I always expected that Hollywood sets were peopled with entitled stars and prima dona producers. That is, until I spent two days for my star turn as the marrying/burying Rabbi on ABC’s Body of Proof. There on location at the hotel, I witnessed one of the nicest and most welcoming workplace environments and approachable cast and crew ever.
Let me step back. As I was elbow deep in preparations for the Jewish High Holy Days, my congregant Matthew Gross approached me about an idea he had for his TV series Body of Proof.
Body of Proof follows the life and career of Medical Examiner Megan Hunt, once a high-flying neurosurgeon, who works in Philadelphia’s Medical Examiner’s Office. As a Medical Examiner Megan applies her vast medical knowledge, keen instincts and variously charming and scalpel-like personality to the task of solving the medical mysteries of the dead and bringing the people responsible for their deaths to justice.
What did I think, Matt asked, about a wedding where moments before it starts, the bride jumps off the seventh story balcony and falls through the chuppah (marriage canopy)? I told him that I thought he was a sick man if as Executive Producer and Writer, he spent his days dreaming up innovative ways to kill people. Then he made an offer I couldn’t refuse…
Would I like to officiate at the wedding and funeral for the show?
Thus I found myself two days after Yom Kippur, dressed in my tallit and “wedding officiation suit,” preparing to be filmed at the pre-wedding cocktail reception. After being introduced around to a few of the crew members, I was walked through my role in the scene (no lines but lots of fun nonetheless).
It was during the downtime that my wife Michelle (who was background as a mourner at a funeral) noticed that how wonderfully approachable and kind the people were. They exhibited what we Jews call the middah (or Jewish virtue) of nedivut lev, a generous heart.
The stunt coordinators proudly and patiently explained how they would have a woman fall from seven stories up and “die”. The make up guy showed me how they planned to push a leg bone “through the skin.” The props and crew showed their faux gravestones, while the lighting crew demonstrated how huge lighting shields brightened a darkening sky. And the on location caterers piled our plates with delicious desserts, that rivaled my parents’ baking. Everybody was gracious, inviting, and welcoming.
You’d expect the Hollywood types to be, well, unapproachable. But it wasn’t so.
Each actor approached us during our days of filming, to say hi, introduce themselves, and see how we were enjoying being on the set. Over the course of two days, we met most all of them – including Dana Delany (Dr. Megan Hunt), Jeri Ryan (Dr. Kate Murphy), Peter Dunlap (Nicholas Bishop), Sonja Sohn (Det. Samantha Baker), John Carroll Lynch (Det. Bud Morris), Geoffrey Arend (Dr. Ethan Gross), and Windell Middlebrooks (Dr. Curtis Brumfield). And like the episode’s director, AD’s and the whole crew, they were wonderfully kind.
Knowing that the kindness must emanate from the top, we complimented our host Matt on the kind staff he brought together. Matt indicated that like our Congregation Or Ami – where warmth, kindness and compassion define the community – he and his staff work diligently to surround themselves with like-minded people for whom creating a caring community is a priority.
There is a lesson in there somewhere. That if you want to live a life of kindness and compassion – if you want to be embraced by nedivut lev, by kindness of heart – then surround yourself with people whose personalities bring forth the same. It is easier to be caring when surrounded by caring people.
I have been told that our episode will air over the next few months. Catch up previous episodes of Body of Proof so you will be prepared to understand our episode. Body of Proof airs on ABC-TV Tuesdays at 10 pm/9 Central time. Find out about it on Facebook, Twitter or ABC-TV.
[Full disclosure: (1) I get no kickbacks or residuals if you watch the show or not. But do watch, because it is great. (2) This is not the first show on which I had a walk-on part. Back in the 1990’s, when then Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr was a member of my then pulpit Temple Beth Hillel, my wife arranged for me to play a Lieutenant Jr. Grade Starfleet officer in Quark’s Bar during a scene on my beloved Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (final season, episode: Strange Bedfellows). It was one of the best birthday presents ever. (3) When not tending to his nascent/non-existent TV career, I am rabbi at Congregation Or Ami and an avid blogger. ]