Contributing Editor Hannah Faye (who also happens to be my niece!) has written a guest blog post about her experience as an extra on the set of the new Hulu series about the assassination of JFK. In addition to being her first time in a movie, it was also the first time she’d ever put on a pair of pantyhose.
I mention that Hannah is my niece because not only am I extremely proud of her, but I’m also quite sure that she got her loathe of pantyhose from me. I haven’t worn a pair since the 80’s (much to my southern mother’s disdain. Her exact words: “It’s just not proper for a southern woman to go bare-legged.”)
Now I’m a huge fan of opaque tights and wear them often, but there is just something about that thin pantyhose material that gives me the willies. And while I’m thankful for my southern family and my southern upbringing, I’m just as thankful for Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Leg Makeup, self-tanner, and the fact that I now live in New York, where practically nobody wears pantyhose.
I’m also thankful for my beautiful niece and the opportunity to share in another one of her “firsts.” Here is Hannah’s first guest blog post.
I Got to Re-Live the Iconic Moment JFK Was Shot
by Hannah Faye, Contributing Editor
If you haven’t already binge-watched the series 11.22.63 on Hulu, you should add it to your list of things to do this weekend. It’s for fans of Stephen King, James Franco, and J.J. Abrams. It’s for fans of reliving and reimagining history. And now it’s for fans of TV shows where you don’t have to wait a whole week to see the next episode.
As one of the first “Hulu originals,” 11.22.63 explores the idea of what we might do if we had the power to go back in time and change history. Based on a Stephen King novel, this story has just the right combination of science fiction and history to make readers and viewers really contemplate that idea.
A normal high school teacher named Jake Epping, played by James Franco, is given a mission to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. But even with all the facts and conspiracies surrounding that monumental moment, the past pushes back against Jake, causing him to risk his life – and the life of others that he meets along the way – all to save one man.
I myself had a unique experience with this film. First, I’m an avid reader, so anytime a book is being made into a movie or T.V. series, I’m immediately intrigued. Second, part of my love for reading comes from the fact that I am an English teacher – just like 11.22.63’s main character Jake Epping. Anytime a fictional teacher gets to go on a grand adventure, I like to live vicariously through them – especially when it’s an English teacher going on a time-traveling adventure. Third, this series happens to have been developed by the writers of two of my favorite T.V. shows, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. Therefore, I knew it was going to be good. Finally, and most importantly, I was living in Dallas during the time that this was being filmed.
I first heard about the casting call when agonizing over all the blocked roads and “alternate route” signs that decorated my commute. After much groaning and complaining about the inconvenience it caused me, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as I read the headline, “Dealey Plaza Goes Back in Time for JFK Mini-Series,” I promptly decided that I wanted to be a part of it.
Just before I signed up to be an extra, I tried my hardest to find a partner in crime to skip work and go back to the 60’s with me. I asked my husband, my best friend, my coworkers…but no one was available. For some strange reason, being a part of this film meant a lot to me. We were still fairly new to the city, and the thought of being able to be a part of the recreation of one of the most (if not THE most) iconic and monumental moments to happen in Dallas was overwhelming and tantalizing. This was something I truly wanted to be a part of.
I took a day off from work and showed up to the casting call at 6:00 AM, bright and chipper – and all alone in a vast tent of hundreds and hundreds of people. I signed my name on the dotted line, and took a seat next to another girl. Apparently my arrival time of 6:00 AM was late because this girl already had her hair and makeup done. “Wow, you look great!” I said. “Thanks!” she replied, “How long have you been here?” “Oh, I just got here. What about you?” I pulled out two granola bars from my purse and offered her one. She smiled as she accepted the breakfast token and said, “I’ve been here since 4:00 AM. It’s crazy here.”
Thus started our sweet and short friendship for that day. She, like me, wanted to be an extra in the film but had no one who was willing to go with her. So we stuck together for the rest of the day, observing the intense “rising stars” talk about their parts in different films while waiting in endless lines for hair and makeup.
When I say endless, I mean it. I arrived at 6:00 AM and was quite literally the last person to go through hair and makeup and to be fitted for my costume. By the time I got to the front of the line, the people in charge were so exhausted that I felt like I got a little cheated. I saw people leave with beautiful hairdos from the 60’s and some pretty gorgeous makeup – and I got a ponytail and some red lipstick. After probably a good three hours in each line, my hair and makeup took about a total of three minutes. (Make that six hours sitting in line to get my hair done because after waiting the first three hours I was told “Oh, you have to go to makeup first.”)
I was tired. The people in charge were tired. But I had one last stop: costume.
In attempts to make waiting in another line more bearable, I took out a stack of essays to grade, something I think Jake Epping would have appreciated. I watched girls go by with adorable swing dresses and pleated skirts, belted at the waist. I saw loads of pearls and gloves. Several women were dressed in suits with pillbox hats, much like Jackie O. My excitement began to grow as I neared the racks of clothing, watching the stylist take her time with each person, paying careful attention to every detail.
By the time I got to the front of the line, there were only a few dresses left and almost no accessories. In fact, I got the last dress that was my size. It was a classic sixties-style silk sheath with a shirred waist in a bright pistachio green. Several others before me were turned away because there was nothing left in their size. So I took my dress, grabbed the shoes closest to my size (they were two sizes too small), and rushed to get changed.
Everyone else had left the prep tent and already headed to the filming site. I just wanted to make it there in time.
Which I did. Barely.
I, along with my sweet friend from 6:00 AM, rushed to the film site right as they were starting to film. I’ll admit, I think everyone had been specifically placed in a spot, but since we were the last ones, we just jumped in wherever we could and no one even noticed.
And it turns out, we chose a great spot. We were right beside the mark in the road where JFK was shot.
My energy started to pick back up again as we were transported through time. All of Dealey Plaza exuded the 60’s. The fashion, the old cars, the amount of cigarettes everyone was smoking (they were fake, herbal prop cigarettes). You would have truly felt like you had traveled back in time if it weren’t for all the camera equipment.
As I was admiring the scene, someone suddenly shouted, “ACTION.”
And that’s when it happened.
As the JFK motorcade came around the corner for the first time, chills covered my body (this is especially important because it was about 95 degrees outside and I was wearing pantyhose for the first time in my life…ugh). But this was the moment I knew I had come for – not to be on screen or to try to casually bump into James Franco. I had wanted to relive a moment from history, and this was it.
Everything about the motorcade seemed identical to all the pictures I have seen. Even the actors playing Jackie and JFK were eerily similar. In that moment, I truly felt like a JFK supporter excited to catch a glimpse of him in person.
I was so caught up in this moment that I actually forgot about what was going to happen next.
I think that my reaction here could win an Academy Award because I hit the ground, scurried away from the sound, and covered my head like I was in Saving Private Ryan. But then reality returned to me and I was much more collected during the next 18 or however many takes.
Perhaps it was my gut reaction to the first sound of gunfire that actually landed me a pretty prominent part in the episode. Just after Lee Harvey Oswald says “Sharpshooter” and fires his gun, you’ll notice a scared little girl in a bright green dress scurry off the screen.
And then it was over. Everyone went home. The pain of the clip-on earrings subsided. The blister from the two-sizes-too-small shoes healed. And those awful pantyhose went straight into the trashcan.
At the end of the day, my body may have hated me for getting up at 5:00 AM and spending over twelve hours in heat and pain, but I think it was all worth it to be able to experience my own little glimpse of history.
Jackie O and JFK look-a-likes. Jackie O caught me admiring her wardrobe.
Hannah Faye, Contributing Editor
Part-time writer and full-time reader, Hannah Faye is happy to be Stylaphile’s new contributing book editor. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s molding the minds of students in her English classroom or watching Netflix with her husband.
Read more about Hannah on her blog Follow Hannah Faye.
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