I walked up the street around the Square in Covington, Ga. looking in the windows at the items on display in the store windows.
It was warm that September afternoon as I took a few minutes from the set to find the peace in my mind away from the sounds of the assistant directors calling over their radios “Quiet Please, Rollin’, Background” and the booming voice of whichever director was guiding an episode saying “Action,” as the actors emoted and conveyed the story the screenwriters had placed on the page.
It was nearing the end of lunch, so I made my way back to my chair to close my eyes for a few minutes in the afternoon sun across the street from the Covington Library where we were filming exterior police department scenes. The building served as the Sparta, Miss Police Department.
The shade trees with rays of sun gleaming through the leaves always made a nice place for a short snooze before returning to our positions around the camera after lunch.
From the moment the assistant director called over the radio saying, “We are back from lunch” everything was once again hustle and bustle as the film artisans began applying their specialties to prepare the next shot defined by the director. If the actors did the walk through the scene before lunch, then the set up would begin, but if not, the actors would arrive on the set for a rehearsal and walk through and then step away, as the set was prepared.
The second team of stand-ins would take their positions as the lighting technicians, electricians, director of photography, camera operators and assistants brought the scene to life with equipment moving to make the street, sidewalk and steps already enhanced by set decorators to come to life as a small Mississippi town.
As I look back now 30 years on what was then so common place to me, 10-13 hours per day, six days a week during filming season, I was part of this amazing crew who created one of the pivotal Southern dramas in television history – “In the Heat of the Night.”
It seemed so simple at the time, but what it was, was professionals doing what they had spent their lives perfecting their skills to do. They made it seem simple as we moved seamlessly between sets and locations with a disjointed sequence of scenes and create art that editors, musicians and Foley artists took through the next phases before the final show made its way to television.
To this day when I walk around a town square or down a main street looking in the windows, sometimes I find myself looking deeply into the glass hoping to see a reflection of that crew from the show I knew shining from over my shoulder across the street in the town square.
For you my regular readers, I know that meandering words here may seem to have no point, but I guess what I am driving at, we all have windows or mirrors that in which we seek life’s reflections, we see what is behind us. For me among the shadows that shimmer in the glass is those days long ago with whispers that helped to shape my life.
If there is a lesson among these words – it is that it is OK to longingly look back fondly on the nostalgia of what has come and gone, but let us also find in those reflections the wondrous opportunities of what those experiences can bring in the days ahead.
I am thankful to have played “Officer Randy Goode” alongside some great people in this show and been allowed to serve in many capacities behind the scenes with my fellow crew members. Be sure to catch one of reruns on cable or purchase a DVD for your collection.