It’s 11:00 in the morning and the sweltering Florida sunlight beams down on the rental car I share with my coworkers as we drive to our first day on set at The Glades.
A native South Floridian, the trip back to my hometown is an exciting one, and I delight in sharing anecdotes about every place we pass, what my coworkers have begun to call “Sam Moments.” There are more than enough “Sam Moments” to last us the forty-five minutes that it takes to get from the airport to the set in Pembroke Park, and Marc, our on-set tour guide, is there to greet us when we arrive.
Marc is listed on our call sheets as the “Man In Charge of Everything Important “ for The Glades. He tells us that after a career in the automotive industry, he decided he needed a change for his family and moved into the world of production. An ambitious and resourceful go-to guy, he’s been making friends and moving up the ranks ever since, starting as a props master for the show and eventually working his way up to a grip, all during his first season on set. Marc is the type you want to keep around. He has his eye everything, from lighting to craft services and is the one everybody else goes to for answers.
As we look around, squinting against the glare of the southern sun, Marc tells us we’ve arrived at “basecamp,” an ever-changing location where the cast and crew go to eat, rest in their trailers or pick up equipment for the next shoot.
After a brief pit stop, we leave basecamp in the production van, which carts cast and crew around when they’re on location, to begin our grand tour of The Glades production office and soundstage. The building is the equivalent of a large warehouse with an office space tacked on. From the outside, it looks like any other unassuming strip mall complex in Florida, and in my head I’m surveying the scene for a neighboring Gymboree or Rotisserie Chicken restaurant.
Inside, the production office is as unassuming, but Marc never lets on as he enthusiastically describes the various departments, from travel, who coordinates the comings and goings of actors, art, who works on props and certain set pieces for the show including police badges and hospital signage, and locations, who books the various sites around the city where the show is shot.
During our tour, we meet up with Uriah Shelton who plays Jeff Cargill on the show. Uriah is a pint-size powerhouse and talks to us about everything from learning Mandarin Chinese in his on-set classes to his friend’s opinions on his newfound fame.
Later, we stop by for a chat with Jordan Wall (Daniel Green), whose shy, timid personality reminds me a lot of the character he plays on the show, though he swears they aren’t really that much alike.
Lunchtime comes around and I’m famished from simply walking back and forth, so I can only imagine how the crew feels. We head back to basecamp, where the expert catering department has prepared a veritable feast. While my coworkers ooh and aah over the crab cakes, I head straight for the barbequed chicken. I am a southern girl afterall.
Lunch segues into a discussion with the actor who plays the dead body on this week’s episode “Marriage is Murder,” who is gracious enough to give me an interview. My first question: how do you measure up to other dead guys on TV? After all, between CSI, Burn Notice and the like, there are just so many to compete with these days! He, of course, believed himself to be the best of all the theatrically deceased. I admired his confidence.
Our next stop is the sound stage, where we tour the sets of the character’s homes, the police station and medical examiner’s office and I kind of feel like I’m strolling along with a realtor on my way to buy a new house. What always gets me about being on set is how real everything looks until you spot the looming production lights and half-painted wood in the background.
Then, as quickly as it came, the day is over. But the excitement of the day is quickly replaced by concern as I realize I’m not feeling so well. I go back to my hotel and by the next morning I’m full blown sick and worried that this business trip (which is only half over) can only end in chaos.
We drive to that day’s basecamp which is at the hospital where all of Callie’s scenes are shot. From there, Marc takes us to the set for the day which is on location in Oakland Park. The set is full of busy looking production people who clearly have places to be. They skirt around us with determined looks, barely aware of anything but their role in this production. Most of the scenes this morning are being shot outside a gorgeous house that is part Italian villa and part beach bungalow.
Marc sets up two folding directors chairs for my coworker and I in the tent where the director for today’s episode, Jonathan Frakes, and Michael Lohmann, the show’s director of photography, watch the live playback of scenes on a TV monitor. Having grown up dreaming of a career in television, sitting behind these men as they talk shot composition and camera angles feels like a surreal dream – that is, until I remember it’s 100 degrees outside and I’m growing more and more dehydrated and sickly as the day wears on.
My coworker and I stay to watch Matt shoot a few takes of a scene with Cameron Monaghan who plays Shane Connors, the troubled young son of a drunken, broken down man on the episode “Marriage is Murder.” As Frakes blocks the scene with the actors, I overhear Lohmann asking a stagehand to find out why his turkey sandwich is taking so long. Ah, Hollywood…
As the scenes are being shot, a hush falls over the production team. Jonathan Frakes shouts out direction to Matt once in a while telling him “be surlier” or “give that look an extra beat” while Lohmann whispers as the cameras roll, debating the purpose of each angle with his counterpart. My coworker and I exchange looks, secretly gushing about the whole thing and I wonder how quickly I can get a picture of myself in The Glades chair on Facebook.
Later, Marc gives us a tour of empty hospital that serves as Callie’s place of work. As we walk through the empty corridors, Marc explains that the hospital was once a working facility and that of the two floors the production company uses, the one we’re currently touring was the for many heart patients not expected to live long. I ask about ghost stories and Marc mentions that many of the night guards have reported hearing strange noises. Playing into this, my coworker lets out an otherworldly moan from behind an automatic door, which promptly opens in his face.
Soon enough it’s lunchtime again and we’ve finally secured our big interview with Matt. Everything seems to be going according to plan, except for fact that my illness has gone from bad to worse and I’m growing more and more concerned that I might vomit the very attractive leading man. However, when we finally do meet with Matt in the cool and strangely calming sanctuary of his trailer, he is so charming and gracious that my illness is assuaged for the moment and not only am I able to get the interview, but the big Aussie gives me a bear hug and a picture to boot!
Things are finally looking up on the way home as my coworker and I trade reflections on the day and I dream of my burgeoning career as the newest member of The View. But fate does not shine kindly on me forever and when we get to the Ft. Lauderdale strip near our hotel, I can hold it no longer and demand that we pull over. And as I cough and gag in full view of beachgoers and motorists alike, my coworker peels away, revenge perhaps, for the "Sam stories," my newfound interviewer’s arrogance or maybe just all the complaining. And while a minute later he pulls back around the corner, laughing hilariously, I know no matter how great all our footage turns out, I will never hear the end of this one…