One Small Step

China Beach stillGreetings, lovely people. (***Scroll down to forgo memory lane + just watch if you prefer.)

So, I found this restored footage of a scene from China Beach, the astonishing war drama series that I had the honor of working on many moons ago.

It was my first time in a speaking role on a professional TV set. I played a Red Cross worker with Brian Wimmer’s Corporal Boonie Lanier after his life-altering accident. The episode was in the final season – 408 – and titled “One Small Step.”

It was an unforgettable experience for so many reasons. For one, I had just gotten my drivers license (no small feat for this New Yorker) and didn’t have a car yet, so on my work day I took 2 buses and hitched the rest of the way (!!) to arrive on time at the abandoned airport/North Hollywood set. The kindness of strangers, indeed. This was before the internet, smartphones, apps and the all kinds of speedy access we have today.

I can still vividly remember the audition. My friend Pat ever so kindly (there’s that word again) drove me to Warner Brothers. I was the only actress who did not have an agent at the time – I noticed that while signing in. Bless the visionary casting and production team who were always ready to try new talent. I recall somehow getting myself to the studio a few days before, to excitedly pick up the audition sides. Again, this was before the digital age…people picked up material in person. You had to get your body there (or maybe if you were very fancy, you had the script delivered).

I remember the burnt orange relaxed-fit blouse that I wore, tied at the waist and purchased at JC Amber, the then iconic “clothing store to the stars” where I worked–we did Arsenio’s colorful suits!! (Ah…fashion choice memories do linger)….and I recall waiting alone in the hallway, resting on the floor, a leg outstretched, feeling the ground beneath me before being called in. I remember the little joke I made inside the room and the simple performance of that simple moment. It was not a filmed audition. It was all just live in the room, in the moment, just what it was.

And of course I remember that Hollywood single apartment on Sycamore where I lived, and that next morning when CD John Levey rang, telling me the role was mine. At the time, I had this mischievous ragtime-esque outgoing music on my analog message machine, but in fact, I was home to breathlessly take the call, and I could feel that pleasure that a casting director must feel upon delivering this kind of happy news to a new actor. It was sheer heaven.

So much has changed about auditioning since then – not to mention all of the other crazy fast changes that keep pulling us forward, whether we like it or not. But in some ways, the heart of the ritual remains the same: People coming together, through whatever channels, to tell a story. To make something beautiful. To try their best to create something that feels real, human and alive.

And that, my friends, makes it all worthwhile.

So thanks to technology, this is my simple moment to share with you.

XO

Dalit

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