Heading off to Chicago for my daughter’s graduation. Posts will continue. I’ll have plenty of time to write while all those other kids get their diplomas.The week’s classless award goes to the New York Mets. Here’s how they fired their manager, Willie Randolph this week: They let him take the red eye from New York to Anaheim and less than 24 hours later, after winning a game, they canned him in his hotel room in the middle of the night. Smoooooth. I think the only thing worse would be to let him fly to Anaheim and during the game just post it on the Jumbotron Board.
"Willie, you are hereby relieved of your duties as manager of the New York Mets effective immediately. And a reminder to Mets fans: Friday is Squeeze bottle night when the Mets return home to face the pesky Marlins."
This incident just makes me recall those excruciating times when I had to fire someone (fortunately those times were few) or someone had to fire me (an almost monthly ritual when I was a disc jockey). As a showrunner, letting someone go is usually the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. I say “usually” because there are some cases when – depending on the individual – it’s the only real perk of the job. But for the most part, especially in the case of firing actors, it’s just a matter of them not being right for that specific role, you’re forced to by higher-ups, or no one has died in three weeks on LOST and someone has to go.
We had a situation once where the night of our last filming before the two-week Christmas hiatus we were informed we had to fire two series regulars. At least that’s how I interpreted “When I walk off this stage tonight that’s the last time I ever want to see them.”
So when during the Christmas holidays do you drop the axe? NFL teams are notorious for firing head coaches on Christmas Eve. That seemed a little cruel... even for television. I was once fired the week before Xmas (here’s that twisted tale) and that was no fun. We decided to wait until after Christmas. The trouble was, they were both now out of town. We had hoped to do it in person. But instead we had to do it over the phone.
One of the actors was so furious she didn’t speak to me for ten years. The other was so relieved I still get Christmas cards from him.
When CBS demanded we fire Kevin Kilner from ALMOST PERFECT he too was out of town and we had to do it via the phone. (College football coach John Robinson claims USC fired him by leaving a voice message.) What made that call especially agonizing is that we vehemently disagreed with the decision, we loved Kevin personally, and after firing him we also had to ask if he’d do us a favor and come back for one episode so we could write him out of the show. Kevin could not have been more gracious and understanding. More than I probably would have been. We’ve remained good friends and every time I see him I still apologize for ten minutes.
There was an actor we decided to replace after a table reading once, and before we could tell him, he had a big muffin basket delivered to us as thanks for hiring him. Oy. And no, we didn’t eat the muffins.
There have been times when we had to fire a day player because he just wasn’t right for that part but we hired him later to play something else and he invariably was great.
You would think that your cast would freak out if you fired somebody. But generally that’s not the case. If you can see that someone is clearly not working out the cast can see it too. And a bad actor can pull down everyone else’s performance. So in a sense your cast is relieved and made to feel more secure because they know you have their backs.
Getting fired can be traumatic no matter who you are or what the job. In the case of Willie Randolph I feel it was undeserved. He was just a scapegoat. And I hope when Mets’ General Manager Omar Minaya did give him the word Monday night he didn’t do it the way I was fired from K100 radio in Los Angeles. I hope he didn’t just say:
“Hey babe, we’re making some changes and you’re one of ‘em.”