How Breakfast Turned the 'Good Wife' Crew into a Work Family
We were all always a little bleary-eyed. From the early hour, the hours we kept, the work that we did. We made a television show: The Good Wife, a drama that millions of people tuned in to each Sunday night. But we began at a time of day that I’d normally call a witching hour, an intimate hour mostly meant for sleep, when the sun hasn’t even shown hints of rising. For nine months of the year, the cast and crew would take its first meal together in a breakfast tent, from rows of silver serving trays filled with food cooked at 3 a.m. and preserved for our arrival by flickering sterno cans.
If you eat breakfast together every day, you learn things about your coworkers you otherwise wouldn’t, like how excited certain people can get when catering decides to make chilaquiles or a specific kind of potatoes. We used each other as inspiration when we couldn’t decide what kind of juice to make or peer over at someone else’s plate to see what kind of breakfast burrito they opted for that morning. My morning was always the same: I walked nine silent blocks from the subway to work, and could smell bacon about half a block away from the set. I would head up to the window of the breakfast truck and patiently wait. The three men hastily running back and forth inside were always too busy to see me for a few minutes. One eventually turned from scrambling eggs or slicing avocado and rolling a burrito and nodded at me.
“Egg white omelet with veggies?” It was a question but not. It was my usual but he confirmed every day anyway. Maybe because he knew how impressed I was by his memory for catering to a hundred or more breakfast orders each morning. “Feta today? Avocado on the side?” Those were the only genuine questions of our daily exchange. I appreciated that he knew I stuck to what I liked, but always gave me the option to change my mind.
This ritual was just the beginning to our days together. We might’ve sweated in a hundred degree heat filming outside, or frozen on days when even twelve layers of clothes was no match for the windchill. We might’ve spent so many hours inside onstage that when we departed for the day, it was dark outside once again. But we’ve also waited together for that magic hour to get the perfect rooftop romantic scene. We created together every day, and each morning we’d return to the breakfast truck to check in with each other. Towards the end of our run we lost our beloved propmaster Sabrina Wright-Gilliar to cancer. It was heartbreaking for everyone, and while continuing to work alongside Sabrina’s daughter and husband, I realized that our inner mantra had now become, “When you hurt, we hurt.”
It was something I had never before experienced. A sincere and deep love for people who were not related to me in any way. As a stand-in on the show, I interacted with every department, taking instruction from directors, camera operators, electricians and others to assist in efficiently setting up each shot. My job was to help perfect lighting setups and camera positions so that actors could seamlessly jump right into the filming of their scenes. It’s a job that’s low on the totem pole, but I was treated as an essential part of the filmmaking process. Seven years earlier, when I’d been unceremoniously dumped from the corporate world, what I knew about my co-workers was mainly negative. The idea of connecting with the people I worked with was foreign to me. Initially I didn’t engage, mentally citing my past experiences with colleagues. I remembered how many times I hit snooze in avoidance, all the breakfasts I ate alone in my kitchen dreading the moment when I absolutely had to leave for work or risk being late. Now it was the most essential part of my day.
I had never been a morning person, but those people and that job instilled the desire in me. The snooze button saw far less action, I was out the door on time, if not early, each and every day. A reminder that being bounced out of the corporate world and stumbling headlong into the entertainment industry was the best possible outcome for my professional career. I felt welcome. I cultivated a wealth of knowledge there and I was finally comfortable.
Even when I went home exhausted from the hours we racked up on the job, I looked forward to the beginning of each new day. Maybe because I knew we were going to find a way to make it to the weekend. We were all tired en masse, but when I saw everyone gathered around, talking, drinking coffee, putting hot sauce on their eggs, I felt like I was home. That this was my other family. With each early breakfast, our moments together bonded us. Among all of us over the course of seven years, we’ve had marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, and just before the set claimed us for the next 12 hours, we talked. We laughed. We asked questions. But most importantly, we’d say, “Good morning, how are you?” And we’d mean it.