Chapter Twelve: My Way: On My Own Terms


     I left that Thursday for my mother's funeral. When I returned the following day to shoot the two tapings in front of two different live audiences, I was met with the most unacceptable re-writes of all.  When I read the profanity in the script and saw the large bag of potato chips left on her desk presumably for her to eat during a scene, I decided I’d had enough.

     I asked the "A.D."(Assistant Director) to get the producers. The writer/producer team immediately came to the set. Baffled, one of them asked, "Yes, Adilah? What's the matter?"

     I told them, "Each day I read my re-writes, I like my character less and less. I feel like I don't know her anymore." I went on to say, "My mouth cannot form these new words."

     I could feel their panic. Here we were on tape day in front of two live audiences on the last workday of our pilot, and I was saying I did not want to go on camera with their final script. One of them said, "We'll be right back."

    They huddled.

     I waited.

     I had no intention of portraying my character using the latest version of the script. Putting my job and name on the line, I was prepared to walk. I was clear I was not going to portray my character on national television in the way I was being asked. I was unwilling to perpetuate yet another stereotype. The responsibility I felt to myself and to my culture would not allow me to represent that way.

     Though I had not deliberately planned to put the producers up against the wall, the truth was they would have been very hard-pressed to find another actor to take over my role that same day. They would have to find someone in a matter of hours.

     There was a lot riding on this situation on both sides.

     The writer/directors joined me minutes later and one said looking through his glasses, "Okay. We are going to change the writing back to how it was."

     I said, “Thank you.”

    The other asked pointedly, "Do you know how many actresses we read for this role?"

    I said, "Yes."

    He went on to say, "Most of them would have done whatever we asked them to do."

    I said, "I know that." I further explained, "They would have done so not because they wanted to, but because they wanted to work. Some of them also wanted to please you."  I added, "If I never work a day in LA again, I will work. I have a one-woman show I tour all over this country."

     They were silent.

     We made it through that tape day. I gave my best. The tapings went well. Both live audiences seemed to enjoy the  humor in our sit-com pilot. The producers got a strong performance out of me and I got to play the role the way I wanted.

     It was a win/win situation.


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