As Ryan Gray ’12 said, “A taste of Hollywood came to SW Virginia!” Gray and fellow theatre major Audrey Kuykendall ‘12 were called in as extras on a BBC film project last winter that is planned for a TV series. The filming took place on local farm for a documentary series called “The Farm.” Joining a cast of about 10 actors, the two VI theatre grads spent two days shooting on set outdoors and were featured in a few scenes together.
The story line is about local farm communities and the history that surrounds family farmers and their ancestors,” Gray explained. “Sort of a Little House on the Prairie flashback to the folklore and Civil War era.”
Gray said it was the “real deal” with a film crew of about 20, big electric lights, and cameras moving on a track system with several cameramen all shooting at different angles.
Gray and Kuykendall wore 1800s garb, portraying old farm people. Kuykendall had to bake a pie in an antique oven and Gray had to run with a gun through the woods, then down a hilly cow pasture, all the while carrying an electric lantern on a stick with the crewman following to hold the cord. Another scene involved Gray’s character getting in a fight with his brother, jumping over a table and throwing himself over a chair. “It was an intense drunken brawl with fake glass and very physical,” Gray said, “and our British director was great! He made the experience very entertaining and he really helped us understand the scene.”
The experience was very different from the stage life both Gray and Kuykendall are more accustomed to, but it was very worthwhile and fun work, they said. “It was also tiring work – running through cow manure in extremely cold temperatures, but I’m very glad I got the experience,” said Gray. “Working with a camera is so different when they ask you to tilt your face up two inches or down two – it takes getting used to the camera. It was a bona fide TV experience – my first film acting and my first paid acting job!”
The BBC filming was the third time that Gray and Kuykendall have performed together since graduating from VI; last year they appeared in “Parallel Lives,” directed by theatre major Chris Hobbs, and “Urinetown” with Glasgow Theatre Company in Johnson City.
The air date for The Farm should be announced soon, Gray said. This summer, the two VI alums can also be found back on the stage, as Gray returns to Glasgow Theatre Company in their upcoming production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Kuykendall will appear in two Shakespeare on the Square productions as part of the Tennessee Stage Company in Knoxville.