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.)

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.

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.   

——————————————————————————————————————

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!

fullsizerender

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: 

gagnon

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!

Jesus be a Stylist

There are two types of people in Hollywood. The people who other people want to know what they are wearing so designers give them free stuff to wear. And the people who no one cares about what they are wearing, so when they ask designers to give them free stuff to wear, the designers just stare at them blankly, then get back to dressing Lupita N’yongo.

We fall into the latter.

However, its not like we are sitting around doing NOTHING worthwhile in the entertainment business. We do have STUFF TO ATTEND. But to ATTEND STUFF, you have to WEAR STUFF. So what that looks like is us trudging wearily all over downtown Atlanta (where the cool people shop) searching for the perfect outfit for whatever premiere/screening/event we have to go to, trying to find something that makes us LOOK LIKE we are the type of people that people care what we are wearing when really we have found it, styled it, and put it on our own selves.

We are the Arya Stark of fashion. The family wears no one.

I am forever indebted to Catt Sadler of E! News. Mackenzie was 14 and walking on the biggest carpet I have ever seen for her tiny role in Hunger Games, in which she played the tribute from District 8. The dumb one who lit the fire and was killed by the careers? Anyway, when Catt called Mackenzie over, I was simultaneously thrilled that she ranked high enough to be noticed by E! News, and terrified that Catt would embarrass Mackenzie by asking who she was wearing, which was no one.

mackenzie-lintz-hunger-games-premiere

Kenz, ya looked gorgeous, but this was no Dolce and Gabbana. I saw Catt assess the dress in a quick glance and then simply say ,“Mackenzie, you look absolutely beautiful tonight! Did you enjoy working on this movie?” And that’s how I know that Catt is a kind person and I would like to send her a box of all her favorite things.

By the way that dress was never worn again. Why? Because once you are photographed at an event of any kind, the pictures will be all over the internet so when you say to your teen daughters, “Hey, I know, how about you wear one of THOSE dresses to your prom and save some money?”, they are all like, “Dad, you need to take mom to rehab because she is clearly addicted to crack. We do not repeat outfits. Like EVER.”

We are the Kaucasian Kardashians and I was not informed.

So when Matt was invited to the premiere of his next movie, Free State of Jones, I inwardly groaned. I was going to have to shop.  And I would rather hang from a cliff by my eyelids than shop. I actually sent my daughters out by themselves to find their prom dresses, which is arguably one of the most important mom/daughter rites of passage there is, aside from shopping for their wedding dress. Oh God…..do they want me to go with them to shop for their wedding dress?

I am not a good mom.

Anyway, back to the Free State of Jones premiere which would not be FREE at all. We begin by entering a literal apocalypse of traffic to head down town ON A WEEKDAY.  An hour and a half later, Matt is snarling at me for making him physically BE with me on this mission of doom rather than bringing him home choices to try on. He wants choices to try on, ya’ll. And then I can just return all the things that don’t meet with his approval, he says, because he is a millennial and doesn’t actually DO THINGS.

I need a sweet tea from Chick Fil A just to write about this. I’m feeling warm.

We follow our hour and a half of travel with two solid hours of walking into stores, staring listlessly around, and walking out. Too stupid. Too babyish.  Matt is a fashion impossibility right now. He is 15 and ready to venture out into making more of a statement with his clothes, but his body is betraying him by being too small to make that happen. He’s sort of like Fashion Simba who is trying to roar like Fashion Mufasa, and Top Shop is Fashion Mufasa who just chuckles, pats him on the head, and says in a James Earl Jones voice, “Son. Journey to the nearest department store. There you’ll find what you seek. In the children’s section.” Then Fashion Simba snarls irritably and swipes his paws at the nearest family member.

In desperation, I begin texting my fellow stage mom friends like Shari Drucker, mom to Jason Drucker (newly minted star of Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and I say, “Hey! That looks cool! Where did you find THAT!?”

Jason

And she names all these great stores, not one of which is within the confines of Lennox Mall in Buckhead.   Thanks Shari, that’s great.  You’ve been such a help.  So then I try my friend Beryt, mom of Joshua Rush (Andi Mack, Parental Guidance) and say, “HEY, where did you find THIS?  This looks amazing!”

Joshua

And she says really unhelpful words like, “Oh my husband handles all of his styling.  I don’t know where they got that.”  Thank you so much, Beryt. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to end our friendship now.

On to Christi Spink, who’s son Brandon was in Miracles from Heaven with me and looked ADORBS at the premiere.   I facebook messaged her from my phone outside of Jamba Juice: WHERE DID YOU FIND THIS??  I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW???????  (I was shouting.)Brandon

Her reply.  “Oh!  We had some help with that one.  A stylist sent it over!”

…………

I took a moment to question my existence, and then:

FullSizeRender

Meanwhile, Fashion Simba has not hunted all day.  He is famished because I “forgot to remind him to eat” (srsly?), which brings on the following exchange:

Me: You see!? This is what happens when you don’t eat. You cannot shop for an outfit that you absolutely HAVE TO FIND on THIS PARTICULAR DAY without fortifying yourself ahead of time.

Matt: Mom if you tell me I need to eat one more time I am going to turn into one of those ungrateful child actors who are entitled and treat their moms with utter derision.

Me: Happened an hour ago.

(5 minutes later)

Matt: Let’s go, I think I just need to eat.

I stare straight ahead and wish for Jesus’s return, because aside from the rapture occuring, we CAN’T GO.  We have to walk out of this mall with a hang up bag over our arm.  You cannot walk a red carpet entirely nude, Matt.  You are not Shia LeBoeuf.

Finally, FINALLY thank you Jesus and all of his angels who did not defect, we find something that could work.  From where?   You guessed it. Macy’s.  Which is also right at the nice little mall in my nice little suburb of Atlanta and would have saved us A LARGE QUANTITY OF TIME AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.

But I don’t even care because I love Macy’s right now!  I watch its parade every Thanksgiving with avid attention and now Macy’s is returning the favor by providing me with a nice steel blue suit by Ralph Lauren who IS a designer after all, and it FITS!  I am joyous, happy and free!

So Matt flies out to LA with Marc, because I just do all the work around here and don’t get to actually have the fun, and the night of I’m trying to dress him via text message and when I demand photos they do guy things like send me photos from the neck up.  But from the neck up he looks good!  I ensure that the second button of his shirt is movie star UN-buttoned, that he’s tucked in, and we are CARPET READY.

The Getty Images start pouring in.  Fruit of labor realized.   Matt looks put together.  Handsome.  And dressed.  By someone.  No one need know by who.   If Catt were there, Matt could proudly say, “I’m wearing Ralph Lauren, of course.”  Then Catt would smile indulgently.   “Of course you are Matt, why wouldn’t Ralph want to dress you!”  Back in Atlanta, Jesus and I look at one another, wink, and fold our arms across our chest in satisfaction.   Somewhere in the distance, a lion roars.

matt1

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Am I on?

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Hello?  Yes!  Hi!  Check 1…..(throat clear)….Ok…..so…….

Hi!!!!!   I finally DID this.  Were you losing faith?

Let me explain.  I started this blog in the air on the way from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  I was Facebook messaging my friend, Jeff Cole, a fellow actor and he said “Hey!  Start a blog!”  So I said “OK!”  And I did.  In fifteen minutes.   I had no idea it was that easy.  You can actually go online RIGHT NOW and click a few buttons and BOOM you’re a blogger.  I sat there with a big grin on my impulsive blogging face and then thought oh dang, I guess I have to blog something now because I am an official blogger person.  Perhaps I should have thought of that before naming my domain.  It took a little time for my logistics to catch up with my artistry.   I’m an actor, this is common. MORE…