From: Lilibet Snellings
Date: Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 2:26 pm
Mailed by: hotmail.com
I shot an episode of entourage on Monday. My role was ‘bikini girl’ it was hilarious. When the episode airs we all have to tivo it so we can re-watch my 25 seconds of fame over and over again. Holla!
Ignore the fact that at one point in my life (2007, age twenty-four) I thought it was acceptable to close an email with “Holla!” (Not even “Holler” but “Holla.” Did I think I was Jay-Z? Gwen Stefani?) Let’s take a moment to break this bad boy down. The first thing that needs to be noted: This email with the capitalized day of the week but the un-capitalized TV show title was sent to multiple contacts. I mass emailed the word “Holla.” Who it was sent to, it’s hard to say, as this message was resurrected from the crypts of my Hotmail account. I can tell you that, at that very moment in time, I sincerely believed I was going to be on camera for at least twenty-five seconds, and possibly even become famous from such screen time.
Calling my role “bikini girl” is also misleading. I was an extra—who was, yes, in a bathing suit, but so were at least two hundred other extras. Did I think all of us were going to get credit for our roles on IMDB? Bikini Girl #1, Bikini Girl #65, Bikini Girl #194. I got this role through one of my former bosses at the agency. She IMed me and asked if I wanted to be an extra on Entourage. Though I did not yet have headshots, and had not yet been on my first commercial audition, as you can see based on my Holla-ing, I was more than enthusiastic about the idea.
The extras were told to meet in the Robinsons-May parking lot on Wilshire Boulevard at 7:00 am. From there, we’d be bussed to the shoot location. We were also told to bring a couple of different bikinis, so a prop stylist could choose one for us. When my name was called, I entered the wardrobe trailer with my options in an American Apparel tote bag. She thumbed through my selection, finally settling on a pink and white polka-dotted number with some very small bottoms.
The busses dropped us off at the W Hotel in Westwood, where we’d be shooting by the pool. After de-bussing, I spotted my friend Maggie. While I knew Maggie was a sometimes-actress, I had no idea she’d be there. “If they ask for volunteers to get in the pool, we have to raise our hands,” she said. “That way we’ll get a ‘wet bump.’” Maggie knew all the lingo. A “wet bump,” she told me, was when the production company had to pay extras more money because they got wet. There was also a “smoking bump,” for extras willing to smoke a cigarette.
One of the director’s assistants came out and said he needed half the extras to take seats on the poolside lounge chairs, and the other half to be walkers passing by the pool. Because we knew there was no bump for walking, we dove for two chaise lounges. Next to them were fake cocktails. Mine was a gelatinous green gel that was supposed to look like an apple martini but looked more like a glassful of Aloe Vera. Adrian Grenier’s character, Vince, and Kevin Connolly’s character, Eric, would be sitting by the pool, talking to two British girls. The extras were instructed to talk and drink and hang out like we were enjoying a regular Monday afternoon at a hotel pool. Except we were not actually allowed to talk; we had to mimic talking without saying any words, which is not the most natural thing to do. While mouthing, “This is so fun. This is SO fun. THIS is so fun,” over and over again, I found myself overdoing it with the hand gestures, feeling as if I needed to rely on them, in lieu of a voice, like a deaf person.
About thirty minutes into the poolside miming, the director asked if anyone was willing to get in the pool. Either these girls did not know about the “wet bump,” or they just didn’t want their spray tans to wash off, but Maggie and I were the only people who actually jumped off their lounge chairs. The director eventually wrangled a couple other girls and two guys, one of whom had halitosis and proceeded to follow me around the shallow end for the better part of the day. (Please imagine, for a moment, what an affront halitosis is when one is told to just “breathe” the words, not say them.)
Fortunately, I got some reprieve during a quick break for lunch, though I noticed there was a collective lack of enthusiasm for food when everyone was dressed in bikinis. After lunch, the director asked if anyone was willing to swim across the pool, underwater. I’d clearly inhaled too much chlorine because I shouted, “I’ll do it!” as if he had asked for a volunteer to make out with Adrian Grenier. Perhaps I was under the impression there was such a thing as a “really wet bump.” There is not. In addition to that, let me explain something about my swimming skills: I don’t have any. I can string together enough aquatic aptitude not to die, but beyond that, there’s not much to work with. If I swim one length of your standard twenty-five-meter pool, I am grabbing onto the wall at the end, gasping for breath, coughing up chlorinated water. People are often curious about this. “Doesn’t endurance from running translate to swimming?” they’ll ask. I can say with conviction, it does not. I can run six miles and look like I’ve only done a jumping jack or two, but if I swim a couple of laps, I’m not right for days.
To be clear, the director had said he needed a volunteer “to swim across the pool.” While I now realize that could be taken in the plural, I took it to mean that he needed someone to get from one side to the other, once. It was a small pool, much smaller than the one at the gym that had made me see white. If I pushed hard enough off the wall, I figured, I’d basically already be at the other end. The director told me I was to swim across the pool, underwater, then emerge from the water, walking slowly up the steps. Then I was to stroll around the side of the pool, passing by Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connelly. Well, I thought, with that level of direction, and that much action for my character to take on, I had basically just been upgraded to a series regular. As I slow-walked around the pool in a bikini, I’d be the object of the two main characters’ eyes. This would be my Phoebe Cates in Fast Times At Ridgemont High moment. My breakthrough. Lord only knows who would be banging down my door after such a performance.
I clung to the ledge in the deep end, ready for takeoff. When the director said, “Rolling,” I was to push off the wall and begin my swim to stardom. I glided across the bottom of the pool, underwater, opening my eyes halfway through so I didn’t slam into the stairs, then held onto the railing with the poise of a ballerina and sashayed up the steps. As I rounded the corner, I made sure to make some serious eye contact with Adrian Grenier. If the director didn’t love me, then maybe he’d say something on my behalf: “What about that polka-dot bikini girl? We should find a recurring role for her.”
When the director said, “Cut,” I was certain I had done what it takes to win over not only the director and the stars, but the hearts and minds of America. I figured a prop stylist would be scurrying out at any minute with a terrycloth robe with my name monogrammed on the back and a cup of herbal tea, ready to escort me to a trailer they were no doubt redecorating for me at that very moment. I was snapped out of my daydream when the director addressed me directly: “Swimmer!” he said. “Back in position.” Oh. I had to do it again? Had I not absolutely nailed it on the first attempt?
I readied myself in the deep end, pushed off the wall, and did two frog-like strokes to get across the pool. Then I walked up the steps and around the pool. I would perform this combination of maneuvers at least twenty-five times.
After only a few passes, my very short haircut was matted to the sides of my head like a rugby helmet. After several more takes, my sinuses were filled with snot, my fingers were past the point of prune, and the skin on my hands was transparent, like rice paper. My eyes were bloodshot and watering like an addict on the fourth day of a meth bender in the Appalachia. I was dizzy. Exhausted. Freezing. I no longer cared about the “wet bump.” I would have taken a “dry cut” to get me back on that chaise. I would have taken a “double dry cut” to get me into my bed. That day, I learned a valuable lesson in show business: They never do one take. They never do twelve takes. They do one million and fifty-five takes. And then, just before nightfall, when you’ve lost all hope, when you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you will die on the set of Entourage, the director says, casually, “That’s a wrap.”
As the bus barreled back to the Robinsons-May shopping center, I was comforted by one fact: I was going to be all over the camera. I might have been waterlogged, and my lips might have been blue, but my fifteen minutes of fame were due.
I immediately told everyone I knew. I told my coworkers at the restaurant and the magazine. I called my parents. I sent a blast email with the word “Holla” tacked at the end. People told other people, and every time someone told someone else, my role became significantly more substantial. “Bikini Girl,” which was already a stretch, morphed into “Guest Star,” which morphed into “Recurring Series Regular,” which morphed into “Dating Adrian Grenier in real life.” And who was I to correct anyone?
Three months later, the episode aired. There were watch parties.
Okay, there were not watch parties, but a lot of people watched. I watched from my apartment, by myself, my stomach twisted into knots with anticipation.
Exactly five minutes and eighteen seconds into the episode there was a very, very, very overhead shot of the W Hotel pool. It looked like it was taken from outer space. In the center of that pool was something that looked like a tadpole, or a sea monkey. From exactly 5:18 to 5:20, that tadpole swam, for two underwater strokes, across the pool. Then the camera cut to a close-up of that tadpole emerging from the pool: blonde, tan, and toned . . . with a camouflaged bikini and a large lower-back tattoo. I watched in disbelief. I rewound on my TiVo. Every time I watched her taught, tattooed body get out of the pool, it was harder than the last. Who was this imposter? Was this my body-double? What was wrong with my un-tattooed body? While I was apparently fine to use for the camera angle that was shot from a satellite, for the close-up, I didn’t make the cut. I imagined the editors’ conversation:
“Well, the swimmer girl looks a little banged up,” one would say.
“Yeah, she looks like she’s sort of struggling to get out of the pool,” the other would add.
“Plus, that rose bush back tattoo is hot.”
I continued to watch anyway, hoping they’d flash back to the pool scene, thinking maybe there was still a chance. About a quarter of the way through the episode, they cut back to the W Hotel pool. The camera closed in on Adrian Grenier and the brunette British girl. At eight minutes, twenty-five seconds, there I was again: side-profile, a pixilated smudge of myself in the background wedged between both their heads. The camera cut to Kevin Connolly and the blonde British girl for a moment, and then slowly made its way back left. As it panned across the pool, I could see the guy with the halitosis wading by the stairs. The camera then stopped for a while on Adrian Grenier and the brunette. Maggie was visible for most of the scene, even in the background, while I was entirely blocked by the British girl’s head. I could see Maggie pretend-talking to me and, peeking out from behind the large head in the foreground, I could see my right hand dramatically gesturing back.