The Kids are ET – CultTimes (Toy House Spoilers)
Thanks to Boop for sending this in!
“The Kids Are ET”
From: The UK publication, Cult Times
By: Ian Spelling
Aliens have invaded Roswell High. For many years the remained undetected, but when the enigmatic Max Evans (Jason Behr) saves the life of fellow student Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) their secret is in danger of becoming public knowledge. As the series progresses, the mounting feelings Max and Liz share put the extraterrestrial visitors in greater peril, and arouse the suspicions in those around them.
As Roswell’s first few episodes receive their premiere in the UK, the series is very much in production in the US. Some days are more exciting than others on the set of TV’s freshman SCI-Fi hit, but they’re all necessary.
It’s mid-afternoon on a lazy November day when Cult Times visits the cavernous sound state on Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood, California. The Roswell team is filming episode 11, entitled “The Toy House”, tentatively set to air in February. The hour involves, among other things, Max and Isabel (Katherine Heigl) trying to decide whether or not to tell their human mother (Mary Ellen Trainor) that they’re really aliens. As for the scene in question, it unfolds in the Evans household, specifically in the kitchen. A grease fire suddenly bursts forth from a skillet, imperiling Max’s mother, and Max leaps into action, knocking the skillet from her hand, and extinguishing the fire with a mere wave of his hand. He then awkwardly, tosses water on the burning vegetables in a fairly lame effort to cover his tracks. The incident of course, forces Max’s mother to wonder about Max and how he’s always been a little off-kilter, somewhat un-usual, perhaps even a tad… alien.
Michael Fields is directing “The Toy House” and he’s putting everyone through a rehearsal in order to finalize the choreography of the scene. There will be no real flame-up, as that will be added later via special effects. But burning vegetables do need to be seen in the shot, thus a crewman stands ready with a blowtorch to scorch the carrots, onions and peppers. Another crewman holds in his hands bags of fresh vegetables. In Hollywood, even carrots, onions and peppers have stand-ins and stunt doubles, and they probably want residuals. Fields watches intently as Behr and Trainor do their thing and as a cameraman wielding a hand held camera does his bit to capture the action for posterity. When every one seems ready, Fields calls for the camera to roll on scene 2P/
On take one, Fields- viewing the action through a monitor just behind the kitchen set- isn’t satisfied with the angle at which Trainor holds the skillet. He zips into the kitchen, stands behind the actress and wraps his hands around hers, much like a golf pro teaching someone how to swing a club properly, and shows her precisely what he had in mind. He then heads back to his director’s chair
“Michael”, she mock complains as he walks away, “you should have hired a pan model.” They both smile. On take two, Trainor gets the angle just right. “That was pretty good,” Fields says, but he requests another go at it. Trainor laughs. “I have consumed more fumes toady…” she says, looking hard at a couple of crewmen who are actually sporting white paper masks that cover their mouths and noses.
Take three looks rather good, and Fields remarks on his delight with it. A first assistant director then chimes in with some bad news. “The vegetables sparked when they hit the ground,” he says somberly. “And we can’t have that.” Everyone groans, some more audibly than others. Finally, on take four, Behr walks by at just the right instant, Trainor drops the skillet perfectly, and the veggies don’t spark as they hit ground zero, and Behr convincingly dumps water on the offending (albeit invisible) blaze. “That was perfect” Fields announces, “Print that.”
Wasting little time, Fields moves on to the next shot, a close up of the burned vegetables on the ground. Behr and Trainor disappear into their respective trailers, while several crewmen race into the room and kneel on the kitchen floor, speedily installing a piece of flooring that perfectly matches the existing floor, except that its been pre-burned. The scorched veggies can then be strewn on top of the temporary flooring, providing the desired effect without ruining part of the permanent set. When everything’s ready, Fields rolls camera. “Great” he says following take one. The first assistant director bursts Field’s bubble again, however, this time citing technical problems. “I wasn’t that happy with it anyway,” Fields cracks as he surveys the area. “Can I keep the pan? If have that, people will think I actually cook.
The director then confers with his crew, and in a moment, they’re ready for take two. “Flame em up!” he shouts, and take two does the trick. The moment is in the can without a hitch. Fields then comes over to talk for a brief moment. “You probably wanted to see a lot of fire, huge flames, didn’t you”, he asks playfully. “Believe it or not, it’s less expensive and more effective to do that stuff later, with opticals, than to bring in stunt men and risk using real fire. Our little blowtorch is all the fire we really need to pull it off.” Just then, a crewman walks by with the incinerated veggies. Fields cracks up. “This is scintillating stuff,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s the height of sci-fi, and you were here to see it.”
Much later on, in his trailer after wrapping his day, Jason Behr is still full of energy and good humour. And he’s this way despite the fact that only his taking the time to talk is preventing him from heading home for the night. “The height of Sci-Fi”, he says smiling, broadly as he repeats Fields’ words. “That’s one way to describe it. We’ve got all kinds of moments on Roswell. We’ve got big moments, with big action or big revelations, and then we’ve got the quieter moments, the little things that don’t seem to important. But they are all important. Everything is building to something on Roswell. Because the WB gave us such a big order (a 22-episode commitment), we can reveal things slowly. We don’t have to do everything at once, in one episode. That’s great. “What I’m trying to do- and what I think we’re all trying to do here- is to play the smaller, quieter moments, even the ones that may not seem so important, the same way I’d play the bigger, more obviously important moments. If we play everything that way, it can only make the show that much better. That’s how I look at it.”