leveling up while geeking out on the set of the big bang theory

Living out here in Pasadena means I have limited options for getting into Burbank and points North and West. Typically, I head up to the 134 and hope I get to approach 4th gear for at least a few minutes before the whole freeway turns into a parking lot.

This morning, the first morning in months that I had to be somewhere at a specific time and really couldn't be late, the 134 was a parking lot starting East of the Rose Bowl and going all the way through Eagle Rock and into Glendale. Luckily for me, I found this out while I was eating breakfast, and I was able to leave 30 minutes early to loop up the 210 through La Canada and down the 2, adding about 15 miles but only 5 minutes (net) to the drive out to Burbank. Which I guess I should point out isn't even 10 miles, but took almost an hour.

Through some miracle, great luck, a warping of the spacetime continuum, (or, more likely, a combination of them all) I arrived at Warner Brothers and pulled into my guest actor parking spot in front of Stage 25 only ten minutes later than I wanted to arrive, which put me in the stage ten minutes before the read through was set to begin. I'm not going to lie to you, Marge, getting to park in a spot that said "Reserved for The Big Bang Theory" that was right in front of the stage was awesome.

The stage was filled with actors, writers, and crew. There was an excited buzz in the room as they all talked about how great their season premiere ratings were, and how happy and grateful they all were. I was introduced to the cast, tried and mostly succeeded to keep my geeksquee under control enjoyed the read through. The script, which already sounded funny in my head, was absolutely hilarious coming out of the actors who play these characters, and it was really cool to sit around the table with them, as a peer. 

When the read through was finished, I talked with Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady for a minute, then grabbed breakfast while we all got ready to run through the script on the sets with the director. Johnny Galecki was getting food at the same time, and while we filled our bowls with oatmeal (breakfast of champions, kids) he told me how excited they were to have me on the show, and thanked me for being there.

"I think I should just out myself now and get it over with," I said. "I'm a huge fan of your show, and I can't even believe that I get to be part of it this week."

He laughed and said, "Well, it's a great group, and you're going to have a great time."

"I don't doubt it," I said. Then I got out of there before I could say something stupid and embarrassing about how much I loved that one thing they did in season two, or how funny it was that one time when they made that one joke. Yeah, I didn't say anything stupid or embarrassing or fanboy at all, and as far as anyone knows, that's exactly how it happened.

I finished my breakfast, wandered through the comic shop set (which is put together with such incredible attention to detail, I almost went looking for the latest issue of IRREDEEMABLE) and tried to stay out of the way while the actors and director got ready to run through the script on the stage.

It was neat, how quickly the room and the mood changed once the read through was done: everyone but the actors and a few crew left, and the stage became very quiet and intimate for the rest of the day while we walked through the first broad strokes of the episode. (You could think of today's run through like an image that hasn't been completely rendered, yet. As the week goes on, we'll apply colors, textures, anti-aliasing, lighting, and all the other things that take us from a wireframe to a realistic-looking tea pot that throws a lens flare and a nifty shadow.)

Once they started running through the script, I pretty much parked myself in a chair near the director, and just watched. As a fan of the show, it was awesome to see the actors (who I don't know very well) bring their characters (who I know extremely well) to life. As an actor, it was tremendously informative and inspiring to see how the actors and the director worked together to bring the script to life. I saw things I used to take for granted, that happened automatically, when I was working as an actor every day, and remembered the importance of finding the truth of the scene, hearing the music of the scene, and knowing how a character would organically exist in the scene. Working as a writer, I create those beats and use the same fundamental skills, but in a very different way, and if I try to do that as an actor, it doesn't work (I recently tanked an audition because I couldn't get access to The Actor in my head, approached the thing like The Writer, and left the room in a stinking cloud of Epic Fail.)

I remember being in drama school in my early twenties, and having at least a decade more experience than everyone else in the room except our teacher. I remember paying close attention all the time, even when I wasn't working on a scene in front of the class, or getting notes directly from her. I remember her telling the other kids in the school, many of whom were convinced that they were going to be The Next Big Thing (all of them except Salma Hyek were wrong) that they didn't learn anything about performing while they were actually doing it. They learned while watching other actors perform, and understanding why their choices worked or didn't work. 

I haven't done a show like this in years, and I want to make sure that I am completely back in shape, I guess you could say, by the time we perform the episode next week. To make sure I get there, I spent the entire day, even when I wasn't in the scene, watching and listening, and remembering skills that I once used every day, but haven't even thought about in a very long time. By the time we got to my last scene of the day (God, I wish I could describe it, because it's hilarious) I felt confident, I felt funny, and I felt weird but also good.

Wait. Not the last part. I'm saving that for the weekend, when I finally get to celebrate being on The Big Bang Theory.

When I wasn't watching them rehearse, I spent the rest of the day talking with one of the other actors (I'm not saying who, so don't ask) who is as big a gamer as I am, totally geeking out about Space Hulk, Dominion, and how much we love Eurogames.

My favorite non-rehearsal moment went like this:

Me: Do you play any cooperative games?

Him: They're not my favorite, but yeah.

[Pause]

Both, in unison: Have you played Pandemic?

Both, in unison: Yes! 

[Laugh.]

[Pause.]

Him: I guess it's appropriate that we're playing geeks.

Me: It certainly is.

Now I'm home, where I get to learn lines and hope that the bulldozer next door doesn't wake me up from this wonderful dream where I get to work on my favorite show.

6:26pm: I've just remembered something that isn't enough for its own post, but certainly warrants an update to this one.

This morning, after the table read, one of the other actors (I'm not saying who, so don't ask) said to me, "You are a very funny man, mister Wil Wheaton." I thanked this other actor, but pointed out, "I just did my best not to mess up the funny that was already in the script." The other actor nodded and said, "Me too. Me too."

This other actor is a tremendous comedic talent, and I can't see anyone else in the world playing the role this actor plays, because he/she/it brings a great deal of personality and acting talent to the role, and it wouldn't be the same if another actor played it. But I think it's awesome that this other actor feels, like I do, that everything we do starts with the words the writers give us, and sometimes the hardest (and most important) thing we can do is not screw them up.

75 thoughts on “leveling up while geeking out on the set of the big bang theory”

  1. Last spring at Emerald City Comicon I happened upon a boot that was doing horror makup and HDR photographing the crowd holding various prop weapons. They were behind a Comic called Night Zero which is about a Zombie Apocolyps in Seattle. http://nightzero.com
    I was chatting with them when along come an actor that I worked with on a couple of short films as well as some of those show’s production staff. The actor is also in the Night Zero Cast. We all start chatting and I notice on their booth were some of the Left 4 Dead live action shots that swept the intertubes late last winter. Talking to the director and DP I totally started geeking out how much I loved those shots. I got an autographed copy of the print version of their comic and we all promised to work together some day.
    Next weekend they have a big crowd exterior they want to do and I get to light it. I find this very exciting.
    My point? Your description of standing in the breakfast line and trying not to geek out too much mad me think of the location scout we did on Sunday. Trying to maintain my professional aplomb but still really excited to be part of something really cool.

  2. I love “Big Bang Theory” and I’m sure I’ll love you in it. But could you do me a solid and ask them to tone down the laugh track in their show? Thanks.
    Oh and I never realized you lived in Pasadena. I was there for the Rose Bowl a few years back and went on a house tour with a Rose Parade Princess from the 1950’s. Gorgeous city.

  3. This sounds like a great experience. I’m very happy for you.
    Your PAX talk was the best PAX talk yet. I feel like the confidence you had during that talk let your funny come out in a really… funny… way.
    You are going to knock this one out of the park.

  4. Dude! I am so stoked that you’re going to be on the Big Bang Theory. It is definitely one of the funniest shows on television (yes, I’m looking at you 30 Rock), and it will be a great showcase for your witty humor (humorous wit?). I’m dying to see all the actors you couldn’t name. Good luck! And, hey, great job on the Humane Society donations!

  5. The problem is that transit is exactly the same, yet the population has exploded.
    And DOT’s solution? A light rail from the airport to Seattle, that’s the easy part of the commute.

  6. I’m only an actor on rare occasions, but it is good to know that my na├»ve intent to “not mess up what the writer wrote” is a good basis. Break a leg, dude!

  7. Holy Schnikies! I am *SO* jealous. I’ve been a fan of “Big Bag Theory” since it started. I have friends who I can point to and say “that’s Leonard” or “that’s Wallawitz” or “that’s Sheld..” , nyah… no one is Sheldon (except Shelli).
    And one of them plays “Pandemic”, that’s so kewl too. Have you tried “Revolution!” yet? It’s been getting rave reviews too.
    I cannot wait to see the new episode!
    Jim

  8. I just got my copy of the Special Edition Space Hulk! I’m so used to being the only person in any room who’s excited about that sort of thing (or even knows of its existence)that it was great to see it mentioned in your post :) Gratz on reaching your fundraising goals and on having the opportunity to be a part of a show that you’re a fan of…and you thought that you’d left acting behind for this writer lark. It seems you’re going on more auditions that are leading to more acting work and that the attitude seems to be “ooh that Wil Wheaton guy is a dude, we need him for our show”, I can’t tell how happy I am that you’re getting the recognition you deserve! Wil Wheaton FTW!

  9. Visiting Medieval Times after the BBT set works nicely with the Jim Parsons theme. In the movie “Garden State”, Parsons played a geeky, Klingon-speaking Medieval Times employee — “a fast food knight” as Peter Sarsgaard’s character calls him.

  10. I’m so excited to see this episode! It’s about time you were on BBT! *squees*
    Thanks for this little insight into the set, and if you’re allowed to (later – please no spoilers!) it would rock out to see a production diary like you did for Criminal Minds. Just sayin.
    PS-I do my best to spread the word, sir! (Oh, wait…giving things away for free doesn’t work…I forgot.)
    http://tinyurl.com/mt7c8h

  11. looks like another show I don’t normally watch will be appearing on the TiVo in the near-ish future :)
    what you said in your update reminds me of something Stephen Colbert has said: he often feels like he has to apologize to the writers afterwards for mucking up their jokes! I can see how you’d feel responsible for doing justice to the writers’ work, and it must be even more pressure when you have only the one shot at it.

  12. I normally don’t reply to your posts because I feel that even if you do read them, why would you reply, but I have to say that I am so excited for you being on BBT and think it is a perfect fit for you and your wonderful personality. I wish great luck to you continuing this role and have high hopes that it will be a recurring role for you. :) Thanks for all the wonderful updates and “insider” info for how things work. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and other musings.
    Keep up the geek, er, I mean great work!

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