What? Taping of Pilot Starring Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly)
Where? Burbank, CA
What? This new untitled comedy from the creators of “Will & Grace” revolves around two men – one straight, one gay – who are lifelong best friends and business partners. Both of them are in serious romantic relationships and try to find a balance between their allegiances to each other and to their significant others. Starring Alan Tudyk, Josh Cooke and Sarah Lafleur.
You would think growing up in Los Angeles that Hollywood would now be routine to me. I studied video production in college, even made a film and I currently live in a town that’s covered with film crews, but still it seems magical!
That’s how I felt walking on to the Warner Brothers studio lot. I could probably just wander around (if they allowed that sort of thing) and watch them make TV shows and movies. It’s an amazing process.
Here’s how it all went down.
First we showed up in the parking lot. Got registered in, got stamped with this invisible ink that glows under black lights, and we walked across the street to the studio. Once there, we waited in line. Then we got our bags checked, metal detector and walked to another line. And finally, one more line and another metal detector and we were sitting in the studio. We watched various people working on the set. The continuity director (the person that makes sure that between takes things wind up in the same place) was taking pictures, someone was painting a wall, and everyone else seemed to be busily working and adjusting items on the set.
The set was amazingly colorful. And kind of quirky (which fits the show). There was one large picture of Josh and Alan (which I saw someone point out to Alan during the filming and he seemed bemused by it). Part of the set needed to be tried out before filming because it cracked Josh and Alan up when Sarah sat on it. All of the sudden we heard, “the chair sounds like a fart” and chortles from the cast. Note to all future set designers, check out your chairs for weird sounds. The sets were not all in immediate view of the audience, so for a lot of the scenes they were off to the sides, and we watched on a monitor, or you could watch the crew running around.
I especially liked Alan’s character’s “bedroom” which had colorful elephants.
But on to the filming. It took awhile. Nearly 5 hours, but it was fascinating to watch. Every scene was done at least twice, or more, with a lot of short pickups (where they shoot only a part of the scene). During the filming the writers would often huddle around between takes and write new jokes or spin the jokes or change the pacing or wording slightly and try it out on the audience. It was fun to watch the writers, as well as the rest of the crew.
If you’ve never been to a filming, my friend Jess described it aptly as “watching ants in a box.” The crew functions like a swarm or colony of ants, moving efficiently, effectively and everyone doing their own task as seemlessly as possible. Very rarely did I hear people directing people what to do. They seemed to ebb and flow out of scenes without much effort. It was very interesting to watch. I know Whedon fans especially appreciate the amount of work it takes to put on a show and they place high value on the crew members (as well as Joss and the cast), so I spent a lot of time watching the crew and I can tell you they don’t get HARDLY enough praise for what they do.
The entire show we had a comedian personality as our Emcee. His job was to keep the audience from getting bored and he did a fantastic job. Roger, you’re the best.
Despite the time frame (we arrived at 4:30 and didn’t get back until about 12pm) it didn’t feel as long as it was. But that’s probably the intense fangirl in me. Speaking of fan girl, Zachary Levi (Chuck) showed up! He gave both Josh and Alan hugs, so it made my geek heart happy (can now see the wheels spinning in the fanfic communities). I also got to see the Nerd Herd cars while we were walking in, which again, I squeed over.
I don’t want to spoil the pilot for anyone who is interested in watching, but it (not surprisingly) feels a lot like Will & Grace. Even though I haven’t watched a lot of that show, the feel is very Will & Grace-y. I do like Josh and Alan together, I think they play off each other well and you do feel like these two characters are very good friends. Alan seemed (to biased old me) to steal the show with his performances. I was reminded again what a FACIAL actor he is. His body language speaks volumes and many times the larger laughs were because of his expressions (without dialogue).
Everyone on set was very professional, but there was still a fun atmosphere. All three of the lead roles messed up lines and, even though I didn’t keep track, I believe Josh won the “most blooper” prize. I will hand it to him, his character seems to have a lot of “paragraph” chunks of dialogue and from working on Buffy Between the Lines, I know those are harder to get out without stumbling. My favorite blooper Josh actually wound up on the ground from frustration/laughter. From what our emcee said, alot of the crew is from Will & Grace, so that added to the feeling that this wasn’t just a pilot, these were old friends getting back together.
Later during filming the actor who played Will showed up, and gave acknowledgement to the fans in the audience (which I always find classy and cool).
Now, to Alan’s wardrobe. It really suited his body type, his hair and his eyes. I really like Alan in the more professional attire, which he wears throughout this episode. I particularly like his first wardrobe which was a blue shirt that really brought out his eyes. I’ve never noticed that Alan has great eyes until I saw him in that shirt (and, least you think I’m a raving Tudyk fangirl, I really am not – I just really liked that shirt).
Alan likes to run through his lines right before the director starts the scene. I watched him several times as he was running through and he also tries out different emphasizes and different facial expressions as he goes through them.
I think Alan’s character (Drew) had some of the best lines, much like Anya in Buffy.
After the last scene they announced the cast and the creators. There was two smaller role characters who were absolutely fantastic in their roles (and were very funny). One appeared to be a one shot character (though I’d love to see him back) and the other works in the office of Alan and Josh’s company.
There were a few pop culture references sprinkled in the jokes, which seem to work very well.
After the bows, Alan came up into the seats with the fans and signed autographs and shook hands. He’s got a great persona when he’s with fans, a lot of people seem awkward, but Alan just seems to be very natural with them. I got to shake his hand, tell him how much I loved him on Firefly and that he did a fantastic job and he was funny. My face muscles are still sore from laughing.
Last impressions, TV sets are much smaller than they appear on TV.
Oh, and if you want to know which character Alan plays (straight or gay) please read below: