January 29, 2018
From Child Actor to Hollywood Board Member
by Peggy Lane O'Rourke
I was a ten-year-old actor when I earned my SAG card doing commercials in Chicago. SAG was my parent union. I joined AFTRA and Actors Equity soon after. If you had told me then I would be a Hollywood Board member alongside union activists like Ed Asner, Martin Sheen and Frances Fisher, I never would have believed you. Yet, here I am, all these years later, serving on five union committees, and even writing a blog.
I was recently asked to chair the Stand-In / Rehearsal Actor Committee. As an actor who has also worked as a stand-in across a variety of film and television camera-directed formats, I'd like people to know what the process of standing in really entails. I’ve worked primarily on multi-camera situation comedies (sitcoms), including Seinfeld, Will & Grace and The King of Queens as well as single camera shows like The Middle. My heart is in multi-cam. It’s the closest to theatre you can get. Stand In work on multi-camera (shows shot in front of a studio audience) is akin to being an understudy, yet you never really get to go on.
On multi-camera shows, stand-ins often rehearse the parts that aren’t yet cast and run through entire scenes, dialogue and all, for the director’s camera blocking. Blocking with dialogue is quite commonplace across all camera formats, as well as reading off-camera lines for on-camera actors because a scene partner may have been wrapped or, in fact, wasn’t booked for that day’s work. Many stand-ins are cast in roles on their shows because they are good actors and have an opportunity to be seen by Producers and Network during rehearsals and run thrus.
The phrase “Rehearsal Actors” is a term fought for by stand-ins who work on the award and game show live-format genres - and where it involves a LOT more than lighting and blocking. They are asked to run through the rehearsals, by the director, from start to finish, but in addition to that they are often recorded for camera and wired for sound. They are required to both read from a teleprompter and improvise speeches. “Rehearsal actors” cover the host, the nominees and the presenters. Some are even required to perform in musical numbers. The work is arduous, rewarding – and the reclassification here of the “stand-in” well worth the distinction.
I am also a member of the Fi-Core Committee, the Disciplinary Review Committee - as well as the National and Local Background Committees.
It is an honor to serve a union - and a membership - that has always been there for me. It’s my turn to give back.
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