Chapter 1 - August 2011
Just like every morning, Jen woke up early enough to take a shower but too late for a proper breakfast. Even though she was not a fan of it, she put on some makeup to cover up the circles under her eyes that were caused by another restless night due to the migraines that had been haunting her since she was a teen. It was nothing new, she was used to it. What bothered her more was that she could not go for a run. Sunrise in Los Angeles was her favourite part of the day. It always calmed her down, especially with a stressful day ahead.
Luckily, the meeting she was had to attend took place in a building not far away from her house in West Hollywood, so she managed to grab a cup of coffee before entering the room full of people she already knew mixed with those she had never seen before. It was the first time she would meet the whole cast of the show in which she would be playing Emma Swan, the lead role. It was a show about fairytale characters and as Jen was a huge fan of Disney she just had to say yes. Also, the fact that she had been offered a role was not something that happened very often. In her mind she had already been preparing herself for running from audition to audition after the contract with the other show she had been working on ended. But luckily this was not the case.
There had already been tons of meetings and fittings, and by now she knew the script for the first two episodes by heart. Working on a show was much more fun when she was comfortable around the cast and crew, so she spent the last few days hoping that they would be as nice as the people she already met. First meetings were not something Jen particularly enjoyed, but it was not something she could have avoided either. Of course she was excited and little did she know that on this day she would meet the woman who would change her life forever.
»Hey Jen«, said Ginny and gave her a brief hug. They had already been introduced to each other to go over the script and practice a few scenes. Also, they had been working on projects together before this all started. Jen liked filming with Ginny. She was as professional as she was but always up for spontaneous trips to local fast food restaurants at midnight. They had lost touch though, so Jen was quite happy when she heard that Ginny had also been casted for this show.
»Hi, glad to see you! How are you?« Jen took a seat next to the woman who was going to play the best friend of Jen's character. Well, they had already been told that their relationship was more of a mother-daughter kind of thing but anyway, Jen and Ginny got along very well so it would not be much of a problem.
»I'm good, how are you? I haven't seen you since… I don't even know how long it's been! Okay so these are the people we're going to spend a lot of time with.« said Ginny, inspecting the people sitting at the table as well as those who were still standing.
Jen recognized the writers, Adam and Eddy, as well as some of the actors who also belonged to the cast. »If the show doesn't get canceled after the first season. You never know.« Fairytales were not something that common. Maybe people would hate it. It was not as mainstream as sitcoms or hospital dramas. It could have gone either way.
»Think positive, the pilot sounds great!« Ginny was practically made for the role of Snow White. Not only because of her hair color.
»It does, but still, it's very unique. We'll see.« If the industry taught Jen one thing then it was that nothing was certain and nothing lasted. It was cruel and difficult at times, and she had questioned more than once if she could persist in this business. But when she was on set and in character, she knew that this was exactly what she wanted to do for a living.
A guy called Josh was seated next to Ginny. He introduced himself and told them that he would play Prince Charming. Jen could totally see that. Ginny seemed quite happy about her filming partner, too. If Jen did not know any better she would have said that Ginny was making sheep's eyes at him.
Everyone had now taken their seats but one was still empty. Adam stood up and started to talk about how happy he was with their casting choices and that he hoped they would have a good time bringing this show to life. At some point his writing partner Eddy, as well as one of the producers joined them to go over the filming schedule and to tell them the date of the premiere.
Suddenly someone knocked on the door and immediately opened it without waiting for an answer. »Sorry, I'm late!« A brunette woman with short, wavy dark-brown hair and a shy smirk on her face was making her way towards the empty seat across from Jen while apologizing profusely. No matter if it was planned or not that she apologized with a line from the actual show, it was pretty funny.
Some people started whispering and Jen felt sorry for the woman, so she tried to smile at her to make her feel better, but when her eyes met Jen's her heart stopped for a second and she immediately felt the urge to look down. It was weird and she had no idea where that came from all of a sudden, but it was not unfamiliar to her.
The woman was introduced to the group as the actress who played the Evil Queen, who casted a spell on the fairytale characters so they wouldn't remember who they were. It was hard for Jen to imagine this tiny human as a Queen, also known as the meanest character on this show. At least for the first seasons. She seemed rather quirky with her ripped jeans and her oversized Mickey Mouse sweater. And she really must be a Disney fan, Jen figured. Even though she did not want to admit it, she found it adorable.
»Jennifer? Is that okay for you?«, Adam asked. Everyone was staring at her, even Disney-Sweater-Girl. Suddenly Jen felt like she was back in High School when the teachers called her name even though they knew she was not paying attention.
»Uhm, yes, yes it is.« She had no idea what they were talking about, so she opened up the folder lying in front of her and flipped through the pages.
»Page three«, whispered Ginny, »We're talking about rehearsals next week.«
»Thanks, I'm a little bit tired.« That was the lamest excuse she could have come up with but Ginny bought it. »I can't believe this woman is going to play the Evil Queen.« Jen pointed to Disney-Sweater-Girl.
»Right? I thought so at first, too. She seems so lovely«, Ginny said and smiled.
»Have you met her before?«
»No, but I saw her audition tape. She's a hell of an actress!«
Disney-Sweater-Girl seemed to be very focused and listened to what one of the producers told her about extra rehearsals because she had to film a lot of scenes in the so-called green room. Her eyes started to shine when they asked her about ideas on how she wanted to play the difference between her character in the real world and the one in the fairytale world. She proudly told them that she had studied voice for ten years and wanted to use that as one of the treats to distinguish her characters from one another. The one thing Jen loved most about people was when they were passionate about something. When she could see the excitement in their eyes. The sparkle that was triggered when someone started talking about the thing they loved to do.
At lunch break, Disney-Sweater-Girl came up to Jen who was standing in front of the lunch buffet silently debating whether to take a sandwich or go for veggies.
»Hey, I'm Lana«, she said in the sweetest tone with the prettiest smile and Jen caught herself staring at Lana's upper lip that was marked by a scar. At some point someone decided that scars were a beauty flaw, an imperfection, a scratch on a surface. But not on her. It somehow made her even more interesting and suddenly Jen wanted to know everything about her.
»I'm Jen«, she replied. It came out a little more insecure than she had planned.
»I figured. You play the saviour, right? That means you're my enemy.« The way she said the word ‚enemy' made it sound more like a cute nickname or something. She ran her hand through her wavy hair as if life was a photoshoot.
»Yeah, I guess. But we'll see who the real villain is.« Of course they would not write the Evil Queen as pure evil. That would be way too one-dimensional. Jen looked down because she could not stand eye contact with her.
»So how come you auditioned for the role?« Lana asked while taking a bite from a carrot.
»I kinda liked that they wanted to reinvent all those stories and I loved the idea of a female hero who doesn't need to be saved by a man. And I didn't really audition.« Jen could have gone on and on about how she loved the script when she first saw it but she did not want to bother her. She had been told by several people that she was way too passionate about things and she did not want to give that away immediately. Jen wished Lana would leave. There was no chance in hell she could concentrate on acting when this woman was around. She made her feel all insecure and unworthy. It was a bad habit of Jen's to always compare herself to other people, especially colleagues.
»I liked that too, it's quite modern. I think I might have scared Adam and Eddy a bit with my audition«, Lana said and laughed a little.
»What scene did you have to play?« There was really nothing scary about her.
»Oh it was just one line, the ‚sorry I'm late' part. A few days later my agent called and said that I got the job. What about you?« She took another bite from her carrot.
»It was a bit stressful because I was working on another show at the time they sent me the script.« Jen was not even hungry anymore.
»How I Met Your Mother?«
»Yes. But they flipped the episodes so it worked with my schedule.« So she saw her on How I Met Your Mother. Jen could not help but smile uncontrollably and she immediately felt the heat building up in her cheeks. Well, almost everyone had seen this show, but Lana remembered her. On the other hand it could be because she had done a little research on her future colleagues. Something Jen wished she had done, too.
»That's great! I bet they really wanted to have you.«
»Uhm… I don't know, yeah, I guess.« It was like Jen's brain had shut off halfway through this conversation. There had to be a way to turn it back on before she would embarrass herself even more. Lana must have thought Jen was stupid or something.
»I can see why they wanted you. For the role of the saviour, I mean.«
»Yes, because you already kinda look like one. I can't wait to see you act«, Lana said casually while eating the rest of her carrot. Without waiting for an answer she was making her way towards the door with a pack of cigarettes in her hand.
Jen could not wait to embarrass herself again in front of her when she had to act while Lana was watching. Or when she had to film scenes with her. This was not going to end well.
When they were back at the table discussing the rehearsals, Jen waited for the rush of excitement mixed with panic to cool down, but it did not. It came back every time she looked at Lana. And when she spoke, it intensified. She thought the times when she felt intimidated by other people and especially by girls would be over but apparently this was not the case.
It was the first day of filming. Jen had not seen Lana since the meeting back in LA but she learned from her mistakes and did a little research on who Disney-Sweater-Girl really was. Turned out she had starred in several minor TV shows that did not last longer than one season. Jen on the other hand had been playing a character for six years on a very successful show before starring in one of the most popular sitcoms on TV. There was absolutely no reason for her to feel intimidated by this woman. Still, she hoped for her not to be there yet. Of course they had to film a lot of scenes together, but she wanted to see her as little as possible between takes.
Jen had rented a small apartment in Vancouver for the time they were working on the show. The weather conditions reminded her a lot of her childhood in Chicago but it was nothing like the almost constantly sunny weather in Los Angeles. Filming scenes with Jared, who played her son, was funny and easy. They got along immediately and she found it remarkable how he could act despite his age. They were filming at the studios and there was no sign of Lana.
When she arrived at Steveston, where most of the outside scenes were filmed, and went straight to the hair and makeup trailer, her hopes got crushed in a heartbeat. Someone was about to help Lana take off her wig she had to wear for playing the Evil Queen. It seemed like she had wrapped for today. Maybe they had changed plans and Jen would not have to film with her today. Maybe, if she had left her apartment a little later, she would not even have bumped into her. Jen swallowed hard when she saw that she still had her makeup on what made her look, like, really pretty.
»There she is«, Lana said pointing at the chair next to her. »Glad someone is joining me.«
The red lipstick made her teeth look even whiter. No one who smoked could have teeth this bright and shiny. »Hey, uhm, did they change the schedule or why are they taking off your wig?«
»No, I've already filmed with Ginny and Josh as the Evil Queen today. Now they're transforming me into Regina.«
As soon as Jen sat down, the stylists started putting her extensions in place to make er hair look more full and wavy. Suddenly Her hair felt hundred pounds heavier. »So how was it?«, Jen said cooly to show Lana that she was indeed able to make conversation.
»It was a lot of fun. Although it was a bit weird to film in such a big green screen room. They constantly had to remind me that I'm not on a stage but in front of a camera.« She laughed a little before checking her phone. One of the makeup artists removed the fake eyelashes and put on some mascara instead.
Jen had little to no experience with filming in a green screen room either but she could imagine that it must be pretty tough. And she had to admit she was more than curious about Lana's acting. »Have you met Jared?«
»Oh yes, he's so lovely. And he's already working so hard with school and filming and you know, being a child«, she said while texting someone. Probably her boyfriend or something. Yeah, she was definitely taken. But it did not matter anyways.
Jen had to be reminded several times not to look at Lana but to hold still so the stylists could do their work.
»You look like a burrito«, Lana said and laughed at Jen who was wrapped up in her jacket. The weather in Vancouver was like the opposite from what she was used to. It was mostly the wind, though.
»Stop laughing, I'm not used to the cold«, Jen replied smiling like an idiot. Lana's costume for that day was a dress and Jen wondered why she did not even need a jacket.
»I'm from LA, too, but come on! It's not that cold«, Lana said, and she really was not freezing at all.
»Well, not exactly. Technically I'm from Brooklyn but I've been living in LA for quite some time now.« Lana flipped through the pages of the script she brought to set. Maybe she was nervous, but she did not show.
»I knew it«, Jen murmured but Lana heard it.
»That you're from the East Coast.« Jen shifted from one foot to the other to keep herself warm.
»It's just something about you… I don't know«, Jen stumbled because she realised midways that this might have come off as an insult. She did not mean it like that at all. »When you enter a room people look at you. Like, not that you come off as attention seeking or something.« There was nothing Jen wanted more than to curl up and die right now.
»It's okay, I get it. Even if I live in LA for the rest of my life there will still be a little Brooklyn within me.«
Lana smiled at her and Jen took it as a good sign.
The first rehearsal of the scene they were about to film, in which Jen's character brings home the son of Lana's character, went even worse than she had expected. Ginny did not lie when she said that Lana was hell of an actress. As soon as she was in character and started talking as Regina, Jen forgot her lines because she got distracted by Lana's change of tone and facial expression. And then again when Lana took a step forward and Jen could smell her Parfum. She immediately looked down to gather herself and had to be reminded that she was supposed to look Lana in the eyes. That was when she lost herself again because she realised that Lana's eyes were dark brown, just like her hair, and she somehow found that fascinating. She knew this feeling too well from High School and it reminded her of that time when she had to give a presentation on Shakespeare and she messed up big time because of that girl sitting in the front row staring at Jen with her dimples and her ocean blue eyes. The teacher felt bad for Jen and gave her a C because he said at least she tried. To her, it was still a mystery how she could not manage to maintain self-confidence in some situations. It took Jen quite some time to overcome her fear of public speaking, and acting was a kind of public speaking as there were at least twenty people on set when a scene was being filmed, but now it seemed to happen all over again. Even more intense than back in school to be honest.
Lana seemed to notice that Jen was uncomfortable and started shaking her arms. »Come on, it helps«, she said and started doing the same thing with her legs.
Jen joined in and started loosening her extremities as well. At first she felt like an idiot but Lana looked adorable rocking her head back and forth and she did not want to let her down. And it somehow broke the ice a bit. At least enough to wrap on the scene. But Jen's heart would not calm down so she got used to the feeling in her chest.
»It sucked«, Jen said when she met Ginny at the trailer who asked her how her first day of filming went.
»Why? What happened?« The stylists started to straighten Ginny's short hair while Jen was collecting her street clothes.
»I was a so nervous that i completely messed up. Don't wanna talk about it.« She had never messed up like this. Of course she had forgotten her lines from time to time, but at least she had remembered where her eyes were supposed to be.
»Oh okay, well it happens. It's not that surprising I mean it was your first day. I've never seen you nervous on set before though.«
Ginny was not helping, like, at all. Jen did not know what was going on either. Maybe it was because Lana was in fact better at her job than Jen was. At least on that day. While she was taking off her tank top that was part of her costume, she felt a cold breeze on her naked skin that was caused by someone opening the trailer door.
»Does anyone want some string cheese?«
Jen would recognise this voice from miles away. What the hell was Lana doing in here, she had not wrapped for today. This woman could see her entire back and suddenly Jen regretted wearing this ugly bra. She grabbed her shirt and pulled it over as fast as she could. »No thanks I'm not hungry«, Jen said without turning around. She rather pretended to pack her bag because her face was already burning hot again. There had been enough embarrassing moments for today.
»Sorry I didn't know-«
»It's okay, we're gonna see each other naked all the time right.« And she proved herself wrong again. »Because we share a costume trailer, I mean.«
»True«, Lana shrugged like this situation was not totally awkward. But maybe Jen overthought this because she was hyperaware of her actions today for some reason.
»I'd like some«, Ginny said and started chatting with Lana about their scene and how excited they were to practice and then film it.
Without saying goodbye Jen sneaked out like she had committed a crime or something. She knew for a fact that she would not be able to sleep tonight.