December 1, 2013
The Time I Met Emily Mortimer on the Subway.
I was at the 86th street subway stop on the Upper West Side. I was annoyed, the train was running late, and the waiting area was filling up with equally impatient people. I was on my way to a commercial print acting seminar. The dim waiting area was quiet but teeming with a nervous energy. New Yorkers like to keep moving, like to keep on their own internal clock's timetable. As long as they're go-go-going, they're quiet. But they tend to get particularly nervous when deprived of where and when they want to go. If you mess with that, well, then... that's when there is an antsy, aggressive New Yorker on your hands. Don't look directly in their eyes. They might spook.
I have quickly adopted this rude and selfish behavior. Sorry. I started pacing under the wan light, scanning the crowd for no particular reason, other than to people watch. It's part of keeping my "acting eyes" open; my acting coach told me to always watch people because it's a great way to learn about humanity, blah blah blah. You know how acting teachers are. So in touch with emotions. But seriously wonderful.
So there I was, keeping my eyes way open, when someone caught my eye. It was a tall woman, wearing no makeup, her hair frayed across her forehead and slumped in a wooden subway waiting chair. There was nothing about her that would draw anyone's eyes - she wasn't dressed in flashy clothes or giving off that "I'm-an-actress-stare-at-me" vibe. She was just, so, normal. But I knew I had seen her before. And I knew where. But I decided to move a little closer, just to be sure. So I crept within about 10 feet of her (and everyone else sitting on that wooden bench.) High cheekbones, milky-white skin, totally British. This has got to be her.
Then, thankfully, the subway lights illuminated the tunnel. Everyone stood up, ready to flood the doors as soon as they opened. I inched a bit closer and stepped into the same car as she did, and as she walked past me, I knew for CERTAIN that this was Emily Mortimer. For sure. No questions. "How cool is this," I thought, and found my way to a subway seat. She lingered by the subway map just inside the door, then casually came and sat down right in front of me. Facing me.
So of course, I'm just staring at her. At Emily Mortimer. Actress in so many great things. Thank goodness she wasn't even slightly aware of my stalker-ish gaze. The subway lurched forward. As the quiet contentment of New Yorkers filled the subway car, something occurred to me. I will probably never EVER see this woman again. What are the chances? But the last time I saw a famous person, I was so star struck I just stood there. I decided, why not just say something to her? I know there's a code in this town about not making a big deal about celebrities, but, I can play it cool and not gush over her, right? I leaned forward. I took a deep breath. And then, I obviously hissed at her (because I clearly make good decisions when I'm star struck.)
She glanced my way. This was my chance. To stop hissing at her. And maybe start using my words.
"Hey, you're an actor aren't you?" I said across the two feet expanse between us.
Her stoic face broke into a sweet grin. "Yeah," she said. So British. Best accent ever.
"You're really good, " I said meekly. "You were so great in that movie a few years ago, the one with Ryan Gosling. That was a great movie." DUMB. I couldn't even remember the title.
"Oh, why thank you." She smiled at me. "Are you an actor?" she asked.
"Yeah," I answered. "I'm on my way to a seminar about commercial print right now." Then I realized how lame that sounded to a REAL actress. They don't do commercial print unless there are at least 5 zeroes attached to the buyout. Ughhhh.
She responded with fond kindness, "Oh good for you. Well keep at it. Just keep going for it. It's a terrible time to be in any industry, so you might as well be an actor and just go for it." She laughed a little. Emily Mortimer. Laughing at the prospect of me going for it. Omigahhhh.
"Thank you! That's a good way to look at it." I said. We both smiled and then kind of just looked away. It was a nice conversation, and now it was over.
Oh no it wasn't.
Because I remembered.
"Oh, and in 30 Rock! You had the brittle bones! Man, you were so funny, my husband and I really got a kick out of that," I said.
She laughed again. "Oh thank you." She shifted in her seat.
Then it was over.
My husband and I got a kick out of it?? What the-?! Man, I am so done talking to celebrities.
The subway pulled into 59th. She and I both got off, and parted ways into the night. Oh Emily Mortimer. That wily British minx. She is everything you would think; so polite and with an unexpected warmth that makes you feel, well, like you can say things to her like, "I got a kick out of that." However, you probably shouldn't. BECAUSE SHE'S EMILY MORTIMER.