I got up at 4:30 a.m. this morning to make my 6 a.m. call time at the set of THE WIRE, where I was to deliver a single line as Lippman, a rather obdurate reporter. Yes, I was typecast. I’ve been to set several times, but I was watching things through fresh eyes, mindful of my current work-in-progress. I longed for a notebook to jot down the jargon (“Last look.” “Check the gate.”). Among other things.
THE WIRE takes 9-10 days to film an hour of television; today, there were two scenes, the first to use the newsroom set created at the Columbia soundstage. The attention to detail is breathtaking, and the newsroom set is proof of that. It was so lifelike that I felt as if I should sit at the desk marked “Lippman” and start banging out a story.
We had completed a rehearsal and were, as far as I knew, shooting my scene when the “city editor” barged up to me and began delivering a line I knew to be a little off. “What are you doing, Lippman?” barked “Gus Haynes,” as played by Clark Johnson. As my panicky mind tried to anticipate whether my one line of dialogue would actually fit Clark’s improvisation, he shoved a New York Times in my face. “Shouldn’t you be on your book tour?”
He was carrying a section of today’s New York Times Arts and Letters section, the back cover of which — well, if you have one, go look, and if you don’t, trust me, it was a very nice ad, more than I deserve. I laughed very hard, then I went back to trying to hit my mark and fix my gaze in the proper place.
I was on set from 6 to 3, actively working for at least four of those hours. I’d rather write.