Cole Porter. Aliens. Me.
What is the common denominator here? [Answer] My experience filming Independence Day: Resurgence (IDR), the sequel to the beloved Independence Day from 1996.
Booking the role of Flight Officer #3 on this sequel has hands down been the most exciting experience I have ever had on set. Never before had I been this close to world-class special effects, pyro technics, and exploding walls. I had the opportunity to work alongside actors I deeply respect –Jeff Goldblum and William Fichtner – and alongside local actors I, also, respect – Monique Candelaria, Stafford Douglas, Nate Warren, and Robert Washington. My fellow flight officers and I worked on set for a week and cherished all of it, creating a bond that felt as unique as believing we were truly fighting aliens. Albeit, this tale is more memorable because of working with Mr. Goldblum. He is as eccentric and playful as you may have read about him. Between takes he would play instrumental music from his phone right next to his ear, waltz with background actors, and read to me theories about child development from a psychology book he has stashed just within in reach. He was mesmerizing, silly, and damn impossible to figure out his next move. I learned this first hand, that’s a pun you’ll get a minute…keep reading. During the close-up camera coverage of my character’s lines, which involved reporting intense losses for our troops, I felt a calm hand placed on mine in the middle of my delivery. This hand was out of sight of the camera frame. This was Mr. Goldblum’s hand. Kind of stricken by this never before rehearsed moment from the other camera angles, I sorted myself milliseconds. I allowed it to become a way for my character to get grounded with the high stakes. Was Mr. Goldblum:
a) providing comfort to my character,
b) testing my actor spontaneity, or
c) f*cking with me?
It’s all of the above. Either way, it was an excellent practice in staying invested in the circumstance and using what the moment provided.
But that wasn’t the only surprise I had on set.
Actors typically sit in cast chairs to wait to go on set (see below). Cast chairs can be a quiet corner, the place to nervously go over lines, awkwardly wonder if any of the other actors will talk to you, and eventually an oblivion of waiting. However, the void of sitting in the cast chairs had a whole new meaning once Jeff Goldblum joined us. When we finished filming scenes with him (including his hand placed on mine moment) we were instructed to wait in the cast chairs. Mr. Goldblum didn’t go back to base camp and wait in his trailer, he waited with us flight officers in the cast chairs. Then the next moment, he asks if any of us can sing (!) Most all of us nod yes (totally true), and then he asks if we know Cole Porter (less nods, but still YES). With Goldblum himself leading, we started singing Night and Day, which then transmuted into songs from Man of La Mancha, then other show tune melodies ( which were all for the better with Nate Warren’s harmonizing and keeping the key). We were making a musical review with Goldblum, in the cast chairs on set of IDR. Upon our jovial and impromptu performances, a production assistant comes kindly, but swiftly over to Mr. Goldblum’s chair. He whispers something, Mr. Goldblum nods, turns to us and says "show’s over." It was exhilarating and so equalizing to search for the same singing notes as my friends and Mr. Goldblum.
Recently, my IMDb credit for the film was just reduced to (uncredited), which means my lines were cut. Definitely not heartbroken, as this is the part of the plight of the actor cast in a project vs. making a project. I am still looking forward to catching the scenes I was in, knowing what happened between the takes created an unforgettable and maturing chapter in my film career. The rumors have been flying around that the film may come back to shoot in NM for it’s third installment.
For now, I will brush up on my mezzo-soprano range for the next cast chair musical review and beyond.
Independence Day: Resurgence opens worldwide 6/24/16. Go see it and support an immense project that hired many local actors and crew in New Mexico.
The infamous cast chairs!
Bringing a little more Xanadu into the world.