The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 51: Waiting on Wisteria Lane, Part 2
Last week, you read about our first day on the set of “Desperate Housewives,” cast as background actors, “Neighbor with Dog.” As happens frequently in the TV biz, some of the extras called that day didn’t get used – but were asked to come back the next day. We learned that, for a background actor, everything is always is subject to change.
This time, instead of getting lost on the way to Wisteria Lane, a van picked us up at the parking lot at Gate 3. I had learned from our van experience the day before that, when nervous, Heidi turns into a very large lap dog -- so this time I was careful to get into the vehicle before the dog to make sure she didn’t once again surprise some other actor with a free lap dance.
We were whisked straight to the costume and makeup-and-hair trailers. There, we met one of our new friends from the day before – Lauren Hicks, who had won out over the competition for the “Busty Waitress“ role and had brought along the requested assortment of fancy bras to complement her low-cut white top.
My more conservative outfit – and Heidi’s bandanna – met with approval, but I had to leave Heidi in the care of another actor while I went into the trailer for a hair makeover. I sat one chair away from series star Marcia Cross as hairdressers fluffed her long red locks, and super-glued mine into a chignon that could withstand El Niño.
Then it was back into the van – today not headed to Wisteria Lane, but to a different set, an upscale outdoor cafe. Apparently, “Neighbor with Dog” was about to become “Restaurant Guest with Dog.”
The background cast waited in a cavernous room to find out what they planned to do with us. As we waited, our well-endowed friend Lauren was surprised when she was instructed to shield her assets with a demure, buttoned-up peach blouse. Although anything can happen during a shoot, this costume change seemed to flout all known Hollywood protocol.
"Hey -- at least they got you in the door," I said, attempting to reassure her.
By the time Heidi and I got summoned -- to sit at a table with another background player, peruse our menus, and then hand them to the “waiter” -- the normally outgoing Heidi was tired and grumpy. If she were a union player, she’d probably have a trainer, a handler and perhaps even a dressing room. But after three hours of van rides, waiting and meeting new people, her doggie brain was exhausted; it was all I could do to keep her from missing the cameras entirely by hiding under the table. But she perked up when a production staffer brought her a big china saucer of water.
Nothing is as it seems on a TV set. On the outside, chic leather-bound menus suggested arugula and goat cheese, but the menus on the inside were strictly 1950s diner, including the scary “jelly omelet;” my companion’s inner menu was even upside down. My table mate, Zach McCall, an military veteran who often portrays police officers and the like, ad-libbed inappropriate dialogue that no one would ever hear: “We’ve been reviewing your performance lately, and I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go...”
The episode, titled “Don’t Walk on the Grass,” is scheduled to air on Nov. 1 (as noted in the previous chapter, Heidi didn't walk on the grass on Wisteria Lane, but did, er, leave her mark). We’ll have to wait to find out whether Heidi and I got our 15 seconds of fame, or ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor.
I'm proud of the dog either way -- but I hope they got her good side.
-- Diane Haithman
Top photo: Diane Haithman, Heidi and Zach McCall on the set; credit: Luke Johnson (who portrayed the restaurant maitre d' )
Bottom: Heidi and friend Lauren Hicks; credit: Diane Haithman