On day one of episode three, Jessie finally got to work with Josh. She was already half dressed in her wardrobe, and was in ‘hairy make-up’ – the hair and make-up trailer – when word came over young Pier’s walkie that Josh had arrived at base camp. Actors were always reported in by the base camp AD – the third AD, or TAD – upon arrival, and then closely watched all day. Jessie always found it a little uncomfortable when she was wandering around and could hear ADs whispering, “She’s at the craft table”, or “She’s gone for a walk!” She got a kick out of their spying techniques, and she figured they enjoyed it too – they’d be behind her a few feet, whispering into their walkies as if she couldn’t hear, but she generally could, and did. She joked about it on the way home sometimes - “Jessie’s at craft, she’s eating gummy bears – a green one, no – red – oops, my mistake, yellow! Oh God, she’s bitten the head off!” She wondered if they timed her in the bathroom, and figured likely they did – even though she had a private toilet, she figured since they monitored her every move, they likely had some kind of sensor on her toilet door. Seriously, though, she understood the need for ADs to track their cast, since time was money, and the system from arrival to wardrobe to hair to make-up to blocking, rehearsal and shooting all had to be incredibly smooth and efficient. Generally all TV and film crews were very good at their jobs - they had to be, really - because the days were always very long. Shooting involved turnarounds and reversals, which necessitated lighting and camera changes, and changes in props and set dec too, and so, in order to be effective, crews had to be professional and competent. They had to tail their actors and whisper like spies, as strange and uncomfortable as it seemed. But then – Jessie was at the top of her game as an actor, and this was part of the deal – a lack of privacy. She accepted it. Heck, being tailed all the time was another safeguard against getting involved with Josh, wasn’t it? She chided herself for thinking about him so much. Geez, I must really be lonely, she thought rather sadly.
So here it was. Her first day with Josh. They only had a few scenes together, but it would be interesting to see how they did as Billy and Kate, as actors. The first scene was to be set in the stable, and was to be Billy’s first reaction to seeing Kate after many years – after fighting a war, in fact. He wasn’t prepared for her arrival – Kate had the upper hand, because Bokeem had talked about Billy, and she was certain it was her Billy. She just had to eyeball him to be sure. So the scene was kind of tough, but there would be no physical contact. At least that was something to help with the nerves. She knew she would have to kiss him soon enough, but for now it was everything just to be working with this man, to have his eyes fixed on hers, to sit with him in the cast chairs while the lighting and camera angles were tweaked.
As Jessie was finishing up in hairy make-up, a tired Josh was being ushered in, eyes downcast and mind on his scene prep. On this show, the ADs always tried to start cast through ‘the process’, as it was known, before blocking, if they could manage it. Every extra second counted when you considered the number of crew that were being paid, and the number of pages a producer wanted the director to try to get shot in a day. On this day, Jessie leaned her elbows on the arms of her chair, pulled herself up, and headed towards the door, where she met Josh head on. It was an awkward moment, but they recovered quickly and said brief hellos. She was waiting in the van – set transport - for him to finish before they would be shuttled to set. He didn’t take long; he just needed a little wax in his chestnut brown, shoulder length hair to give it a greasy, unwashed feel, and some base and then powder on his face to help reduce shine under the lights. They wouldn’t be shooting for likely two hours by the time blocking was done, then the camera set up and lighting complete. But they would need that time for rehearsal, and would have their basic make-up tweaked later. Stephen bounded into the van as well. He had been through the process already and had been reviewing his sides – the day’s script excerpts – in his trailer. He was a morning person and so was keen and ready to go, which left the two more nervous actors time to ruminate as he chatted animatedly. They got to set, blocked the scene effortlessly, and were released.
Josh turned to Jessie. As his nervous, soulful chocolate eyes met hers, a hopeful sea-pearl ice blue, each felt a shiver of energy shoot up their spines.
“Where would you like to hang out to go over these lines?” he asked, his voice a little brusque. Then he added, “Have you had breakfast?”
She nodded, and responded, “Yep, I had some yogurt and granola. I could use a coffee, though.”
He nodded and then led the way to the quaint white schoolhouse, where they wouldn’t be shooting that day and where there were chairs available; and then he turned to see if Steve was coming along with them. He wasn’t – he was happily engaged in a discussion with the director. Josh gestured to the first AD, who was eyeballing them to see where they were headed.
“Can we get a couple of coffees?” he asked, walking partly backwards and trying not to look at Jessie, who looked so damn cute in her petticoat and camisole, with a light jacket thrown over top for warmth – wardrobe was bringing her up later to finish dressing, when they were a little closer to rehearsal. He was forced to make eye contact yet again as he asked her what she took in her coffee.
He memorized her response, “Just a little milk.” He was hoping he would be the bearer of many of her future cups of java, a role he would gladly take over from Stephen. He turned forward again, and led the way up the steps into the schoolhouse. He loved the sharp staccato of her boots on the wooden steps behind him as he nervously pulled open the door and held it for her. Jessie’s presence anywhere close to him was a blessing he cherished, a tribute to her willingness to share something of herself, and now he was about to spend time alone with her in a freshly built classic schoolhouse. It was as if time itself was sending him a message – treasure now the company of this girl, for your presence on this earthly plane is but the briefest of moments; you must value at its instant a turn of her head in your direction, or her soulful eyes when they gift you a glimpse, or a brush of her fingers when you hand her a steaming coffee in a cheap brown paper cup.
As she went inside, Jessie’s finger was twirling her newly styled nineteenth century up-do, causing Cynthia, the on-set hair gal, to curse under her breath.
The first AD put his hand around his headband microphone to keep his voice from travelling too far, and he spoke quietly. “Kate and Billy are in the schoolhouse. Get craft to bring down some fresh coffee, the stuff on set is crap – it’s been sitting too long.” The Vancouver coffee culture was huge – craft’s biggest challenge was in keeping its cast and crew in good caffeine.
Inside the schoolhouse with its small reproduction wooden seats, engraving of a young, thin Queen Victoria, and homegrown eau-de-sawdust fragrance, Josh and Jessie found themselves alone for the first time since they’d graced the nauseating garbage bins outside Charlie’s Club. They stood at the door for a minute, looking at the chairs spread out before them. Then Jessie turned to Josh.
“Where shall we begin?” she asked quietly.
Then, after a frozen moment, she stepped forward and took a seat.
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