“Focus called. They want you again.”
Drive to Pomona.
Thru the entryway.
Up the big staircase.
Hey… there’s more pins in the map.
Get my 2.7 packets of hot chocolate.
Sugared up and ready to go.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 48- Heroes
I’ve commented briefly on this episode in Heroes so I won’t say much more other than there would be an incident years later that would be one of the first examples of my understanding that fans had a very different relationship to the material than I did.
I am a fan. Of many people. Artists. Bands. Jugglers. Chess GMs. Astronauts. Actors and VO Artists.
I understand the nature of fandom. But, it’s weird when it hits your life. And while we won’t get to the fan part of this for another decade at least…
I don’t want to forget a cute memory related to this episode.
The first fan I ever met and got to know.
She mentioned in that first meetup…
What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck is a Bimmy?!?
IS THIS SOME STRANGE FAN THING THAT I’VE MISSED OUT ON?!?
WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN BIMMIED YET?
Is it something you take?
Am I about to get high here?
How many Bimmies do I need?
Apparently, there is a line delivery that I did that makes people crack up.
Lil’ Jimmy gets so tongue twisted meeting his favorite athlete that he can’t say his name right. “I’m Bimmy. Bimmy Jarclay.”
I have no memory of this.
I haven’t listened to it in 33 years probably. It’s interesting to hear repeated back to you a line you did that brought people joy and laughs and it holds no space in your brain whatsoever. But now… I’ve seen it a number of times over the years as fans riff to each other quoting the show.
It feels good.
I enjoy knowing that I got to be one part of a larger piece of something that makes people happy. How many millions of people around the world have enjoyed that little moment for decades? It’s fun to think about and experience.
It’s interesting the relationship that an actor has to dialogue.
For me, dialogue is text in a script. Words on pages. I try to analyze the text a bit if I have time. Often, I would mark my lines without ever reading them when first given the script because I’d never see the script until I arrived in studio.
As years went on this was my preferred technique. I liked not knowing anything about the piece at all until we would do the first run through. Other actors would mark lines and work the text to see if there were stumbling blocks– each actor has unique word combinations that can throw them. Little personal tongue twisters. Some practice quietly in a corner while sipping a morning coffee.
Perhaps I had the arrogance of youth. It was fun to not know what I was about to say until right as I needed to say it. And then you’re genuinely playing off the other people in the room.
The one semi-consequence of this technique is that I never have much memory of any dialogue afterwards. Living-in-the-moment of the performance. And then you’re on to the next scene and you don’t have time to process or digest any of what you just recorded which means it doesn’t really get lodged in your memory. Plus, at the time there were probably 3-4 just as funny versions that don’t make it into the final scene. Words and text are the dirt you shovel as you dig the trench of the recording session. Instantly forgettable.
If I didn’t have the script with me when I went home I often wouldn’t remember anything about the episode until receiving it in the mail.
Most episodes I have no memory of. Only a few stand out actually.
Which brings us to…
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 054- Peace on Earth
I have no memory of this episode.
I’m assuming by title that it’s a christmas episode. We did lots of themed holiday episodes. Barclays were the family sitcom. Thanksgivings. Christmas. All the family holidays. There was a homeless family once I think. Iunno. A frozen turkey. It all blends together.
Also, the Barclays were named after the characters in It’s a Wonderful Life. I wouldn’t learn this for many years. But, apparently Jimmy was named after Jimmy Stewart. (more on this later)
Where was I?
Oh yeah. Episodes I don’t remember.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 56- By Faith, Noah
No memory of this episode either.
There were a few instances where at the tail end of a recording session I would be given a piece for a second episode. Usually a small part. Few wild lines. Cuz I was already in the studio? Easier to schedule? To maximize the $75 per session investment they were paying me? Original actor cancelled? In this case I play the character Billy.
I don’t think I ever heard this episode. So I have no idea if the character has just a few lines but I’m assuming that’s the case here.
I believe this was one of those of those instances of wilding a few lines. Maybe one or two small scenes. Did I get paid for it? Iunno.
There was at least one other instance that I can think of off the top of my head that occurred around this run of episodes.
I was never sent tapes of episodes I wasn’t in.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 50- Karen
*long slow exhale*
I’m imagining every one of my secular readers to burst out laughing right now and every AIO fan to feel a lump in their throat.
Karen was, I believe… I could be wrong here… I don’t like to be incorrect or disseminate bad information….
I believe I recorded dialogue for Karen at the end of another session. A few lines. Must have.
I was sent the tape.
But I don’t appear in it. And I believe it was the first time I had been cut out of an episode.
Amazing episode. Profound. Talked about still. A very important episode that brought a tremendous amount of people around the world healing and comfort in times of tears and suffering. And it had a profound affect on the creative team and cast that performed it.
Adventures in Odyssey has done many, many, many things I’m very proud to have participated in and been associated with and to help collaborate and create.
Karen is one of those things.
For the uninitiated of you, Karen was an episode where Jimmy’s sister Donna has a friend in school– Karen– who has cancer.
She does not survive.
It’s pretty epic storytelling.
Beautifully written and performed.
Hard for kids but handled with tremendous deft touch by the creative team. It was a signature episode.
Notorious episode. In a good way. Whenever that episode was spoken about in studio it was usually followed with an uncomfortable momentary solemn silence. As though staff had read too many heartbreaking fan letters that they never shared with us.
It was a true story that had happened to the daughter of the Executive Producer. And the effect that it had on everyone involved lingered profoundly for years. It was palpable.
AND I HAD AN ORIGINAL COPY.
AND THEY NEVER SENT ORIGINAL COPIES TO ANYONE WHO WASN’T IN THE EPISODE.
The important thing to remember here though…
When we’re dealing with episodes about childhood cancer…
what really matters…
Is that Jimmy is NOT officially in this episode.
So it is NOT included in the official tally.
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 50- Karen
But this brings us to the main subject of our post here today…
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 057- The Prodigal, Jimmy
A theme in this post is about how certain words, themes, and concepts will live on and take on a life after the show. Words that jump from the page and lands in your life in strange and odd ways you don’t expect. Good and bad.
It’s one of these things that happened to me on several different… um… threads? Lines of philosophical ponderification? I don’t know how else to explain this.
I’ve heard of a few instances of this. Probably the most notable were actresses whose characters were made fun of for being fat who later went on to develop real life eating disorders.
This work is very complicated psychologically. And the way your life is used as cannon fodder by adults and the collateral damage that occurs in ways nobody thinks about or intends for harm to occur. And as children it can be very hard to separate relationships from the character work in studio to the green room where real life is. I suffer from this to this day.
Actor Wil Wheaton discusses this effect around the issue of “Shut up, Wesley” and how this was a line of dialogue used during the show that then took on a really uncomfortable backstage life that then jumped to the fans and became a new source of harassment and literal trauma.
That word is…
I. hate. that. fucking. word.
It took on such a pestering role in my life that I avoided writing this post for the last month.
It’s a Wonderful Life.
There are words and themes and concepts that have followed me for years.
It brings me joy and happiness to know that one throwaway piece of dialogue has survived 35 years to still bring a chuckle. That’s a damn good feeling as an actor.
Hearing that word being spoken from the lips of a dying 12 year old shook me to my core and I burst into tears and it changed my life forever.
This work can have a profound affect on you if you’re willing to let it.
It’s an organic thing. The relationship between an artist and an audience.
To have been fortunate enough to get to experience those moments.
It’s a gift and a privilege.
There is tremendous good here.
With It’s a Wonderful Life…
We’ll get to that later.
Well, that’s what this whole thing is about.
The Prodigal, Jimmy is a very basic morality play based upon a parable of Jesus’ teachings called: The Prodigal Son.
It’s in the Red Words.
Jimmy has money burning a hole in his pocket and wants to play a video game. Zapazoids.
This is ANOTHER word that has followed me. In a charming way. Apparently, a fan somewhere made an actual video game of Zapazoids. I can’t remember if I’ve played it or not. Pretty sure I have not.
I think the world might need that during these dark times. Real Life Dave Griffin Playing real life Zapazoids for the first time ever. Somebody needs to make this happen. We’ll live stream it.
Anyway, Jimmy has money for something… I don’t remember. He ends up getting conned using the money to play the video game with fake friends who help him spend his money until it’s gone. Then in his shame he wallows in self pity before returning home to the loving forgiveness of his father played by The Executive Producer of the show!
Did I forget to mention that the Executive Producer played my dad?
He wasn’t the first actor cast in the role. And I had 3 different moms.
It was an unstable home environment for impressionable kids. Tsk tsk tsk.
Keep in mind that both adult characters were replaced multiple times.
They didn’t change Jimmy or Donna, though…
Interesting, interesting, interesting.
But yeah. The Exec Prod was Pops.
Which will make for some… um… odd dynamics at times for a kid without industry professionals guiding him. Relationships get… complicated.
Jimmy is wayward and sinful and must repent and be forgiven.
This will become a theme for this character. Perhaps the main theme of this character. It will overlap with my life and the show as the years go on.
This first time though… it was an awesome performance that I crushed.
There was a unique factor in the recording. I think the final scene we opened up the studio and rearranged the mics– usually the mics are setup in a half circle with chairs and music stands for scripts– and just had a single mic and moved all the chairs outta the way. Just me, ExecProdDad, no scripts, and a single microphone.
So, the scene could actually play out physically (I think there was a hug involved) and we performed it as a dramatic improvisation.
This is the kind of stuff I eat up in the art form. Always down for authenticity.
Not bad for an 11 year old, eh? Can improvise a final scene of emotionalocity?
Btw, as a total aside– it’s really fucking hard to go from this experience back to community theater or god forbid school plays. Like, this experience killed a lot of the art forms around acting for me for life.
Once you’ve played at the highest levels it’s hard to go back to little league. YEAH, I SAID IT.
There’s a story about Bobby Fischer after he walked away from being crowned World Chess Champion after singlehandedly defeating the Soviet chess empire. He got drafted into a cult in SoCal and went up to visit this GM Friend for a respite in the late 70’s.
GM Friend brings out a board… Wanna play?
They get through maybe 7 moves before Bobby already has him on his back foot. GM Friend compliments him. (GM means Grand Master, btw)
GM Friend realizes Bobby is utterly bored and no longer enjoys playing the game. Against a bonafide GM there was no creative challenge. Against a fucking GRAND MASTER. But Bobby was so much further beyond that it wasn’t even fun anymore.
It sounds snotty. It’s feels arrogant to think it let alone type it for strangers to read. But… man… when you spend a decade working with the Industry’s finest seasoned pros it becomes hard to work with rookies. And you can’t tell anybody that at the local community theater or in drama 101 in high school/college… you sound like an arrogant asshole.
But, it’s a real frustration as an artist when you’re used to working at a certain level and then… can’t access that level for <insert reasons>. Again another form of isolation that went along with this whole thing. Not a lot of peers understand.
More on that later as well.
One final memory from this time that fits the theme and is a good point to end on.
Something new appeared in the lobby during this stretch of episodes where the pins in the giant map were becoming ever more prevalent:
I remember bounding through the big glass doors that lead into the main atrium. A round information desk at the bottom of the large staircase. The book store.
And there it was.
On the wall.
Lit with a special light, a golden glow from the heavens…
Aimed at a picture.
First thing you notice in the room the way it was lit.
A place of the highest visual prominence.
Take a moment to consider: What picture/image/painting would one who is NOT an evangelical think would hold a prominent place in an evangelical organization?
Jesus? Like that’s the obvious, right? Some very white version of Jesus with a well-trimmed beard.
Nope. Not that.
Dobson? Sure. Plenty of that.
But, in a religious non-profit organization that shouldn’t have to pay taxes to a government… what image takes center stage of greatest importance?
Hey, look at that…
Dr Dobson met with the Vice President of the United States of America,
George H. W. Bush.
And here was a picture of it!
The leader of a Fucking Evangelical™ global radio empire meeting with the Vice President who is running for President himself.
There’s an interesting quote from Dobson remarking on the death of the 41st POTUS I found googling around:
“It is with sadness that Shirley I have learned of the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. I knew him as one of the most kind and generous men I have known. I met him when he was Vice President under President Ronald Reagan. Bush invited me to his office in the Eisenhower Building, May 1988…“
’88 was an election year.
Why was the Vice President of the United States of America inviting a religious broadcaster into a taxpayer-funded government building 6 months before a Presidential election? Tea and crumpets? To sample jellybeans stolen from Reagan’s stash across the street? Bible study?
Why. Would. Someone. Trying. To. Become. The. Most. Powerful. Man. In. The. World. Be. Interested. In. A. Fucking. Evangelical. ™. Radio. Empire. ?.
Interesting. Interesting. Interesting.
And why would a supposed group of christian broadcasters who don’t want governments to interfere in their work be interested in mingling with politicians? Aren’t there supposed to be barriers between government and religion? Isn’t that why these poor organizations that have barely any money to spend on actors and can only raise… *checks notes*… a measly $100,000,000 a year in donations need freedom from government interference so they don’t have to pay taxes and therefor can’t be corrupted by the government but also can’t corrupt the government in return?
Did you know the IRS will revoke the tax-exempt status of a church who lets a politician use a church to run for political office?
I’m sure there’s nothing to see here.
And I’m sure this wasn’t the start of a pattern of any kind.
And I’m sure it was just a prayer meeting with the second most powerful person on earth who was running for the number one spot.
Sure. Totally normal.
Nothing. To. See. Here.
Something to boast about, in fact.
By the way.
What was it again?
That’s a very fucking interesting word.