Reader, the other day, a rather wonderful thing happened. I did some work on the fabulous Downton Abbey, replacing one of the usual maids who was off on her holidays. Obviously this was highly exciting. So exciting in fact that I didn't get a wink of sleep the night before because I was almost certain that it was just someone playing a trick on me and I'd turn up at the studio only to be told that they'd never heard of me and weren't even filming that day. After about half an hour's proper sleep, I woke up at 7.30 (something really quite unheard of for me, I am really very committed to my bed) and leapt out of bed to get washing my hair, cleaning my nails, shaving (got knows why, the skirts are ankle length so I could have got away with having goatishly hairy pins) and generally fretting that I'd be so nervous I'd puke on Maggie Smith. I forced down some food (again, highly unusual for me, usually I'm a bit of a pig, especially when I'm nervous) and then set off, far far too early, to Ealing Studios. The whole train journey I kept wanting to bump into someone, anyone really so that I could breezily say 'ah yes, I'll just be spending the day on set, you know, getting paid to act'. It's probably a good thing I didn't bump into anyone. I would probably have been to on edge to make polite conversation, or would have come across unbearably smug. Maybe dribbled a little. Anyway Reader, I got there so early that it was actually a bit impolite, so I went and had a Diet Coke in the local pub to quiet my nerves.(N.B. Diet Coke doesn't actually calm you even remotely. It just makes you hyper and gassy).
When I finally got on set, there was a tiny bit of confusion. Reader, this is because Ealing Studios is a GIANT MAZE of buildings, trailers and cars. Eventually I found out where I was meant to be and got sent off to try on the costume. Herein came the problem. You see, the girl I was taking over from, who the costume was fitted around, was 5ft 3. I am at least 3 inches taller than that, which meant that the dress swung rakishly mid-calf, where it is supposed to rest on the ankle. You could almost see 'Uh Oh' flash up on the wardrobe mistress's head as she desperately tried to stretch the dress down. Not much we could do about it, off I went to get my adorable maid's cap fitted, where I met the other maid, Pearl and the serving boy, Jack, both of whom calmed me right down with their stories of experiences on set and what to expect.
What then followed was lots of waiting, gossiping and some truly awful t.v. During which time I heard from the very nice man who booked me for the job basically saying that they had wanted me to stay for another 6 days shooting but the dress was just too short. Not going to lie Reader, I was a tad gutted. But I had sort of expected it from the fitting, so it wasn't a huge blow (much helped by the frankly lovely feedback I got from the director and casting people the next day. My head=much swollen). I still got to spend that whole day getting paid for filming (almost double what I get in a day for my 'resting actor' job!) so still a massive coup.
The rest of the day was like a dream. The set for the servants quarters is utterly incredible, unlike anything I've ever seen before; It's like walking through an actual Edwardian country house, only inside an enormous warehouse! All the cast and crew are lovely, especially the housekeeper, played by Phyllis Logan. Playing one of the maids was great, lots of shots of me carrying linen and silverware and chatting to other staff, so keep an eye out around halfway through season two!
The other news of the week of course is that I graduated on Wednesday, with Jarvis Cocker no less! The Ceremony was ridiculously long, but some marvellous speeches and lovely to see my old classmates again. I have to say, it did feel slightly anti-climatic though. When you get your first degree, everyone sees it as this huge thing, but on the second it's a bit like 'again? Seriously?' Although I have received a couple of lovely cards and £20 from my Irish grandparents (I love that I'm still young enough to get money in cards on occasion!) We went for lunch after at the Skylon brasserie, which I have to say, I was a little unimpressed by given the prices. The bread and the non-boozy cocktails were lovely but the food was really quite uninspired and not really that moreish. For £14 for a main course, I want to be knocked over by the tastes, not mildly unimpressed by the blandness. Nice atmosphere in the place though, and the service was second to none (to the extent that at some points we looked down and couldn't work out when they'd come and taken our empty plates!).
Going back to work on Thursday was vaguely hellish. After being paid lots to do what you love, it doesn't feel good to go back to being paid £6.20 an hour to call lots of people and try and sell them wine. Luckily, I work with lovely people, and the thought that it's such a flexible job is fab. And it's more than minimum wage of course, and not waitressing. Oh well, at least I know what filming for t.v. is like now! And the fact that I was so valued as a cast member is wonderful, fills me right up with the warm fuzzies, I can tell you.
Fingers crossed that I'll be able to do some more soon eh?