You may remember I recently had the great pleasure of filming an episode of BBC Doctors in Birmingham, where I played a bitter arsey amputee. I am still relatively new to the acting thing and was very merrily swept along watching the process and secrets of filming – I learned lots, it felt like Hollywood and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I didn’t know a crew consisted of quite so many people! First, second, third and fourth assistants to the director, trainee assistant set dressers, countless runners and we all had our own lovely make up lady. So when the director first said into his radio ‘rehearse for the crew please’ and over 25 people suddenly appeared, I was clearly the only one who was surprised. I was clearly also the only one without a radio too. Tucked in their little waistbands or dangled on BBC lanyards, they all had them, and you could hear the messages whizzing round the crew like wildfire Chinese whispers on acid…quiet on set, cameras rolling, did someone just fart etc.
While filming in the studio it felt like there was more space, it was less cramped and a few less ‘people in your aura’. It was a disjointed and half finished world though of two walled rooms, doors leading nowhere and offices without ceilings. Very make believe but quite believable at the same time. However it was while we were filming on location one day at some brave person’s house that space was at more of a premium. I say brave because the carnage we caused was real, so many people, so little space, and all while the poor family cat was sleeping upstairs, itself narrowly avoiding being used as a prop. So as before, I cheerfully watched all this wonderful tv magic happening around me. ‘A Winter evening’ was required by the director so the set guys had literally covered the entire front of the house in huge heavy black curtains to block out any daylight. Hey presto, it’s a February evening Mr Director. I’m ready for my close up. For some scenes I acted without my leg on and my prosthetic became merely a set prop, only to be pointed at and referred to in dialogue. I do of course often point at my leg and refer to it at home, totally unscripted, but not in a way the BBC could show or repeat on daytime telly.
So my next scene was a leg on job. Where’s my leg? I asked third assistant somebody. Chinese whispers on acid radio begins…where’s Lyndsay’s leg…where’s Lyndsay’s leg etc etc. Just like tv magic my leg soon appeared. The radios chattered with ‘ooh isn’t it heavy’. No shit Sherlock. On a warm day under moderate to severe stress, putting a prosthetic leg on isn’t always easy or quick. Add to that 25 busy wandering crew members, 10 set dressers, 5 make up artists and a wig that won’t stay where it was fixed, lights, cameras and sweaty action – my leg really did not want to do what it was told. I am a tripping and stumbling hazard at the best of times ie. I will trip over thin air and stumble right into your shit if you’re in my way. I just didn’t have enough space.
My costume was a gorgeous green silk blouse with plain black trousers, and in order to get my leg on I obviously had to pull my trousers down. Now I’m not shy. I’ve been paid to be in many different states of undress for the army, SAS, the Paralympic ceremonies and have also given birth twice so I am really not shy. I was trying to put my leg on with crew coming and going around me, there were set dressers dressing, all while still rehearsing lines and worrying about my on screen kiss with my on screen boyfriend who I’d just met. But I was just getting more flustered and more sweaty in my thankfully dark green silk blouse. So to get out of the way I manoeuvred myself into the blacked out bay window in the dining room. There was more space and less chance of me being skittled over while trying to pump the air out of my socket, like I’m doing some weird solo Come on Eileen dance. I even find myself humming that song while I’m doing this at home. So trousers down and making vigorous progress, come on, too rah yay, I heard the director’s radio say ‘daytime please’ and with more tv magic the set guys pulled away the huge black out curtains from my bay window, revealing glorious daylight to all inside, and to everyone outside my glorious white arse, with my trousers down, pumping away in my head to Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
Cue the Chinese whispers radios…Lyndsay’s got no trousers on…Lyndsay’s got no trousers on etc etc. I think the cat upstairs even had a radio because I’m sure I heard him sniggering. Get him down here I thought and I’ll use him to mop up the sweat and the shame.
Like any good mother, I was just pleased I was wearing my good knickers. Laura Ashley ones please, no sad, greyed, frayed Tesco things that have seen their best days on or off. Even the third assistant director commented on my nice pants, but was slightly confused about which scene I thought we were doing next. Had I read the script correctly as I only had to kiss my on screen boyfriend to a 4/10 on the passion scale, and that definitely meant my trousers stayed on.
How we laughed.
So my leg went on. The kiss went well. I managed a believable 3/10 and held his hand for effect. The crew enjoyed working with me and said I was very professional. The director said I played a better arsey bitch than a nice soft person. I was happy with that because I knew I had. It had come alarmingly easy to stare hard at my on screen boyfriend and shout insults at him. Like I said I leaned a lot.
It was just another day in the amputee office of life that is now my world. Expect the unexpected, appreciate the strange, and above all find humour and lightness in all the darkest corners of the day. It is there I promise.
Much love, and keep your pants on.