My plane arrives in Chicago at 10 o'clock at night. My driver tells me the director/producer Dean Devlin would like me to stop by the set. Tired, nervous and excited, I am led by a PA through a dark, deserted office building, passing crewmembers and stepping over equipment and cables. I am led towards "video village," the name of the area on a film set where the video monitors are situated, where the director, writer, director of photography and script supervisor watch the action on screen. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I am lifted off my feet. Dean has lifted me, fireman style, over his shoulder and exclaimed, "Gina's here!" Through everything I'd been through to get here, it never really occurred to me that all these people had felt the pressure, too. Was I going to make it? When was Gina going to get here? Did the visa come through?
There is much excitement; I am introduced to a ton of people, lots of hugging and handshaking and retelling of the stress and anxiety of the last couple of weeks. I meet Tim Hutton, who's handsome and charismatic. I'm so excited to be acting with him. Dean and the writer John Rogers invite me to sit with them in video village and watch a scene. Tim asked the clapper loader to write "Welcome Gina" on the clapperboard instead of "Take 1." I feel so welcomed and included and cannot wait to join in and start work.
Filming on the pilot episode is intense but fun. I feel an immediate sense of camaraderie with the rest of the cast including our amazing guest star, Saul Rubinek, a warm, funny, clever and incredibly talented man who is so encouraging to the rest of us that he shows up on set and watches even when he isn't on. The hours are long and demanding, playing Scrabble with Tim at four in the morning next to napping actors on the floor. Amazing locations and the fright I got when that cold Chicago wind blew in, watching Beth shivering and practically turning blue.
When we're not doing night shoots, we all hang out in a bar across the street from our hotel. It's baseball season and the boys are captivated. Tim gives me his vintage Red Sox cap even though I don't know the rules of the game.
My character, Sophie, has two major challenges in this episode: a South African accent, which I'm not too worried about, and a scene where I have to perform as Lady Macbeth — really badly — in front of the team. It's scary, being "bad" in front of your contemporaries, but I go for it in a big way and it gets lots of laughs. At this point, "The Nigerian Job" is just the pilot episode of Leverage and we don't know if we're ever going to see each other again. As I fly back to London, I hope with all my heart that we get picked up and I get to try out a few more accents in some great scripts with my new gang of thieves, con men and vagabonds, otherwise known as actors.