Monday, July 10, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Rehearsal Actress and Stand In

As a performer I've played victims, survivors, thieves, reporters, and many more roles as well as live hosting and Emcee work for conventions.

However I have a parallel career that I am often asked about, which mostly includes accepting awards! I have accepted and presented many awards over the past several years. This includes Billboard Music Awards, The Emmys, and many more. It’s my job to accept and also present awards because I am a professional rehearsal actress and stand in for Dick Clark Productions, ABC, NBC, Vh-1 and others.
Since I appreciate that people are curious about what we stand ins do, I thought I'd take a few minutes to explain it in my blog. Everything you see on an awards show has been rehearsed several times and for several days. This is to prevent mistakes like the one that happened at last year's Oscars from happening more often! Because most of them are live shows they’re timed not only to the minute but also to the second, to make sure everything flows smoothly including all of the commercials, sponsor bumps, social media plugs and teasers.
The celebrities performing and presenting the awards are touring or working on other projects and are only there for mostly just dress rehearsals (and not even always then) so their spots need to be covered and that’s where people like myself come in.

You never know what you’re going to be called on to do. So whether it be to present an award, accept an award, dance, play an instrument, (or pretend to), sometimes even sing for an artist, a rehearsal actor has to be able to jump in and just do it. A lot of money is being spent because most rehearsals are taped so the full crew is there, so we can't be shy or unable to do what is asked of us. Especially because we're working for the best directors and crew in the business who expect professional talent. 

My first show as a rehearsal actress/stand in was several years ago for the 2001 Billboard Music Awards. Back then I had recently graduated from the Stella Adler Academy of Acting.  For that job I accepted an award for Britney Spears and presented other awards as actress Jaime Pressley and Mandy Moore. By the way you don't have to look like someone to stand in for them. If it's a situation where they need a body double that's a different job altogether and you do need to be able to look like the person you are doubling for. After that more work followed on shows such as The Academy of Country Music Awards, (standing in for then host Reba McEntire), the Daytime Emmys, the NHL Awards, and concert specials like A Tribute to Lionel Richie, (standing in for Nicole Richie) and ACM Girls Night out, Superstar Women of Country where I stood in for Carrie Underwood.

Me, Carrie Underwood (2014)

Speaking of Carrie Underwood she is by far the person I've stood in for the most over the years. It started shortly after she won American Idol and performed for the first time on the Academy of Country Music Awards. Twelve years later I'm still standing in for her on various shows and have watched her star rise, (deservedly so)!

One of my favorite memories was of working Vh-1 Divas where that particular year there was a medley with Stevie Wonder and each of the "divas" on the special. Each singer sang a short version of one of his songs with him. I had to go on for Shania Twain during dress rehearsal because her helicopter had not yet landed. So someone handed me her mic and I sang "Superstition" with Stevie Wonder! Although as stand ins we don't have the chance to sing very often it's awesome (but nerve racking) when we do!

In 2015 I got the chance to sing "New York New York" for Lady Gaga when she was rehearsing her choreography for Sinatra 100: An All Star Grammy Concert. I was accompanied by the ShowStoppers Orchestra and dancers. Also I enjoyed singing "Beautiful" at rehearsal in place of Christina Aguilera for the 2009 CNN Heroes Awards show. That was an amazing experience as she had an even bigger orchestra and for three minutes it was all mine!

Being a rehearsal actress means we get to accept awards before the artists ever do. For example I accepted "Entertainer of the Year" for Taylor Swift the first time she won at the ACM Awards. When I accepted an award as Madonna for "Top Touring Artist" for the Billboard Music Awards it required the longest acceptance speech I've ever had to improvise. When it comes to acceptance speeches we are sometimes asked to be very specific and other times to be completely vague, it just depends on the show and who's watching. 

Sometimes I have to do really unusual things like lighting an award winner's card on fire during a magic trick rehearsal with David Copperfield. In the past I have also enjoyed several years of pageant work as Rehearsal Host for each of the big three several times...Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss America. I wrote about that in a blog article back in 2013, "What is a Rehearsal Host."

Karen, Anna, Billboards 2013

The last time I ever saw Prince was introducing him with my sister Karen Wendt at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards dress rehearsal. He was at the show to accept the Icon Award. Fortunately I have worked with my sister Karen many times over the past several years as she is in the same profession. There is a small group of us who do the shows together every year and we're like a stand in family. Most of us have known each other and the crew a long time. 

Stand ins are also used for TV and film. I've stood in for Jenny  McCarthy for a TV pilot (that wasn't picked up), Isla Fisher for Now You See Me, and Cheryl Ladd when she played James Caan's wife in the series Las Vegas.

Standing in for Lara Spencer, The Oscars 2017

The Red Carpet shows have become more popular than ever and some are now shown as pre-shows just before the big event. For the 2016 and 2017 Oscars I've been Lara Spencer's stand in as a red carpet rehearsal host for Oscars Opening Ceremony: Live from the Red Carpet

Being a rehearsal actress has helped me when I audition for other acting jobs because I'm used to jumping in and doing something without worrying about nerves. Working so many awards shows has also kept me current on music, TV and film. 

Here is a video the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently made about us rehearsal actors/stand ins where they interviewed the 2016 Oscar stand ins who did a great job explaining what it is we all do!

YouTube Link:

For This Rehearsal Only: The Life of a Stand In at the Oscars

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