Ask television crews from hit comedies like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or The Office about Rich Gonzales, and they’ll probably mention his long career as a 2nd AD. But ask any parent with a kid under 10 years old, and their response is likely to be Capt. Undergarments, an award-winning series of short films that Gonzales shot, directed, edited, produced and starred in. Dig even deeper and his name also comes up as an actor and stage manager in local theater, and as an extra in features and television.
“As an AD, everything has been made easier by having worn so many hats in the industry,” explains Gonzales, “whether I’m setting background, running base camp, or getting stars to the set on time.”
Having worked primarily on comedies, Gonzales notes that it’s not all laughs on the set. “Great comics, like Steve Carell on The Office, are often pretty straightforward and low-key when they are prepping their characters. They treat comedy as a very serious business that takes all their concentration to get it just right, and that attention to detail, in my experience, has always filtered down to the ADs.”
Little Britain USA, HBO’s version of the hit U.K. sketch comedy show, posed a different challenge. In the tradition of Monty Python or Benny Hill, the show’s two comics play nearly all of the characters, sometimes spending up to four hours in prosthetic makeup preparation. “I created these detailed charts and graphs that showed how long it would take for each makeup change,” says Gonzales. “Working with the director, actors, and makeup artists, we’d do shooting schedules based on how long it would take the guys to get in and out of makeup for each character. We attacked it like a battle plan because there were so many changes in any given day.”
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, his current show, is shot with multiple digital cameras that change setups after a few takes to keep the acting fresh. “You have to set your background quickly and make sure your extras know what spots to hit,” Gonzales explains, “because the last thing you want is to slow everyone down with retakes. The trick is to make your background live behind the main action, but not be so big that it’s distracting.”
Given his own background in front of and behind the camera, tasks like these come easily to Gonzales, who says creating entertainment in any form has always been a part of his life. “I’ve became very good at communicating the director’s vision to all the other departments, and creating a plan each day to accomplish that goal.”