Before you read, check out Part One or the TL;DR (summarized) recap HERE!
As I trudged sullenly out of wardrobe and made my way back to the holding room, I had a horrible realization. Not only was my ample rear end wrapping around a thick denim seam in a way that made me extremely aware of my downstairs, but there was no way I was going to be able to sit down in the tiny desk again. Not with the “mom jeans” acting like a splint for my entire bottom half. I had a choice to make. Either I could painfully and slowly lower myself down onto the shiny chair or I could stand alone in the corner, displaying my 90s cameltoe to the room full of post-adolescents. I chose both. Intermittently.
Adding insult to jeans-related injury was my sister’s triumphant return from wardrobe. She was dressed in Mary Janes, tights, a navy corduroy jumper and a delightful cardigan. Her hair was pulled into a side ponytail and her bangs had been slightly curled into her eyeballs. She looked like the adorable-yet-unattainable rich girl who flirts with the professor to get an A. She doesn’t need to. She just wants to know she can. My sister is only three years younger than I am, but for some reason her character was an eager freshman and mine was an aesthetically challenged adjunct professor who didn’t wear makeup and kept her knit stocking hat on, indoors. Or maybe my character was just the hipsteriest hipster of all time. Ahead of the sweaty-head game. Notice how I’m using the word “character” to explain what we were. Rather than just hopeful celeb-stalkers trying to play it cool in the vicinity of Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. Because that’s what we were, essentially. Just crossing our fingers and hoping to be steered into a spot near Jason’s infectious laugh. The one that sounds exactly like Marshall Eriksen. Who I’m convinced is actually the same person as real life Jason Segel.
If it seems like I’m writing about a bunch of filler and not getting to the juicy bits that were sandwiched in between the director’s shouted calls, it’s because I am. Because we spent 90% of our time on set sitting in the holding room, waiting for instruction and sizing each other up. Cliques formed. Pig heads were impaled on spikes. It was a whole thing. I was beginning to think we’d never get anywhere near a camera or a delightfully tall celebrity when at long last, an assistant to an assistant poked her head in and told us to line up and get ready for our first big scene. Excited murmuring filled the stale air and we marched out into the cold to meet the beginning of our inevitable fame. As we filed into the open air, we were grouped together in sets of “normal college campus clusters”. My sister, the well-dressed ingenue, was lumped in with a group of smokers and directed to stand leisurely outside the building, puffing on the cigarettes anyone and everyone happened to have on their person. I was paired, rather than grouped, with a lovely girl who had had an even harder time in wardrobe than I did. She was chubby, and I mentally dubbed her “other chubby girl”. I, of course, was the first one. Since fabulous fatties flock together, our direction was to cross the street, chatting away and walk toward the building my sister was guarding with a nicotine cloud. While we concentrated super hard on crossing the street, a car containing Jason and Jesse drove past, parked, and the two of them began walking behind us. Maybe there was dialogue, maybe there wasn’t. Everything happened behind our backs, and happened about fourteen times before everyone hit their mark and got it right. This scene, like the others we were lucky enough to be involved in, was just a transition scene. Just the guys, arriving at and walking into the college. Very important for realism. Not a great sign of our chances of actually ending up in the movie.
More holding room time lead to our second scene of the day. We were grouped and paired again, seemingly arbitrarily, but offensive nonetheless. Some lucky youngsters were chosen to be in an actual scene inside a classroom. They would be playing Jason’s doting students, hanging on his every word in their advanced writing class. I was not chosen. I was an actual student of literature and writing, so clearly I didn’t fit the description. I hope the bitterness comes through in that last sentence. Please take note of it, just in case. Other Chubby Girl was chosen to be inside the classroom, so the director’s assistants had to pair me with someone else of similar physical ineptitude. They paired me with the old lady. You remember her from the first sentence of this adventure, right? She was in her late sixties, at least, and had a crazy look in her eye that would normally be reserved for state fair psychics and caricatures of gypsies. She didn’t seem to think our pairing was strange, though. She nodded at me knowingly, jostling her wiry, gray hair and getting pumped up to walk hurriedly past a door frame nine or ten times. Which is what we did. I’m fairly sure the two of us never even passed the shining light of the camera, though. So at least the world won’t know parts of a film crew thought I fit in better with an actual witch than college students. Except you. You’ll know.
The final scene of the day was an exciting mix of hurried hallway walking and pantomiming on benches or slouched against a wall. This scene was a bit more complicated and truly tested my acting skills. Rather than just walk aimlessly until someone yelled “CUT!”, I had two marks. One to start on and one to end on. And it had to be exact. Talk about pressure. After we wrapped on the walking filler, yet another of only transition scenes, we started the more complicated task of sitting and pantomiming conversation as Jason and Jesse meandered past us, engrossed in their actual, scripted dialogue. Still up to their cruel tricks, the ones in charge sat me down next to a sixteen-year-old girl. The bench on which we were perched was deep enough for about half of my butt, but definitely not the whole thing. Meaning I had to rely on the musculature of my thighs to keep me in an upright and seemingly sitting position. Another pantomime skill I picked up. The teen and I earnestly discussed our characters before background was cued. I would be her tutor and she a struggling math student. We had subtle hand gestures picked out and a muted conversation based loosely on her asking if I could lend my notes for an upcoming test. We knew we’d be on camera in this one, so we wanted to bring our A-material. We were ready. Once cued, though, the teen lost all motor function and cognitive ability. She began wildly gesturing and mouthing what seemed like only exaggerated vowels. She looked like Sofia Vergara having a seizure. Every time. I was fuming. I tried to talk her down and restore some semblance of human behavior but it was too late. We looked stupid.
Like another knife in my already wounded back, I glanced down the hall and noticed my sister had been situated right in front of the two stars. Between each take I witnessed her chatting casually with Jason and Jesse. Conversations I would later learn were about what she did for a living, the fact that I was her sister, and that her and I are the same years apart as Jesse and his sister, of former Pepsi Girl fame. They smiled and waved at me as I tried to tamp down the steam of jealousy and the urge to shove the teen right off the edge of the bench. As a result of my sister’s thrown bone, Jason Segel said “Hello, how are you?” to me as he walked back to his mark between takes. And I almost squeaked out an answer as I contended with the yards of denim that had been firmly lodged inside my body’s many creases.
The day wrapped, and after twelve long hours we returned our wardrobe (though I’m sure fibers from those mom jeans will be with me forever) and sleepily made our way back to our cars and the real world of Grand Rapids. The only spark left in us kept alive by the possibility of seeing our wedgied mom-butts blown up on the silver screen. A possibility that ceased to exist once I finally saw the film.
Our entire 12 hours on set was reduced to approximately 1 minute in the film. There was only about one minute of footage from the school AT ALL, let alone with us trudging around in the background. Remember Jo-bro? He made it in. His smiling face shines brightly (and in focus) from inside the classroom. 16-year-old Sophia Vergara made it as well, but didn’t get enough screen time to share her wild gesturing. My sister was nowhere to be seen at all, but my knee, elbow and at least a fraction of my chin was available for a split second. At least I think that was me. It could have been a disillusioned member of the faculty.