Vivien Leigh Reid: Grounded
It’s the bodysuits I notice first. Any girl would. In fact, it’s tough to notice anything else. There must be strategic padding in there, because no human male could look that good without help.
Mind you, these aren’t human males, but humanoids—a blend of wild animal and college freshman. And they’re my costars on Freak Force.
I just arrived at the studio for the first time and I’m waiting in the shadows for the director to surface. The rest of the cast is in the middle of shooting a scene in which they’re stalking an armed man in a technology laboratory.
There’s nothing for me to do at the moment but admire the scenery and marvel over the wardrobe department’s genius in creating the sleek and futuristic costumes. It’s Matrix meets the savannah. The Gazelle is wearing a taupe bodysuit with two black strips running down the sides and a headpiece with horns. The Cheetah’s bodysuit is gold and black and the actor has amber hued contact lenses. And the Panther—the hottest of the three—is wearing a shiny black bodysuit, a hood, and a skinny visor over his eyes. All the actors’ faces are slightly enhanced by prosthetics which makes them appear almost like mythical creatures: part human, part god.
I think I’ve found a new religion.
The Panther advances slowly across the set toward the villain and crouches behind him. Sensing a threat, the villain spins sees the Freak Force, and bolts. The Cheetah bounds across the set, tackles the villain, and pins him to the floor. The Panther circles menacingly. Meanwhile, the villain’s sidekick appears in the doorway, and the Gazelle crosses the room in a single leap to kick the gun out of his hands.
I watch, mesmerized, as the actors perform a series of martial arts moves. It’s almost like a dance. They lunge and leap and kick in a controlled, graceful way. There are thuds and grunts and scraping noises that I assume will be overdubbed later with suspenseful music to heighten the drama.
It’s so different from my last show. In Diamond Heights, the characters mostly shopped, hung out at clubs, and dissed each other. The only stunt I got to perform was my character’s death scene, and then all I had to do was flail around and fall off a stage.
Dad teased me later that it wasn’t acting—it was just taking my natural clumsiness to new levels. But I don’t think I’m that clumsy. Sure, I’ve been known to walk into stationary objects or fall off curbs, but only because I don’t always pay attention to what’s going on around me. Grandma is probably closer to the truth in saying I have a “busy brain.” I can focus when I need to focus. Still, learning the superhero choreography is probably going to be a stretch for me.
Hopefully my character is one of the less adventurous savannah dwellers. A zebra, for example. As far as I can tell, all they do is graze and maybe make a run for it when the lions are hungry. Even I can run. Plus, black-and-white stripes would be perfect to distract viewers’ eyes from the skintight bodysuit. Knowing how television works, however, I won’t get off that easily. I’m the only woman in the cast and they’re probably going to want to put me in some sexed-up Elektra-style costume. I’d prefer to be known for my acting skills rather than my physique, but the stiletto boots would be fun. I can see myself now, twirling through the air, looking chic while high-kicking the crap out of the bad guys…
“CUT!” The shout brings me back to reality. It’s obviously the director, but he must be watching the action from monitors behind the set because I can’t see him.
“Let’s do another take,” he says. “Rudy, I need you to hold your head up when you do the leap. I want to see that pretty face.”
Pretty face? That’s an odd thing for a director to tell a male lead. Come to think of it, that whiny petulant voice sounds familiar. And not in a good way.
“My horns get stuck in the guide wire if I raise my head,” says Rudy, the gazelle.
“YP, not MP,” the director says.
Uh-oh. The expression means “Your Problem, Not My Problem” and there’s only one person I’ve met who’s rude enough to use it: Chaz, the assistant director on Diamond Heights. For some reason, Chaz loathed me on sight, and when my character ultimately got the axe, he did a dance of joy.
If Chaz is my new director, choreography is going to be the least of my worries.
© Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout