[…inspired by a passing comment from my mother]
“Line” Chuck muttered as he fastened the fake .50 cal Desert Eagle pistol into his leather holster. He had forgotten his lines once more, to nobody’s surprise. For Chuck had a terrible habit of both not looking at his lines in full and not dedicating and devoting time and energy into memorizing them.
“Let’s take 10,” Director Jack informed his staff, and like clockwork, they scurried along and went out for a cigarette break and a bite to eat. While the staff took their break, Chuck diligently studied and memorized his lines; He was not bad at studying or memorizing — rather, he was a very intelligent and meticulous man. But Chuck, with three decades of exposure to the entertainment industry, had lost his sense of respect and consideration of others’ time.
You see, Chuck was the top dog, the money-maker, the legend. He was always at the top, for as long as anybody could remember. He pretty much had it all: fame, fortune, romance (if you categorize copious amounts of one-night-stands and hook-ups as romance), cars, and houses. He held an almost permanent position at #1 on Forbes’ ‘Richest Actors’ list, with a consistency like that of an old and wise tenured professor at Harvard University.
While Chuck was horrendously unreliable and selfish, he was also brilliantly talented and irreplaceable. He was what people call a “generational talent”, which is somebody who is so talented that they only come once a generation. Chuck was finishing up filming the third and final movie of the Fated at Birth trilogy, where he stars as a soldier borne from science who is given a transcendent exoskeleton to fight for the Nexet Corporation.
Chuck drew his pistol, gripped the fast-release trigger, and fired off seven boisterous and rambunctious blanks at the advancing squadron.
“Back to the grave you go!” Chuck exclaimed as the final scene came to a close. The trilogy’s theme song soon enveloped every other noise and rang loudly in Chuck’s delicate ears. He had always hated the loud sounds that accompanied action and thriller movies, but he kept that to himself.
There were some things that Chuck generally kept to himself, like his family, his home, and his whereabouts. But there was one thing that Chuck never talked about — his recording studio.
Now, was Chuck a musician? No. Was he a music producer? No. A DJ? Again, no. He did have a real, fully functional recording studio, which had been documented by photographers and interviewers in the past. Chuck had always said to the public that the purpose of his recording studio was for him to just fiddle around with his instruments. He made it clear multiple times that he was not interested in making anything with substance, so nobody really talked about his studio. Nobody expected anything. Nobody even cared about his music or studio, because Chuck himself did not even care.
That’s what made his studio the perfect place for Chuck to fight his battles. The one-way mirror. The heavy and private locked doors. The seemingly endless rows of polyurethane and melamine acoustic soundproofing foam. The silence. The isolation. The privacy.
Nobody knew about it, but Chuck visited his studio every single day. The routine was the same everyday: he would leave his shoes at the threshold, lock the three doors at the entrance, turn off the lights, enter the recording room and sit in his chair in complete darkness and silence. For three hours each day Chuck would repeat this process, and then he would go home and sleep.
Now you may think that Chuck was depressed or just a reclusive hermit. That was not the case at all. For what Chuck did in his studio was a mystery to all — except to me. Am I Chuck? Was I Chuck? Will I be Chuck? Yes, yes, and yes.
Who am I?
My name is…Chuck.
Well, my name is technically Nexecop but I’m still Chuck. I am a Chuck’s character in Fated at Birth: III. I am a human attached to a technologically advanced exoskeleton. I have no capacity to feel any emotion other than anger. My only goal and purpose is to do the bidding of my creators at Nexet Corp., at all costs and to full completion. ‘Failure is not an option.’
My name is Roger Mack, and I’m played by Chuck in Fortify the Walls. I’m a former U.S. Navy-SEAL who specialized in covert special sniper operations. I’m a gritty and profane fighter, and there’s nothing I love in this world other than my country. My parents died when I was two years old, so I don’t remember them at all. I had to fight for food and shelter since I was a little boy, so you can imagine how competitive and strong I am. ‘Eat or be eaten.’
My name is John Brimo, and Chuck played me for a whole ten years in the series Correcting the Law. I got my J.D. at NYU, and I used to be a prosecutor. Now, I am a Supreme Court Justice of the United States, and The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor was my mentor for almost two decades.
I am a well-tempered and educated man, and I use my words and thinking to do my job. I never raise my voice, but rather crush you with logical reasoning and evidence. As the West side of the Supreme Court Building notes: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’
Out of these three people, which am I? It’s hard to that question, and my confusion and inability to answer gets worse as the years go by. Each new character I play makes my mind more convoluted, and each new show or movie I film makes my identity more and more obscure. As I increase in characters, I decrease in identity. As I film more scenes, I cannot tell which is drama and which is real life. They seem the same to me now.
Like an assorted bag of Dum Dum Lollipops, I’m completely different inside. A new day is a new flavor, a new character. At some point, I pick out the mystery flavor. The mystery flavor. The mystery.
The Spangler Candy company uses leftover combinations of flavors to create the mystery flavor, and no mystery flavor is alike. Each of them is different, either by a lot or a little, but they are different nonetheless. What is the Dum Dum flavor? Nobody knows, because there isn’t just one.
Like a mystery flavored Dum Dum Lollipop, I don’t know who I am. It’s impossible for me to know who I am because there is no me.
When people ask me who or what I think I am, I have only one answer:
“I have no idea.”
When people hear that, they laugh and brush it off as if I am joking about my identity because I play so many different roles in so many different productions. To me, it is not a joke. It is reality. It is life. It is real.
I sit in my studio and try to clear my eyes. It helps to sit in the dark because I don’t have things distracting me. I try to figure myself out. I try to figure out who I am and not who I play. I cannot see myself because it is dark, and because I don’t know who I’m looking at.
I sit in my studio and try to clear my ears. I am constantly directed on how to portray this character, how to look while posing for this scene. I’m told to smile more, smile less, wear this, wear that, come now, come later, cry here, cry there. In my life, I play a robot that follows instructions from the best directors and writers. However, I am a person and not a robot.
I’m stuck. I can’t get out. I don’t know who I am anymore, and I’m afraid to find out. Will the real me be like John? Like Roger? Like some character that hasn’t even been created yet?
I don’t know. Nobody does. But I’m not gonna stop trying to figure it out. I’m going to return to my studio every day, close the doors and shut the lights. I’m going to sit in complete darkness and silence and sort my thoughts out. I’m going to clear my mind, eyes, and ears. I’m going to figure out who Chuck is. I am Chuck, but who really is Chuck?
There are many actors and actresses who play so many characters that they lose their sense of their own personality. They’re in character so often and for so long that the characters’ personalities get mixed with their own. It’s often hard for them to remember who they were before they took on all these characters. That’s why it’s important to remember where you came from and never forget it. Sing, play music, write, read. Do things that define who you are, don’t let things define who you are.
— C J K