“Want to go to Spain with me?” My daughter was calling from New York. Her book, Still Star-Crossed, was being made into a TV series, getting the full star treatment from ShondaLand. She was invited to come to the filming, and I was invited as her guest.
“But I just got back from Spain,” I told her. “I haven’t even unpacked yet.”
“Good. That makes it easy. I’ll meet you in Madrid.”
I picked up our rental car from the Madrid airport and headed into the city where Melinda was already checked into our rented AirBnb. [Note to self: never again. Never, ever again drive into Madrid.] Parking took the better part of an hour and the assistance of all the drivers behind me who were blocked by my attempts to wedge the car into the last available space in Madrid, on a single car-width lane in a parking spot blocked on either end by actual cement bollards and approximately ten atoms larger than the car in any direction.
“Es fácil,” the astonishingly good-humored drivers assured me. (“It’s easy.”) Cheerful pedestrians and random passersby stopped to offer encouragement and advice. “Puedes hacerlo. No hay problema.” (You can do it. It’s no problem.) I tried to imagine how this would play out in New York or Chicago, and suspected that cheerful would probably NOT be the adjective to describe other drivers’ reactions. (I’m thinking “incandescent with homicidal fury” might strike a more accurate chord…)
My daughter—who had finally come down to find out what was keeping me—was less optimistic. “Maybe we could just leave it here and tell the rental car company to come and get it?” But finally, thanks to the combined Tetris skills of a significant portion of nocturnal Madrid, the car was parked. There was cheering. As we were leaving, one of my new friends pointed to a sign warning that all parked cars had to be removed by dawn, now only a few hours away.
We got up early, hid the car in a municipal lot, and spent the rest of our time in Madrid on foot. Which is, of course, the only sensible way to see Madrid or almost any other European city. How else could you find the best tapas and cervezas, not to mention artisan popsicles and ancient pharmacy turned breakfast cafe?
We drove from Madrid to Bilbao to see the giant flower doggie sculpture at the Guggenheim (fabulous!), and then in a super-scary thunderstorm through mountains to San Sebastián, where we toasted our mad Spanish navigation skills with (act surprised) more tapas and cervezas, before heading for Cáceres.
The mix of gothic and renaissance buildings, cobbled streets, and city fathers willing to rent out their heritage to visiting film companies makes Cáceres the go-to town for big-budget costume dramas. When we arrived, filming was in full swing, within a version of Verona that Shakespeare could only have dreamed of. After a tour where I found it completely impossible to tell the medieval walls from their strategically-added foam additions, we were allowed to watch the scene they were filming that day. As far as I could tell, the morning was spent filming Lashana Lynch (as Rosaline Capulet) going out of a room.
We broke for a fabulously catered lunch, before returning that afternoon to film Lynch coming into the next room. I can honestly say it had never occurred to me how many details were involved in getting from one room to another. I don’t know about the cast and crew, but I was exhausted. Between takes, we admired the gorgeous costumes—I heard the fabulous embroidery was mostly 3-D printed and glued on—and sympathized with guys in full armor who were swigging bottled water and listening to their mobiles through earbuds.
I sat in a high director-style chair with WRITER on one side and the Still Star-Crossed logo on the other. I listened to writerly debates on the fine lines of just how much sex is acceptable to American network TV audiences. (Butts and boobs yes, bush no.) I heard that production schedules were tight and needed to stay on track because Game of Thrones was next up for filming in Cáceres. And I watched as close to two hundred people produced magic.
That magic was edited and tweaked and finally went live on Monday night with the premiere of Still Star-Crossed on ABC. I don’t know how the show will do over time, but I feel so lucky for my once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the hard work, artistry, creativity, and expertise of so many people working to turn my daughter’s words on a page into hours of entertainment and spectacle.
A few months later, a large box arrived for me. In it was a tall directors chair with the Still Star-Crossed logo. It’s so good to be the mama.