Making Fast Friends on Set and Then Saying Goodbye

Article Image
Hello, I Must be Going

A few nights ago I was in a bathroom stall, snorting coke off a half-naked hooker's breasts between wild, savage kisses.

I thought that might grab your attention. No, I'm not publicly confessing to some secret, depraved, off-duty debauchery. I was actually working, filming a scene for a new cable series. The coke was fake, the bathroom had cameramen in it, and I'd just met the very nice woman playing the hooker that afternoon. And at the end of the night, we shook hands cordially, with warm professionalism, expressing our hope to work together again. And that was that.

That vivid illustration got me to thinking about the strange sudden intimacies and subsequent partings of ways that we show folk experience again and again in our profession. Office workers can labor side by side for years and barely know each other. But when actors work together, especially in theater, we often develop a kind of family-like closeness. I remember when I first started out how permanent these new friendships sometimes felt, and how surprised and disappointed I was when the co-workers to whom I'd felt so close moved on, never keeping in touch or making plans to hang out. These days I'm on the other side of that equation, finding that young actors with whom I've spent time working in a production sometimes expect we'll be lifelong pals, and maybe they feel tricked when that doesn't happen.

But the fact is, it just doesn't work that way. Most of the relationships we establish while working don't last much past the gig. We return to our lives, get busy with auditions, other jobs, more established relationships ... and the new connections just sort of fade.

But the temporary nature of these relationships doesn't mean they're false or shallow, just connected to a specific, shared experience. As the adage goes, "Some people come into your life for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime." These encounters, while fleeting, can nevertheless be absolutely genuine while they last. It is, however, crucially important not to be confused. Otherwise you might get hurt, like the poor fools who've ended real-life romantic commitments for what seemed like new soulmates in the cast, only to end up alone when the show closed.

I look at it like this: We're blessed that our work environments are inhabited by extraordinary numbers of extraordinary people -- smart, funny, colorful, witty, passionate, impulsive comrades who play pranks; launch into song; hold court, regaling us with great stories; and share long, meaningful talks on substantial topics. We curse, we cry, we hug, we kiss. Then we part. You can't hang on to all the good ones; there are just too many of them. (There are the occasional "keepers" -- for me usually only one or two per gig -- but you never truly know who they are until the job is done.)

So treasure these while they last; then let them go. And if the show-biz gods are kind, your paths will cross again and you can reminisce about the first time you worked together.