When I was a kid I always looked forward to fall, not just for the cooler weather, but also because of the new TV shows and new seasons of my favorite TV shows starting again. Thankfully for me, an avid couch potato, I don’t have to wait to get my fix of new episodes until fall for some of my favorites. Now new seasons start in January, too. A show that is beginning again that I am so excited for is Mercy Street. It is a PBS historical medical drama that is set in Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War.
My husband, Bobby, made it possible for us to visit the set of Mercy Street last June during my birthday week. He writes for The Daily Record newspaper in Wooster, Ohio, and we traveled to Richmond, Va., to write about a local physician, Dr. Tony Tizzano, who served as a medical adviser to the show. I wrote all about our time on the set back then. (You can read about it here and here.) It is hard to believe that I will finally be able to watch the show again and this time have my own behind the scenes memories.
While I was on the set, I got to see how the actors got ready for their scenes. I got to see how everything had to be reset to record probably a 2 minute scene over and over. I am wondering if when I watch the show (which airs on PBS Sunday, January 22 at 8 pm) whether I will be able to experience the whole adventure again.
During a conversation Bobby had with Gary Cole, who portrays James Greene, Sr., in the show, he got a bit of insight into the acting profession. Bobby said that Mr. Cole explained his approach to acting which is doing the very best he can for each scene he is in, but not necessarily spending a lot of time “in character” outside of it. Because of my experience on the set I understand why. Unlike in a live show, actors for TV and movies aren’t necessarily doing their scenes chronologically. So they might do a scene from the beginning of the show and one from the end right after that. The actors have to get the right emotion for their character to convince those watching that it is real, without any actual context. (OK, I know they have the script ahead of time and have studied it, but you catch my meaning.)
So it will be interesting to see the scene I watched being filmed to see if they can convince me of their characters’ state of mind. This is especially intriguing when I will know just seconds before they had been sitting in the shade, enjoying some relaxation and maybe “sandwich 30” (when the caterer brings around snacks). Something I never would have thought about had I not had the chance to be there in person.