VOLANT, PA. Sheen's friendliness and talent win over 'West Wing' extras
One extra was so impressed that she said Martin Sheen would get her vote if he ever ran for president.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
VOLANT, Pa. -- If only for a few days, Matt Jones was a Secret Service agent.
But what he found, is that portraying the part as an extra on "The West Wing & quot; is it's a far cry from the real thing.
& quot;We pretty much had to stand there and try to look like Secret Service agents. There were eight of us, and we would just look at one another and stand there, straight-faced, & quot; said Jones, 25, of Volant.
Jones said he's not sure if he would want to do it again, but being part of filming the hit TV show's season premiere at Kemland Farms in Volant was special because his father-in-law, Gary McConnell, is one of the owners.
Jeff McConnell is also co-owner of the farm. Jones' father, Vern Jones of New Bedford, Pa., was also on hand as an extra Monday.
& quot;It's an experience. I'm not saying it's something I would do again. There was a lot of sitting around, & quot; said the elder Jones.
Father and son said they were privy to the stars because of their relation the McConnell family and got to eat in a tent with them both days.
Martin Sheen, who portrays fictional president Josiah Bartlet, was most impressive, they said.
& quot;He was quite a character, & quot; Vern Jones said.
Made an impression
Others working as extras Sunday were equally awed by Sheen.
& quot;My husband said if he ever did run for president, Martin Sheen would have his vote. He would get mine, too, & quot; said Susan Gerle of Volant.
Gerle, her husband, Bob, and son, Matthew, 14, were part of the large crowd scene filmed Saturday as Sheen gives a campaign speech to supporters at an Indiana soy bean farm.
The afternoon shoot took at least five hours and several shots, but the extras were impressed with Sheen's ability to make the speech fresh each time he spoke and his efforts to entertain the crowd between shots.
& quot;I don't understand how he can do that and have the same voice inflection, & quot; said Carol Eberhart of New Wilmington. Eberhart was one of about 20 Westminster College employees who spent the day working as extras on the show.
Eberhart said Sheen made a point to meet as many people as possible during breaks and shook hands with just about every member of the Wilmington High School band there to play & quot;Hail to the Chief. & quot;
Sheen asked to have his picture taken with Eberhart as she was snapping a photograph of several other women.
Gerle also noted Sheen's willingness to get his photograph taken. She had her picture taken with Sheen twice during the day.
Gene DeCaprio, director of Westminster's Celebrity Series, got to sit on stage during the filming as an & quot;Indiana Democrat, & quot; candidates running for office that attended the president's rally.
DeCaprio said in the past 13 years he's met many celebrities through his job, but Sheen was most impressive.
& quot;Next to everyone I've met -- and I've met Bill Cosby and Regis Philbin -- he was just a little bigger, just a little different. He was impressive because of his authenticity as a person and his courtesy, & quot; DeCaprio said.
Jackie Meade, director of Westminster's career center, met Sheen at the nearby bed-and-breakfast after Monday's shoot. Meade and her staff were instrumental in getting the film crew to Volant by taking photographs of the McConnell farm and sending them to the Pittsburgh Film Office.
& quot;He was such a gentle person. Very bright. On the show, as the president, he portrays someone very quick who has facts at his fingertips. In person, I was amazed to find him the same way, & quot; she said.
Meade gave him a shirt and mug from Westminster, and she said he asked questions about the school.
While Sheen dominated Sunday's filming, it was the other characters who were busy filming Monday.
Three members of the president's staff get left behind and spend a good part of the season premiere trying to catch up to the president's motorcade.
Vern Jones said while the extras were called to work at Kemland Farms around 8 a.m. Monday, most of the crew was at a nearby covered bridge with the show's actors.
It wasn't until about 2 p.m. that more crowd scenes were shot and they again filmed the president's motorcade leaving the farm.
The younger Jones got to drive the limousine with the president. But Monday, that happened to be Sheen's stand-in, he said. Sheen left the area Monday morning.
Both Joneses, while not regular & quot;West Wing & quot; viewers, say they plan to watch the season premiere Sept. 25.
& quot;I don't watch a lot of television. You never know, I might get interested in it and start watching the 'West Wing,' & quot; Vern Jones said.