I recently had the distinct honor and privilege of working with one of my comedy heroes. Pee Wee Herman was revered in my house. His kooky brand of positivity and child-like acceptance of different cultures helped to shape my generation's outlook on so-called outsiders. So when I got the news that I was going in to read for Rene, one of the fabulous hairdressers for Free Wheelin' Mobile Hair Salon, I had no reservations about being as big a queen as I possibly could. Pee Wee characters are all larger than life and all the work I'd been doing on trying to be more subtle for the screen would need to be thrown out the window. Concerns about playing stereotypes or being pigeon-holed as a caricature no longer applied. It's PEE WEE FUCKING HERMAN!
When I went in for the final callback, Paul Reubens was there, smiling. I was getting over having lost my voice and worried that I wouldn't be able to deliver with the energy and fearlessness that the role required. But even then, under those florescent lights in that conference room at Paramount, I could tell he was rooting for me. He even gave me direction about how he imagined one of the lines might play better. When I finished my audition, he and the director John Lee stood up to shake my hand and thank me for coming in. I wasn't sure at the time if that was just their vibe and if everyone who'd auditioned had been treated the same, but I walked out feeling good about myself. Pee Wee (and Paul) can do that: just make you feel good.
And then I got the call. I happened to be at work, a 'survival job' that artists these days need to have to pay the bills. I had been having a shitty day. Let me tell you, after I hung up the phone, you could not get the smile off my face. Pee Wee Herman was doing another movie and I was going to be in it.
On our last day of shooting (I think ours was the last scene to be shot in LA) we had run late. It was after midnight and we were all exhausted. I remember thinking I had been in the wig for a really long time (the headdresses were NOT easy to wear) and that my mood was getting a little edgy. Around this point, Paul reached over and grabbed my shoulder. He said something to the effect of, "I know you're tired right now, but film lasts forever. You don't want to look back at this movie and be reminded of how tired you are." It was a simple note: find the energy wherever you need to find it, because this is a big deal. He was so right. After all, I was in a Pee Wee movie. Possibly the last one, ever.
When I saw the movie, I was reminded of both moments. His kindness during the audition and his simple note during that night shoot. I realized why Paul Reubens and Pee Wee Herman are so beloved. Paul is the consummate professional, with tons of fun facts and conversational topics, and Pee Wee just makes you feel good about yourself.
I'm proud of my work in the movie. It's not a huge role, but it's memorable. And I owe so much of that to Paul and his faith in me.
So... all that is to say that PEE WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY is now streaming on Nelflix and you should go check it out.