A week ago I had the pleasure of doing a guest star role on the fabulous television show House.
It was great. The producers, director and the regular actors did their best to make me and the other guest actors feel welcome, from the table-read through the shoot. Just a wonderful experience.
House has a table-read (a read-through of the entire script with the full cast) before each weeks episodes filming begins. This is usual in half-hour comedy but not so much in one-hour. The pace of one-hour television shoots is usually too intense. In fact the actors on House give up their lunch hour to do the table-read. It is nice to have the opportunity for a read-through because you get a feeling of the flow of the show. And speaking for myself, it really helps create a feeling of ensemble. I feel like I am a part of the process of the whole show rather than just a gun-for-hire coming in for a day or two to shoot my scenes, often never even meeting the other actors on that weeks episode.
One of my students asked me how the regular actors performed at the table read---he asked if they were at “performance level”. He assumed that the guest actors would be because they could easily be replaced, but wondered about the regulars. The regular actors on House gave as much at this reading as the guests. In my experience most actors do. I think they realize how important is for everyone to get a real sense of the script. Especially the writers. There will often be re-writes after the table read. Especially in half-hour where the script changes sometimes after every run-through.
When I do a guest role on a show I really look at it like I am a guest in someone’s home. If I am invited for dinner I don't complain about the food, I don’t tell my hosts how they should rearrange their furniture. Likewise, on a set, I don’t change my lines--I learn them “word-perfect”, I show up on time. I know that if I am a gracious guest, I may be invited back. This was a great “House” to visit, the “hosts” were incredibly warm and gracious, I would love to visit again…
FYI: my episode is the first of the new season. It will air in the Fall.