To be honest, I sort of imagined my Oscar debut to come with a rush of excitement and a thank-you speech in hand, with me saying something like: "Thank you for loving my script. I can't forget my husband and kids who have stood by me," blah blah blah.
But instead, I was talking about quinoa with Sharon DeVellis, and Galen Weston from Loblaws and on a national commercial. But that's okay because it was still on the Oscar broadcast. And it was a really exciting experience to be in some commercials too! (You can see them here.)
But how did it happen?
A few weeks ago I received an email asking if I wanted to be cast in a President's Choice commercial. From there, I went to a (very casual) audition and next thing I knew my house was full of 50 guys with cameras and someone asking me if I wanted a tuna melt and then redoing my lipstick.
Sharon DeVellis, one of my fave writers from Speedskatingmom and YMC, had been cast in this whirlwind along with me. And thank goodness she was, because this is the kind of thing that is best experienced with a solid, thoughtful and funny wingperson.
Being in the middle of a commercial shoot is like being in controlled chaos. Sometimes it veers closer to chaos and other times closer to a well-planned army manoeuvre.
Once our makeup was done and wardrobe approved by at least three different people, we were wired for sound. This involved snaking things down my pants, lots of tape and mumbled 'excuse mes' about a slipping tank top. I haven't been manhandled by that many people since.... never mind.
The three cameras were setup, the playback monitors were turned on, the lights were positioned and the sound was checked (poor sound guys, they probably heard some unsavoury language coming from me). Sharon DeVellis and I looked at each other and thought WTF?
There we were standing in my hallway, along with 50 strangers, waiting for Galen Weston, the chairman of Loblaws, to arrive. I am not ashamed to admit, I sweat a bit and needed to pee (but undoing the Spanx/corset situation under my tank top was a laborious job, so I held it.)
And then he walked in. His immediate comfort amid the chaos made us more comfortable. And so we sat at my kitchen table pretending to eat hummus and had an authentic conversation about the challenges of feeding a family healthy food. FOR OVER THREE HOURS.
I found Galen Weston to be genuine, funny and really committed to the idea of sustainability and health. He was open to hearing the things we don't like about Loblaws and knew each and every store we mentioned.
There were breaks and lots of snacks (not that I could eat, thanks to the corset), and makeup touch ups.
The funny thing about being in a commercial is that you are treated incredibly nicely; I have never heard so many compliments -- I was beautiful, sounded great, funny, made great points, lively! And also treated like a product; accessories were taped on me, hair was moved, cleavage covered, chair adjusted.
My tiny window into that world gave me a sense of how it is for actors and why they get such a disconnect from the real world.
Meanwhile, my kids were watching the scene. They lived at the craft services truck, eating breakfast and dinner there. They were also filmed and had to have wardrobe approval and hair treatments.
They were amazed, excited, and bored by the whole process. And now they can watch a commercial or a movie and know that it takes days and weeks to put it together. I wouldn't want them to be in lots of commercials but I think that the one experience gave them an extra boost of media literacy.
It isn't easy to watch yourself in High Definition. I stumble over my words, I have bags under my eyes and there is a point where you can almost see me wonder what to do with my hands. But the commercials are on national TV and online and I will have to live with my awkward hand placement for a while longer.
In the meantime, I am going to clutch my can of Blue Menu chickpeas and practice my Oscar speech in the mirror.
Want more chaos? Last year, I reported that teens have like some awe-SOME ways of talking.