Episode 112 Shoot
November 23, 1999

And then there were none. We finished taping episodes of Oh Grow Up tonight, and when I say 'finished,' I mean... well, I don't really know what I mean. We are shutting down production for the month of December until ABC makes a decision to cancel or pick up the show for the rest of the season. We won't know if production will resume until December 15, after two episodes have aired on Tuesday nights. Every one at the network desperately wants the decision to be an obvious one -- that way no one can be blamed for making it. As long as our ratings remain moderate, no one knows what to do. They need the show to be an instant smash or an embarrassing flop. We are neither. That means someone at ABC has to stick his or her neck out to make the call. So as long as they can extend the deadline, it appears they will continue to do so.

Meanwhile, the show. Slowly, this behemoth was tamed tonight. So many scenes. So many people. So many stories. And, on top of all that, the storm of the century. Having the storm scenes pre-shot was the thing that saved us tonight. And they looked pretty good on playback. I really think this is one of the coolest looking shows we've done all season. The snow is fun to have (except when it's blowing into your nasal cavities).

My experience on the show this week was greatly enhanced by my meeting with Alan. I felt comfortable in all my scenes, which was nice. And I came to a couple of realizations this week with too very different challenges.

The dramatic arcs of the show have unfolded unevenly, as far as I'm concerned. As Alan Ball likes to describe it, some scenes are 'less artful' than others. When Ford & Norris fought in the attic over who was President of the House, I felt the scene evolved during the week from less artful to more artful, and the end result was very fun to play and interesting to perform.

But not every 'unartful' scene makes the transition. Sometimes they slip in under the writers' radar during the week and before you know it, you're performing a scene you really don't enjoy. That has been the case for Ford & me during the past few weeks. Even in this episode, I felt less than totally satisfied. What seems to be the best way to get through it (after talking to Alan) is to play the subtext of the scene the way I envision it. When Hunter came into the dining room at the end of the show, I wanted some sort of moment for the two of them regarding their future with Suzanne and each other. Four lines wasn't really doing it justice, but I think by infusing the scene with a larger Ford agenda, albeit hidden, I feel better about the scene and the work and the show in general. I think I successfully pulled that off tonight, 'successful' in the sense that it made me comfortable and proud. Whether the audience will get it or not, I don't know.

The other type of challenge this week was the scene between Ford and Suzanne in bed the morning after having sex. The words were all there, but there was almost too much being said. And given the time constraints of the show, a lot of information and emotion has to go into a two-page scene. In this sense, it was almost over-written. It wasn't until the second pass of the scene tonight that I think I finally got it. The leap was mine to make but I just didn't make it all week, and I couldn't feel what was wrong with my performance. Again the solution had to do with playing a different subtext under the dialogue. Some people may think that's the most obvious statement ever written about acting, but it's important to be reminded of it every once in a while, especially when the average sitcom scene suggests an absence of subtext.

Suzanne and I were saying so much important stuff in this scene that there was no way it could all matter. It was too much baggage clunked down smack dab in the middle of a sitcom. Andrew, the director, tried to point us in the right direction during the week, but there was something more magical and immediate when we were doing it tonight that finally helped in all settle into place.

And that is the glory and the sadness that is Oh Grow Up. It's such a rich sitcom that strives to live outside the constraints of its traditional form. Alan dreams of such wonderful things for his characters and it's a shame that it's so hard to bring that glory to the world. This last episode was full of so much, so many clever things, and yet if the show does badly enough, this episode may never even air. It makes the work wonderfully inspiring and tragically gut-wrenching at the same time. I feel the loss for myself that I will never get to play Ford again, but the sting is so much greater for Alan, who infused these characters with life and then made the mistake of falling in love with every single one of them. What Alan has brought together, only ABC can tear asunder.

Go on to Promo Shoot.

Episode 112 | Behind the Scenes | Oh Grow Up