As aloof and “who cares” as I try to be about people’s lame celebrity sightings (you know the kind… always posting to various social accounts about who they just happened to run into)… when I found out HBO’s Big Little Lies was filming in town – in my neighborhood, no less! – I was the first to eat my words. ‘Cause, it turns out, celebrity stalking is kinda hard to resist!
My Prior Celebrity Encounters
I didn’t used to be this way… really! It was only a few years ago that I attended the Sundance Film Festival to watch the screening of LUV, my childhood friend Sheldon’s film and directorial debut. I was pretty much starstruck at every turn – I attended screening parties that hosted Common and Danny Glover (both in the movie), and Nia Vardalos even sat next to me in the theater at LUV’s debut! Look at me, celebrity-bragging while pretending not to celebrity-brag…
But, I was far “too cool” to ask anyone to take a photo with me to later smatter across my Facebook page. I didn’t wanna be that girl. Of course, that girl now has zero celebrity-and-me selfies to commemorate those encounters… #stupidmove
Setting the Scene
Okay, back to the present… So, Steev and I moved to Monterey recently so he could attend the Naval Postgraduate School. Our orders are just for a year-and-a-half (such is military life!), so we’re trying to make the most of California while we’re here… especially because it’s unlikely that we’ll stay after he graduates.
In doing so, I even went so far as to attend a casting call to be an extra for HBO’s Big Little Lies, since it’s filmed nearby (I say I because, though it was originally Steev’s idea to go, he backed out at the last minute because of school stuff). I thought the “audition,” which was being held at the Embassy Suites Monterey, would be a novel experience… But, NO. Turns out, I’ve spent plenty of time standing in long lines, so there was nothing novel about it.
I got there 15 minutes early (for me, an accomplishment of monstrous proportions), and the line was already stretched through the lobby and outside along two sides of the hotel. It took 4 hours before I got to the front of the line to hand off my 3×5 photo to the casting agent, which involved a 10-second exchange (at best!). And when I left, the line was not only all the way around the entire perimeter of the hotel, it continued halfway around the Chili’s next door!
I’ve never seen that many people queued up before, even at another casting call I went to years ago. Yep, you read that right. This wasn’t my first time! You’d think I would’ve known better. But, last time, I was actually called back to appear in the movie! So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it another go…
My Claim to Fame
On that note, if any of you has ever had the absolute. pleasure. of watching the 2000 blockbuster hit Doomsday Man (is my sarcasm coming thru okay??), you can find me walking around the back of the room for about a minute, starting at 32:57. Over several days of late-night filming, I got to meet and have actual conversations with actors Esai Morales and Yancey Butler, so, all-in-all, a fun little experience for a college kid.
What, never heard of it?? My, oh, my, what a surprise! Kidding… I did a Netflix/Hulu/Amazon search for it recently, and it was nowhere to be found. YouTube didn’t even have the damn thing! I had to go to IMDB to make sure I was remembering the title correctly.
I was. It was just that no reputable streaming network wanted to acknowledge it existed, it was that bad. I finally found it on a shady, no-name online streaming service and slung it to my TV. It was, in fact, worse than bad. Sorry, Esai, your cinematic masterpiece – and my cinematic debut – turned out to be a dud!
Stalking the Big Little Lies Film Set
Finally, after that looooooong tangent, back to Big Little Lies. I didn’t get called to be an extra. No idea why, since in the “List Your Talents” section of the application, I clearly stated that I could walk and chew gum at the same time! (Yes, I really wrote that… after listing other actual talents!)
The scoop I got was that filming typically takes place in and around Big Sur, about a half hour from where we live. Then, suddenly, construction started last week on a gazebo-like structure at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove – a park I work out at with several military and local moms, just one mile from my house.
Silly me, I thought it was something cool the town was building for the community. Nah… Quickly found out that it was a temporary structure for the show! It was completed early this week, and filming started the next day.
We had to move our workouts to another location for the week (side note – the Stroller Strong Moms fitness classes are a game changer, for both new and seasoned mamas… if you wanna Sweat Like a Mother at a location near you, I highly recommend it). But, in the meantime, most of the gals I exercise with were casually aggressively stalking the film set at our park in hopes of seeing some of the shows biggest stars, like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep… Meryl frikkin’ Streep is in my ‘hood!
I resisted until I could resist no longer (i.e. a whole 3 days)! Motivated by all their selfies, the next morning I dropped Jack off at daycare and just happened to drive 6 blocks out-of-the-way, passing by Lovers Point on my way home.
I was instantly captivated. No big names were there yet, but there was tons of activity as folks prepared for the stars’ arrivals. Craft service was set-up in the parking lot I use several times a week, camera gear and sound equipment was strewn across the grassy knoll where we exercise, and the “gazebo” (in the exact spot where I took family photos for our Christmas card!) was now complete and staged to look like a coffee stand.
Of course, I went home and immediately informed Steev that we’d be having lunch in town, just blocks away from Lovers Point, then taking our food babies down to the filming for Round 2 of attempted celebrity stalking.
And wouldn’t ya know… I arrived, and there was Nicole in her puffy royal blue jacket, just feet away… (she’s filming in my neighborhood, so that automatically puts us on a first name basis… right??).
Speaking of jackets, those poor extras earned their money today, as did the local police who were keeping us lookie-loos in line. I was freezing my tail off in the 55° weather with 20 mph winds! It may be April in California, but true warmth eludes us here in Monterey Bay… FYI, the MBsees dictionary defines warmth as no less than 80°.
Obviously had to go back the next day for more… and BOOM! Nicole again, and Reese and Meryl. I was standing so tall to catch a glimpse over the gawking crowd, my toes still hurt! That auburn hair and those golden locks and Meryl. Streep. were just as fantastic in person as they are on TV… (yeah, yeah… bad photo quality ’cause I zoomed in… whatever… IT’S THEM.)
Almost better than seeing them, though, was seeing the two ladies who were asked by the production staff to stand behind the orange cones with the rest of us lowly onlookers. They confidently replied that they were extras. I knew immediately they weren’t – the binoculars slung over their shoulders kinda gave it away – but apparently the staff bought it. I watched these women walk onto the set like. they. owned. it. and ask Meryl for her autograph. And, just like that, they became my heroes.
Don’t worry, Esai, I was only slightly more excited getting peek-a-boo views of these ladies than I was having one-on-one chats with you on our amazingly low-budget movie set! There are some things that are just so uniquely California, and having one of TV’s biggest hits, with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, filming scenes right in your backyard is certainly one of them. Guess I need to actually watch an episode or two now… Oh, Cali, I’ll miss these novel encounters when we leave you!
Many, many thanks to Lauren, Erika and Alexa – the best SLAM sisters and SLAM bosses ever – for contributing photos for this post!