Hilary Baack – Actor (2007)

I had the joy of working on the set of Law and Order: Criminal Intent for one day. It was a very cold morning, so I waited in my little trailer. When it was time for me to start, they knocked loudly on the door. I could easily feel it, and I could even see it, as the door shook slightly. They led me to the hair and make up trailer, where the lady doing my hair was very sweet and asked one of the ever-popular deaf questions, “So, do you read people’s lips, like, when you’re out? Like at a restaurant?” I answered, “Well, I could, but I really have to focus, and people usually notice that I’m staring. So in theory, I could, (and sometimes do), but it’s not something I do regularly.” (One thing that baffles me is hearing people’s fascination with this form of “eavesdropping,” when hearing people can simply listen to other people’s conversations from the table next to them. Perhaps it’s the distance factor that fascinates them.)

After hair and make up and I was dressed in my costume, I was led to the set, where I met the other actors in my scene, as well as the on-set interpreter. He was extremely generous and kind, running lines with me and then just keeping me in the know throughout the day. One of my fellow actors in the scene was hearing, but could sign well, so between the two of them, I was able to keep up with everything.

Having the interpreter on set was really was crucial and invaluable. Many times, announcements were being made quickly and away from my view, and things were changing quickly. The other actors were running about, and all of this was happening outside. I was able to check in with the interpreter, even when he was on the other side of the set, and he could let me know what was going on.

I couldn’t hear the cues “roll sound” or “action”, so I relied on my fellow actor to cue me in, as I had the first line in the scene. He really just gave me a look, and I knew to begin. A couple of times, though, I mistook a look to begin, and started too early. Or the opposite happened: I didn’t realize he was giving me the look, everyone was waiting a couple of extra seconds before he gave me a bigger look, and I realized it was time to speak. It was a relaxed environment, and we were able to laugh about it. For another shot, I was working without the director or interpreter, and I worked out a system of signals with the cameraman as to when we were beginning, or where I needed to look.

My experience doing this show was fantastic. Everyone had an awareness, sensitivity, patience, and understanding in working with me, and we found a way to communicate throughout. It was delightful working with the director, actors, and the crew. And thank goodness they had hand warmers to keep my fingers warm and still able to sign, on this freezing day!

At the end of my day, after I had changed out of my costume, they knocked loudly on my trailer door, for me to sign my contract. It had been a smooth and successful day. A lovely retired New York City cop who now drives for the show drove me back into the city, sharing stories. My day ended with a smile and a warm handshake.

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