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Friends on Set

It’s a People-Oriented Industry

Mix and match.

Here’s one of my favorite things about being cast in a new project: discovering friends or long-time acquaintances who’ll be working with me. On camera or behind the scenes – I love seeing familiar faces and recounting all the other productions we’ve worked on together.

Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and laying the foundation for new friendships. I’ve met people from all walks of life and, in talking with them, have found more things we have in common than either of us would have believed possible. Sometimes the coincidences are downright spooky. Most recently, while we were on a little break from shooting a commercial together, another woman and I were talking about our kids. Turns out our oldest children are the same age. And I mean the same age. Same month, same day. Born just a few hours apart. Who’d a thunk it?!

What’s the children’s song?

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.

(I remember that from my kids’ preschool TV-watching years!)

I love showing up on set, or scanning the call sheet the night before, to see which names and faces I recognize. You just never know who production has mixed together. And it often seems like a bit of a mix and match. Who looks like they can play someone’s parent or child? Who looks like half of a long-married couple? Sometimes, casting is trying to find a match for an actor who’s already been booked. Other times, they’re looking for two people who just seem like they go together.

More than once, I’ve found myself paired with the same individual over and over again. This is especially true when I’m playing part of a couple, especially if casting is leaning into a certain ethnicity. (I confess to having a mischievous moment now and then, ribbing my real-life husband about it!) Honestly, I always get a little kick out of meeting my on-set “hubby of the day.” It’s fascinating to discover how people see you, especially when you’re paired as a couple. It varies depending on your role and the type of production. What’s your characters’ histories and why are you in this particular story? Are you working class? Or are you both enjoying an upscale retirement? What’s your background, are you urban or rural residents, happily married or on the brink of divorce, victims of a crime or perhaps the masterminds of a shady operation? Pairing people who look like a matched set tells the audience one thing. Pairing two people who clearly aren’t can raise an eyebrow … and interest in the story.

Regardless, it’s always a treat to see friends on set and reacquaint with those whom I’ve worked with before. Last week, during a very long day filming a commercial with a lot of down time, I had the pleasure of hanging out with another actress from my same agency. So much to talk about and catch up on, it helped idle time fly by. I had brought my computer to set, anticipating I’d have the opportunity to catch up on my work, but once we saw each other, well, not much work ended being done. And that was just fine. It made my heart so much happier to spend that time with a friend.

When I’m with several people and we all know one another, there’s usually a brief accounting of, “what did we work on together?” It’s interesting to learn about their other projects and who worked with who, particularly those for which I’d also auditioned but hadn’t been cast. It’s an insight into which way casting had leaned (and perhaps why) and how the project had turned out. Sometimes, the end result is quite different from the audition sides any of us had originally seen, which could explain those casting choices.

When I see old friends, classmates, or others in my agency, our time on set together is a chance to share experiences, as well as to recommend certain good acting classes, coaches, or production teams we’ve enjoyed working with. Many actors create their own original material, so it’s also an opportunity to catch up on each other’s skill sets and see if there’s a possibility of collaboration.

None of this is to say that actors just hang around kibbitzing all day instead of working. Far from it! Most of these conversations are in bits and pieces throughout a long shoot schedule, during the lunch break, and only if any free time isn’t spent reviewing and rehearsing lines or blocking, assimilating script changes and dialogue, or being touched up in hair and makeup.

Like anything in life, a friendly familiar face can just make your day that much brighter.


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