Acting is stressful.
I should know; I have a part in Sin Bin.
If you were at Union Station Monday around rush hour than you may have noticed a film crew. That was Sin Bin. They were at the city’s iconic transportation hub—setting for movies like The Untouchables and Public Enemies—to shoot several scenes with Sin Bin stars Michael Seater and Emily Meade—and me.
Here’s how I snagged a part in Sin Bin.
I arrived at Union Station around 4:30 p.m., straight from my day job. I was wearing a suit and tie, and I was carrying a briefcase. I also had my hair cut on Saturday, and I shaved. Sin Bin co-star Bo Burnham laughed when he saw me. Having visited the set in nothing fancier than jeans and a T-shirt, Bo thought the wardrobe department had dudded me up. A 29-year-old in a suit, carrying a briefcase, is apparently hilarious to him.
When the director, Billy Federighi, spotted me on the set, he didn’t laugh. Instead, he said, “You, sir, look like a fine thespian, someone who deserves a part in my film. Come, let us make movie magic.”
Actually, he said something like, “You should be an extra.” I agreed without hesitation.
Problem is no one believed me that I had arrived on-set Monday dressed up in earnest. Consensus was I had worn the suit and brought the briefcase knowing Billy would cast me as an extra. While the circumstancial evidence is compelling, I assure you this wasn’t the case. Promise.
But back to my role.
It was a physical one. In it, Michael Seater, the male lead of Sin Bin, runs through Union Station, and during this mad dash he runs into a businessman. I’m the businessman–the man in the gray flannel wool suit.
Sin Bin‘s 1st assistant director, Matt Corrado, told me where to stand for the tracking shot, in which the crew filmed Seater running down a flight of stairs–the same stairs where The Untouchable‘s shoot out scene was filmed–and then taking a hard right (at which point the camera begins following him). After taking that hard right, he knocks into me, the businessman.
I was nervous. Very nervous. My anxiety level went from its baseline of about 4.5 to 9.5 as soon as I was left standing on my own, in the middle of a movie shoot, with the crew preparing to film and small crowd of onlookers gathering behind them.
I played two years of football in high school, and I was lousy. Sophomore year I played free safety, a position I chose, even though I hated it. It was the last line of defense between the ball carrier and a touchdown. You’re left alone, dangling, everyone watching your performance. This is how I felt standing there in Union Station, even though I was an extra with no lines, far–far–from the centerpiece of the scene.
Still, unlike my football playing days, I nailed it–all four times Federighi shot the scene. My biggest fear was that I would anticipate the run-in with Seater and then try to act, instead of letting the incident occur. I was assured by Seater, Federighi, and others that I didn’t anticipate.
Of course, all of my questions were horribly obnoxious, I’m sure, to Federighi and director of photography Seamus Tierney, and Corrado, and everyone else behind the camera.
Although later in the day, along the Chicago lakeshore, Federighi–unprompted–rated my performance.
After the four takes with the tracking shot, they filmed it at another angle. This time it was a “push” shot of Seater running towards the camera, which meant I was walking away from it. As they prepared for this shot, measuring the distance from me to the camera (I also served as the stand-in for Seater in this scene), another crowd began gathering.
At one point during the filming of Sin Bin, my wife observed that being a celebrity would suck, because people are always watching you. For instance, two weeks ago she joined the crew and me for the overnight shoot in Happy Foods. This was the shoot that included Ben McKenzie and Gillian Jacobs. My wife, Sally, admitted that she couldn’t stop starring at Jacobs and McKenzie. She’d seen them on TV, and to have them standing in front of her was strange, even surreal, she said.
Based on the few minutes I spent in the spotlight–with people whispering (or least thinking), “Who is that? Do I know him? He doesn’t look famous. He looks more insecure. Wait a second, is that Brad Pitt? OhmyGod that’s Brad Pitt!”–this feeling does not suck. It’s actually very good for one’s ego. I recommend it.
The scene ended with little fanfare–for me at least. I signed some sort of waiver and then split a beer with Federighi’s uncle, who was on set that day. A cold drink after a hard day of work.
When I finished the beer, I grabbed Seater to ask him about my performance. Then he turned the camera on me.
Wow. Fame has really gone to my head, or at least my hair.