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Carmen and Elephant I got a message last week through a casting site I belong to asking if I would be available for a commercial shoot. They also asked if I would be comfortable working with an elephant. 

“Are you kidding?” I said out loud, “Yeeeeahhhh!”   

I love the connection you can make with animals, and elephants just seem especially soulful to me. I was excited the whole week for the unknown experience of the day. To top it all off, the director told me that they chose me for the project without an audition because of how well I did on an audition for them a month ago. I didn’t get that job because the client went with someone else but I was the director’s first choice for that one as well. It was an encouraging vote of confidence because actors don’t get very much feedback on auditions.

When I walked onto the set in Burbank, I peeked in to see a giant, elegant, and beautiful elephant dwarfing the green screen around her with her presence. Thai, the Elephant, listened intently to her trainer’s commands as she worked with another actor. Soon she was ready for a break and I followed her outside to get my first photos. It was a hot day in the San Fernando Valley and she looked so happy getting soaked all over with the refreshing water from the hose, while playfully splashing it around with her trunk. She even let me get close to her during playtime for a fun photo.  

My scene with Thai was next so I headed to wardrobe, makeup and set. We blocked my scene and then they brought in the elephant.  I noticed her eyes were more alert now, almost bulging, as she took direction from her trainer. I learned from her trainer that she was 45-years old and had been acting for over 20 years. 

On "action", I stayed focused in character while Thai followed her cues like a pro just a few feet from me. She had to bow, go down on one knee, and strategically place her trunk and body back and forth in the scene, take after take. Her trainer rewarded her with Skittles and Peanut M&M’s. While I was thinking of healthier food alternatives, Thai reached out with her palm and thumb-like trunk to me and grabbed my hand as if to say Hi. It was a pretty special moment. 

Thai had a hard out at 6pm but the chemistry was so good we got all of our shots in with enough time for her to take individual photos with all of the cast and crew. Even after a long day, Thai gave more of her professional energy and posed for everyone’s endearing shot.  

When it was time for my couples shot, I looked into her sweet, soulful, big eyes as she let me wrap my arm around her trunk and told her what a great job she did today. She seemed to appreciate the feedback.