Stage managing theater and being an assistant director are like two shared languages,” offers Kevin Koster, when asked why he traded the Bay Area theater world for the hectic pace of Hollywood television production. “One is Spanish, and the other is Portuguese, with the main difference being Portuguese pays a lot more and you can actually earn a living.”
Either way, he says, “It’s all about teamwork under fire.” Currently, Koster is a 1st AD on Private Practice, but spent the bulk of his career as a key 2nd AD on the military-themed JAG, where highlights of the job included flying cast and crew onto the military carrier USS John C. Stennis—while it was out to sea. “Being a key 2nd is not unlike being a great border collie,” Koster laughs. “You are constantly herding individuals to where they need to be.” For the three-day carrier shoot, Koster was stationed in a San Diego hotel and had to coordinate the show’s schedule with the Navy’s flights to the ship. “I’d get our cast dressed and through makeup in San Diego,” he explains. “Then drive them to the Navy base, where we had a 30-minute drop drill in case they had to ditch on the plane. Once on deck, the actors were pulled out, put in front of cameras, and then quickly loaded back on the plane before it catapulted back to San Diego. There was no other way to get them out there.” Then there was the time Koster coordinated a JAG guest appearance by major league pitching star Barry Zito. “We had 350 extras, which is a lot for TV but not enough to fill the stadium in Long Beach,” he says. “So I had a company bring in 1,000 infl atable dummy extras and move them around on our cues.” Koster, who was asked to move up to 1st AD on Private Practice, says he’s only as good as the team around him. Case in point was leading fi ve different moves in Santa Monica in one day, ending with a night shoot that had to wrap by 9 p.m.
“Our last move was from the bluffs down to the Santa Monica Pier, where Taye Diggs had to ride a bicycle,” he recalls. “I was on the radio asking [assistant prop master] Julie Gilchrist if the prop would be there and she was like; ‘Kevin, I got this. No problem.’ My van lands, and the bike isn’t on the other van. But when I get out Julie’s there, ready to go. Turns out she rode the bike down from the bluffs just so we could make our day.”