The End of an Era


Once my voice cracked it was a race against time to write Jimmy out of the show.

If you have not read the last post you should, because that explains all the trauma of the Fucking Puberty™ issue in the lead up to the end of my time on Adventures in Odyssey.



No boy actor had ever survived Fucking Puberty™.

This was the rule of this era.



It was hinted at, jokingly threatened, seriously considered and many other ways of communicating this to me during the 2nd and 3rd year when the first round of older boys had been dropped. Oh, how many times I had to pretend to laugh when the crew would joke about my future of being written out of the show when my voice would inevitably change….

Keep in mind, this is all funny as shit 32 years later.

It was not funny then.

Not to me.

I was fucking terrified.

At the time, I was severely, severely depressed because something was happening to me physically that I couldn’t control and would mean that I was about to lose my favorite life activity I ever had.

I was sick with worry and fear.

A big reason for that fear was that not only did I really, really enjoy the work itself– this is what I was put on this earth to do– but at that time of my life the crew of AIO was my extended family in a way that was very real to me.

See, my family always lived on the opposite side of the country from all my relatives. And I rarely ever saw them. Most of the adults in my family life like Uncles and Aunts I barely interacted with because they lived 3,000 miles away.

And how often do kids interact with adults and in what contexts?

Well. School. So, teachers and other people who have authority and leadership power over you. And Church. Again, pastors and elders and teachers.

Beyond that?

How often do children hang out with adults?

Family reunions? And what’s one of the few child/adult relationships that exist in a usually positive relationship? Uncles. Aunts. Grandparents. Parents.

It’s your family where you get to engage with adults that love you and interact with you. IF YOU’RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO NOT HAVE A SHITTY FAMILY. That is an important caveat.

I’ve mentioned how I yearned to get to know the adult cast more and more and they were rather elusive when I would be in studio with them. This makes sense to me as an adult, I’m not really comfortable working with kids, and I mostly want to talk shop with my other adult collaborators about stuff that 10, 11, 12 year old kids wouldn’t understand.

And… this was an era before smart phones and whatnot and I never had contact info for any of the other kid actors, so there was no way of socializing or bonding with any of them.

And often I would record by myself. Or with a partial cast.



And so it was the crew and the production team that I got closest to emotionally.

Makes sense since they were they ones that were ALWAYS there.

Every episode is written and directed by one of two dudes.

There are two engineers.

One Executive Producer.

It was a small team of 5 guys that I knew and they became, effectively, my Uncles.

My ExecProdDad was the most confusing of these. Kind of an Uncle… kind of a Dad relationship… kind of an Executive Producer relationship…

And Hal was my other Grandfather that I didn’t have.

And Katie and Chris were like big sisters or Aunts to me. (still are)

Such was the depth of my feelings towards them.

I LOVED these people.

I mention in the last post how I became pen pals with one of the writers when he moved to England. This was mostly because I’d bonded with him so much I missed him terribly. It made me sad to not be around my favorite people.

And this team had really become my favorite people in my life. We never argued. They never yelled. I was never punished. We just had fun making art and goofing around. Yeah it’s work… but it’s fun work. This has a similar energy to a family reunion.

And THAT was what I was afraid of losing when my voice changed.

I thought we all loved each other.

And there was some part of me that secretly hoped maybe they’ll make an exception for me because they like me when my time comes?

PLEASE, I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY UNCLES AND AUNTS.

And this is the part where despite all my great skills that were lightyears beyond my age and all my professional discipline that was mind blowing to witness in this 10-12 year old kid…

I was still a kid.

And while I had an adult understanding of many things, I very much had a kid’s understanding of adult/kid relationships.

These relationships are the closest I’ve experienced to the fun I get to have when I’m with my Uncles at the family reunion.

I deeply, deeply felt love and affection for everyone on that team.

And my voice is changing… what is that gonna mean?



They’ll stop calling me and I’ll never see the people I love ever again.

If the work I ever did mattered to you please take a moment of your life to meditate on the prior sentence.

It’s a total mind fuck for an emotionally sensitive kid like me.

Because these aren’t family members who love me. They’re coworkers who are doing their best to keep me happy so they can keep extracting as many great performances as possible. Much of what I’m interpreting as love and family bonds is really, probably just a crew trying to keep the distractions to a minimum. A happy kid is one that gets through the material on time.

Keep the kid laughing and having fun and getting all those dopamine hits in the brain.

Dance for us kid.

Make us some fucking money.

But, I’m a kid and I don’t understand that.

I just like hanging around my Production Uncles.

And now… my voice has betrayed me.

And my time is about to run out.

And I’ll never see these people again.

And Katie. And Hal. And Will. And Chris. And Walker.

Just break my fucking heart.

Thanks a lot, Voice Box.

Child laborers actors need someone to help them sort this stuff out psychologically.

It is a difficult thing to process.

It fucked me up for 30 years.

Because the guy playing your Dad… you’re having these literal father son moments behind the mic. Moments of sometimes great depth and vulnerability.

And the best Acting… is really happening in the brain of the performer.

What does that mean, Dave?

I’d bet if you MRI/CT scan imaged the brain of an Actor talking on the phone with their actual Dad and imaged the brain of that very same actor with a scene partner playing their Dad who had a 3 year bond like I did

I’ll bet in a great actor the areas of the brain that would show the most activity, would be the same brain waves and electrical patterns.

So?

So!!!

So, the relationship is real while you’re doing the work.

He IS my dad.

It’s the only way that this is convincing for audiences. I have to believe that this man is my father. And in order to do that my brain as a child has to convince myself that this man… is Dad!!

Part of this work is that we’re using very real emotions to portray fictional moments.

As my Acting coach always says, “Our job is to make real that which is unreal.”

That’s the art. We paint with emotions. And the behavior those emotions induce.

And so even though I know it’s not my Dad… my brain is treating my experience with this Actor in much the same way my brain treats my interactions with my real Dad.

To my brain it makes very little difference.



And in some ways, because of the nature of the episodes I’m being written, some of these emotional moments are far deeper and heavier and more intense than the interactions with my own Dad who worked so much I hardly ever saw him.

This is why costars suddenly abandon their marriages and have torrid affairs on set. Or directors and actors end up falling for each other after a project.

Because during the work… the feelings are very, very real.

And so this will confuse a kid.



I know you’re not my Dad… but it feels like you are.

And you’re also my Boss. And the Boss of everybody in the room.

Just. Like. Dad.

I haven’t spent much time in the working world at the ripe old age of 13. I was a paperboy, and I recorded many other projects other than this one and so I had Bosses, but I didn’t have the work experience to understand the difference between the power a Boss has in your life versus the power a parent has in your life.

*wow on my fifth read thru… I was absolutely exploited for labor as a child by so many and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. fuck you all*

To me it was the same.

I see this now after 35 years.

I was completely lost inside this psychological maze of mirrors at the age of 10, 11, 12, 13.

And that’s why, when you know your voice is changing and you’re scared you’re gonna lose everyone you think you love… what you most want… is a hug.

From Dad.

Telling you it’s going to be okay.

But this Dad will go to jail if he does that.

BECAUSE HE’S NOT MY DAD!

And so, as I’m sitting in the office of the Executive Producer who plays my Dad and he’s having to tell me that it sucks that my voice is changing…

The emotional dynamics were pinging around my brain in such an overwhelming and overloading way. And, seriously, how does a kid process this shit? My parents were not a help here when I would get home. I didn’t know how to talk about any of this stuff. I was having similar struggles with them, too.

And… like adolescence sucks anyway– BUT IMAGINE THE EXTRA HEADFUCK HERE.

You’re my family but you’re not my family but it feels like you’re my family and now you’re telling me we won’t be a family anymore and I’m scared and sad and depressed AF and I most want to go the comfort of my family and tell them what’s wrong but… which family?!?

And the one family doesn’t know the stuff the other family is doing and vice versa. I was in the Executive Producer’s office by myself. Mom was in the van outside as usual.

And at the time… this was normal. It’s just how it was. I had two younger brothers that Mom had to watch while Dad is working in downtown L.A. She doesn’t have the bandwidth to hover over the situation. And for the production team, it was probably really fucking nice to not have a child’s parents constantly hovering about and blocking access to the kid, ya know… how it should be.

What I, and the kids of that era experienced, was a very… atypical… working environment.

It’s the kind of stuff churches get away with all the time. Skirting employment rules because it’s all for Jesus and The World doesn’t understand.

It’s a charity after all.

But, with children… as I look back upon this experience… these rules probably help protect kids from some of the massive emotional confusion I experienced.

I believe in my heart that the AIO team are good people.

I also believe that good people can get blinded by a goal… where you become convinced it’s noble and worthy for the ends to justify the means.

I see this in front line activists in my political work. It’s the exact same energy.

And I would consider everyone who works at FOTF and AIO to essentially be frontline activists for their political/religious cause. These people are making sometimes very real life sacrifices for what they believe to be the most noble of causes. The kind of person attracted to that kind of work is deep down usually a profoundly noble person of integrity.

Good people can cause harm without meaning to cause harm.

Harm occurred in this process.

I’m not here to rake anybody over the coals… that is not the goal of this project.

BUT.



We have to look at things as honestly as possible in life in order to fully appreciate the positive and negative effects of XYZ.

And part of my attempt here is to simply document the good and bad of it.

I am not the Judge, the Jury, or The Executioner.

I am simply here presenting evidence.

And trying to interpret my evidence as best as I can.

You the Reader are the Judge, Jury, and…

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 152- The Meaning of Sacrifice

I have no memory of this episode about the Barclay’s deciding to not watch TV anymore.

This would be the second anti-TV episode I would do.

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 154- Coming of Age

The title of this would cause much snickering in fan forums 15 years later.

This. Was. Not. A. Fun. Episode. To. Record.

It had been made clear to me in the meeting with ExecProdDad that an exit was imminent.

And that they hoped they could find a way to keep me around.

But, I knew the clock was ticking.

Focus called.

They want you again.

Drive to Pomona.



Thru the glass doors.



Past the Vice President picture next to the Book Store.



Up the giant stair case.



There’s a whole lot more pins in that giant map since the first time it was put up…

Through the doorway of the AIO wing.

I swear the person who usually greeted me had tear filled eyes that day.



It felt heavy when everyone encountered me.

It was so shitty.

I knew. This is it.

The long walk back to the studio.

Through the door locks.

I get handed the script.

Coming of Age.

This. is. it.



Fuck.



The. End. of. an. Era.

I have no idea how I got through the recording of that episode without bursting into tears.

I’m crying writing this 30 years later, fuck me.

154 episodes in 3 1/2 years.

I did… *checks list*… 42 of ’em.

27%.

That’s seems like an insignificant percentage if you think about how most TV shows are. Oh, a character was only in 1/4 of the episodes. Pssh.

But, AIO was always an ensemble structure. It’s about the town of… Odyssey. And so for any character to dominate that much bandwidth, was not an insignificant character. Let alone a kid character.



There were two child characters ridden to exhaustion.

Jimmy.

And Lucy.

Jimmy and Lucy account for HALF the shows that were ever produced during our era.

I did a quarter of them.

And she did a quarter of them.

This was not insignificant.

We were children.

And this pro life, pro family organization…

How did you prepare the children under your watch for a moment like this?

Where Fucking Puberty™ will cost them their second family?

Some might argue it’s not their responsibility.

I say…

when you use child labor…

you best be fucking concerned about children’s well being.

ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE DOING IT THE NAME OF GOD.

WHERE WAS I?

Oh yeah…

The script.

This is it.

This is the special episode they wrote for me.

Why does everybody keep calling it my Peter Brady episode?

This makes the adults snicker.

Oh yeah…. HOW MANY CHILD ACTORS EVER HAD TO LIVE OUT THEIR PUBERTY IN A FICTIONALIZED WAY IN THE HISTORY OF RECORDED MEDIA?!?

While that list has certainly probably grown since I did this episode… at the time there was what… The Peter Brady episode from the Brady Bunch and the episode where Rudy from the Cosby Show gets her period.

That was pretty much the only mainstream examples of this in 1990-91.

So, I was entering some really uncomfortably rare territory.



Raise your hand if your arrival to adolescence was turned into a piece of art that would later be sold and played all over the world.



*looks around*



Just… just me?

Again?



*sigh*

To be fair… I think great effort was put into trying as best as possible to handle the subject matter in a delicate and as comfortable way as possible?

Sorry, I’ve forgotten to include a synopsis:

Once again I will defer to AIOWiki.

Coming of Age Synopsis

It’s a rare thing to actually have part of your life experience be used as fodder for a media product.

I’ve always suspected I was the muse for the character.

I have to assume that’s part of the case here, but also, I have to imagine that the production team found itself in a bit of a problem.

Remember a few paragraphs ago where I showed I had done 27% of the series and that effectively Jimmy and Lucy combined for half the episode output?



That number may seem low to the casual observer.



Imagine a production team that just lost 27% of their future story lines.

For most of the last 30 years I always looked at Coming of Age as an episode that was written “for me”.

It was always an episode that I took pride in. Because I knew the team was thinking about me when they wrote it. But, 30 years later I realize… they were ALWAYS thinking about me.

No one told me that.

And now I believe this was more about trying to find a way to explain to the fans what’s about to happen.

This 3 year ride where you got a 10 year old kid to become one of your two Golden Gooses… it’s coming to an end and you gotta prepare your audience.

I don’t view this episode the same way anymore.

It’s something I have conflicted feelings about.

I believe it was handled with as careful and thoughtful a touch as possible at the time. I’m sure some of my comfort maybe played into their calculus? But… maybe not? I really don’t know.

Kids need to learn about puberty.

I’m a performing artist who is going through puberty.

And it’s literally something they HAVE to deal with. Every other male actor was dropped.



No boy actor had ever survived Fucking Puberty™

And so, in their best show saving effort… they’d have to find a way to delicately extract me from the show that they had built so much of… around me.

Right?

In the last post I shared a quote that appears in their 25th Anniversary book around this episode. I want to hone in on a particular phrase:

“After this incident in the studio, we decided to address David’s voice change through the character of Jimmy Barclay….

A secondary purpose to the show was to say goodbye to Jimmy and family since the Barclay kids were getting older.”

*Emphasis and editing mine.

Coming of Age was written to write me out of the show.

And the entire Barclay family.

Cuz… no Jimmy… no Barclay.



(Keep this in mind fans on social media who earlier today were still asking for the return of the Barclays… the Barclays will never be back because… no Jimmy… no Barclays.)

You don’t understand how much they never want to associate with me ever again.

But, that’s later.

My second imposed exile.

This is the story of the first imposed exile.

And so… we recorded the episode.

And I was very sad and trying my best to keep my chin up. And stay positive and be a good sport. But, inside… my heart was breaking.



Have you ever had to say goodbye to everyone you ever cared about all at once?

Now try experiencing that while not fucking up a 30 page script.

I think everyone in the studio probably felt sad that day.



I have to think I mattered to the cast. Hal? Katie?



I don’t remember even so much as a goodbye card.

cake.

hug.

just… finished the final scene

andthanksbye.

And then it was over.



The greatest experience of my life.



My favorite thing to do.



My only source of happiness.



I’m 13 years old and I’ve been written out of the show I helped build because…



…*checks notes…



Fucking Puberty™.


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2 responses to “The End of an Era”

  1. Jeremy Klipsch Avatar
    Jeremy Klipsch

    Damn.

    I’m glad I found this, man. Your character was like my brother growing up, and we’re probably around the same age. I started listening to episodes again because my dad died, and my real family wrote my character out of their story for disagreeing with their politics. I think you were outstanding at your craft, and it’s disappointing to understand that you were exploited like this. My life has been easier to cope with because of the work you did growing up, and I’m thankful for you. Highest regards always.

    1. dave Avatar

      Apologies for failing to respond to this message. The last month has been a bit rough and I saw your message come in and meant to circle back and forgot.

      Thank you so much for these kind words. It genuinely means the world to me to know how much the character of Jimmy was loved. I LOVED playing that character. And to know your affection for him, that’s the greatest compliment an actor could ever receive. Thank you for sharing that with me.

      I know what it is to be written out of the family. Literally. Both my own family and my studio “family”. It is a lonely experience. Good on you for finding your political path and sticking to your conscience.

      Thank you for your compliments… I’ve struggled with some winter blues the last few weeks and this lifts my spirits. I’m grateful.

      I will revisit this comment often when I feel down and so thank you for the gift you’ve given me that will stay with me for a long time (As long as this blog exists in the eternal blogosphere).

      Lastly, my condolences on the passing of your father. Whether your relationship was positive or negative, that is a monumental loss that takes a long time to work through and grieve. I wish comfort and a good grieving process for you. That you may find peace and solace in your loss.

      Thank you for reaching out. And welcome!

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