Although this San Antonio, Texas, native describes herself as a person “who seeks out structure, never risk,” Alicia Lewis’ career is proof positive she thrives on the roller coaster nature of TV production.
In her nearly 20 years as a 2nd 2nd AD on a string of hit TV shows—Melrose Place, Judging Amy, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal and Parenthood among them—Lewis has made “base camp,” the mobile production unit where actors prep before going to the set, a safe haven in often roaring seas.
“Base camp is removed from that high-intensity of the set,” Lewis explains. “I’m accessible, so everyone comes to me with questions.”
Lewis says actors, makeup, wardrobe, and transportation all present different issues. “Everything from an unsigned contract to needing a stapler,” she laughs, “so patience and understanding are essential.”
Geography can also be a challenge. Running base camp on Prime Suspect meant being 20 minutes away from the show’s downtown L.A. locations. “We had to prep each new group of actors—wardrobe, sides, touch-ups, etc.—for a full day’s work,” she recalls. On Judging Amy (before texting and emails allowed for 24/7 communication), Lewis had to figure out when to move base camp to prepare for the next wave of actors.
“I’ve had flights rerouted two hours before an actor was due on set,” she recounts, and had “missed calls because [an actress] went to Australia without telling anybody. I’ve had [actors and crew] get in car accidents before their calls and still want to come to work.”
Lewis cites a recent documentary—That Guy … Who Was in That Thing—as a validation of her role as counselor/scout leader. “[Actor] Matt Malloy, who I have worked with, talked about how [the AD running base camp] is the first person he sees in the morning, and how far kind words and attention will take him. That’s gratifying because I see my job as making actors both camera and performance ready.”
Lewis recently took over base camp for the second season of The Mindy Project, a show she says represents a new face in Hollywood production.
“There’s a lot of freshness and improvisation, yet the crew never gets beat up [by excessively long days or schedules],” says Lewis. “The balance Mindy Kaling strikes between creativity and respect for the crew is nothing short of amazing.”