Triple threat Paul McGill, one of the brightest stars in the new remake of Fame (and one of the “Broadway Babies” from DS’s 2007 July/August issue), has had the kind of career every Broadway hopeful dreams about. The Pittsburgh native started training in tap, jazz, ballet and tumbling at age 3, and later added acting and voice classes to his schedule. By his junior year of high school, he’d landed his first Broadway musical, La Cage aux Folles. Paul moved to NYC for the gig and enrolled at the Professional Performing Arts School (where the original Fame was shot!). In 2006 he earned the coveted role of Mark in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, and shortly before the show closed, he discovered that he’d won the part of Kevin in Fame. We asked Paul to document the shooting of the hot new film for DS. Read on to find out more about Paul’s adventures on the set—including a super-emotional moment with legend Bebe Neuwirth! —Margaret Fuhrer
Thursday, December 4
It’s my first day of shooting! We film the “audition” dance sequences today, along with a few dance scenes that jump around in time—I transform from a sophomore to a freshman over the course of the day. I’m not used to shooting out of order, since I come from a theater background. It’s something I’ll have to adjust to.
Wednesday, December 10
I’ve been shooting with Bebe Neuwirth for a week, and today is my final day on set with her. Our early small talk has turned into genuine conversation by now. When the cameras are off, we laugh and play and dance around. When the cameras are on, we make eye contact and communicate. The things we’ve discussed build my respect for her as a performer and as a person.
After lunch, we do a close-up shot of my face. I have no lines, but am supposed to look sad and upset. When they call “rolling,” Bebe, who is off-camera, begins a heart-wrenching improvised speech, creating a scenario in which she’s the first one to tell me that I’ve broken my back—as I really did during the Chorus Line run—and might never dance again. It strikes a chord. I’m broken, and it translates to the screen. Immediately after they call “cut,” she holds a Post-it to her forehead that reads, “They made me say it!” and flashes a huge apologetic smile. I smile back at her with understanding. I want to hug her. It amazes me that she took the time to think of me as a person and not just an actor. It’s great when you find out that someone you have idolized your whole life is even more awesome in person. I’ll never forget this week with Bebe!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I guess 5 a.m. start times are standard in show business. Exhaustion is setting in already. Good thing our two-week winter break starts tomorrow!
As of yesterday, we’ve filmed 12 hours of footage for what will ultimately be a two- or three-minute lunch scene. We’ve been in the same outfits for the past four days, crammed into a middle-school cafeteria in Pasadena. It’s getting a bit frustrating, but we find ways to entertain ourselves without getting into too much trouble.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Winter break was perfect. It was great to be back home in NYC. I feel such overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for where I currently am in my life.
These next two weeks are going to be intense. We’re filming graduation, then going straight into shooting Halloween. Two huge productions—but they’ll be exciting, too!
It’s freezing out, and one thing I have to remember is to keep my muscles warm on set. Deidre Goodwin told me stories about learning that lesson the hard way when she was filming Chicago—you just never know when they’re going to say, “Okay. GO.”
Today we dance for 12 hours straight with one lunch break and one five-minute break. And guess what? I get to wake up bright and early to do the same thing again tomorrow! Although it’s very difficult, I love it and am learning so much about movies and Hollywood—I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.
You can see the Hollywood sign from this school where we’re filming. Magic.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
We film the karaoke scene today with Megan Mullally and Kelsey Grammer. What a ball! My face and stomach hurt so badly from laughter at the end of the day. Megan is a nonstop talker; Kelsey is quieter but strikes with wit.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
It’s our last day on set in L.A. and everyone’s emotions are out of control. What an experience this has been in Tinseltown. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone!
A German TV crew arrives to do an interview with me and some of the other cast members. We have the brilliant idea to pretend that we hate each other and are all spoiled divas. Paul [Iacono] and Kay [Panabaker] play dueling DJs with their laptops, and Asher [Book] counts out $100 bills from his per diem. The interviewer is weirded out and awkward. “Let’s just start rolling, then,” she says. We all crack up and let her in on the joke. I love this cast.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Finally, we arrive for our shooting days in NYC! When I get to my trailer, it’s parked outside of my apartment building. Perfect. We do some filming at the park where I used to hang out in high school, on 45th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. It’s like going back to my childhood.
After we finish, we head over to Times Square to film a scene from freshman year. BAM! The energy that you get from this city is invigorating. Everything is so alive here!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
It’s the final day on set before wrapping the film. Luckily for me, the last scene I have to shoot is also my most challenging. There aren’t any lines, but there are plenty of emotions. I give it my all.
It’s sad to see everyone go, but I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. I’m eternally grateful for this amazing chapter in my life, short as it was (I still can’t believe that we completed all the rehearsals and shooting in just three months!). All in all, I’m coming out of this movie a little closer to knowing who I am and who I want to be.