The Verdict Is In
The pinstripes on my cop uniform quivered every time police sirens blared across the city streets of Philadelphia. Inside a lofted stately ornate courtroom of Philadelphia’s City Hall, this pulse of unnerving noise undermined our set while filming the criminal trial for the television pilot called The Verdict. Produced by Lions Gate Entertainment, this TV show captures the formulary design of critically acclaimed Law and Order. The pilot episode of the courtroom drama stars screen veteran Robert Vaughn as a newspaper reporter, Robin Givens as the accused, and attorney Madchen Amick. I landed the featured role of Sheriff Granite, one of the two sheriffs assigned to the courtroom.
Getting in a series from its inception has upside potential. The greatest perk about being casted in this role for a courtroom drama is that the sheriff is the only one standing in picture frame beside the lead actors. While the writer’s strike has temporarily delayed script writing of this series, this sheriff is going to need restraint if this turns into a reoccurring role and the producers opt for continuity in retaining the same sheriffs from the pilot. The Internet Movie Database projects this show to air on the Lifetime network in June 2008. I took no prisoners on the set. I jumped as quickly into my role as I did my uniform. Standing at the wardrobe station in my dapper sheriff’s uniform for the first time, I familiarized myself with the multiple gadgets on my holster. As I stared down the vast hallway outside the mayor’s office, my trigger-happy fingers grazed the Walkie-Talkie. Billy club, Mace, and pistol. The complete uniform seemed a perfect fit for the actor in me. Then the heels of two women clanked to a halt behind my unguarded position. “Sheriff Granite, escort this plaintiff down to courtroom 256. She has a restraining order out against her ex-husband.” “That will have to wait.” I retorted. She persisted, “Surely all you have to do for this is walk her down the hallway.” I maintained my relaxed position. “I am not ready. I am being propped and outfitted right now then I have to head over to make-up.” Both ladies looked confused although one appeared more frightened than the other. In hindsight, the speaker and I arrived at the same conclusion at the same time. This was a case of mistaken identity on her part and not the next scene in the script as I had erroneously envisioned. “I am sorry to disappoint you but I am only an actor and not a real sheriff.” It is hard for me to get out of character once I begin preparing for a part. Forty-two hours of filming later on the third day all about 1:30am in the morning, the director handed me a script and told me to study it as the crew set the lighting levels and blocked out the marks. My best scene called for me to escort sultry Robin Givens from an elevator down a lonely hallway. The Verdict was in…again I was making a scene.