Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just before I left for Las Vegas to complete my CSI episode I learned that the “The Two and Only” received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination. The category for Best Solo performance includes:

Daniel Beatty, "Emergence-See"
Ed Harris, "Wrecks"
Jay Johnson, "The Two and Only"
Nilaja Sun, "No Child"

It really is quite an honor and I am grateful that the critics have been so supportive of my show. So, Ed Harris. The LA Critics Circle Awards nominated our show in with Lynn Redgrave who won. I am reminded of what my mentor Mr. Meeker once told me, “Jay, when you play with the big boys you play for keeps.” To use the standard Academy Award language, it is an honor just to be nominated. I always thought that was justification from those who did not expect to win, but now know it really is the truth.

I completed my filming of the “Living Doll” episode of CSI. It was a great experience. I’m always frustrated as an actor when I discover a great new way to play the scene the minute they call it a wrap. It is the total antithesis of working the stage when tomorrow is another chance to find that moment again only better.

Having spent a lifetime playing myself as a ventriloquist, it was difficult to play the part of a ventriloquist that was so unlike myself. This guy has had a very tragic life. My brief and somewhat strange performance will be the last show of the regular season and is supposed to air May 17th.

We shot at the Riviera where the gambling didn’t stop just because a television show came to town. During one take a bartender mixed a blender drink about five feet from my ear. It was like trying to do Hamlet in a Saw Mill. I asked William Petterson (Grissom on the show) how he could concentrate with all that was going on around us. He said, “It is not just the casino noise, take a look over there.” I turned around and what looked like a thousand people crammed the casino with cameras straining to get a look at the filming. After seven years the stars have been able to find a way to focus on the work. They need an academy award for that feat.

Next stop New York City where I will dine with my producers and turn the original Bob over the Smithsonian Institute, oh yeah, and the Tony Nominations are announced.
As you were,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On Monday we filmed one of the flash back crime scenes from the episode of “Living Doll” for CSI. You know you are on a crime show when the director calls for some blood, and the prop man says, “What kind?”

His prop cart is a buffet of different types of blood. There is dried blood, transfer blood, pooling blood, thick blood, spurting blood and various other kinds of red and burgundy liquids from which the director can choose. For this particular shot the pooling blood is chosen but that does not end the discussion of blood. How fast will it pool and in what direction will it flow and when does the director want it to begin. All of those decisions are made and the shot is set up.

After all of this work to get just the right look it will be a matter of a few seconds on screen. In trademark CSI fashion it will happen in double time as a hiccup in the storyline. If anyone ever wondered why it is so expensive to produce film, a few minutes watching the hundreds of people involved in the staging of this murder victim would give you the answer.

Personally I am having a good time. The process of single camera film production is long, boring and repetitious. However, it is a process I find totally fascinating. The angles, the eye lines, the way an editor/director can direct the viewer from shot to shot to create a world which doesn’t exist, is a unique art form.

Who knows how much of my involvement will actually make it to the final show. Unlike a theatrical film where running time in not as important as communicating the story, television film is ultimately all about time. My character is important in giving the motivation to the antagonist so it is likely that some of it will have to stay.

I will have a better feel of how it is going when we do my major scene in Las Vegas next week. After learning so much about blood on my first day, I can’t imagine the education I will get on my next day.
As you were,

Friday, April 13, 2007

Yesterday on the news I heard that Roscoe Lee Browne passed away. Roscoe Lee played Saunders on SOAP, and had a dressing room right next door to mine for three years. I had many conversations with Roscoe. I fell like I know him about as well as any one. He was the very definition of "piss-elegant". That incredible voice and his elegant ways made him very unique. I remember asking him where he was from. He said, "Legend has it..." I laughed and I don't think he even finished the sentence.

We refered to Roscoe as "Queen of the Nile" even to his face, to which he would respond with a sly look from under his brow. Richard Pryor used to call him "humming bird". I never asked.

He could recite poetry from memory by the hour, and spontaneously write the dirtiest limericks that I have ever heard. He used to do poetry readings for ladies clubs. They loved him. He never had to prepare he just showed up and decided what he would recite on the spot.

It will be a long time before there is another like Roscoe Lee. Rest well my friend.
As you were,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I hate this computer on the ship. It is very slow and a PC. Being a Macintosh man this is very unsatisfying. This will be brief for those who still read this. I booked the CSI script. I play the ventriloquist father of a serial killer. Crazy ventriloquist in a dive of a club, but I am glad that the schedule worked out that I could do it. We start to shoot the minute I am back from this cruise. One day on the Universal Lot and a couple of days in Las Vegas.

It will be fun to do a single camera show again. I love film and this is a great chance to be on the set of a hit show.

Thanks to all the people that wrote to me to contact the casting agent and go for it. Usually I am gone when these things come up. I will let you know more about the air date, and how much of the part ends up in the episode.
As you were,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Last Friday we did some extra pick up shots on the Bryan Singer ventriloquist documentary. The tentative title is, ”I’m NO Dummy.” I told him that is not my favorite title. However, the title is just a hook, it is the meat of the film that tells the tale. I think Bryan is approaching the art with the greatest respect. He has a real interest in the art and it is nice to see a perspective from that point of view for a change.

I had to smile at some of the things he had to say after 6 months of making this documentary. At our first meeting he was still excited about every aspect of ventriloquism. Now after talking to a hundred people from vents to scholars on the subject he has jaded a little.

The one thing that surprised him has been the individuality of the process of ventriloquism. He went into the project thinking there would be certain aspects in common to all vents, particularly the ones making a living at it. What he has found is a bohemian approach to the art and everyone has come to it from a different path. We all seem to be blind people touching an elephant trying to describe it. I know that most of my career has been spent tying to figure out what it is, and why it works. I guess that was the inspiration for “The Two and Only.”

There is a lot of in fighting with the ventriloquist community. It is part of the reason I try to avoid ventriloquist conventions. It is very hard to keep your perspective when there is so much backstabbing. There is an old yarn that goes like this: “Get two magicians together and you have a convention. Get two ventriloquists together and you have a fight.”

Bryan and I get along very well and it was a pleasure to work with him. He understands my distance to the community of vents after being a part of it for a few months. Last Friday he said, “I didn’t realize that ventriloquist seem to be the kind of people that eat their young.”

I wish it were not so, but there is nothing I can do except to try and stay above the tempest as much as I can. I wish him well with the documentary. I am excited that there is someone that is trying to look at the art with an objective eye and not try to paint us all as crazy. Perhaps we are, but I don’t think that makes a very compelling film.

Here is to Bryan, with the hope that he finds what he is looking for in this film.
As you were,