No one is perfect, I imagine most of us are individuals who are constantly making mistakes and adjusting. “Mistakes, I’ve made a few…” And, I can not honestly comment on Jeffrey Tambor and the recent sexual harassment allegations against him.
However, I can tell you he was undoubtedly one of the biggest jerks I’ve ever met in my 25 years of showbiz, and one of the main reasons I told my agents (at the time) I didn’t one to go back to the show, Arrested Development, years ago.
I’m not an A, B, or even C list celebrity. I wish I was working more, working in bigger projects, with bigger roles… I act in commercials and TV shows to pay the bills. I sing and write books to explore my creativity. I write screenplays with the hopes of one day selling a few of them, so I’d be able to possibly afford a house. Yet, years ago, I worked three days, (a few episodes) on Arrested Development and watched Jeffrey Tambor punch down, over and over, and suck up to anyone equal or in a higher position.
Maybe you’re a friend of his, or a fan of his, or a fan of the show, or even have seen the show…I played an umpire (which I don’t know if it ever aired, as I’ve never seen an episode), and the guard that screamed, “No touching” (which, I definitely know aired).
Anyway, I’ve no idea what Tambor has done in his life, what possible good things, but I watched as he made the set miserable for several crew members and day-player actors.
If you’ve read some of my stuff in the past, or have known me for a long time, you may already know that I was severely bullied for a period of time. It may be hard for some to imagine how that could have happened, seeing I look more like the guy that picked on others, and played linebacker for a Top Ten School, but no… I was a quiet, awkward kid for a good many years. Which doesn’t much matter, what does matter is that find it absolutely disgusting to witness people with power punching down…
When Tambor attempted to do it to me, I didn’t take it. First, I had made a life decision years ago NOT TO ACCEPT that behavior toward me. And second, I didn’t need that particular job that badly.
So, I verbally sparred right back, and I watched him stammer and backdown each time, unsure what to do. However, others took it, and took it, and I watched, unsure of what to do as one or two crumbled in front of my eyes. I regret that, but I still don’t know what I could have done.
If you want specifics… He would say the meanest thing to a day player, or a new crew member, and then follow it up with, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” I could see if this happened once in those three days I worked that he was indeed kidding, and didn’t intend for the person to feel it cut so deeply, but it happened over and over.
One scene, between him and me, the camera was rolling, and Tambor completely went up on his lines, so, being a supportive actor, I waited, and when I saw he was no where, I improvised a line to help him remember his line. It helped, but he was no where closer to remembering the next thing he was supposed to say. The take fell apart, and at the cut, he turned to me, and snarked in the meanest tone, “What you’re so good you can improvise lines now?”
“I guess, when someone forgets their lines, and has no clue of what to say…Yeah, I guess I am,” was my response.
He didn’t like that.
Another time in that, “no touching” scene, Tambor was trying to figure out a way to do the scene without touching the other character. I don’t know, maybe he was trying to figure out a way to write my one line that day out. Anyway, as he was discussing, and dismissing me as being in the scene, and the director was considering the suggestion, I stepped over toward the director and spoke up, “So, if he doesn’t touch him, I’m assuming I drop my line?”
To which Tambor, snapped, “Can’t you see, we’re talking here?”
To which I replied calmly, “Can’t you see I’m interrupting here?”
Others thought it was pretty funny, but again, he didn’t like that.
There are more examples, and as I write these things down they really don’t seem that important, neither does the fact that when he told a large, heavy, day-player, who was playing an inmate with one line, “I hope you enjoy lunch, cause you won’t be coming back.” He waited till tears seeped out of the corners of the large man’s eyes, and then tagged it with, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”
And no, I’m not kidding. And again, there were many more examples.
It’s a hard life being a day-player on TV shows and movies. It’s like you’re the new kid in a new school. You don’t know where you’re going. You don’t know who anyone is. You know your lines, but you don’t know the rhythm of the set. Again, it’s like you’re the new kid at a new school, who has been at dozens of other new schools for years. You know what books are, but just about everyone treats you like you’re a moron. No one trusts you to know your stuff. Everyone thinks it’s your first day in your first school ever.
Everything in the production of a TV show is to make the series regulars look smart, funny, handsome, dangerous, tough, romantic…even the day-players. We may dwarf a series regular, yet it’s written that they beat us up. You may be sharpshooter in real life, but your character fires 30 rounds and misses, and somehow the show’s star dives through a window and with one shot, hit your character square in the eyes. A day-player could be the funniest person on the set, yet if you get laughs in the read through, those lines that got laughs will probably go to the series regulars the very next day. Day-players are almost always just a piece to serve the over all story. At the end of your day, sometimes you’re lucky enough that they announce your name and clap, before moving on and forgetting you were even there. Besides a paycheck, which has greatly decreased in amounts over the past few decades… that’s it, and the next day you’re hoping for an audition to come in, where you’ll jump through hoops trying to get into your next “new school.” Where you get rejection after rejection, where you may be rejected for the oddest reasons. It’s not an easy way to eek out a living in a very difficult and expensive town, no matter if you’re in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles…
So, when a series regular says something to a day-player it’s like the star quarterback or head cheerleader just picked you, the new kid, out of a crowd. Whether they say something positive or negative it’s amplified. But when one of the stars of the show does something or says something, it’s like the principal of the school, who is also the star quarterback and head cheerleader, just said or did something to you…
Again, we all make mistakes. Everyone. Nearly everyone says something from time to time, or does something that hurts or offends someone else. We were all young. We all have moments where we are in bad moods, or have insecure moments.
However, with Tambor, by him stating, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” tells you right away that it was deliberate, as well as the mere fact it was repeated over and over. And the fact I never witnessed him punching toward another series regular, the director, or a producer, that tells me that he knew it was inappropriate and mean behavior.
Let me close this rant by saying that in my 25 years as a professional actor, with near dozens of commercials, dozens of TV shows, movies, and other projects, I have only come across a few people I never would want to see or work with again. Most people in the business I’ve come across are professional. Many are very nice and pleasant. And some have been incredibly friendly, warm and hospitable. I hope that if I, or anyone reading this, ever finds the kind of success Mister Tambor has found, in any career, that you and I absolutely don’t follow his example, but rather at least be gracious and relatively good-natured even on our worst days.
We should always strive to treat others the way we would like others to treat us, or how we would like others to treat the people we love and care for.
– Quiche Out