BWW Blog: Natalie Toro - Never Yell 'CUT!'
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by Guest Blogger: Natalie Toro
So, Mondays Blog went over well. Phew! It could have been an all out Cyber-War! Thank you for commenting and sharing it.
And speaking of sharing, I thought why not share with you what happens when a musical theater actor, me, gets her first break and gets cast in one of the most famous television shows. This would be a good read if you ever wonder what happens on set, cause everybody's experience is different and for those especially who are in show business or plan to be in it someday. God bless your soul!
If you are an actor who lives here in NYC, there is a good chance that you had an audition for one of the Law and Orders. It's fun to tune in and see your friends either playing the co-star acting their butt off or one of the informants who have fewer than 5 lines. I have had the fortune of playing the informants. Y'know, you give the lines and then the screen goes to black and you hear music that follows, those two chords that sound like kung-kung...
Well, girlfriend had never taken a film class. I mean why? I've worked on Broadway. It's all the same right? I didn't know the first thing about auditioning for the camera let alone knowing what to do if I book it. And I booked it. The role was an immigrant with a very thick Spanish accent. The shoot took place in Riverside Park on a cold day but we had to pretend it was Spring. Since I have never been on set before, I was a deer in headlights. No clue ladies and gentlemen. But hey, I'm young and uninhibited and fearless, so bring it on!
"ACTION" - The people start to move, the cameras are on their mark, and there is Natalie with Jerry and Chris Doing the scene, over and over again.
All I know, I was acting. And I was mad too. Telling them about this girl Maria and how she stole my boyfriend. I knew where she was. Ha!
You gotta know that every time we did a take, I did it so different from the last. The Director kept coming over to me and gave me a very calm, "smaller". I was like smaller? I'm acting! How can it be smaller? (This dialogue, of course, was only in my head.) Okay...I'll make it smaller.
But it continues every take: She kept coming over..."Even smaller", "Can you be smaller for the camera", "Just a wee-bit smaller". For crying out loud! How much smaller did she want me to go? Then Chris Noth whispered in my ear to try to do it the same way ever time or the Editor would have a fit, and that the small red X on the grass was where I was supposed to stop every time I start to say my line. Oh, man...I felt so stupid! He was so nice to help the new girl. After watching the episode I thought, thank God the Director made me smaller cause even small I still looked like a freakin' chicken running a muck.
Years later came Law and Order SVU. The scene was with Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni. Y'know, now I got me some experience. I'm a pro! I got this! Take a deep breath now cause ya'll know what's coming right?
I was playing the maid. This time we were shooting in the summer, pretending to be Fall, so I had a coat on. On location is funny. I had to make an entrance from a really spooky dark basement. I couldn't even imagine what was in there for real. It was hard to hear the Director yell "action" thru the heavy metal closed door. But I was determined not to screw this one up. In between takes, I was commenting on why my make-up was almost non-existent. I mean... I wanted to look good for TV. I was telling everyone that next time, I am going to play someone glamorous, someone who wears lots of mascara. Sometimes, I amaze myself when I look back at some of my really dumb comments.
Before we started, Meloni looked very melancholy over in a corner. I had the urge to say hi and to see if he was all right. With gentleness, I asked if he was okay. He smirked and said that he had just come from shooting an episode on "OZ" and he had to make out with a man all morning. All I could say was "yikes." Then I walked away. I gave him his privacy.
Who is better than me right now???
Here is how the conversation went.
ME: Wow, Mariska. It was so great to finally meet you and work with you today. Thank you for the laughs. Have a great day, okay?
MARISKA: You're not leaving are you? We still have to shoot the other side?
ME: (feeling like I just shot myself in the mouth but with quick recovery) Oh...(pause) I know...(pause)...I just wanted to tell you goodbye in case they whisk you away and I don't get to tell you later."
MARISKA: Oh... yes of course. So sweet.
Do I have to tell you, again...stupid girl. After we wrapped and we did both sides, this very old soundman came to collect my microphone. Under his breath, like he was telling me a secret, he asked if I had seen the NY Times that day. When I said no, he walked ever so slowly and brought me the paper. The article was titled, HOW TO GET PASSED THE ROLE OF THE MAID. Ha Ha Ha...very funny!
Booked Law and Order the original series again, the season finale. This was much later, a different cast. This time the scene was with Dennis Farina and Jesse L. Martin. Pretty cool huh? All of my scenes so far were with the stars of the show. This time I was playing a bank manager. Woo-hoo! I am climbing up that Latin Corporate ladder! Watch out! The set was a real bank. It was the last shot of the day, crew is tired and ready to go home. Dennis and Jesse are getting all punchy and can't really say their lines. After quite a few takes, I didn't know what they were saying. They kept on trying to say the lines. And they were saying the lines. But when they screwed up, they just kept going back and forth. They never stopped. I almost felt like they were playing a joke on me. I was so lost. I didn't know what to do and when to come in. When I finally did, my mouth wasn't working. I jumbled those lines so bad, it was like I was speaking in Chinese. I got flustered and flabbergasted. I yelled, "CUT"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Silence...you could hear a roach crawl on the wall. Nobody moved. I got myself back into hell again. Then, out of the corner of my eye, the only person moving was the Director coming my way. Meanwhile, all is frozen. Even the boom mike operator hadn't moved a muscle. I was in trouble! In his soft, hot breath, he whispered, "Is there a problem, Natalie?" Think quick Nat or your ass is fired! "Ummmmm...I must've forgotten my teeth. I left them soaking at home!" Phew...the place erupted with laughter. Either cause it was really a funny moment or they were covering that they really wanted to kick my ass.
So just two months ago, I book an episode on the new show, "Elementary" with Lucy Liu. And once again playing the maid. This time not only with a Spanish accent, but speaking in Spanish. Ay Dios Mio! Are you ready?
So, I get the Spanish translation the day before the shoot. I meet my Co-Star, the other Spanish-speaking maid and off to the hair and makeup trailer we go. Yep, hair in a ponytail, no mascara, and a real maid's costume. (Get your head out of the gutter.) I'm talking about the ugly polyester grey and white uniform with shoes that only a grandma would wear. Hysterical.
In this translation, there were words I didn't even know existed, let alone know how to say. It just wasn't an easy flow of the tongue and my Co-Star and me were both nervous. Well, she was nervous for me. Of course, we were the last scene to shoot after a 12 hour day and everyone is tired and wanted to go home. Don't screw up Nat! I had a mantra in my head all night. "Don't yell cut, do not yell cut!" I must have said this a thousand times. I told myself that even if an Alien Spacecraft came down and started to beam people up, I would keep going. I don't think I have EVER been so nervous in my entire career. It aired in the beginning of this month and it wasn't so bad.
I learned something really valuable. Be prepared even if you have to speak Chinese. Know your mark. Be grateful about any character you play. Say hi to those Alien Ships and never, ever yell out CUT!