My scene partner, Lindsay Hopper, and I are rehearsing a scene from Weeds. It’s scheduled to go up in our acting class in the very near future. She’s playing the role of Nancy and I’m playing the role of Guillermo. And in one of our rehearsals a couple of weeks ago, she asked, “Do you want to drive down to San Diego and then walk across the border into Mexico?”
She asked that question because the show takes place in Southern California. More specifically, we’re doing a scene from the third season and Nancy’s character has just moved to a fictional town in San Diego. My character is a drug trafficker who hires Nancy on a trial basis to work for him and his boss. Seeing her potential, my character hires Nancy to manage a maternity store in San Ysidro (an actual town in San Diego) that is actually a front for a major drug trafficking operation.
I jumped at the opportunity and said yes to Lindsay! I knew that being in San Ysidro and crossing the U.S.-Mexican border would be a valuable experience in terms of really understanding the world of this particular series. Being on location would give me a reality that I could experience. Also, being on location would be another way of turning over yet another rock in the development and construction of our scene. This was another way of taking our rehearsal process to the Nth degree.
So, on January 20th, we drove down to San Ysidro. As we got closer to our destination, I became more and more excited. I was like a little kid getting closer and closer to Disneyland. My eyes were filled with wonderment. We took the 5 Freeway South and there was an exit sign that was called “Last USA Exit”. It was exhilarating to know how close we were to Mexico. We got off at that exit because Lindsay knew it would be faster if we crossed the border by foot than by car. I tried to take a picture of the exit sign, but I didn’t take it in time. However, I did provide a picture below from a Google Images search for reference.
As we got off the Last USA Exit, I saw more signs pointing to Mexico. I could see the border walls (and the various numbers on each wall just like Weeds portrayed in one of their episodes) We drove around San Ysidro for a little bit before parking the car in the lot. We then made our way over to the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Oh, by the way, I went in character. I took my character public to get into the belief of him more. To be able to interact with people in character. Again, just making sure to turn over as many rocks as possible for our first take of this scene.
We crossed the border rather quickly, and like that, we were in Tijuana, Mexico. There was an eerie silence in the air that I mentioned to Lindsay. I mean, there were people out and about and moving with intention, but it was eerily silent. We stopped by one place to get tacos and our host also doubled as a doctor. Let’s call him Dr. X and he quickly listed off a laundry list of drugs he could sell to us (from Oxycontin to Meth to Cocaine to Viagra) What a wonderful gift from the universe! What a perfect way for me to understand the reality of our scene. I engaged with Dr. X as my character and asked him for prices on one particular drug (and no, I didn’t buy it!)
We went to another location and interacted with a man who called himself Robert DeNiro. He called me Al Pacino and Lindsay called herself Meryl Streep. We walked around some more and I kept focused on my character and his physicality. I kept my space and was intentional with keeping my space. I was aware of how I affected/landed on people.
I’m so happy that Lindsay suggested this idea and that I jumped on the opportunity to do so. That I followed my instinct to say “YES!” I’m proud that I didn’t flinch or back away when she suggested this idea. Because at the end of the day, this experience was empowering and it really informed the scene even more so for me.
Below is a picture of the “Last USA Exit” sign courtesy of Google Images. And I created the collage below from some of the pictures I took.