The O.C.'s Swingin' Spring Break
O.C. fans, sit down, 'cause the Nana is in love. And this week, Grandma Cohen's (Linda Lavin) decision to marry a younger man will find Sandy ( Peter Gallagher), Seth (Adam Brody) and Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) flying to Miami — at the height of spring break madness — to meet the fiancé. As one of TV Guide's O.C. fans, I hopped a flight to Florida for the taping. My mission: use my press pass to meet the boys, pump creator Josh Schwartz for inside info and find out what it's like to be an extra on the set of TV's hottest teen drama.8:30 am I can see the O.C. spring break set from my hotel room window. The stage. The banners. The pool. Wait a minute. Pool? Suddenly, the outfit I brought seems oh-so-inappropriate. What was I thinking? Cue my inner scream.10:40 "It's the Nana. The Nana!" Linda Lavin laughs as she tells me about the previous day's encounter with a group of screaming O.C. fans. "I had no idea that just from one episode people would even care about me."12:30 pm Call time. I head to a tent in South Beach along with 300 extras. "You should have brought a change of clothes," casting agent Ellen Jacoby scolds before sending me to wardrobe for costume approval.1:20 Costume designer Karla Stevens arrives and gives me a quick once-over. My turquoise tank, she says, is a "very Miami" color. Her verdict on my outfit: "Fine."1:25 "Stand there," a production assistant tells me. "There" is between two Asian women from the planet Pretty and the country Fine. When Rapper T.I. starts performing, we're told, we need to dance, smile and pump our hands in the air. "T who?" Jessica Wen, 22, (aka Model No. 1) asks. My sentiments exactly.1:45 I've been here for 75 minutes and still no Seth or Ryan. "I have them under lock and key," Schwartz jokes.2:00 It's official: Most of the people here are models. Not fans. No one wants to sing the O.C. theme song. Most of the "background" — the extras — are hoping the power-tripping guy in the Punisher T-shirt will tap them to stand next to Ryan at the bar or dance beside Seth. The rumor on the set is, if they're picked, they'll be paid double the extra's day rate of $75.2:15 Ryan, er, Ben, won't make eye contact with me. I've cornered him during a break to ask how the Miami shoot compares to last season's Las Vegas road trip and about nightlife on location. "It's awesome," he says. "No lines and I haven't paid for anything yet."Next question: "So if Ryan were real, do you think you two would get along?" "Yeah," Ben answers. "He's a smart, motivated, helluva guy. He'd be one of my boys.""But why would he want to hang with you?" I blurt."He probably wouldn't," McKenzie says. "He's a lot cooler than me."3:00 "Stand up. I want to see how tall you are." It's too late. The inappropriate words I thought are out of my mouth, and a puzzled Adam Brody dutifully stands. "You thought I'd be, like, 5-foot-6," he says, smiling. "Dude, I'm 5-foot-11!" And broader than I expected. But his rapid-fire, half-completed sentences are pure Seth. I spend the next 15 minutes grilling him about his episode of Punk'd, the rainy Spiderman episode of The O.C. and why he hates Vegas. I also try to get him to talk about his real-life love Rachel Bilson, aka Summer (who's watching us from a few feet away). No luck. At one point, I have to remind myself that even if he were Seth and not Adam, even if his girlfriend weren't sitting a few feet away, it would not be appropriate to put my arms around his tiny little waist. "Summer's not in this episode," Schwartz says later. "Rachel got down here on her own."4:50 "We're losing the light here, kids," director Ian Toynton says after Ben flubs a line.5:20 Assistants pass out St. Pauli Girl nonalcoholic beer and warn us not to drink yet. I do.5:40 Cameras roll for the kegger shot and everyone starts smiling, laughing, gesturing wildly at a circle of guys who hold one of their friends upside-down so he can guzzle straight from the beer keg. And they do it all without making a sound. It's like the freakin' Twilight Zone. Model No. 2, Eva Leung, pulls my arm and rushes toward the group so we can get in the shot. I step back. Now is not the time to have the spring break I never had in college.7:25 I've found exactly three people who, like myself, are geeked to be within kissing distance of Seth Cohen.7:50 A group of bored extras starts to practice yoga. One of them, Caitlin Whiting, 18, turns out to be a hardcore fan. We bond over the Chrismukkah episodes. "I would do this for free," she says. I don't get that carried away.8:25 Apparently, there's a method to the whipped-cream application. To prepare for a scene in which Adam Brody licks whipped cream off guest star Jamie King's body, director Ian Toynton shows how he wants the cream to be applied. First on the right breast. Then the left. Then draw a line down to the woman's belly button and draw a belt around her waist. Imagine this said, in all seriousness, with a British accent.8:45 My turn! The Punisher lets me join a line of extras in one of the night's last two scenes.9:00 "Have you been through wardrobe?" a woman barks at me, frowning. I nod yes. "And she approved you in that?" I look down. I'd forgotten I'd taken off the turquoise tank that make me look like, well, a tank, leaving only my black T. I put it back on. "You can't just change clothes," she says. "We have to worry about continuity!"9:10 Ben passes by my group on the way to the bar. He does this over and over for the next 15 minutes. Between the third and fourth takes, he stops. "Hey, don't I know you?" he asks. "What are you, background now?"