TV work offers quicker pace, new challenges
|Many actors have taken home both Oscars and Emmys. Here are several from the past 30 years.
Louis Gossett Jr.
George C. Scott
In television production, there isn’t much downtime. There are numerous camera setups and reams of script pages. The pressure of the schedule is always looming.
That’s just the way Glenn Close prefers it.
“I really like the pace of TV,” says Close, a five-time Academy Award and three-time Emmy nominee who is just coming off a season on FX’s “The Shield.”
“I love that it was filmed using handheld. You don’t sit around a lot. I get supremely bored sitting around on a movie set. Working like this in TV is a great acting exercise. You do it and a lot of it is instinctual. It’s visceral. A lot of times I don’t know where the camera is. You’re very rarely told to hit this mark. It’s great.”
At one time, doing TV often meant being labeled a television actor. It carried a stigma and it could be difficult for a thesp to break into or go back to features. But today actors are moving among features, television and the stage more than ever.
“When I did the ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’ series for Hallmark,” Close recalls, “that was before cable really blossomed, and Hallmark was the one venue for classy TV. Now look. The landscape is full. Cable has changed the whole thing. People like Mike Nichols have deals with HBO now and it should be that way. There should be no snobbery about television. Like movies, there’s good TV and bad TV.”
Jennifer Esposito agrees. A former “Club MTV” dancer, she worked on the small screen in back-to-back series from 1995-99 with “The City” and “Spin City.” Then she embarked on a string of feature roles, the latest being a turn in Paul Haggis’ drama “Crash.” But this year she played a recurring role on “Judging Amy,” and will appear in the fall on new WB drama “Related.”
“I really believe the business has changed,” she says. “Back then, you couldn’t do film if you became known as a TV actor. Now in features, it’s about money, the name game and box office weekends. All that has taken over. They don’t make as many quality films as they used to. ‘Crash’ almost didn’t get made and it was one of the best scripts in years.
“I was doing films I really wasn’t happy with. Then I decided I wasn’t going to worry about where I was working. I was going after quality work. Some of the TV writing is wonderful. Some of it is much better than film.”
After playing Merry in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Dominic Monaghan saw himself as a feature actor, although he had experience in series television overseas. Then “Lost” came along. Now he’s known to fans of the hit ABC drama as Charlie Pace, a self-destructive young rock star. For Monaghan, “Lost” presented many of the visual advantages he loves about features.
“One of the interesting things is that ‘Lost’ is filmed in a cinematic form,” he says. “It’s not scaled down like TV usually is. It feels very filmic. There are huge sets. I did choose to do TV in this instance, but this TV is closer to my experience in film.”
Lifestyle issues also come into play. Close, who lives on the East Coast and has a daughter about to enter high school, says her approach to the business is different than when she started out.
“It was a shock at first to see the amount of work everybody does in one day,” she says of her time on “The Shield.” “But it’s only a five-day week. I had full weeks, but not all five days. They were amazing at scheduling and listening to my needs and accommodating me.
“My ideal situation at this point, after 31 years in this profession, is to fit my work around my life, rather than vice versa.”
While Allison Janney appreciates her time on “The West Wing,” she says the grind can wreak havoc with one’s personal life. “It suffers enormously. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t done it knows what I’m talking about. It’s the most time-consuming thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of family outings, weddings, funerals, making plans with friends. I’m constantly disappointing friends and loved ones because of schedule changes on ‘West Wing.’ Something comes up and they own your time.”
But Jon Cryer, one of the stars of the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” and father of a young son, feels his schedule on a half-hour show is more conducive to achieving normalcy than a one-hour drama might be.
Long days on the comedy side are usually only when there’s filming before a studio audience and the day before.
“Half-hour sitcoms are done in an old-school way,” Cryer says. “The actors have a pretty cushy schedule. The hours are predictable but not terribly long.”