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Lights, Camera, Re-Enaction

March 12, 2014

The Washington-area film and television world has its peculiarities. Due to security concerns (and inflated worries), very few “D.C.” shows are actually filmed primarily in D.C.; Baltimore — close enough and similar enough, more or less — is the national capital’s usual stunt double.

The coming of HBO’s “Veep” and Netflix’s “House of Cards” have been manna from greenlight Heaven for the region’s actors, and it’s become a common game to look for one’s friends and former co-stars in the background of a scene. Someone who once played my wife on stage can be seen firmly nodding during a Capitol hallway meeting on Season Three of “Cards”; a director who turned me down for a role can be seen walking down the hall near Vice President Louis-Dreyfus in her show’s Season One. (It takes a bit more to actually get a line — D.C. theatrical institution Holly Twyford scored a brief speaking role on “Cards”.)

But there is before-the-camera hope for the rest of us in the D.C. region as well, thanks to the presence of Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, Maryland. While that company started off as simply the Discovery Channel, it now includes networks like Animal Planet, TLC, and — to the benefit of us performers — Investigation Discovery.

The channel that’s home to such shows as “Nightmare Next Door” and “Southern Fried Homicide” is always in need of actors to step into small roles in re-enactments — as a killer, a victim, a patsy, or even a corpse. I got my turn on “Deadly Affairs”, playing the younger of two grizzled detectives investigating a murder. Most of the shoot was spent waiting for a period-fit VW Bug to be towed onto the driveway where we were filming, and then doing six or seven takes on pretending to touch the front of the car to determine if the engine was still hot. (The car’s engine is actually in the back.)

It’s an experience to be told to OVERact, to gesticulate and wave one’s hands and make big, expressive faces — all while keeping silent.

Peter Sig

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