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South

“HBO,” says South, finally.

“No,” says Bailey.

“They’d take us,” he says. “Bigger budget, more time, no commercials and we’d actually air–”

“You watched Six Feet Under.

South blinks. “Yeah.”

“A broke actor, paying for HBO?”

South flushes. “I downloaded it.”

“You remember that shot at the end.” Bailey leans forward. “When Nate drops out of Claire’s side mirror.”

“Of course–”

“I paid to watch it,” says Bailey. “You broke the law for it. It should have aired for free, South, for everyone with a television set. It should have been projected on buildings. It should have lit up the sky.”

South

“You’re shrinking,” frowns Jade.

“I have french fries and beer three meals a day!” South protests.

Seven, waiting, laughs and shakes his head. “You think your diet affects your weight? What century are you from?”

South quirks an eyebrow. “What does, then?”

“Chakras,” Seven says gravely.

“I mean it, South, Bailey asked for your measurements,” says Jade. “You’re supposed to look healthier on camera every week, and I don’t want to pad your coats.”

“Call me Hansel,” says South. “I’ll try.” He straightens his arm for sleeve length and luxuriates in it, the strange and pleasant sensation of the tailor’s tape.

South

This is how South remembers the pilot: two days, two weeks long.

The first morning he shows up at 8:10 a.m., script in his mouth; he pulls off his shirt in the parking lot and somebody’s coming at him with a sponge. That day he eats three different meals called “lunch.” Bailey yells Cut, Wrap, Go Home at four in the morning.

South sleeps in his car for eleven hours. He wakes up, one big sweaty muscle knot, to Fenchurch the production assistant tapping on his window.

“They bought fifteen more minutes,” she says. “Shower, eat, next shoot’s at midnight.”

South

“You’re wondering,” says Bailey, “why the door’s closed, the cast is here, the writers are here, I’m here, but the directors aren’t. The guy you don’t know is Jeff.”

Jeff nods. His t-shirt reads abacabb–True Fatality!

“Usually, Jeff’s a mole,” says Bailey. “Studios hire him to leak what they want leaked: rumors, red herrings, building buzz. He works for us now. What you need to know, and keep to yourselves, is that as soon as we leave this room our set is on his filthy little camera. All day. Every day.”

Pause.

“Hey,” says South, “I remember that game!”

South

Bailey seems so tired. South feels guilty about the sand in his hair.

“The good news is they bought it,” says Bailey, as soon as the door’s closed. “Full budget, full season. The bad news–” He waits out the noise. “Is we’re a midseason replacement.”

They blink.

“We get double budgets for twelve episodes?” says Rebecca.

“No, they want twenty-three.” Bailey rubs his head. “They’ll choose twelve to air.”

“That’s–” South begins.

“That’s network politics.”

“So what are we going to do?”

Seven and Bailey lock eyes. “You know,” Bailey says, starting to grin.

Anima in machina,” Seven whispers, delighted.

South

They shuffle around, wiping their palms even in the icebox AC. South asks, “So this is a ‘meet and greet?'”

“Meat market, really,” says Moses.

“There’s a pun in there,” says Seven. “Please don’t find it.”

Bailey’s waiting behind the door. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he says, “our principals,” and then they’re in with the sharks.

Seven’s all teeth and sexy danger; South and Moses pair up and slay a whole tribe of execs, and Rebecca is God’s own golden girl. She looks invincible. They’re all invincible. South never knew he could do this. Before they went in, she squeezed his hand.

South

Seven appears on day five–just as everybody’s murmuring about when Bailey’s going to cast the part, he walks in after lunch with a minor cult hero. The crew goes fanboy; nobody gets anything done.

“Welcome to the weird names club,” says South when they shake hands. He’s trying to be casual in a tiny g-string. It’s not easy.

“Bailey says he’s doing a shower scene today,” says Seven drily, “then mentions I get to work with Rebecca Chiltern if I sign. Just mentions.”

“Your conclusions are your own!” calls Bailey.

“It’s cool,” says South, “my ass is better anyway.”

South

“You take notes during the dailies?” South asked Moses, the second day of principal, when he saw the little pocket pad. Moses just grinned.

The next night, South had his own notebook and ballpoint, getting down about half of what Bailey said (half legibly, anyway). He switched to a felt-tip when he realized it wouldn’t dent the pages.

At the end of the first week, he edges by Moses and sees the pages of his notebook, and of course there are no notes: Moses draws. All the right shots, broad shading, their faces and hands when they catch the best light.

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