‘So you know your way around pretty well?’
‘Yeah, I’ve worked here a few times.’
Chris sensed something of an understatement there. Trip seemed to know exactly where he was going and what he was doing. They approached a door at the back of the massive space. Chris would never have even known it was there. Trip pushed though it and out into the binding Californian sunlight. Chris lowered his sunglasses again as the two of them made their way to a separate building Chris was already able to identify as the home of all things make-up, hair and costume-related. He’d spent a whole day with wardrobe a fortnight before being dressed and undressed like a Barbie doll. No, he self-corrected, like a Ken doll; this character was all-man, not like his previous role and the fashion-forward choices the wardrobe department got to make for him. He had a feeling he was rather going to miss the crazy outfits he used to wear. Trip led him along a bland block-walled corridor to an unmarked and utterly insignificant door. After knocking, Trip opened it and peered in.
‘Aaiiiiieeeeeee!’ came a squeal and a diminutive woman shot out of her chair and clamped her arms around Trip’s waist. ‘How’re you doin’ babe?’ She shrilled into Trip’s chest.
Trip threw his head back and laughed, Chris noted the smooth line of his throat, very faint shadow of stubble...
‘I’m good, Bev, how’re you?’ He pressed a kiss to the woman’s wild black and crimson hair and artfully disengaged her from his torso.
‘Just peachy, hon, just peachy!’ Bev turned to Chris, ‘Hi, darl, you met your doppelganger, then?’ She grinned broadly.
‘Uh, yeh. You guys know each other, huh?’
‘Oh, we go waaaaaay back!’ Bev raised her eyebrows and cast a cheeky look towards Trip, who grinned in return.
‘So, we need to turn you two into terrible twins, yeah?’ Bev took a step back and looked from Chris to Trip and back again. ‘Yeah, we can do that.’ She nodded ‘Have a seat, boys.’
She gestured to the chairs which stood in front of classic lit mirrors. Though Chris knew she and her team had only been installed at the end of the previous week, they looked to have made themselves right at home. The counters teemed with equipment, brushes, hairpieces on stands, bottles of products, various electrical devices with leads snaking and twining down under the counters. A skinny blonde girl with a retainer on her top teeth stood shyly in the corner, almost unnoticed. Chris smiled at her as he sat in the chair nearest her.
‘Hey Kel, how’re you?’ he asked amiably.
He’d met Bev’s assistant and trainee when Bev had cut his hair and discussed his character’s ‘look’ the week before. He’d felt like one of those styling heads as he was looked at, had his hair ruffled and rearranged and was finally divested of his sideburns and floppy bangs. He quite liked the new style, it was easy to manage, he just had to run a hand through at the front to make it stand up and he was done. Quite a far cry from the increasingly elaborate and product-cemented up-do’s he’d got used to on his last gig.
‘Hi Chris’ Kelly lisped softly, trying to show as few teeth as she could.
Chris could tell as soon as he met her that she’d been a big fan of that last show. She was young enough to still find it difficult to detach Chris’ character from the real person. It was quite sweet to see the way her eyes sparkled when he spoke to her and the paralysing awkwardness that overcame her when he was nearby. He figured it would take her at least another two weeks of washing and blow-drying his hair before she would pluck up the courage to ask for his autograph.
Bev was fiddling with the hair at the back of his head. Chris glanced in the mirror to see what she was up to. She appeared to be holding swatches of hair to his head in an attempt to work out the best combination to choose for the best match. When satisfied, she spoke with Kelly, patiently explaining the numbers of the different colours she required and how much of each she needed. Kelly looked momentarily confused and Bev looked back over her shoulder to Chris and Trip.
‘I’ll just be a moment, boys, gonna sort out these colours.’ And she and Kelly disappeared through a partition door into an adjoining room.
Chris swung his chair round to face Trip.
‘So, uh, how do we do this whole stunt double thing? I never had one before.’
He mentally kicked himself for not playing it more cool, not shutting up and appearing like he actually knew what he was doing. He still felt like such a babe in the woods.
Trip swung around too. ‘Well, I’m pretty thorough, I guess. I like to get my actor’s movements and mannerisms right so, uh, I’ll be lurking around like some kind of creep just watching you for a bit. It freaks some people out, but there ya go.’ He raised his hands from the armrests in an open gesture. He continued, ‘Some stunt guys just go in and do the stunts, y’know, as long as they pass in long shot, they’re happy but Marco likes his guys to be a bit more professional. He sees us as actors too, I guess.’
Chris nodded, more fascinated by the idea of having Trip lurk around watching him than he cared to admit to himself. He squashed the thought.
‘So how long’ve you been doing this?’ He winced at the clichéd question but found himself genuinely interested.
Trip wrinkled his nose in consideration ‘Ummm, about ten years or so...’
Chris was surprised at the answer. ‘What? You started when you were like, fourteen or something?!’
Trip grinned ‘I’m thirty-one, Chris’
Chris studied him in silence for a moment, his eyebrows raised.
‘What?’ Trip was amused at Chris’ disbelief.
‘Sorry, you just look a lot younger... y’know, in a good way...’
‘Thanks. I think...’ Trip nodded his head. ‘It’s kinda useful I guess, in my job, I mean. Marco says I’m his most versatile actor. I get to do a lot of the younger kids’ work. Y’know, when they need someone who has my kinda experience but who can pass for a teenager...’ He hesitated ‘...or a girl...’
‘They get a guy to do girls’ stunts?’
‘Sometimes, yeah. In long shot, obviously. Just depends on what’s required and who Marco has available at the time, who fits the bill.’
‘So you’ve worked for Marco for a while?’
Chris was beginning to really enjoy digging up this backstory. Trip’s easy grin and relaxed manner made it almost impossible not to ask questions which might have seemed too personal for the first hour of their acquaintance.
‘Yeah, I met him when I was training and he and Bev kinda took me in for a bit, helped me find my feet...’
‘Bev and Marco are...?’
‘Oh, yeah, they’re together. Not married but as good as. A Hollywood partnership made in heaven. I think producers and studios like the idea that they’re kind of a package deal. ‘
Trip looked up as Bev and Kelly came back into the room.
‘I was just telling Chris how you and Marco have the whole of Hollywood pretty much tied up.’
Bev smiled, shaking out a black cape and securing it round Trip’s neck.
‘Yep, we do OK. Now all we need is to adopt a few kids who’ll be writers and technicians and investors and we’re set!’
She took a bowl from Kelly and proceeded to mash at its contents with a brush.
‘OK Trip, you ready for this? We’re gonna darken you down a little. Shouldn’t take too long. Put a little warmth in there too. We’ll cut it after you’re cooked.’
Trip nodded ‘Yep, sure’.
Chris watched her deft latex-swathed fingers separating locks of hair and coating them in the thick mixture. It was something between painting and pastry-glazing, he mused. Strangely mesmeric. She worked quickly, starting at the front of Trip’s head and finishing up with the shorter hair at the back. When all that was left to cover was the hair right in the nape of Trip’s neck, Chris realised that he had been craning his neck to watch as Bev brushed upwards along the hairline. He glanced over at the mirror to see Trip’s eyes amusedly watching him. Chris half-smiled, a little embarrassed.
‘It’s fascinating. I’ve never watched anyone get their head painted before.’ Chris said.
Trip raised a single eyebrow as if he saw right through Chris’ innocuous comment. Chris felt uncomfortably certain that Trip knew how strangely thrilled he’d been by the thought of brushing those tiny wisps of hair at the nape of his neck. He suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his own neck prickle and stand to attention...
‘She’s an artist, is Bev’ Trip diffused the moment and Chris flashed a grin across to Kelly, who had been watching with equal concentration, though for somewhat different reasons.
‘OK, Trip. We’ll leave you to cook for twenty minutes or so. Kelly & are gonna go get a coffee. Want us to bring you back something?’
‘No, I’m good thanks.’ Trip replied.
‘No thanks, Bev. Uh, is there something I should be doing right about now? I feel a bit useless.’
Bev smiled. ‘You’ll get used to it, hon. There’s a LOT of hanging around at the start, while everything gets organised. You’ll think back on this with longing in a few weeks when you just pulled your second or third twenty-four hour day. Make the most of it. Someone’ll come find you if they need you.’