Author: Mary Poindexter McLaughlin
“Mur-der-ers! Mur-der-ers! Mur-der-ers!”
Dressed like a overgrown flower child and waving a willow branch, I am snarling this epithet at men wearing Obey Vegan jackets who vehemently shout back at me about non-violence. Snarling along with me are my fellow Snail Ladies, four women similarly outfitted and committed to the (non-violent) protection of the apocryphal Winter Snail.
Sound crazy? You bet.
I am on the set of “Why I Murdered My Roommate,” a tv pilot shooting two days at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora. It’s been almost 20 years since I acted on film, and even though I am frozen through and spattered in mud, I am loving every minute of it.
There’s much to love. First, this is a tv series shot and based entirely in Buffalo. No sound stages in Los Angeles decked out to resemble this up-and-coming berg, thank you. In the pilot episode alone, scenes were shot at Knox, Silo City, the Pierce Arrow Building, and along Broadway during the Dyngus Day Celebration. Dyngus Day? It doesn’t get more Buffalonian that that.
Second, the co-creator of the series, Tilke Hill, is a talented and spirited Buffalo native. Born and raised in Hamburg, Hill cut her professional acting teeth in Los Angeles and New York City, but has returned to her beloved stomping ground to tell the story of a Polish second-generation immigrant and rabid performance artist named EZ. Hill plays EZ with gusto and a keen eye for satire, having recently explored the theoretical side of performance art in the context of UB’s Masters Program in Theatre and Performance Studies. She also cares deeply about the wellbeing of her actors and crew; witness the homemade cranberry/orange steel- cut oatmeal awaiting us on this frigid morning in April. Ah, Buffalo.
And lastly, what actor doesn’t love to portray oddballs? “Why I Married My Roommate” is written by Hill and Michael Pauly, a Los Angeles-based writer and director (we can’t all be savvy western New Yorkers.) Hill and Pauly have conjured up a cast of quirky characters, from Snail Ladies and Tree People to a Kardashian- wannabe named Lush and a dogged female cop who pursues EZ relentlessly throughout the series, a la “The Fugitive.” Because these characters are so endearingly wacky, they have enticed a slew of professional actors. On the set today, during much of the inevitable waiting around time that accompanies film shoots, I’ve had numerous conversations with highly-experienced actors who were drawn to the project for the sheer joy of embodying a unique perspective. Good actors want to do good work.
Fortified with warm oatmeal and conversation, I adjust my rainbow-colored scarf and take hold of the rainstick I will use to attack EZ in this, my final scene. For a Buffalo transplant and middle-aged mother of three, it doesn’t get any better than this: in righteous anger for the mistreatment of the snails, I fix my wild-eyed gaze on EZ and proclaim,
“Their deaths shall be avenged!”
Cut! That’s a wrap!
–Mary Poindexter McLaughlin, M.A., is a playwright, actor, and poet living in East Aurora.