I had no idea what to expect when I stepped off the plane in Vancouver. I traveled via two planes, eight hours, across three time zones, and across the border. By the time I managed to make it to the most beautiful hotel I had ever stayed at in the heart of Vancouver, I still couldn't believe what was happening. The fact I was literally within 24 hours of visiting the set of Signed, Sealed, Delivered hadn't fully sunk in, even as I stood looking out my hotel room window.
And even though I was less than 12 hours from a set visit, I was within 30 minutes of meeting Martha for the first time. Let that sink in for a second---I sure did.
Was I nervous? Excited? You bet. It's easy to be thousands of miles away thinking you're going to be the picture of poise and confidence meeting someone you admire and respect, knowing there are thousands of other people who wish they were in your place, having the same privilege. It's quite another to realize you're about to do that thing for real, and suddenly realizing you're an outsider coming into something.
It was about the time Martha entered the hotel lobby---a huge smile on her face, ready to welcome me with a big hug---that I realized exactly what I was coming into: a family.
Hugging Martha was like hugging a favorite aunt I hadn't seen in a while, but kept in touch with over email---there wasn't any distance. She was also wearing those killer monster-inspired Fendi shoes, which automatically makes her the cool aunt, too. It was absolutely unreal, and yet it was absolutely happening.
I thought it was just going to be Martha, me and a seafood appetizer plate (that didn't include clams for anyone who wanted to make that reference, Haha), but it seems there is at least one person in the world better situated to execute surprises than me---and that's Martha.
It wasn't long before we were joined by Gregory Harrison and Zak Santiago, who actually introduced himself as Ramon's "more charming and better looking cousin." They were both exceedingly kind, funny, genuine gentlemen. Despite having just wrapped up their last scenes for this movie, they still made time to drop in and say "Hi." Their interactions with Martha, me and each other were only a glimpse into the kind of camaraderie and general love that everyone involved with this show seems to have for each other, which I completely experienced the next day on set. Having our new friend Jojo there, too, was the icing on the cake---she's the coolest.
She also drove me to set the next day, quite the sacrifice when you realize just how long it actually takes to get back and forth between the set and downtown Vancouver. But she didn't just drive me there, she wholeheartedly embraced me and we even picked up some much-needed liquid fuel on our way to set---both for us and for others!
What I love about where Signed, Sealed, Delivered films is that, much like the show, it's a gem, hidden in plain sight. In fact, the Dead Letter Office and Mailbox Grille are very home-like---so much so it actually took me a minute to realize I had arrived! I was so caught off guard, I didn't even have a chance to process that I was about to step into the world that, up until that point, I had only watched and, on occasion, dreamed about.
But once I stepped inside, it was incredibly overwhelming in the best way possible. Suddenly the POstables' entire world came to life, and a small army of people were hard at work setting up to film the next sequence as Jojo and I slipped in between shots. Even in the midst of the hustle and bustle, it felt like home. And it wasn't long before I was meeting the rest of the family.
It was an honor to meet the unsung heroes whose names often fly by as the credits role, or whose names we've seen countless times and wondered who they were. In fact, these are some of the people I met during my time on set: Kevin (Director, generally cool guy); Brandi (one of Martha's right-hand women in life and in work, extremely talented Producer---now Director, too); Adam (pretty sure Director of Photography, fun sense of humor); Andrew (really sweet guy who always seems to be smiling, also the Sound guru---always return his equipment); Effy (Queen of the props trailer); Jeff (Third Assistant Director---tells people where they need to be & when); Cat (A-Camera Operator, much-loved among her colleagues); Kay (hip and extremely astute Script Supervisor); Michelle (Tech support's tech support, highly sought after and talented individual); Johan (On-set Props Manager). Now, if any of the people I just named are reading this and I miffed your title or the spelling of your name, know that I was so excited to feature you, and cared enough about you, to take a chance, even if I did hit a little left of center---my sincerest apologies. To anyone I didn't name, you are seen, known, and deeply appreciated, too.
And of course I got to finally meet the core four in person, who made us fall in love first with their characters, then with them as people, and then with all the people who help them come to life through words, direction, lighting, sound and wardrobe.
Granted, I had done the Skype thing to interview Crystal and Kristin earlier this year, and Geoff had answered the questions that made up his interview (A&D's first, by the way). But it was too much fun to meet them---all of them---in person.
Among other things, Crystal taught me "the Rita," Geoff gave me a tour of his field kit---we even discovered an unexpected item together (and did I mention there's video evidence I'm still in the process of procuring?), Eric let me sit in Oliver's iconic chair, and Kristin put me on notice in the best way possible. Story time!
First, I need to admit that I thought stepping on set might automatically trigger "Scoops mode," but in reality I was so concerned with being present and in the moment that I probably missed a hundred opportunities to get the jump on what is really happening in the next film. Actually, Martha had already made it clear what I was going to be allowed to know, and which conversations on set I might need to excuse myself from, which, by midday, I was removing myself from voluntarily to the point of plugging my ears in some cases.
I don't think Kristin knew anything about that for one hilarious reason, which goes like this:
"Eric, your sides!"
For those of you who don't know, "sides" are the pages of the script being filmed on a given day, or even future days. Eric didn't seem to catch on to Kristin's urgency---but I did, immediately.
"You knew I was going to read them, didn't you?!"
I won't forget her laughing out loud that she knew, that I knew, that she knew...I laughed, too. I knew I wouldn't read them, and it didn't hit me til later that those sides might be associated with the day of filming I was to know nothing about. But something about that moment, as weird as it sounds, made me feel like I belonged, like some part of my personality, my habits---my curiosity and relentless research---were known, and, hilariously, worth protecting against. And Kristin's actions also protected Martha and her work, too, an act of love in an unexpected form.
This is the journey, the moments, and the people, that I know I won't soon forget. And if you can believe me, this post doesn't even really do justice to the openness and graciousness with which I was welcomed---it truly is beyond description. Thank you all for letting me share your home with you. It might have only been for a day, but I know I will carry that day with me forever.