First of all, I just want to say thank you to everyone who watch my national television debut last night on Criminal Minds! I was probably only on screen for about a minute, but if you know anything about acting and then entertainment industry, then you know it takes years of perseverance to get there. So while it may not seem like a huge deal, it really meant a lot to have the support and encouragement of my family, friends, and even strangers last night. You guys are great.
Success (even just a small glimmer of it) means nothing if you don’t have anyone to share it with. So for that, I thank you.
Now that I can say whatever I want about the episode, here is part two about my experience!
Now, I’ve cried on sets before… but I’ve never had to cry like this. I’m not even sure I’ve cried this hysterically in real life. I’ve been though some hard times. But I’ve never known I was about to die. I’ve never had to plead for my life. Graciously.
I knew we would have to shoot the scene a number of times. I didn’t know that number would be twelve. And I didn’t know I basically would have to cry for an hour straight. Lying down. Wrists zip-tied.
We did a rehearsal, and I just decided to go for it. First of all, it was about eighty people’s first impression of me and my acting, and second of all, I wanted to make sure the way I was going to do it was okay before the camera was actually rolling. Afterwards Rob Hardy, the director, came over and told me that was great, but that I could save the emotion for when we actually roll camera. He didn’t want me to lose steam the more takes we did, and we were going to be doing my close-up last.
I had a short break to stand up and walk around while they were lighting the set. (I had a stand-in – seriously, how cool is that?!) And Virgil Williams, the writer and producer of the episode, came over and told me virtually the same thing. He said, “Don’t be afraid to hold back when the camera’s not on you. We know you can do it. You blew us away at the audition.” Wow. I didn’t even know what to say. What a huge compliment. As an actor, you go to so many auditions, the vast majority on which you never get any sort of feedback, so that was very encouraging to hear.
So I attempted to take their advice in the second rehearsal, but I find it somewhat hard to “half” sob and I definitely didn’t want to “fake” sob. But turns out the way they shot the scene, I didn’t really have much of an opportunity to hold back. When they rolled camera, my face was in 8 of the 10 takes we did. I only wasn’t in the two close-ups they did on Scott Grimes (who played the UnSub.) The wide shots both started and ended with the camera on my face, with me going from “sobbing” to “hysterical” as the scene progressed.
The last shot we did was my close up. After the first take, Rob came over to me and told me to angle my face more toward Scott so they could see more of my face than just my profile. We did a second close-up shot, and this time Rob kept the camera rolling for what seems like five minutes (it was probably only one) while I just sobbed hysterically. When he finally called “cut” he said, “We got it! And that’s a wrap on Meredith!”
And that’s when the entire crew proceeded to clap… It was such a surreal moment. One of the rare moments in life you know you’ll always remember. Even as it’s happening, you just try to soak in every detail so you’ll never forget it. I’ve never gotten engaged, never walked down an aisle, never had a baby – all of those milestone markers so many have experienced.
But I had this moment – this moment after spending every single day of the last four and a half years pursuing an acting career, doing every single thing I could – acting classes, headshots, casting director workshops, unpaid projects, hundreds of auditions, struggling to get good representation – never knowing if it would pay off, knowing I am one of millions trying to do this and the odds of me getting a job – any job – are slim… but still choosing every day to continue in this path because I believe in my core, and I feel in my soul that this?
This is what I was meant to do. This is where I am supposed to be.
When a crew member came over to pull the duct tape off my face for the twelfth and final time, I announced, “Well, that was my first TV job ever!” And the Rob proceeded to say, “Well, it certainly won’t be your last.” And then I just about died.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending to a perfect day on the set of Criminal Minds – a show I will always be so grateful for – for giving me my first television job and my first legitimate paycheck! (Although let’s be honest, I would have done it for free.)
I left set with a pounding headache and a duct tape rash on my face… And it truly was one of the greatest days of my life. Man, actors are weird.
In fact, I didn’t want to leave. As an actor you never know when your next job will be, never know when you’ll get another chance to act, never know if this will “all work out.” It’s a daily battle, an emotional rollercoaster (or “emolicoaster” – that one’s for you, Linds), a dark road through the unknown. But if you have a little hope, a little light to guide you through that next step into the darkness, well, that’s all you need.
And then hopefully one day you’ll look back at that seemingly treacherous mountain you climbed and you’ll think, “That wasn’t so scary.” And you’ll continue to trudge forth and before you know it you’ll turn around and that first mountain you climbed will be a mere molehill in comparison to the most recent journey you’ve had. And the “mountains” you climb will grow larger with each mini journey you take.
With a little faith, a lot of God’s grace, and a heck of a lot of perseverance, you just might even be so lucky as to find yourself achieving even your wildest of dreams. But until then… you just take the next step. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s all I know to do.