had performed on one of the most violent televisions shows in history.  True.  More on that later.

With the second male responder, I engaged with in a very respectful debate after he said that he was not offended at all (but respected my right to be offended) because in Westworld, a brothel like that would absolutely exist and so it serves the story.  I agree to some extent, but felt like there are ways to indicate that sort of world without making us experience it quite so graphically.   To bring it closer to home, I asked him if he would be ok with his wife or daughter playing the chick who was face down in some guys crotch?   He said that he would if they were ok with it, but that neither of them probably would be, and would not perform such a role themselves.

So herein lies the question that gnaws away at me as an artist.

If your moral and ethical boundaries do not permit you to perform a certain role, should they permit you to view the piece as a whole?  After all, if it’s ok to view them, then get out there and perform them.  If you’re an actor, that is.  Don’t make another artist do all the dirty work.   But if you’re saying that it’s not something YOU would do, that tells me that something in your conscience isn’t sitting quite right or as a “true artist” you would do it.   And if you won’t do it, why does your conscience permit you to watch it?   I suspect it’s because of what guy #3 said:  Yeah, it’s so bad, I know!  But the story is so good that I just put up with it.

Exactly why I continue to “put up with” Game of Thrones, Rome, Vikings, The Tudors, and White Queen.  Clearly, I’m a sucker for period drama.   There were many times in all of those shows where I averted my eyes feeling, well, sexually harassed.  But the story!!  It’s so good!   So compelling.  I can’t NOT watch, can I?

Another thing that got under my skin is the fact that almost all of the actors in the scene in question were background actors.   They get paid a whopping $72 per 8 hours.  You may be able to tell me that they knew what they were getting into, but you cannot tell me that 100% of those actors were entirely comfortable.   SAG even felt it necessary to send a letter ahead of time to make sure they knew what they were in for.

Could they have said no?  Absolutely.  But behind every tableaux of graphic sexual encounter, is a girl (or boy) who is just trying to make it.  Who moved to Hollywood with a dream.  I guarantee you, when that young girl pictures her career it is not pretending to give someone a blow job.   She would probably prefer not to be pressed up against a wall with a stranger.  But she thinks, this is a start.  It’s Westworld!  On HBO!  If she can just get her foot in the door by painting her naked body gold and draping it across a principal actor who probably doesn’t even speak to her when they call cut, then maybe something better will happen.

After 25 years in this business, let me make something clear.  Nothing better will happen.  They are paying you $72 a day for this.  You don’t even have any lines except maybe to moan louder.   No one is paying attention to you in the least.  You are a prop.  A piece of furniture.  This job is not the stepping stone you think it is.  So if you are going to pretend to have sex with five people at one time, at least get PAID for it, like Evan and Thandie.  You are worth more than $72 a day.

Why are they doing it then?  Because there are becoming fewer and fewer benign options.   A few months ago, Mackenzie came to us and said, “Mom.  Dad.  I honestly don’t know how I am going to make a living in this business.”   After the cancellation of Under the Dome, she had moved to LA to make a go of it. She had done fairly well, landing a lead in an independent movie, and a short play in less than a year.   However, she was severely hampered by the fact that 50% of the auditions she was offered contained one of three scenarios.  She either had to be naked, simulate sex, or simulate sex with the same sex.  All three made her uncomfortable.   It is hard enough to make a living in this business when you are willing to do any and everything.  But when you have to pass on 50% of the auditions you are getting, it becomes a pipe dream at best.

To be fair, we have always been a bit more liberal with violence than sexual situations.  Maybe that is hypocritical.  But when Madison got shot in the head on The Walking Dead, she did not, in fact, actually get shot in the head.  However, when you have to press your naked body against someone to simulate the most private act in humanity, you cannot escape pressing your naked body against someone while simulating the most private act in humanity.  I know you are not actually having sex, but it is much closer to the real thing than Sophia’s head wound.   And the consequences, especially for children, are not something we are willing to risk. (Yes, children get asked to do some pretty astonishing things in this business, too. It would make your hair curl.)

So when is it just too violent and too sexual?   When is the price of art just too high?  The line is grey.   But the more we watch it, the more we put up with it, the more they will make it.  We have given them permission.  And pretty soon there will be nothing left for anyone with a sense of decency or privacy, or any sort of moral and ethical boundaries to perform.     Which makes me sad.  And hopeless.

So while it will only be a drop in the bucket, while it will more than likely make no difference in the grand scheme of anything….while HBO and Netflix will flick my concerns off their shoulder like an irritating fly…….I have to stand up in the face of what I THINK…..is straight debauchery.   Someone has to say no, I do not want to see your disgusting, pornographic brothel scene.

And that’s why I stopped watching Westworld tonight.

Me and Lou and the 12 Days of Christmas Shoe…..Show.

My trip to Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas giveaway was ordained by God from the very beginning.  It should not have happened at all, but it did.  Several things came up to thwart my attendance, but were defeated handily by the will of the Father.  Red and yellow, black and white, I am precious in His sight.

It started with a simple phone call from my fellow actress and very good friend, Louanne, who I’ve since offered to birth a child for, should she want one.

(“I DON’T”, she firmly states.  I knew this, which is why I offered.)

“Hey, do you want to go to the Ellen show with me?  I have an extra ticket,” she breaths seductively into the phone one day.   Did I want to go to the Ellen show!?  Does Hillary hate Donald?   People try for years just to get tickets to Ellen’s regular shows to no avail, let alone this MOTHER of all shows known as the 12 Days of Christmas.  Heck yeah, I wanted to go.    And clearly God had been working since the 1960’s to bring this about with a myriad of seemingly unrelated events.  This is how He does things, in case you were ever wondering.  I’ll illustrate.

1963:  Louanne LaFortune is born (in case Lou decides to be a stripper, mom arms her with the perfect name.)

1970:  I am born.

1974:  Kelly stars in a church Christmas pageant (wife of Sammy the Shephard) to such rave reviews that her career path is sealed.

1980: After starring in a stage production of Oklahoma, and despite her name, Louanne decides to be an actress, not a stripper. Though these days it’s the same thing.

1983-1999:   The quiet years.  Like the 400 years of darkness between the old and new Testaments.

1999:  Madison Lintz is born.  (SEEMINGLY unrelated)

2008:  Louanne and I meet when we are cast in and spend several months together working on a show for NBC.  We remain friends for the next near decade.

2014:  Madison Lintz is cast in Bosch.

September 2016:  Louanne wins two impossible to be had tickets to the Ellen show as part of a charity auction that she chaired.  She first offers the other ticket to her co-chair.  Co-chair accepts.

October 2016:  Co-chair backs out for SEEMINGLY no good reason, having no idea that it is the will of the Lord that I go instead.

November 2016:   When looking to replace Ms. Unlucky Co-Chair, Louanne considers two choices: another good friend in Atlanta, and me.  While I would like to think she chose me because I am awesome, she actually chooses me because it is the WILL OF GOD.   And she knew I would be in LA already with Madison who was filming season 3 of Bosch due to the seemingly unrelated aforementioned events.

Coincidence????  You tell me.

December 2016:  We attend the Ellen show with many giggles of glee.   We cheer when we receive a free CD she gave away of the musical guest who we have never heard of, but wish the best.   Ellen does an impromptu Q and A at the end of the show where one fateful woman asks the following question:    Would you ever consider doing another Dory movie?   Ellen rolls a video where she states that it has been determined by her staff that should anyone ask a question about Dory,  the ENTIRE AUDIENCE WOULD BE INVITED BACK to one her 12 Days of Christmas Shows!

Let’s all pause while I watch myself in memory go apoplectic and lose my voice for a solid week to the utter joy of my husband.

I will now continue this saga that we can all agree is God ordained, in real time:

November 28th:

10:00 a.m.  I have been texting Louanne incessantly all morning.  I want her to wear her Ellen sweatshirt that we both bought depicted in the photo at the end of this post so we can be twins.  She is not replying.   I hope nothing bad has happened to her.  That would seriously derail things.  I slowly consider that if she has broken a limb or come down with the flu that I could still attend the Ellen show without her.  But if she has done something dumb, like DIED,  then attending anyway may be disrespectful.   If she died I will really be irritated. COME ON LOUANNE, BE ALIVE.

Noon: She’s alive.  Her phone was on silent.  I verbally abuse her about silent phones in terminal C-2.  And also for the fact that she is not wearing her Ellen sweatshirt like a good little travel companion.   Louanne remains stalwart in her wardrobe choice.  FINE.

12:30:  We board.   I do right hand.  (Note: “RIGHT HAND” is an unbreakable covenant within the Lintz family where we put our right hand on the exterior of the plane before we board.  If there is a WIFI sticker on the plane, then we have to center our hand exactly on it or we will all die.   Madison ignores this regularly by letting one finger hang off the edge of the sticker which is UTTER DEFIANCE.  I think the rest of the families’ compliance balances this sacrilege out, so we have not died yet.)   Normally we pray “Lord, please let your angels carry this plane to our destination.  We would prefer NOT to die in a plane crash.”   But today, I make it special and add, “We do not want to die in a plane headed for the Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas Show because that would suck really bad.”

1:30:  Lou and I discuss what we hope to receive from Ellen.  Louanne just hopes to not have to buy an extra suitcase and that all our larger gifts are vouchers.  I remind her about the email we got that said THIS:

We don’t want to get your hopes up, but occasionally our 12 Days of Giveaway prizes are huge! So, we recommend bringing the biggest car you have available…got an SUV? Bring it! Got a friend with a school bus? That’ll do! (We highly suggest NOT carpooling)

Um….that says extra suitcase to me Lou.  She just shrugs.  Difficult.   I of course have been sending out all sorts of wishes to the universe.  I have already informed the family that if an iPhone is to be had it is without question MINE.  They all have better stuff than me including their cars and they can suck it.   Speaking of cars, dear Ellen, please give away a car.  I know this is so unrealistic,  but Ellen……Mackenzie just turned 20 and I have been driving a mini van since her birth.  My current incarnation has a dash board that is so cracked you can see the yellow foam underneath.  It is also hunter green which as far as car colors go is SO 90’s.  And did I mention, it is a mini van.  Please rescue me from my soccer mom mobile.  None of my children ever even PLAYED soccer Ellen!  This was a bad fit from the……

PAUSE FOR TURBULENCE: Dear God we are flying through the air equivalent of a trampoline and the angels are double bouncing.   What is going on!?  I DID RIGHT HAND!  I ask Louanne if SHE did right hand and she looks at me blankly.  Mother of God, we are DOOMED.   I am in the middle of an Alannis Morissette song.

Ok, we are alive.  We land at LAX and hop on the bus to Alamo where we have rented said SUV to handle the sheer volume of goodness coming our way.  Except it’s not an SUV.   Louanne made these reservations and got a better deal on a different type of vehicle.

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A mini van.  This is not a good omen.

We are starved and head to Cheesecake Factory where my Ellen sweatshirt draws the attention of a group of guys who had gone to THAT day’s Ellen Show.

“Ooooh, whatdja get?” we crow.

They begin listing things like a drone (not bad), a VISA gift card (better), and some sort of expensive toaster oven.  Ok, no, I think.  “Expensive” and “toaster oven” are oxymorons in the dictionary.  Lou and I exchange furtive glances that say one thing:

Dud day!!!!!!  We hope that bodes well for us.  They can’t all be dud days right?

Aside from offering the tickets to the original Ellen show, Louanne is now proving to be a detriment to our adventure.  Not only did she forget right hand, and  mandated that we get away from the world by driving around in the exact car I always drive at home,  she has forgotten her toothbrush and we don’t realize it until we are too exhausted to leave the apartment we are staying in.  Fine, Louanne, borrow my toothbrush.

Also, this cute apartment is only a 1 bedroom so we have to share a bed.  Louanne has forgotten her glasses in the car and only has her prescription sunglasses with her which she dons while we have a slumber party like chat time.

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I am sleeping with Ray Charles.

 

November 29th

The next morning, after sharing a toothbrush, we go to Blu Jam cafe for breakfast.   Louanne insists that the tiny spot on the end of a row of cars is, indeed a parking spot.  I’m dubious, but don’t argue.

One hour later, a $73 parking ticket.  But hey, guess what Mr. Dumb Parking Guy, we are about to probably get a $250 Visa gift card from Ellen so we scoff at your silly ticket!

We head to the show, and because we are not VIP’s this time, we have to wait in line.  A long line.  That takes a long time and the group in front of us are line laggers meaning that every single time the line moves ahead of them they are too distracted to notice.  This makes me want to flip a table, but I am GRATEFUL, oh so grateful to be here, so I remain calm outwardly.

This is the last phase of the line before you go in.  The walls are lined with photos of Ellen and various celebs.

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We get inside and spend a delightful hour dancing with Twitch, listening to Jennifer Aniston share her heart about constantly being suspected of pregnancy, and watching the two of them play SUMO charades which mirrors a scene in Jen’s new movie.  Speaking of Jen’s new movie, when they play a clip of it, it is all I can do not to leap out of my seat.  The young actress in the clip with Jen, is Summer Fontana, one of my acting students.  I am claiming her entire career, by the way.  Don’t try and stop me.  She also will be on this season of The Originals.  I am thanking myself FOR you, Sum.  I am your Abby Lee Miller.

And then, oh joy, oh jubilation, the bells begin to ring and the ginormous reindeer comes out and begins to dance around and the delicious covered boxes are rolled out.   Lou and I do a dance that is sort of a fast jog in place accompanied by rapid hand flapping.  I file this moment away in case I’m ever cast as an audience member who is at the Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas show.   I know EXACTLY how to play it.  When you’re a serious actress, like me, the work never stops.

And finally, to answer the question I got 9,789 times yesterday, HERE is what we won:

2 pairs of Ellen sunglasses (she was just warming up)

An Eero Home Wifi system where apparently I will never have dead spots in my house again, and I can set the wifi to go to sleep during meal times and at bed time. (Ok…ok, good gift for Marc)

A Coach purse and a Coach gift card (Merry Christmas Mack and Madi)

$250 gift card to Amazon.

A lifetime subscription to Headspace, a meditation app.  (No.  Bye.   You snuck this in between some good stuff Ellen, but we’re on to you.)

A $500 gift card to Postmates.  I have no idea what this is, but Louanne says it’s good. Then again, Louanne also went to fetch Starbucks for us both mornings on this trip promising to bring me back a Grande English Breakfast Tea and came home empty handed BOTH times.  Clearly, she’s not to be trusted.

$300 Visa gift card  (Ha! Dumb Parking Guy!)

And DELIGHTFULLY:

A Moto Z Android phone with a projection system. (I’m an iPhone girl, this will have to be sold, but I will get my beloved iPhone 7!  Merry Christmas to me!  And also, does anyone want to buy a Moto Z Android?  HMU.)

So that’s it!  That was our fun day at Ellen!   Ellen, we are truly grateful for your generosity!  You are a kind person and we love everything!

My day was only marred only by two things:

1) The fact that all of this cool stuff fit neatly into 1 red shopping bag, completely eliminating the need for a mini van.  We could have rented something sporty and pretended to be young!

2) When I got home, there was no Amazon card in my bag.  Boo!  Did I miss a gift pick up station?  I am trying to rectify this, but have little hope.

It’s probably Louanne’s fault.

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Interview With a Stage Mom: Rebecca Gagnon and Angie Jones

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series with my VAST network of stage moms!   I am so connected.  This is going to be amazing.  (Cut to:  me sending threatening phone calls to fellow stage moms, Rebecca and Angie, before they wearily succumb). 

Angie Jones has three child super stars:  Mary Charles, 15 (Footloose, Dear Dumb Diary, Kevin Can Wait),  Maggie, 13 (We Bought a Zoo, Ben and Kate, American Girl: Lea to the Rescue) and Lillian, 9 (Halt and Catch Fire, Offer and Compromise, Forever My Girl).

Rebecca Gagnon has four equally super, super stars:  Pierce, 11 (One Tree Hill, Looper, Extant, Tomorrowland), Steele, 9 (East Bound and Down, Kung Fu Panda) Knox, 7 (Jungle Book) and little Poppy (is that not the best name ever!?), 5, (Fun Mom Dinner and a new one we can’t announce or Rebecca will be sued.)

These two are so fun.  When I put out the announcement that I was going to be interviewing them, Rebecca sent an email to Angie saying that she had negotiated top billing on all social media announcements.   Angie fired right back, yes, but I got a back end deal so who wins now?

Stage mom humor.  I mean.   

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Kelly:  So I chose you two specifically to be my guinea pigs because Matt did his first commercial at 5 years old with Angie’s daughter Mary Charles.  Here it is:

Matt and Mary Charles: Kool Smiles Commercial CLICK HERE NOW AND SWOON!

Kelly:  I’m sorry.  I need to die and resurrect myself exactly 100 times.  THE CUTENESS!   They were so little!   I haven’t seen that in years.   Do you remember that, Ang?

Angie:  I do remember that because I was a huge fan of Surface, in which you co-starred, and I sort of fan girled when I saw you.

Kelly:  I’m sorry……can we just go back and say that again?  Someone actually fan-girled over ME!?

Angie:  I did!  I was obsessed with Surface!

Kelly:  No one ever notices me because I’m usually just the mom, so this is a big moment for me.

I take a beat to relish my single fan girl experience.

Kelly:  Since then, Mary Charles has gone on to many other projects and is now starring in the CBS series Kevin Can Wait, which reminds me, who coached her for that audition again?

Angie:  Some girl named Kelly Lintz who starred in Surface….

Kelly:  Oh it was me!? Oh wow, I’m amazing!

Joyous laughter all around.

Kelly:  And Rebecca, Matt and Pierce did their very first movie together 8 years ago!  That’s them with Dean Cain, aka. Superman!

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Rebecca:  Yes Pierce was 3!

Kelly: So,  I’m not going to ask how your kids got into the business because they’re in; that ship has sailed.  I’ll skip right to asking if either of you are on the verge of a nervous break down like I am?

Rebecca:  Daily.

Angie just stares at me with a dead look in her eye.  I take this as a yes.

Kelly:  You both have multiple child actors in the family, as do I.   Sibling rivalry.  Discuss.

Rebecca:  Well funny you should mention that because we just had a situation where Knox got his first callback for a movie because he’s just now getting started, and we all celebrated and high fived, and I totally wasn’t thinking that Steele had read for the same role.  Knox got called back, while Steele did not.  So it was a great opportunity for me to explain to Steele that he had had lots of turns and now let’s be excited for Knox.
Kelly: And was Steele amenable to this preposterous suggestion?

Rebecca:  He was!  He was very mature about it!  I was very proud of him.  My boys are only 2 years apart so it happens quite often that they read for the same role.   Angie, I would imagine there is lots of overlap with your girls!

Angie:  There is.  I wouldn’t say there is rivalry per se.  But there are many times when one of my daughters beats the other one out for a job.  Ant Man?  Both Maggie and Lillian were up for the same role.   Neither got it.   But the good thing is, none of my kids really look alike…

Seriously?  You can spot a Jones girl a mile away.

Angie (cont’d):  And I have always drilled into them that once you get to the final stages it is just not about the acting anymore.  You’re all good, and 99 times out of 100 it comes down to a look at that point. They wanted a red head this time, or they wanted a twelve year old, not a ten year old.   They wanted this, instead of that.  So, do they get jealous?  Not necessarily because one books a specific job.  They might get jealous that someone has worked in the last six months, or that one is getting more auditions, or gets to go to a premiere.   But they are always genuinely happy when someone books a project.

Kelly:  Isn’t that darling…..

 I decide to hide the fact that my own kids have all had massive breakdowns over the career advancement of their siblings at one point or other.  I paste on a beaming smile and continue.

Kelly:  Ok, next topic.  What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in this business?

Rebecca:  I don’t make mistakes.

Good natured cackles all around.  However, this is true.  Rebecca Gagnon is the quintessential Pinterest mom.  Arts and crafts abound, and happy, joyous photos document it all.  Like this one: 

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They made lobster pictures with their feet and hands.  Notice they are not even wearing smocks.  If I had attempted this with my children, paint would have been on the ceiling and someone would have been sobbing.  Probably me.

Kelly:  Ang?  Big mistakes?

Angie:  Heh heh heh……Ummmmmmmm…..

Kelly: There are so many you don’t even know where to begin.

Angie:  Pretty much.  I think it was, in the beginning, trying to overanalyze the business and the casting process.  When you think you’ve figured it out, you go to the next project and it’s totally different.  It’s a waste of time because you will never figure it out.  I wish I hadn’t spent so much mental energy trying.   More specifically, there was one project, where Lillian and Maggie were cast in a pilot, but the money was not right for Maggie when it was picked up to series, so we pulled them both out. In hind sight I would have fought harder for Lillian to stay even though it was the wrong choice for Maggie at the time.

Kelly:  You called me about that.  I should have advised you to try that!  What was I thinking?  I’m a terrible mentor.

Angie:  They probably wouldn’t have done it anyway!

Kelly:  You’re right.  That’s why I didn’t advise you to try it……..

Rebecca:  I think a good way to look at that is to realize that you do have more power than you think to ask for things!  Sometimes when I feel very small in a big production, I am too afraid to ask for something for fear that I might burn a bridge.  I might look greedy or dumb, but sometimes you can ask, and the worst they can say is no!  I think we need to trust in the value that we bring to a project more and stick our necks out and ask for things more.   We are worth it!

Angie and I look at each and silently wonder where we were on the day optimism and good cheer were handed out.  Apparently Rebecca got our share.

Kelly:  What is the worst part of this biz?

Angie:  You give up so much.   If your kids are any good, then your life revolves around the business, unfortunately, and it changes all the time.   A lot of people outside the business don’t understand that.

Rebecca:  Right.  I think the worst thing is that you cannot plan.  We were supposed to go to a wedding, but then a super important chemistry read came up and we could only do it THAT DAY so we cancelled our trip.  It does take you out of real life sometimes.  You hope your friends and family will understand and still like you!

Kelly:  That is Murphy’s Entertainment Biz Law 202B.  If you book a plane ticket, your phone will ring from your agent 5 minutes later with the opportunity of a life time.

Exhausted, knowing nods all around.

Rebecca:  And also, unlike a typical hobby, the kids put so much of themselves into these auditions, their heart and their emotions, so when it doesn’t go their way, the disappointments are SO HUGE.  But then, the successes are so great, and one of the great things about this is sharing in the joy of those successes.

Kelly:  Right, there’s got to be an upside to this right?  Or we wouldn’t do it.

Angie:  There is!  You get to spend so much time with your kids.  I’ve spent more one on one time with my kids than I think a lot of people get to.  You really get to know them and have an incredible impact on how they go into the business world as adults, because you are modeling for them how to behave every single day.

Kelly: I have seen this in action.   I have a very special relationship with each of my children because not only do I go with them to set, but I’m their coach.  They allow me into some vulnerable moments and I consider it such a privilege to watch them create.  Macsen was always my most independent child, possibly because he’s the youngest and I forget him at Target sometimes.  But now that Macsen is starting to work more, I am getting that one on one time with him and I am seeing our personal relationship grow as well.  Yay!

…..wipes tear, hopes D-Fax doesn’t call about Target……..

Rebecca:  I also love the relationships my kids get to make with all kinds of people.  Older actors. Little kids.  People that they normally wouldn’t get to know.

Kelly:  Any of your kids ever want to quit?

Angie:  Yes.  Multiple times.  In fact, my most successful child (Maggie) has wanted to quit the most mainly because she also loves sports which can be more immediately rewarding than preparing over and over for auditions that go no where.   Mary Charles had a two year dry spell and was like why am I even doing this?

Note:  There is a hellacious dry spell between the ages of 13-15.  Expect this.  It will happen.  

Angie: There are so many no’s in this business.  It’s not like soccer where you try out, and you get to play in every game.  You audition to maybe get to do it one or two days.  And then you have to audition again to get maybe one or two more days.  And then, if you’re lucky, maybe you get to do it for a month, or if your ridiculously lucky, maybe you finally land a television show.

Kelly:  But then you land the television show, and perhaps the writers don’t write to your child very much and it’s not as great of a gig as you thought it would be.  Or a scene isn’t directed the way you envisioned.  I just had a situation where one child prepared for a scene that I thought, “Oh this will make the demo reel.  This is going to be AMAZING.”  And then they shot it from far way and you only see the back of his head.   #fail

Angie:  Oh yes, been there!  But you know, kids want to quit sports too.  I don’t want people to read this and be like oh, you’re forcing your kids to do this, because I’m sure that your kids have told you they don’t feel like going to practice.  Or they had a bad game and want to quit football and you have encouraged them to keep at it.

Rebecca:  My kids have not said they want to quit acting, but they have for sure said, “I don’t want to learn this audition. I’d rather play outside with my friends!”

Kelly:  And this has been true since child actors were invented.  Ok, next question.  Without naming names…..

Angie:  Uh oh.

Kelly:  You know what I’m going to ask.

Angie:  I can only imagine.

Kelly:  Without naming names, do each of your child actors have a nemesis? You know…..that kid that is constantly up against your kid and when you walk into a callback and see them YET AGAIN you silently wish that a bone break is in their immediate future, effectively taking them out of the running? Or is that just me?

Angie:  The longer you’re in this business, you start seeing the same people over and over.  And, um….yes….we have nemeses.  But then, I know there are kids out there that hate to see my kids walk into an audition!

Kelly:   Well, they ARE coached by me……

Wink to camera……

Rebecca:  I think yes, for sure.  But sometimes your nemesis is also your friend.  So when Knox’s friend was at the same callback he said, “I hope if I don’t book it, that my friend books it.”  I thought that was a really sweet way to look at it.

None of my children have had a thought remotely of this kind.

Rebecca:  Pierce has been around a long time and there’s one particular kid, you know the one Kelly, that always gets his parts, and Pierce does not love that!  This will just happen.  But it does drive you to be better and prepare more. So competition isn’t all bad.

Kelly:  The people that are at the top of this business are simply the people that have been told no the most.   Or at least that sounds good…….

R and A:  Mmmmmhmmmmmmm!

Kelly:  Time for a game!

Angie:  I did not know this was coming.

Kelly:  I feel like Ellen right now.

Angie:  SPEAKING OF ELLEN!!!!!!
A slight break where I relate the story of how I went to the Ellen show with a friend and somehow won the freaking lottery and got invited back to her 12 Days of Christmas Show!  Jealous exclamations abound!  Tune in on December 1st and watch me literally go apoplectic when she hands out cars all around. (please dear baby Jesus, let her hand out cars all around.  My stage mom mini van is on it’s last legs.)

Kelly: OK!  I am going to say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind without censorship.  Ready?

A and R:   (hesitant sounds of assent)

Kelly:  Auditions.

Rebecca:  Babysitter.

Angie:  Suck.

Kelly:  Los Angeles

Rebecca:  Traffic.

Angie:  (Is about to say suck again but stops herself) Yeah, traffic is good.  I’ll take traffic for $100.

Kelly:  Homeschooling

Angie:  Kill me.

Rebecca:  Ummmmmm, I don’t have a word……..just life.

Rebecca is a homeschooling phenom.  She actually DOES SCIENCE.   At one point my son Macsen asked what the Gagnon’s were up to that day, then said oh wait, they are probably re-creating the sun in their living room. When I homeschooled, my kids were lucky they learned to read.  

Kelly:  Vacation.

Rebecca:  Huh????

Angie:  What’s that?

Kelly:  Wrap gifts.

Angie:  Stressful.

Kelly:  I just found the EASIEST wrap gift ever.  I had Nick “crafty” order a coffee truck from Madison to the crew of Bosch.  $500.  Cheap.  Done.

Rebecca may or may not be looking at me with slight disappointment.

Kelly: Stage moms.

Angie:  Scary.

Rebecca:  Creepy.  Crazy.   Expect for us.  We’re all nice.

Rebecca is very nice.

Kelly:  And finally……Fame.

Angie:  Pointless.

Rebecca:    Artificial.

Kelly:  Agreed.  And I would add……possibly detrimental.

Angie:  Ooooh, that’s a good one.

Rebecca:  Yep.

Kelly:  Ok, we are coming into the home stretch ladies.  Final questions:   If you could tell a new stage mom one thing, knowing what you know now, what would it be?

Angie’s husband chimes in from the other room “DON’T DO IT!”
Angie:  My answer would be, keep your kids involved and plugged into the real world.  Let them play sports.  Let them have something else, because if they are waiting for the next audition or booking and they don’t have a sport, or friends, or something else outside of this, then when they get told no over and over and over, it’s just going to suck the life out of them.  I think that’s what drives kids crazy in this business.   So keep them plugged into the real world because Hollywood is NOT the real world.

Rebecca:   I think my advice would be that it’s your job to protect your child, and that there’s no job that is more important than your child.  There’s no relationship that’s more important than your child.   And so, know that it’s ok to step in and ruin a shot because you don’t feel you’re child is safe, or if they ask you to do something you’re not comfortable with, you say no.  I’ve been in a situation where they asked me to step far away from a scene where my child was feeding raw meat to a wolf.  I was not comfortable with that so I said no!  Just have confidence that there’s no movie, no part, no fame that is more important than your child.  Know what your standards are ahead of time and what your rights are ahead of time and be the advocate for your child.

Kelly:  And finally, would you go back and do this all over again?

Angie pauses while making agonized sounds of indecision.  I take a refreshing nap, and wake up in time for her answer.

Angie:  Yes……yes……………………………………….yes.

Kelly:  Rebecca?

Rebecca:  Yes.  In a heart beat.

Kelly:  You guys are amazing.  Thank you!  Dinner on me!  Not really, but you ARE amazing.   Mwah!