Way back in the early aughts I had one of the lowest jobs on any movie studio lot. I was a tour guide. But on this particular lot it was far worse than usual, because there was no set "tour;" it was left up to the guides to try to get into soundstages or onto sets. If they couldn't they, and by extension the miserable people on their tour, were SOL. I had tours where all I got to do was go inside the lot's expansive movie theater, and wander around the "New York" backlot. Sometimes, when filming was going on on the backlot, we couldn't even get to that, and had to stand 500 feet away and watch a camera crew set up. In those cases, the guide had to have stories at the ready, of all the magnificent things that had happened on this particular soundstage or that particular set, way back when.
Oh, it was miserable, at times. Usually, I felt bad for the people who'd dropped their 15 bones on the tour.
But occasionally something would happen to really pick up everyone's spirits, including the tour guide's. Sometimes a major actor or director would be spotted, just walking along the lot. Sometimes they'd stop and say something. Usually, however, they would ignore the tour, or turn and walk in the other direction.
And I certainly don't blame them for that. They were all busy (although there were some who were quite obviously and unnecessarily boorish about it) and had their lives and jobs to get to. But there was always one actor who, if he was on a break and happened to be outside the soundstage where his series filmed, would come up to the tours and introduce himself, and talk about his life as an actor.
Usually, nobody knew his name, but he had one of those "Oh! You're that guy!" faces, because he'd appeared on dozens of TV episodes and movies. His name is Daniel Zacapa.
Every time he would stop what he was doing and talk to a tour it was a real treat for them. He would happily answer all of their questions. At that time, he'd recently shot a movie with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts that had not yet been released called "The Mexican," and people just loved hearing about what it was like to work with those two fabulously famous performers.
And of course, it took a lot of pressure off the tour guides, when a recognizable face (I think most people on the tours recognized him from his appearance on "Seinfeld"), if not name, would come over and talk to us. I know that a lot of guides would take their tours directly to the soundstages where his series filmed, in the hopes that he'd be hanging around outside and talk to them. It was kind of a little thing, but it genuinely meant a lot to us that he was willing to do that.
I was thinking about Mr. Zacapa because he's appeared in two major network shows over the last two weeks. He had a blink-and-you'll-miss-him role as a landscaper on the first episode of "FlashForward" last Thursday, and this past Thursday he was on "The Mentalist," where he had a much more (and surprisingly) important role.
Whenever I see him in something, especially something like "The Mentalist," where he was given a chance to really act, I always perk up. Because he's a good actor who deserves to be just as fabulously famous as Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts, and because he is a truly decent guy in Hollywood.
Pic from Mr. Zacapa's website, which is here.