Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Queen moved to Miami

After the independent television series Queen of Swords went off the air, the actress who played the lead (Tessie Santiago) was cast as "Lucia" in the NBC television series Good Morning, Miami. After seeing the run through, interested persons received emails with information about how it looked. That is included below:

Good Morning Miami Initial Run-through Notes April 18-25, 2002

1) Subject: Good Morning Miami Run-Thru
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 10:07:48 -0700
Thank you for ordering tickets for GOOD MORNING MIAMI...scheduled for Sunday, April 21st. This show has been canceled and rescheduled for Saturday, April 20th at 3:00PM! If you are interested in attending on Saturday instead of Sunday, you do not have to reorder tickets, but please respond to this email so we may add your name to the ticket list for the show.

Thanks, / Ticket Dept.

2) Subject: Re: Good Morning Miami Run-Thru
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 12:57:08 -0700
the show time on Saturday is 3pm...arrive by 2pm.

3) To:
From: vvv <xxxxxxx>
Subject: [TSFansite-Inner Circle] My visit to the GMM Run Thorugh--REALLY LONG
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 05:19:51 GMT
Greetings everyone and thank you for all of your good wishes while I was in LA. I got some info to you while at Kinko's, but I have slept since then and may repeat some of it. Please forgive me if I do.

As you all know, last Thursday, the run through date was switched from Sunday evening to Saturday afternoon. The only way I would make it was if there was absolutely no hitch in the flights or in
collecting a car to drive in the area. I was blessed to have made it all the way with no problems. I even had time to freshen up in the hotel before going to the studio, but enough about me.

The car was searched as I entered the parking structure and we all passed through metal detectors in order to stand in line. None-the-less, a few people brought in cell phones and cameras. I guess I follow the rules to the tee, as I don't want to be thrown out of a studio. Ah well. Only about 5 of us had purchased individual tickets. A very large group of people 30 or 40 had group tickets. A few people had been recruited from folks passing out tickets on Hollywood Blvd and on Universal City Walk to tourists, and about 20 casting directors from around the area had special seating. My friend Mark arrived just as we were being escorted to the sound stage. On the way we visited with a casting director who was interested that one would travel so far to see this. (Hope that was good for the show and Tessie.)

Somehow I entered the studio first. Still haven't quite figured out how that happened. More metal detectors. I sat in the front seat furthest to the left. I suppose it wasn't the greatest for watching the show, but it was great for watching the action!

The run through, and the Tuesday night taping, took place on the CBS Studio lot in Studio City in the same sound stage formerly used by "Ellen". (Andrew Helm told me that "Gilligan's Island" had been filmed at the CBS Studios and as far as he could remember it had never been anything else. Now I gotta tell you, that was the first time I ever imagined "Gilligan's Island" being filmed anywhere. I guess a child just believes everything one sees on television. Fortunately, I didn't reply "What!?! Gilligan wasn't real!?!")

The soundstage used had also been used for "Will and Grace". I have been on numerous sound stages, but in case you haven't let me describe it to you.It was cold due t the lights so I wore my jacket. Imagine a theatre. In the back is the audience. A TV audience is in bleachers with an iron railing in front of them separating the audience from those on the floor. In front of the audience and the railing are high "director chairs" for the producers, director and writers. Then there are four cameras. Three of the cameras A, B, and C have three people running each of them. One guy films while the others push and pull him around. Then there is the X camera. I may have this wrong, but I think that is the handheld camera with attached mike and boom operator, like a video camera. Then there is the boom and operator for the other three cameras. Saturday, there were also a crowd of people hanging out down in that area. I think some were the writers. Perhaps there were hair and make-up artists there too along with PAs and at least one animal wrangler. Sometimes the actors would stand with these people when they were not in scenes. This is how I got to see Tessie. In front of them was the director who ran the show. He was a tall guy. Then in the very front were the sets. On stage right was the set for the show "Good Morning Miami", next was the outer office for the television station, in the center was the office for Jere Burns' character…the office later became Mark Feuerstein's office. All the way on stage left was Suzanne Pleshette's apartment.

Before the show started a warm-up announcer (whose role was kind of like that of the clown at a rodeo…he provided safe continuity) explained who the producers were and that the series had already
been picked up for 13 episodes because of their track record. He then went on to explain that having a run through in front of an audience was something these two like to do. He suggested that most producers have the actors in front of an audience for the first time when they do the actual shooting. The man went on to explain that while an actual episode shooting can take up to four hours because of all the takes and re-writes at the time of shooting, the run through would take only about a half an hour as they wanted to gauge our reactions as if we were seeing it on TV for the first time. (We were actually in the soundstage for about 40 minutes to an hour.) There were moments when the director had folks pause and re-do lines, this was still a rehearsal, but it took very little time. The show was performed in sequence, so the actors, the director, the cameras (and the crowd in front) would walk from one set to another.

Then….the actors appeared. I saw Tessie on the "Good Morning Miami" set and that was absolutely marvelous. No, I was not able to say hello to any of the actors, writers, PAs, etc. I have seen people hang over the edge of railings to greet actors and sports personalities, but that seems like something that would embarrass everybody at the time. I think with work, one could arrange ahead of time to greet someone, but doing so while the actors are working seemed inappropriate. However, I enjoyed myself thoroughly just watching.

As they wanted to do this quickly, the actors never changed clothes, though the episode seemed to take place over two or three days. Tessie appeared in the first scene with her male counterpart on the GMM news team. He is a pompous Ted Baxter type, while her character is also sort of ditzy. She spoke with a thick Charo-like accent, so I didn't always pick up on what she was saying, but she was funny. Her character has a dog named Stewey who she believes is loved by all of Miami. The male newscaster hates Stewey so there is constant banter about Stewey. Tessie wore a spaghetti-strap, knee length, baby blue, chiffon dress with a blue flower brooch clipped to the center and matching pumps. Her hair was curled with a bit clipped up behind her while the rest flowed over her shoulders. Her hair must go at least to her mid-back if not further. She is still a brunette. As I mentioned before, her brown eyes actually sparkled. I have been paying attention to others, and have noticed one other person in my world whose eyes sparkle. What a gift! The morning news team at GMM is rounded out by a nun who does the weather segment. (Now that is part of the world and I thought it was hilarious. I hope that it doesn't offend others, because it really shouldn't.) She is in her twenties and wears a modified blue and white habit. It was great.

The plot, as you probably know centers around this morning news show in dire need of help. The station manager hasn't done a really great job (the nun is his cousin and he has allowed the male news caster to put a clause in his contract saying that only he can fire himself) so he brings in Mark Feuerstein to consider the job of executive producer to fix things. Mark agrees to the interview only to visit his grandmother, Suzanne Pleshette—a Bea Arthur Golden Girl-type (the character, not Suzanne…NEVER!) who lives in Miami.

Remember when I mentioned the crowd of people hanging out between the audience and the sets. There was one very pretty hairdresser hanging with them. She stood out, but was not recognizable to
me. Well, that was Ashley Williams. She visits the station to cut Jere Burn's hair. Mark Feuerstein falls head over heals in love with her and decides to stay. He makes changes at the station. In one cool scene, he is telling Tessie's character things to change and she just keeps doing them as if in a cloud. Then the conversation turns to Stewey who was a brown pug sitting quietly in Tessie's lap. Tessie stands up and tells Mark that Stewey is a beloved hero in the city and that he cannot be taken out of the show. At which point, Mark wins her over to his side by saying that he agrees and that he thinks Stewey should have his own weekly segment on the morning show. It makes Tessie's character happy and she flits out. (Imagine the Queen flitting.)

It was neat to watch Tessie after that scene. I wasn't about to reach out and talk to people and the railing made it a little harder to see the action, but I could see that mass of people walking up and down in front of the sets as the action moved from one set to another. Tessie and the nun would join the crowd and walk past me to the various sets. So she was five feet in front of me many times. I thought that was cool. After she left the office scene she carried the dog over to the masses and seemed to be looking for someone. She appeared relieved when she saw someone (the animal wrangler?) who took the pug. That was when I realized what fine actors she and everyone were. I really believed that she and the dog went together.

As Mark sets out to fire the male show anchor, he learns that the anchor and the hairdresser are living together. Now he doesn't know what to do. Suzanne Pleshette convinces him to stay and fight for the girl. The final scene takes place on the "Good Morning Miami" set again. Tessie asks the male anchor on camera "Do you know what I made for dinner last night?" He replies, "I hope it was a nice big pot of Stewey". And we are out.

At one point the director turned to the audience and asked if we could hear. Nobody replied. We thought he was talking to some hidden sound booth god. Then he asked us again, finally someone whispered "Is he talking to us?". Eventually, people started to hesitantly call out yes. They really did want to know what we thought and for us to react we had to be able to hear. I thought that was awfully sensitive of the director. I liked his control of things. At one point, my friend Mark said he heard one of the masses say "Why aren't they laughing" so I guess they were learning by our reactions.

At the end, they brought out all of the actors and introduced them to the audience. I promised I would carry you all with me, but I did not want to embarrass Tessie. So since folks were cheering other actors, I gave my best whoop when they introduced Tessie. At least the casting director we had spoken with was aware that Tessie has a following.

Well, it is late and this is long. I best close. When I think of more, I will add it. Please feel free to ask me questions which might help stimulate my memory and help me think of things to tell you. Perhaps I can refine this and make it sound more like the beautiful experience it was.

It was truly marvelous to get to watch Tessie perform live and then getting to discuss it with some former QoS folks the next night made it even better. Sharing it with you all makes it a wonderful
memory. I am a fan of Tessie's,like you all, and this was just pure fun. She is great and I loved it.

Take care! vvv

 PS--Thank you Pinkyswear for helping to keep me informed of any changes after I left me email. You are a great friend!

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