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Monday, January 19, 2009

Lisa's working on our comedy spec pilot. We've got a bit player annoying one of the core cast, and she said, "I'm pretending it's a bit part for Sid Caesar. (You older folks will recognize him as a famous comedian from 1950s TV. Lisa is now leveraging her misspent youth when she played hookey every afternoon and watched old TV shows all day long.)

When you're writing bit parts, don't write them for day player actors. Write them for TV or movie stars with outsized personalities. If you have a one minute bit of repartee with the elevator man, write the elevator man for Jack Nicholson. Or Steve Buscemi. Or Lily Tomlin. That will remind you to write something they can really sink their teeth into.

Be careful, though, that you're writing distinctive dialog. Jack Nicholson can make a meal out of nothing dialog. Your job is to write the action and dialog so we see and hear Jack Nicholson in them. Without, of course, mentioning Jack himself.

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YES!!! NO!!! I'm torn about someone who primarily makes their living as an actor, I long for the days when, on a show like "Family Ties" or "Happy Days" a nobody bit player could come in and steal the scene and exeunt, WITH APPLAUSE. Nowadays it is Nicholson or Al Gore that comes it, hams it up then leaves. If the role is written for a star and a nobody like me who is still looking for their big break gets to DO it...absolutely! If it's 'Oprah playing a bathroom attendant' and the joke is, it's Oprah...and she's SLUMMING...meh.

By Blogger sean, at 2:39 PM  

a nice little nugget of insight. It's nice as well that it's framed in the context of what you're working on. Although my best mate is an actor and I think he would have the same reaction as Sean! ;)

By Blogger BrettSnelgrove, at 4:15 PM  

First of all, Sean, congrats on making a living as an actor.

Second of all, this is a blog about writing, not casting. I am not advocating HIRING Jack Nicholson. I'm advocating writing a character so tasty that Jack would want to play it. Since the show can't afford Jack, that leaves you with a tasty role to play.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 4:28 PM  

Excellent point, Alex. And the other angle is that anybody who just misses a lead part might still be enthusiastic enough for a supporting role. You want actors gagging for any part.

By Blogger blogward, at 3:01 PM  

Not to worry, Sean. Sid Caesar isn't a current member of SAG. :-)

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 12:52 PM  

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