Bradley Whitford Called Me!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Who? You know. Bradley Whitford, the actor who played Josh Lyman (Deputy Chief of Staff) on The West Wing. We worked together once. Well, okay, I was an extra on a West Wing episode called College Kids. It was the third episode of the fourth season (technically the second episode, because the first was a two-parter). The scenes were filmed on September 23, 2002 at the House of Blues on Sunset in Los Angeles, and it was representing a Rock The Vote concert event that the West Wing staff was involved in during President Bartlett’s re-election campaign. The episode was very good, with the staff coming up with a new idea to pay for college education, but ending with a school bombing and a fantastic speech by Martin Sheen as President Bartlett. It was a great experience for me, as I got to meet some of the actors because I stayed around long into the night after other extras had long since left. So with a nearly empty House of Blues dance floor, I sat next to Richard Schiff (Toby) and Mary Louise Parker (Amy) while Brad and Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg) danced. Richard and I chatted about USC (of course). Brad, who is 5’11", hunched down and put his ear to Allison’s chest (she’s 6’), and said, "Allison Janney’s junior high prom." We all chuckled.

It was an amazing experience, really. It was a Monday, the night after the Primetime Emmy Awards. The West Wing had just won for Outstanding Drama Series and Allison had won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. It was Allison’s third win in a row (she would win one more 2 years later). Just before filming began, Executive Producer Tommy Schlamme (which rhymes), came out on stage with the Outstanding Drama Emmy, thanked the cast and crew, and announced that they had made history. No other drama series had previously won the Emmy three straight in its first three years. That was cool. (And to pile on, the fourth season we were filming would win West Wing its fourth consecutive Series Emmy! So in a big stretch of my mind, I was part of a record-setting, Emmy-winning TV series!)

I wish I had the DVD right now, because then I’d try to capture the two scenes where I can be seen (I have it somewhere on VHS). One was between Josh & Amy having a conversation on the dance floor, surrounded by an audience watching Barenaked Ladies play on stage (no that’s not a link to porn, but the Canadian band). I was standing directly behind Brad, so as they part, you can see my profile for…oh, about a half a second. I meant to talk to the editor about that.

The other scene was between Sam (Rob Lowe), Josh, C.J., and Toby, as they sat at a table for four. In that scene there’s a guy a few feet away over Toby’s right shoulder, in a black jacket drinking a beer, talking to a redhead. That’s me. So any time you can see Toby (except in the close-ups) you can see me. Some grey in my hair actually catches the light a bit. Ah, stardom! (This was a hilarious moment actually, because right before they began filming, Richard was chucking beer nuts at a plastic cup filled with fake beer that was on the railing positioned just to Allison’s left…they faced each other in the scene…she was getting comically irritated at his incessant throwing of the nuts while she was talking to someone else. I gotta say, he was nails, he kept hitting them right in there. At one point, she snapped with frustration "Richard!" which of course made me turn and laugh. Of course, she said it with exasperation but also a warmth of appreciation for the comedy of the moment. Right as they started shooting the scene, he launched one more which hit the far lip of the cup and bounced off into the dark distance of the hardwood floor. Good times on set.)

Earlier that day, I was walking by Brad while he was talking to his son, who had just come from getting his hair cut. It was a bowl cut and Brad remarked that it looked like Moe from the Three Stooges. I said, "Or the Beatles." Brad nodded and then playfully chastised himself, shaking his head, "I coulda gone with something cool like the Beatles but, no I had to say my son looked like Moe from the Three Stooges." We laughed and I kept moving. A few weeks later, he called into to the radio morning show I was working on and chatted with the hosts. I wanted to say, "Hey Brad, remember me, I’m the guy who—" but I exercised some self-control and did not.

A few days ago I saw him in the Kodak Theater while we were watching the Democratic Debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Okay, to be fair and accurate, I was watching a replay on CNN and he was actually there in the audience. I wasn’t in L.A., I’m here in Seattle. So I saw him, he didn’t really see me.

Yet today, out of the blue while I’m standing in Home Depot, he called me! And to be honest, I hung up on him. Okay, granted it was a recorded message that said, "Hi, this is Bradley Whitford. If you’re an unregistered voter—" And that’s when I hung up my cell phone. I mean, I already am a registered voter. In California. I guess I should register up here now that I live in Washington. So maybe I should have listened to more of what he had to say. Sorry, Brad. How did you get my number, anyway?