The One


I’d chosen to shave my head for this character; a warden in a futuristic multiple universe, who sends the star, Jet Li off to an eternity of hard labor.  While I’ve never before done this, my intention was both to visually reflect a sense of austerity and avoid being perceived as contemporary.  Curiously, this ‘dramatic re-invention’ caused the LA casting community to rediscover me and led to several other lead roles.

It’s always a joy to work for Glen Morgan and Jim Wong, a creative team I think of as my ‘Godfathers’.  They’ve created my most interesting and affirming roles (The X-Files, Millennium, Space: Above and Beyond, The Others, The One) and they’ve flattered and honored me by offering them to me.  In 31 years as an actor, this is the only instance of such trust.  So any production created by them is special to me.

Filming my role only involved a few days; but I was able to meet several actors whose work I’ve admired, including Delroy Lindo (first thing I asked was, “Is Delroy shaving his head? I don’t want to compete with that!”), Carla Gugino (a talented and voluptuous actress I’d first notice on Spin City – and pissed off my significant other, by continually pointing out her appearances in commercials) and Jet Li, (a charismatic and wonderfully centered rising martial arts film star).  Action films often speed up the camera in order to make fights and stunts appear even faster.  Jet Li is so amazingly adept, they actually considered slowing the camera down in some of his sequences; he’s too fast to see at normal speed!  As with all my past work sourced by Glen and Jim, filming was affirming, efficient and fun.

Several months had passed and I was now scheduled to do post-production ADR work for the films November release.  I drove to the studio location in a mental fog; this was a day unlike any other.  As I entered the sound stage and greeted Jim Wong, the director, TV monitors about the room were tuned to live broadcasts of CNN…and what they depicted at 11AM Los Angeles time was the madness and tragedy taking place live in New York.  It was the morning of September 11th, 2001.  My day had begun at 7AM with a call from my niece Celia, letting me know that her brother, (my nephew Rai) was NOT in danger; his work at Solomon Bros. placed him away from the Twin Towers on THIS particular morning.  I groggily acknowledged that information and turned on my television…to discover the devastation and heartache directly across the street from my last home.

I later called the studio to see if my scheduled session had been perhaps  postponed…Nope.  To be fair, buildings were not burning in Los Angeles, the film’s release was imminent, and we had yet to assimilate the significance of what was taking place ‘on the other side of America’.  Yet it was surreal to be engaged in my work as an artist, while watching live footage of the unfolding tragedy 3000 miles away.  I quickly synched my dialogue, then Jim handed me a page containing his intended opening of the film and asked me to lay it down.  It was a narration which would provide context for the film reality about to unfold.

Now this is what I find interesting and memorable: I looked at the text, made my choices, recorded it, accepted Jim’s congratulations and walked outside to my car…then turned back to re-enter the studio.  Only minutes had passed, but other actors were waiting to re-record their own dialogue and I was concerned about disrupting their work.  Yet I’d sensed as I walked out, that something was incomplete, something left unexpressed. I approached Jim and said, “I don’t know if I’m the voice you want for this opening.  But I do know, whoever does it needs to impart gravity, importance, significance to this text.  I don’t think I did that.  And I’d like another pass at it.”  Jim graciously granted me that second chance and I recorded something more in keeping with what I felt the film’s opening required.  I thanked him again and drove home to spend the next few hours, days, weeks, coming to terms with the emotional resonance of what we now refer to as ‘911’.

The film premiered on schedule in November and I attended the cast and crew screening here in LA.  It was great to greet Jim and Glen, along with other actors and crew I’d met on this project.  After a few welcoming words from each, the house lights went down…and as the stunning opening visuals lit the screen, I discovered the very first sounds to be that of my voice.  It was the effort I’d returned to record, it prepared the audience for what they were about to see…and its presence was a total and absolute and gratifying surprise for me.

December 19.2002