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FROM THIS EPISODE

Billy Movies In

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Once, I had a show on the air that wasn't doing too well in the ratings. This happens.

But one day, the universal symbol of series success came over the transom in the form of a &quotspec;," or sample, script.

The title of the spec episode was &quotBilly; Moves In," which I found odd. There was, to my knowledge, no &quotBilly;" character on the series. I try to keep up on these things.

I flipped through the pages. Huge speeches for &quotBilly.;" Pages and pages of &quotBilly;" dialogue. &quotBilly;" this and &quotBilly;" that.

Billy, it turns out, is technically a character on our series. He had one line, in episode two. He was a customer in a bookstore. The spec entitled, with alarming stupidity, &quotBilly; Moves In," was penned by the actor who played the part. He has taken the bull by the horns. He has written himself a role as a series regular. He thinks, like most actors, that most writers are mildly mentally retarded and will not notice that the &quotBilly;" actor and the &quotBilly; Moves In" author are one and the same. Worse, he thinks I will finish his script. I don't.

The actor who essayed the role of &quotBilly;," (one tiny line: &quotDid; you like this book, man?") was okay, but he couldn't quite master the requirements of the role of &quotBilly;," which were, simply, to say his line in as neutral a tone as possible, and then to move quickly away. The first day of rehearsal he did it perfectly and we laughed, because, after all, we wrote it. The second day of rehearsal, emboldened by his triumph, &quotBilly;" put a little more spin on the ball and blew it. The third day, he really loaded up the attitude (&quotHey;, did you enjoy this book, man?!") and it was time to have a little talk with him. &quotHey;, man," I said to him after the run-through, in my best actor-dude dialect, &quotthrow; it away, okay?"

He looked at me blankly.

&quotThrow; it away," I said. &quotJust; say it. Just say the line straight."

&quotReally;?" he asked.

&quotReally;," I answered.

&quotBut; Iim trying to activate my choice."

I looked at him blankly.

He clarified: &quotI;'m trying to give Billy a little texture."

&quotWell;, don't," I said. &quotJust; throw it away."

When we shot the episode two days later, he was a lot better. But still never as good as he was that first day, before he started acting. Later, I am on the phone with my agent, and I mention the spec script and the day player. ME
(winding up)
And that just proves what I've always said.
Actors are crazy. Completely out of touch
with reality. Easy to flatter, easy to manipulate,
impossible to treat as equals.

MY AGENT (V.O.)
(laughing)
I just had this exact conversation! I was
just talking to the guy who runs your
studio and he said the exact same thing to
me, in the exact same words! Isn't that weird?

ME
That is odd. Which actor was he talking about?

MY AGENT (V.O.)
Oh, he wasn't talking about actors. He
was talking about writers. And that's it for this week. Next week, we'll keep casting. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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