Actor/SingerFilm/TVGeneral

A Dream Come True: My Week Guest Starring on Law & Order: SVU

WARNING:

The following thank yous and behind the scenes tidbits contain only positive things as I truly, sincerely had a dream of a time working on the show. If you are seeking salacious items, you will likely have to go to a different show on television.

I am only writing such an account because it was my first official television role, a breakthrough moment for my career, and because I only have good things to say. Who knows how often, if ever, I will have an experience so sublime again? It is very possible that Law & Order: SVU has ruined my entire career by being the best experience first out of the gate. Gee, thanks. 😂

DUN DUN!

I would like to give a thank you speech. I know I’m not at an awards show right now, but trust me—I was given a tremendous award:

Photo: Instagram - pics_n_stroll

Across The Board Talent & Jonathan Strauss Casting

They humbly remind me that I was the one who walked in, did the work, and landed the part. But I wouldn’t have had the chance to audition for the role of Karl Patton without my agents advocating for me in the industry and convincing Jonathan Strauss Casting to give me a chance. I wouldn’t have been hired if Jonathan, Stephen, and Reilly at Jonathan Strauss Casting hadn’t done all of their hard work as well as taking a chance on me. I was going straight from one line on a non-union cable show (that was left on the editing room floor) to guest starring on a legendary network juggernaut. I am most grateful to all of these people for lighting the spark.

l to r: Philip Winchester, Steve Rosen, me, Rashid Helper

Steve Rosen

My first and rare tiny panic came in the courtroom when all of us standing before the judge were shifted on an angle for the camera, but the judge was still of his usual alignment. I suddenly questioned if I should be pretending the judge had also shifted or if I should continue to look at him as I had been. Cue the actor playing my lawyer, the sweet, adorable Steve Rosen, who responded to my quick under my breath question with the answer (keep looking at the judge as I had been) and gave me complete support and an energy of “I’ve got you, buddy. Not that you need me” for the rest of the time we filmed together. He took joy in celebrating this moment of mine. What a kind, generous actor!

Teachers & Mentors

Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous during my time shooting the episode. I felt quite at ease. Ready. It was as if the muse was telling me, “You’re perfect for this, so go do the work”. I thank all of my teachers and mentors for preparing me; most notably Karen Kohlhaas, who prepares her actors for the work on stage as well as off, and Stephanie Kurtzuba, who has been there for me whenever I have reached a milestone and needed solid, honest advice. I would also like to thank the entire company of Law & Order : SVU who were so supportive and generous—even when I bumbled with the lingo or needed a reminder about where the cameras were. (That’s one of two big things one should know for filming: in theatre an actor must find their light; in TV/Film, you must find your camera. I learned so much).

Dressing room on the first day. I signed my contract at that desk.

Philip Winchester

I didn’t even realize it was him standing near us at camera rehearsal as Philip Winchester could not have been more unpretentious and down to earth. (I suppose I subconsciously imagined series regulars entering a set with fanfare). During our scene, he was very generous and supportive (two words I will be using a great deal in describing the whole experience). He’s a gentleman through and through.

Additional Courtroom Scene Partners

I also got to work with Michael Mastro (the judge), who was another terrific scene partner.  I greatly enjoyed working with Rashid Helper and the other actor, whose name I regret having forgotten, who played the police officers who carried me out. It’s within those moments where you get to improvise a little and create a fuller performance. And our working together just may have netted us a few more seconds of screen time.

The two actors who carried me off were great to work with.

Core Background

The whole week, especially meals (incredible feasts) felt like I was visiting a friend’s family for the week. I shyly sat at a table and found myself hanging with a particularly fun group—the core background actors. These are the extras who work on the show constantly because they play the people who work in the police station or courthouse or what have you. Some of them have been working on the show since or close to when it began. And they had so many good stories. They also observe a lot, so their compliments of my work meant the most to me.

Assistant Directors/PAs

Every day there were a variety of people helping me get to where I needed to be and to keep me aware of the schedule and so on. I wouldn’t have survived without the care of Krysten, Nico, Maria, Josh, & Orlando.

Rebecca Creskoff

My scene with Rebecca at Rikers Island came at the end of the first day after a really good nap. I think it was at this time that the whole thing started to feel real. The scene was finished so quickly, my memory of it is a bit of a blur. But what is very clear is how lovely she was to work with.

My scene with Rebecca Creskoff

Lauren

I also befriended a regular stand-in named Lauren with whom I found a great deal in common to talk about during set ups. She was also the person I ran to when I had a scene I thought I bombed (the arrest scene in my workroom). My internal rhythm didn’t feel right—like I just wasn’t getting it. But then I recalled from my own directing and editing that while actors control the rhythm in a live performance, the director and editor control the final rhythm on film–the other big thing to remember about filming. Lauren then shared that if I had been bombing, our director wouldn’t have refrained from addressing it, even going into many, many takes if needed. And, I realized that what I needed to do was just trust my director completely.

On location in Brooklyn

Jean de Segonzac

And trusting Jean de Segonzac was very easy. He had a calm, yet energetic presence and was incredibly succinct in his adjustments. One sentence would do the trick. He was patient in any given moment where my being new showed itself, and in a sense, he was a generous and supportive teacher. I thank him dearly for that. He is a director who knows what he wants, but isn’t afraid to try things, allowing creative moments. He knows how to steer the ship, and I’ve discovered since that the fans know that when he is at the helm, they are going to get a good episode. And the proof is in the final result. He guided me excellently and allowed me to shine. How lucky am I??

Dressing room on day two

Hair & Make-up

Every day began with the tender loving care of hair & make up aka Adam & David, two people I became quite fond of. It took 3 hours to make me look so creepy. I wish. No, it too only moments (and mostly to trim down my stubble to match earlier filming). But the time in each chair was a really great way to reset and purge the morning commute. There were lovely conversations—and sometimes that meant getting to chat with one of the leads. There was another person I worked with the first day, but I failed to retain her name—which is terrible given how much I teased her for seeing my post-nap hair and concluding she needn’t change a thing. There was a lot of “as is” and “that’s perfect—no need to change it”. And while that means less time sitting still, it means I looked perfect for the part. The part of a total creep. Well. If it pays the bills, bring all the creep roles to me. They took great care of me and had me looking consistently creepy.

My dressing room on location on day three

Art Direction

In addition to wardrobe and hair & makeup, everything about the film set gives an actor so much information, particularly if you are lucky enough to see a space occupied by your character. So much detail was put into Karl’s workroom—stuff that couldn’t have possibly made final cut. But it was all there and definitely gave me a greater sense of my character. Plus, it’s just all pristine, excellent craftsmanship. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the gentleman who created that world for my character, but foolish enough to have not written down his name. Jeff, Lazaro, & Don are credited with art direction, so hopefully I’m not far off.

Wardrobe

How lucky to be surrounded by professionals in all departments, who take care of you and make your job easier. I am deeply, regretfully unable to mention everyone by name. But it all began with wardrobe, who didn’t just hand me clothes to put on–wanted my ideas as well. Thanks to Juliet, Jill, Lee, and my sweet, sweet dresser Simon, among others, I not only looked the part, I was comfortable doing so. I have never had jeans that fit so nicely. I would happily buy them if they are up for grabs. One hilarious moment was before we filmed the prison interview on the first day. Simon showed me my prison shoes, and my brain still groggy from a nap said, “Oh yeah. Those look like what you’d see on TV”.
I immediately caught what I said, and we had a laugh, and I very sweetly and quickly started to grasp the fact that I was going to be on TV. Those shoes, however, wouldn’t. But, oh how every little detail helps you feel the part.

"Those look just like what you'd see on TV". Um yeah, John. Yup.

Carol Ann Bell

I didn’t get to act with Carol, but I was delighted to get to meet her on set in our characters’ home. I thought casting did a great job. I really enjoyed her performance. We’ve since joked about how we could return or maybe do a spin off. I think we should do a sitcom where a woman has to deal with all of her live in brother’s crazy fads—the occult, nazism, santa con—and call it Oh, Brother!

Outside the oh so happy Patton family home

Mariska Hargitay

When I was a backstage doorperson at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, Mariska Hargitay came backstage at least twice to visit actors post-show. She left with me an impression of warmth, friendliness, humor, and being grounded, yet glamorous that places her amongst the loveliest celebrities I have ever met. She’s in a league with Cherry Jones, Laura Linney, Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Mike Nichols to name only a few of a spectacular group. I was sad I didn’t get to work directly with her, but I did film the entire scene after my interrogation from the other side of the mirror. So I sat there on this iconic television set hearing Mariska freaking Hargitay ‘s voice over and around the wall with the mirror. And it was as if I were dreaming, but also a key moment in realizing that this was for real.

l to r: Philip Winchester, me, Mariska Hargitay

And after a few takes, they had me stop saying my last line to start the scene. And Mariska asked for me to continue saying it to cue her. To bounce off of what I was doing. And it just felt like such a generous moment–like she was including me. It gave me a kind of two line scene with her. She was very funny between takes. She personifies an actor’s dream balance of confident humility. She treated me as an equal. I didn’t get the chance to officially meet her as things were always moving fast, and I didn’t want to be in the way out of respect for the crew or Mariska herself. It’s the reason I didn’t take extra time with any of the leads or didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone after I wrapped, especially with Ice T. I tend to try to leave celebrities alone knowing they are inundated with energies all day, everyday. On the flip side, I hope I didn’t accidentally communicate anything negative in doing this.

Ice &@#%ing T

And, speaking of Ice T. What a legend. As I merged my memories of his career with a current mindset, I found myself completely in awe of just how brave he was to stand up for what he believed in, fighting a fight at a time when there were way less allies and/or the Black Lives Matter movement. He is a classy, cool star and yet down to earth in many ways. When I learned I booked the part, I was pretty wowed when I realized I would be working with him. Ice &@#%ing T! (When I finally got to tell my mom, she was equally excited, being very fond of him). I felt myself starting to feel jittery on the inside when I knew he was about to walk on set. And he just took one look at me and nodded. And it completely put me at ease. Everyone, including the leads, treated me as an equal. It felt like being an actor among my fellow company in any piece of theatre I’ve ever done. But even if that environment hadn’t been at hand, you have a strong sense of “this is not the time to be shy or insecure when they yell action. You bring it. This is the big league. And you are about to go head to head with a legend. Bring it or get eaten alive.”  I’d like to think I held my own sparring with him. 😊

l to r: Ice T, me, Peter Scanavino

Peter Scanavino

Peter is filled with an endless supply of energy and his positivity is infectious. He also possesses a gentle grace and more than once, I completely felt his support. He and Ice T make a terrific team on and off screen. It was a such a joy to work with him.

above & below: dressing room on 4th/last day

My husband

I must always thank my husband for all the ways a spouse has to deal with being married to an actor. Hopefully the good moments outweigh the early morning alarms, insecure moments, tears, and occasional diva fits. If he were allowed to contribute to this post, he would probably say, “not yet” and “occasional?”, and that’s why I love him.

Filming Crew

The entire crew was professional and very kind to me from sound to lighting. Wardrobe and hair & makeup were around to make sure I looked my worst. 😉 Again, so many names and faces that I sadly can’t name all. But shout outs should go to first assistant director Brian, and camera operators, Jon & Christopher.

ADR/Stunt Double

Jonathan and Jeremiah were the end of my experience with my coming back to do some ADR. Sometimes, that can mean replacing dialogue that for whatever reason isn’t clear. I suppose I was lucky that I only needed to add sounds for my character—chuckles and grunts. I find this kind of work to be a lot of fun. 

 I hope no one would mind my revealing that in my character’s first appearance, you only hear me. A stunt double did the heavy lifting of physicalizing that scene. His craft is why that scene was safe to film. His build did the magic trick of resembling me without looking like the cartoon version that I did in my fitting.

The Writers & Karl Patton

“Dear Ben” was written by Julie Martin and Matt Klypka. I’m almost certain I didn’t get to meet them, nor Ryan Causey or others in the writing room as I’m sure they were very busy writing future episodes, but I, of course, must thank them for creating such a fascinating character that I had the absolute honor to interpret. I was given a few descriptors about Karl that were chock full of details and possibilities—things the audience may never begin to gather from the episode, but gave me a full life to play at all times. That married to adjustments given in casting and to Jean’s tasteful direction allowed that performance to land so well, and I felt like my ideas were honored, too. And it was just so fun to play. Thank you to those on set, who make sure the writers’ intentions and word choices are honored in case we get a little off track. 

I was also mindful that the subject matter is very difficult for some. The show has been therapeutic for many survivors. I felt safe that the writers had put care into the work and that Jean and others would make sure my performance would arrive within respectful boundaries. 

snapshot from the mirror

And one of the joys I took in playing Karl to a certain extent was knowing that I had the power to hold up a mirror to the real Karls in the world. So, that made going to horrible places with the character easy. 

getting even is part of being an artist. you get even with what you think the lies of society are by telling the truth.

That's a Wrap!

Booking this role seemingly came out of nowhere. In fact, I was revving myself up for what was becoming more and more my ending my pursuit of Broadway/Film/TV. Like with love, it came out of nowhere and when I least expected it. It was a wonderful gift that kept me from completely imploding as my debut album crumbled to pieces. I’ve spent the last year or so enduring failure after failure. This was a terrific way to (hopefully) end that trend.

Still, there was the chance it would be the worst failure of all. Maybe I was really bad? Maybe it would be cut down? I was at least optimistic that I wouldn’t be completely cut–the three previous times I told folks to look for me on TV, I was cut (to be fair, two were background work and the other was a line that wasn’t needed to tell the story, and they needed to move the exposition along). Well, nothing was cut, and I was truly delighted with the end result.

And it would seem most of you all felt the same way. Your reactions have been a delight. I know how it feels to see someone you know on TV. I get tickled thinking about getting to be on the same network that has produced many of my favorite shows—even being on the same night that my favorite all-time show usually holds, Will & Grace. I’m thrilled to be a member of the Law & Order club that so many theatre folk are a part of.

I’ll end with this: I’ve often struggled with the worry that my moving to NYC and losing time with loved ones, especially those who have since passed, would all be in vain because it seemed like the career I came here for was never going to happen in any major way. Knowing that this is a show my grandma watched before she passed, I imagine she is beaming fairly brightly upstairs.

My coming to NYC is not in vain. And this may just be the beginning of a new era for me!

DONE DONE!

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