Cutting Room Floor

Cutting Room Floor

We always hear the stories of actors in big budget films who had their one scene edited out, left on the cutting room floor.  (In this day and computer age, erased from the hard drive would be more appropriate.)  This is one of those stories.

I’ve actually been lucky.  It’s only happened to me twice in my career.  The first time happened to be my very first SAG job.  I landed a co-star on ABC’s “COACH” with Craig T. Nelson and Shelley Fabares (and Rob Schneider in his first big role).  I was cast in it by Dava Waite (aka Dava Peaslee).  Dava had been a fan of mine and tried to get me on “21 Jump Street” many times in the late 1980s.  So, it was kind of a sweet moment when she was finally able to cast me.

Picture 8On my first day of my first real acting job, I was a bit timid when I arrived at the stage door.  I said I was there for the show and the official looking guy coldly told me to sit in the audience bleachers with 15 other actors.  I was amazed they had so many co-stars on the episode.  Then they started handing out vouchers, which I didn’t understand.  After they were all handed out, they asked if anyone didn’t get one.  I raised my hand.  They asked for my name and looked down the list.  They couldn’t find my name!  Then one of the ADs looked at another list, smiled kindly at me (as though I were a puppy who just peed out of excitement) and got on his walkie-talkie.  Another lady showed up.

“Mr. Douglas, we’re so sorry!  Right this way.”

She gently escorted me to the make-up room…  Apparently I was in the extras area.  This was definitely my first gig.

The episode was directed by lovable  Tony Dow (from “Leave It To Beaver“) and he didn’t seem to have much to say to me.  Granted, I only had three lines in a party scene, playing a dorky drama student.

Afterwards, I told all my friends and family I was going to be on “COACH” and that they needed to tell everyone to watch it.  I was now an ACTOR!  This was everything I had prepared for since I was 11…  However, there was one thing I hadn’t prepared for;  editing.  As in – the show runs 28 minutes and my role isn’t quite relevant enough to be included in the 22 minutes they have for air.  Kind of important to know.

On the night of my national premier, I got home from my survival job early (as an order taker for a strip-a-gram company – early voice over practice … “then this sexy cop comes in and begins to play with his night stick…”).  My answering machine had a message on it.  My sister in Hawaii.  “I didn’t see you in the show.  Was it tonight?”

My heart sank.

Then I realized that there were about 50 people who would be looking for my non-existent performance across the United States.  I wanted to crawl under a rock.  As each time zone got their airing of the show, I got two or three messages from confused friends and family.  (There was no way I was answering the phone!) Though an ex-girlfriend from high school called  and screamed on my machine with excitement.  She and her friends could make out my back and neck by the fireplace in the party scene.  I was a stud in her eyes.

After that experience, whenever I was on a show or in a film, I would always add, “I’ll be on so and so show Monday night — if I’m not cut!”  I did that for years.  Then I got larger roles and slowly stopped adding the disclaimer.  My roles were more integral to the plots.  And I wasn’t cut from a show again… Until 19 years later.

Three Rivers 2I was supposed to be on “Three Rivers” this coming week, but, alas, I won’t be.  It doesn’t burn this time around.  I don’t take it personally.  I also don’t equate “living” with being “televised” as many young folk do.  Having also been an editor in one of my survival jobs through the years, I can see how this particular role was not relevant to the story.

But the truly remarkable difference this time is that Jennifer Smith over at Aquila/Wood Casting actually sent a very nice email to my agents explaining that my scene had to be cut.    That’s a rare thing to happen.  Especially to the rank and file actors.  A nice thing to experience in a town that can be very impersonal and rude.  It showed class.  If Jennifer or anyone from that office reads this, THANK YOU!

As for the rest of you who were planning on looking for me on the show, that performance ended up on the cutting room floor…  or rather, the digital “0”s and “1”s that made up my in-the-moment performance have been released from TV duty so they could reassemble as a post on my blog.