From Mark Wilding, writer of "Owner of a Lonely Heart"
Episode Airdate: 12/4/05
Okay, here was my problem. This was my first blog EVER for my first episode EVER of “Grey’s Anatomy”. How do I make it interesting and keep you from clicking off halfway through the thing? Especially since Harry and Gabrielle already did such a great job explaining the origins of the quint story in last week’s blog. Then it hit me…
My episode was originally called “Little Creatures”. After all, the show involved quintuplets AND leeches. But that title – clever as it was -- didn’t really fit the theme of the episode, which was loneliness. So now I had a couple of options. I could talk about loneliness. Or I could give you a behind the scenes look at the little creatures in my episode – namely the babies and the leeches. Anyway, now it’s your call. What would you rather hear about? Loneliness or leeches? Show of hands? Okay… Babies and leeches it is!
Alright, leeches first. For most of the shots we used real ones. We had fake leeches on hand but during the course of shooting the episode we decided that, for the most part, the fake ones looked, well…fake. Hugely fake. Also, despite our leech handler’s best efforts, half the time you could see the monofilament that he was manipulating to make them wiggle. Our leech handler was a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) puppeteer, so if he couldn’t make them look real, nobody could. So when George placed the leech on the patient’s nose, that was an ACTUAL LEECH that attached itself to Timothy Bottoms’ nose. The good news for Tim was that it wasn’t actually HIS NOSE. It was a prosthetic filled with cow’s blood (don’t worry, it’s all AMA approved). That way, the leech really did get some blood, it just wasn’t Tim’s. A win-win for Tim and the leech. Getting the leeches to bite in the first place also proved problematic. Just because there’s the promise of a good meal doesn’t mean the leeches jump on it right away. Leeches are fickle. Who would’ve guessed? That’s when our property master, Angela Whiting, figured out that they might be more likely to go for the blood if it were room temperature. So she heated it up in a double boiler and… lo and behold… the leeches went to town.
We did use a fake leech in the scene where the leech fell off George’s ear (when they’re full of blood, they disengorge from their victim). Our leech handler crouched behind the bed for that shot and, when he got the cue, tugged the leech off Timothy Bottom’s ear. That was one scene where you couldn’t see the monofilament. By the way, all the actors were wonderful sports about handling the leeches. Especially Tim for doing take after take while we were trying to get them to bite. At one point, one of the leeches even fell into his mouth. If that had been me I would have run home screaming and had a major nervous breakdown, but Tim calmly plucked it out like it was a strand of spaghetti and kept doing the scene. Let’s see, that’s about it. Except here’s probably the coolest leech fact Angela told me -- they take as long as six months to digest one meal.
As for the creatures who can eat a meal and poop it out twenty minutes later -- Dorie’s premature quintuplets -- those babies were all fake. Luckily, thanks to the good people at Creative Character Engineering, they didn’t look fake. They looked pretty damn real (at least I thought so). The babies are made out of some flesh-like silicone material. When you saw them move their heads, that was done animatronically. Our puppeteer guy went from working with the leeches to working with the preemies -- alternately using a remote control to make the little babies’ heads move or a hand pump to make their bellies go up and down. Why fake babies? Well, as you might imagine, real quintuplets are pretty hard to come by. Also, babies have to be a certain age – fifteen days minimum -- before you can use them in front of a television camera. And a lot of times TV shows go for much older “newborns”. That’s why, when you watch any kind of TV show and see a newborn, they look HUGE. Like they could practically walk out of their mother’s womb.
As for the episode, I hope you guys enjoyed it. I know I enjoyed writing it. And, let’s face it, that’s one thing you can’t fake...