80% of success is showing up.
I’m Ready For My Closeup
One morning before we break for lunch on the set of Wall Street one of the ADs announces, “Oliver Stone’s looking to upgrade a few actors. If you’re interested you can audition.” I follow a line of hopefuls and one by one we line up to meet and read for Mr. Stone. Waiting on line I realize barely a year ago I was sitting in a dark theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan watching the film, Platoon, about a young infantryman serving in Vietnam.
I wasn’t sure I even wanted to see Platoon. I mean I hate those stupid gung-ho rah-rah war movies. But I was overcome by emotion watching this idealistic young kid, played by Charlie Sheen, who leaves his university studies to serve his country by doing combat duty in Vietnam come to terms with the immorality and injustice of war. With tears streaming down my face, all I can think of is my dad and how when he came back from Vietnam I hated him. I blamed him for that war and I felt a huge sense of loss and sadness because it’s been fifteen years since we’ve spoken and—suddenly, I’m jolted back to reality.
It’s my turn. I step inside the nondescript office, with its white walls, and there sits Oliver Stone at his desk with his back to me. From what I’ve been able to surmise Stone is a no-bullshit kind of guy who doesn’t make small talk. Growing up with a colonel father I’m familiar with this MO, but it’s still intimidating. Oliver, like my dad, is physically a big guy with an imposing presence. And when I look at Oliver Stone I see the idealistic young man who, like his protagonist in Platoon, dropped out of Yale and volunteered for two combat tours of Vietnam. I see a man full of passion with a deep love of his country. I see my father and suddenly my eyes well up. I feel my heart pounding, as we exchange hellos. He motions for me to sit and hands me a sheet of paper.
“Just pick a section and read it,” he says. I glance down, blink a couple of times to clear any residual tears, read three lines and he says, “Thank you,” and that’s that—end of audition.
Later that afternoon, I’m informed I’m one of three actors he’s selected to be upgraded. I’m beyond excited. It’s taken me six years to earn my SAG card and this nine-day job doing background on Wall Street is not only my first job as a SAG actor but will also be my first speaking part in a movie.
However, when signing out at the end of the day the PA informs me,
“Okay, you’re wrapped till Friday.”
I feel my heart sink. “Wait. What?”
“Yep, come back on Friday—they’ll shoot your part.”
“Uh—I’m not sure I understand.”
“Yeah, because you’ve now a principal actor which means if you continue to work they’ll have to pay you the principal rate each day.”
The PA reading my confusion clarifies, “The principal rate’s a lot higher. Plus the additional money ups the amount your residuals would be.”
“Got it,” I say. And honestly, I don’t care. Not only is this my first principal job on a film, but it’s an Oliver Stone movie.
On Friday I return and spend the day doing my regular routine as a trader on the floor making crosses, miming business, and having faux conversations on the phone. At the end of the day all the extras are wrapped and gone. I’m just waiting around to shoot my part when I’m approached by one of the AD’s, who informs me,
“Oh, uh–we’re not going to use you after all.”
“Yeah, we won’t be needing you.”
I feel panic, but then something like steel and grit rises up in me. I taste something metallic in my mouth, stand up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “Well, Oliver Stone hired me, so he’s going to have to fire me.”
And with that, I turn and I march myself over to Oliver’s office and wait outside. Finally, the door opens, and out walks someone. I take a deep breath and step inside. Oliver looks at me curiously and asks,
“What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to make sure I’m still doing my part today.”
“Of course you are.”
“Thank you,” I say and turn around and leave.
Once outside his office, I look for the AD who tried to shoo me away, but he’s nowhere to be found. Later, I discovered through the actor grapevine, that AD tried to get rid of me because he wanted his girlfriend to do the part.
Suddenly, someone motions for me to sit at one of the trading desks. There’s a lot of commotion around me as the lighting and sound are being set up. One woman powders my face while another brushes my hair. Someone else hands me a five-pound dumbbell and I begin doing bicep curls with my right hand. Oliver says, “You’re on the phone, making a trade.” I pick up the receiver.
Needing to keep my nerves in check I practice this Yoga exercise I know to center myself. Inhale. 1-2-3. Hold. 1-2-3. Exhale 1-2-3. Repeat. While focusing on my breath I silently say my lines. “This is really special. Anacott Steel. Paint the tape.” I did my homework so I know ‘paint the tape’ is an antiquated phrase meaning buy all the stock you can. Tape refers to the ticker tape where the trades appear. Back in the day, they actually used ticker tape. Today everything’s computerized, of course.
Once they’re ready to go the script supervisor leans in and whispers in my ear, “This is a conspiracy.” The light bulb in my mind turns on and everything drops away. It’s just me—a trader at my desk on the phone. In the far recesses of my mind I hear Oliver say, “Action,” and I say my lines as I pump iron. When I finish Oliver shakes my hand, “Nice job.”
One take and that’s that. I’m signed out and leave with a copy of my principal contract. It reads Screen Actors Guild, Daily Contract for Theatrical Motion Pictures, June 19, 1987, Jill Dalton, Wall Street, Trader #9, $379.00.
A couple of weeks later I attend the wrap party. The place is packed. Looking around I spot Oliver talking to a couple of people. After a glass of Chardonnay to get my courage up, I approach Oliver and jokingly ask, “So are you going to keep me in the movie?”
He smiles and in his no-bullshit way says, “I like what you did. Very conspiratorial.”
Wall Street opens in December 1987 to stellar reviews. It’s a huge hit and once again I find myself sitting in a sold-out dark theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but this time I’m squirming in my seat. What if I suck? What if I look horrible? Forget that, what if I don’t even make it into the film?
Wrapping my arms around my ribcage to steady my breathing, I watch the film. And sure enough about mid-way through there I am in the lower left-hand corner of the screen in the montage sequence about Anacott Steel. I’m so taken aback by seeing my face amplified and looming above me on the big screen I don’t hear one word I said. But I’m so grateful not only did I not end up on the cutting room floor, but to this day I still get residuals from that movie. Thank you Oliver Stone.
I joined AFTRA in 1984 and worked on the SOAPS for a good ten. years. In 1978 when I moved to New York City I began doing Off-Off Broadway and also did Stand-up Comedy from 1991–1995.
An American drama written and directed by Mark Christopher, about Studio 54, the world-famous New York City discotheque. It stars Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, and Mike Myers as Steve Rubell, the club’s co-founder.
I worked as an extra for two nights on the film “54.” They had us outside in our little disco outfits as wannabes trying to get into Studio 54. It was freezing outside with horrible winds, but they set up heaters for us. However, after our first take the heaters blew the fuses and we ended up working outside in the freezing cold, windy night for 15 hours. When I looked at the temperature on the clock down the block it read 21 degrees. I was sick for a month. I wrote to SAG to complain and got no response. The saving grace of this job was I got a call from the casting director, Lori Eastside, and she booked me on a looping job for the film. This was my first looping gig. It was fun and looping is paid at the principal actor rate with residuals. Nice work if you can get it.
Saturday Night Live (SNL)
For several years I worked as a regular background player on SNL. Then one day I was asked to play Mrs. Cuba Gooding, Jr. to Tracy Morgan’s Cuba. It was for the “Oscars Pre-Show.” Drew Barrymore was hosting the show that week. Ana Gasteyre played Joan Rivers and she was interviewing Cuba (Tracy) on the red carpet when suddenly she went a little crazy and bit me on the neck like a vampire. They cut and put blood on me and since it was the “cold open” Ana Gasteyre flew up in the air and into the camera said, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
Law & Order
This is my first principal role on Law & Order. I played Roberta Miller. My daughter died from e-coli poisoning from tainted meat due to unsanitary conditions at a meat processing plant. I did the scene with Sam Waterson and Elizabeth Röhm. The episode was directed by Constantine Makris.
Law & Order
I played Megan Goddard on the Season Premiere of Law & Order. This time my daughter had been murdered by a serial killer. My scene on the witness stand was 3 1/2 pages–the longest scene in the entire episode. The episode was also directed by Constantine Makris.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
I’d been working as a regular background player in the Squad Room since the beginning and it felt good to get a part. I was cast as the Police Aide in a scene with Vincent D’Onofrio and Jamie Sheridan, but it was cut out of the episode because the show was running long. The episode was directed by Steve Schill who had to leave due to other commitments so by the time I did my scene Frank Prinzi was directing.
Wardrobe put this adorable sign on my dressing room door.
And I received a lovely letter from Fred Berner, Co-Executive Producer.
AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
I played a new mother who had just given birth. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.
– National Commercial.
I was part of the Network. “Can you hear me now?”
Rachael Getting Married
directed by Jonathan Demme, starring Anne Hathaway.
I play a recovering alcoholic in an AA Meeting. My part didn’t make it into the final cut of the film but can be seen in the “Additional Scenes” section on the DVD.
Veronika Decides to Die
directed by Emily Young, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.
I was hired to be featured background in a boardroom scene. The director, Emily Young, asked us to improvise in the scene and a few of us, myself included, were upgraded to principal actors.
Too Big To Fail
directed by Curtis Hanson, starred William Hurt as Hank Paulson.
I play John Mack’s Assistant. John Mack was played by Tony Shalhoub. That’s me on the left. Tony cussed me out in the scene. I rolled my eyes and it got. laugh. I think it was the only laugh in the film.
The Looming Tower
starring Jeff Daniels.
I did four episodes as Richard Clark’s secretary (Beverly) in the White House. I only appear in three episodes.
a psychological thriller, written and directed by Mitzi Peirone, starring Madeline Brewer.
I play Madeline Brewer as her older self. “Braid” premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and has gone on to open in theaters across the country to stellar reviews.
The Last Love Letter
directed by Ian Kammer.
This is actually a commercial, but I’ve included it because it was shot like a film. I play Anna Banana a grieving wife whose husband has just died from diabetes. I cried a lot that day. I’m the only one in the commercial and it was just renewed.
written, directed, acted, and produced by Allan Yang who won the Emmy for his Netflix series, “Master of None.”
I play Gretchen Gover’s girlfriend. Grover is played by the amazing Tzi Ma.
Succession – HBO Series
I play a diner. The amazing part of this job is I was on location for three days in Lake Placid, NY. I also got to meet the amazingly brilliant Brian Cox, Danny Houston, and Holly Hunter who was coming in as I was leaving.
Things Heard & Seen (Netflix-2020)
Things Heard and Seen is an upcoming American horror thriller film, written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, based upon the novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. It stars Amanda Seyfried, James Norton, Natalia Dyer, Rhea Seehorn, Alex Neustaedter, Karen Allen, Michael O’Keefe, Ana Sophia Heger, and F. Murray Abraham. The production is due out fall 2020.
FBI on CBS
Season 03. Episode 10. “Checks and Balances”
I played Betsy Kirkland and Michael O’Leary played my husband, Howard Kirkland. Howard is a security guard for the FBI and decides to moonlight to help pay off his wife’s recent hospital bills. Betsy drops Howard off at the Check Cashing place when Howard will be working but once inside he encounters a robbery in process and is shot and killed. Betsy is called to the scene and discovers her husband is dead.
Stay tuned . . . more to come . . .