24 09 2004

It’s 8 p.m. on an autum afternoon in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I’m wearing a lined, long-sleeved henley, with a short sleeved demin shirt over top, and heavyweight khakis. And its like 80 degrees.

You see, its only the second day of autumn. And for some reason, hotter than it’s been in weeks.

We, the 40-some background actors waiting to wander in and back out of view in an episode of “Law and Order,” are hunkered down in the Williamsburg Art and Cultural Center, killing time till the production assistant comes and gets us.

We’re a motley crew. Some half of them are portraying police officers. Many of them are actors who happen to own a police uniform. (Note to self: get one of those!) A good many of those are retired police officers or state troopers. We’re having fun, trading stories, trading information. Business cards are flowing like morals in Vegas. “Have you seen this audition?” “Do you know about this casting agency?” Everyone’s helping each other. We all start talking to one of the ersatz cops about his appearance in last week’s episode of “Rescue Me.” Others start comparing the quality of the catering truck against others. All the non-SAG actors plot their eventual union membership, which, it seems, can’t come soon enough for many.

At some point, they are filming a scene in the parking lot next to the center. Dennis Farina and Jesse L. Martin are pacing a bit, waiting to go through their lines again. A group of passers-by wanders along the street, many of them Hassidic Jews.

Night falls, and finally they corrall us out into the street. The actors in blue uniform are removed from us — they have work to do elsewhere. The rest of us start to recall the short lived series “Fridays,'” and recite entire sketches from “In Living Color.” Then, during what seemed like a massive recreation of “Men on Film,” (“Hated it!”), we are called to the set. On screen, it will appear to be two cars cornered by a fleet of cops, their drivers pulled out and arrested. We are to be the bystanders who wander by and look on with bemusement. Three or four takes, and that’s it. We’re done. It’s nearly 2 a.m. Most of the actors head for the Marcy Street station, headed back to the city.

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