“I have a little ritual I do before going to bed. Every night I put on an episode of 30 Rock or The Office or Friends. I doze off to the sound of jokes that I have definitely memorized by now, but somehow still make me smile. It makes me super happy because I love comedy. I think it has a special language, and once learned you can’t help but recognize it all around you. Performing in comedies is my favorite kind of acting.
To say I was excited I was to work with Norman Lear on the reboot of his famous show One Day at a Time would be an understatement. Norman is arguably one of the greatest comedy creators of all time– All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Who’s the Boss are his shows! One Day at a Time is a sitcom (that’s short for situational comedy). The show is filmed in front of a live audience, and the laugh track you hear on shows like Friends is coming from people in the audience watching the scene. As a result, sitcoms are filmed very differently than other television genres. For example: if a joke doesn’t land or something doesn’t quite work, the producers and writers can change it on the spot. They might walk up to an actor and say “instead of saying your line, say this joke instead”, and watch the crowd react to gauge whether the joke worked. It’s a hybrid of theater and television that’s really fascinating– especially if you’re a comedy nerd like me and get to watch it unfold in front of your eyes.
I was surprised to find out that unlike most TV shows, where you only show up on the day of filming and do your scenes, sitcoms involve a full week of rehearsals. Each scene is rehearsed separately and the episode is then performed chronologically from beginning to end for the producers, and again later for the Network and Studio that are backing the show. It’s like a mini play! There is such a great sense of community because you get to watch everyone else do their scene and be present for the entire script.
Tuesdays are when the show is filmed in front of the live audience. If there are a lot of extras in the scene or the scene takes place on a set that’s not directly in front of the audience (as was the case with me) these scenes will be pre-taped the day before, and played for the audience. It was so much fun to watch my scene with amazing actress Justina Machado, and hear the audience laugh and react to it in real time.
And did I mention that Rita Moreno plays Justina’s mom on the show? Rita Moreno has an EGOT! (That’s an Emmy, a Grammy, and Oscar and a Tony). There are only 12 people who have received all four. You’ve probably seen Rita as Anita in the original West Side Story among the countless outstanding films she’s been in.
Needless to say, I could not have had a more amazing time. I feel like I need to go back and watch all those Friends episodes again. Now that I know all the behind the scenes action I can watch it with a new understanding. BRB– I’m pulling up my Netflix account. And speaking of, One Day at a Time will be released by Netflix early next year!”