Where Have All The Older Actresses Gone???

I worked on a production the other day, and it reminded me yet again how unusual it is to have older actresses on the set. Not to mention actresses over a size 4. – I shan’t mention the name of said production, not only to protect the innocent, but because, in fact, this little story is formed from a combination of incidents I encountered on my last few jobs.
It always starts with the guard at the gate. He/she looks at me like I’ve obviously made a wrong turn, as there would be no reason for a chubby older woman with streaks of gray in her hair to appear at his/her gate.
“What address are you looking for?”
“I’m working on yada yada.” I get a slightly incredulous look, then: “You’re an extra?”
“No”, I say, “a featured player.”
“Hummm. Name?” – I have the feeling I’m not quite to be believed, as the list is searched, as what on earth would an old lady be doing on that production?? Then, finally: “Oh. O.K. Park over there.”
I make my way through the twisting streets toward the one where I’ll be shooting, and as I pass by the actors’ trailers for another show, a young man comes up to me with his contract. “Do I give this to you?” he asks. I smile, tell him I’m not playing a production assistant today, and move on.
I get to my set, and after the first confused look of ‘maybe she’s sombody’s mom’, I’m stopped by a young man doing his duty who says “Excuse me miss, we’re shooting here.” “So am I” I reply. Then I find my crew, who actually know who I am without my telling them, as I’m the first person I have seen on the enitre lot, where numerous series and films are being shot, who could possibly play the role of ‘Grandmother’!
Everyone is very nice to the old lady (the one good thing about reminding people of their mothers), but I have to overide the makeup person who automatically says “You’re face is fine like that”….at 7am without makeup. (Their 24 yr old thinking no doubt being that that’s what grandmas look like.) I gently point out that as I am wearing nice clothes in one scene and a wild costume in another, maybe my character is not one to go makeupless into old age. I win.
On the set people begin by over-explaining the scene to make sure the old lady gets it…until a couple of rehearsals later. They find they’re laughing…and that I’m adding bits. Suddenly they perk up…the mood changes…evidently I’m not just a older person dragged in from the street, I’m actually an actress! The writer adds another line and takes my addition of a certain no-longer-used word that makes it perfect for the situation. Good vibes from the shot. They set up for my close-up. “Rehearsal?” asks the AD. “Nah” the director replies, “Judith doesn’t need no stinkin’ rehearsal!” “Nope”, sez I, “I’ve been rehearsing for 40 years.”
Two takes, loud laughter and lovely applause greet me, and they are much appreciated. I only wish that I, and other older actresses as well, could have many more chances to experience it!
Judith Drake, proud to be an OLDER Actress. and leaving the gray in her hair, so there!

Published in: on May 23, 2007 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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