I’ve always thought it’d be neat to be an actor. Stage, television, or the big screen, it doesn’t matter. I’m creative. I’m funny. I’m dramatic. I can fake a cry. I can do my own stunts like flipping off the top of a Volkswagen and sticking an Olympic landing inside a Texas Roadhouse peanut barrel, all while delivering my lines. Yeah, I’m that good! I can capture an audience. Come on casting directors…discover me! Acting is all about confidence. Can’t you people see I have that!? Just let me shine!!
Even if it’s a small role on an investigative news show like 48 Hours, Dateline NBC, or Dateline Canada, just give me a shot.
Oh, wait…you can’t cast me on Dateline Canada, because my brother—my lawyer brother—was recently chosen for a part in the show before I even had a chance.
Have you ever kicked a chair so many times to release your frustration, that you nearly collapsed from exhaustion?
Rob, my brother?? I’d cast a brick before considering him. Hell, I’d even cast a fly-fishing pole before him. And you guessed it, it’s killing me! Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. And ever since his damn phone call, I can’t think straight either…
Rob: “Good morning, Ros! What a glorious morning!”
I think the only time my brother ever used the word glorious was when he won a marital dispute case over the custody of a gold fish. To his client he cheered, “Glorious Goldie gets to live with you!!”
Me: “Morning, Rob. What’s up?”
Rob: “The television industry, that’s what! The glorious television industry!”
Me: “Let me guess…you sued the entire industry and won, and now you’re going to build a fourth house?”
Rob: “Ha! I wish! But, no.”
Me: “Then do tell. The suspense is killing me.”
Rob: “I am officially an actor!”
I paused, not quite knowing what he was talking about. An actor? Had he slurred his words? Perhaps he said he was a disaster? That I could understand. But an actor? The only “acting” experience my brother ever had was when he played the part of a shepherd during a performance in the Methodist church of the birth of baby Jesus. And it was during his great acting debut that he began to feel a bit light-headed and, pretty much without warning, fainted flat on his face. And that was it…the culmination of his glorious acting career. My god, he’s a lawyer for Christ sake.
Me: “An actor? Like a movie actor?”
Rob: “Oh, the movies are next, I’m sure. But for now, a television actor.”
Me: “This is such a stupid conversation. Call me back later if you really want to talk.”
Rob: “Ros, I’m going to be on Dateline Canada. We just shot on location.”
Me: “Just shot on location? That’s film talk. What do you mean Dateline Canada? Like the Dateline Canada? And just where on location?”
Rob: “My neighbor’s house. The film crew just left. Great bunch of folks. It turns out that they’re recreating a murder that occurred back in the 50s here in Minneapolis. They selected the house next door because it’s been pretty much unchanged since that era. Anyway, guess where they’ve been storing all of their filming equipment?”
Me: “Uhhhh, your bedroom?”
Rob: “Ha! Funny, but nope…our garage!! How cool is that!?”
Me: “Pretty damn cool, Rob. Are we done talking now? I got some errands I need to run.”
Rob: “Don’t go yet. Don’t you want to learn how I became an actor?”
Me: “Not especially. I’m not in the mood for feeling sick.”
Rob: “You’re on a roll, Ros! You’re on a roll! So, get this…after we’ve gone through situating their equipment in our garage, the director walks up to me and asks if I’d like to be in the show. I was like, WOW! No audition. No, ‘Hey, we’ll get back to you if we need you.’ Instead, I was discovered on the spot!”
Me: “Discovered?? Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? Wasn’t it more like, ‘Hey, we’re desperate for an extra?’”
Rob: “Hardly. I was discovered, baby! They saw talent. They got talent! I was like hell yeah, I’ll be more than happy to be a supporting actor! And right there the deal was done. Serendipitous to say the least.”
At about this point I was looking around for anything that might resemble a portal to another universe. Some kind of wormhole to slip into and be forever departed. If I had Neil deGrasse Tyson’s phone number, I’d call him up and ask for assistance. As one of the most well-known astrophysicists in the world, he was also my teacher’s assistant when I took astronomy at The University of Texas in Austin.
One phone call is all I need…
Me: “Hey, Neil, this is Ros Hill. You probably don’t remember me, but—”
Okay, so maybe calling Neil is pretty far-fetched. Regardless, I desperately need to find a wormhole to pass through. It’ll be my only escape from the insanity building from my brother’s road to fame. But where does one go to enter the wormhole? Where is the portal? Some remote region like Antarctica? Atop Mt. Everest? Inside a volcano? Why can’t the portal be somewhere private with easy access, like a bathroom stall in a Love’s truck stop? Go figure out that one, Neil!!
As distant as I was hoping my imagination might take me, my bother’s voice came back loud and clear…
Rob: “Oh, but they got more than just an actor…They got cookies! You see, they were in the garage doing their thing, and then the director was like holy cow your house smells great! And the executive producer was like ain’t that the truth! They were getting a healthy whiff of Liz’s macadamia nut cookies. So they say, mind if we indulge? And I was like come on in! And so they all piled into the kitchen and had a cookie break between takes. Those cookies were like edible magnets that the film crew could not free themselves from. What an incredible time we had! I’m tellin’ ya, I’m wondering if a career change may be in order for me.”
This was nearly too much for me to process. My brother had just entertained a film crew with an impromptu cookie party in his house? Between “takes”? And he was acting?? Like acting acting??
Me: “Rob, first of all, you’re either drunk or high on meth. Secondly, when you say acting, you mean you’re acting as legal counsel for Dateline, right?”
Rob: “No, I mean acting, like performing. Ros, you are now speaking to a television actor. I’ve already gone on-line to have business cards made.”
Me: “Oh, and let me guess…you’ve now registered yourself with SAG, the Screen Actors Guild?”
Rob: “Actually, yes I have! But I must correct you…it’s now SAG-AFTRA…Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. And to think that merely a week ago I was nothing more than an attorney amongst a sea of attorneys in a large law firm, and now I hold the title of being an actor.”
Me: “Rob, did you just say you’re having business cards made? Dare I ask what these business cards say?”
Rob: “Ah, yes!! The excitement never ends! They say: ‘Rob Hill, Television & Film International Actor. The Man. The Myth. The Legend.’ And then, below in the bottom right corner and in small print: A lawyer too.”
Me: “Please tell me you’re kidding me.”
Rob: “Nope. For real. Would you want some cards to distribute? I’ll take all the promotion I can get. It can be a bumpy road getting started. I might even wait tables—a great way to network. You never know what film director you might be serving coffee and scones to.”
Me: “Wait tables??? You’re a freakin’ lawyer! And, no, I’m not going to distribute business cards. Especially those that call you The Legend! And ‘international’?? Oh, my god, this is one hot mess.”
Rob: “Fine, don’t distribute the cards. After all, I’m sure I’ll soon be represented by an actor’s agent. And, yes, international. Need I remind you that I just finished a scene with Dateline Canada. And, of course, I offered to speak my lines in French Canadian if they needed to call upon my diversity.”
Oh, where o where was that portal to another universe? I didn’t care if that universe existed in an altered space-time continuum of inside-out intergalactic moldy cotton candy, I just needed off this planet! But, admittedly, I just had to know…
Me: “Okay, Rob, tell me your lines.”
There was a pause. I sensed a bit of hesitancy.
Rob: “Like right here on the phone?”
Me: “Yes, like right here.”
A second or two of more hesitancy. Hmmmm. Very peculiar.
Two more seconds of silence, and then…
Me: “Yes, I want to hear your lines. I want to hear my brother the actor.”
Me: “Rob, please say them.”
Rob: “NOOO!! My line was ‘No’.”
Me: “No?? And not lines? Not even a line, but one word!!?”
Rob: “Excuse me, but this was Dateline Canada.”
Me: “Excuse me, but the word no only has two letters in it. You’re qualifying yourself as an actor by having said only one word?”
Rob: “Well, look at Mel Brook’s film, Silent Movie. All those actors made the big screen by saying nothing.”
This conversation was seriously going nowhere.
Me: “So, tell me, when will your next filming be? Any chance Dateline Canada will return and cast you in another big supporting role? I mean this one was quite a performance.”
Rob: “I’ve already put in the inquiry. I attached a note in a box of Liz’s cookies that I mailed to the executive director. No response yet.”
Me: “Well, I wouldn’t hold your breath. But you never know…maybe in the next filming, they’ll have you play the part of someone who says, ‘Yes.’”
And it was at that point that our conversation pretty much petered out. In the end, he hung up happy, while I was left in a foggy state of bewilderment that led me to believe there was only worse to come…
I imagined Rob and I boarding a boat on the northeastern coast of Australia to go snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. We are adventurists and love to travel to remote regions where there is a scarcity of people. There are only twelve of us making the trip, all comprised of foreign tourists from around the globe. As we make our way to the reef, the water’s aqua blue and green colors are stunning as its hues shift beneath a comforting canopy of blue sky. We are out at sea, practically alone, and far removed from the rush of everyday life. It is a perfect moment.
Until I hear the hushed voices of murmuring curiosity…
“Could it be?”
“Is that him??”
“It is! It’s the No Man!!”
And that’s what I mean by worse to come. I am recognized not as my brother’s brother, but, instead, as the guy next to the No Man.
The majesty of the Great Barrier Reef contains no portals leading to another universe. But what I do know is that it does contain one boat with ten ecstatic tourists swarming around a man, and begging him to please say his famous line. “NO! NO! NO! NO!” they chant, until he raises his hand to silence the group, then honors their request. As if having just witnessed a game-winning Superbowl touchdown, the boat rocks with rollicking applause!
As for me, well, I’m left with one horrifying realization: My brother, the lawyer, and the man, the myth, and the legend, has indeed gone…international.
Copyright Ros Hill, 2018