Mads Mikkelsen, other TV talent talk about Day One of their first jobs

That first day of a first job is harrowing, no matter what your chosen profession. And when it comes to the folks who create our favorite shows, no one is immune to rookie mistakes. Here, some of our favorite Day One mistakes and triumphs.

Kim Wayans ("Reckless")


First job: "A Different World," Allison, 1987

"I didn't have a dressing room; I was sitting on the bench where the audience sits, watching all the action. Thankfully, there was one other person brought on as an under-five [an actor with fewer than five lines], Beebe Smith [Johnson], who'd been there since the beginning. I had been under the audience bleachers trying to put on my wardrobe because I didn't have a dressing room, and she had a dressing room like the size of a bathroom and said, 'You stay with me!' She was so sweet and welcoming; it was like I was finally a part of something."

Mads Mikkelsen ("Hannibal")

First job: School film project directed by Jonas Elmer, circa 1990

"I was a dancer at the time, and in a film school, so for some reason I was asked to be a part of this midterm film. I'd never seen a film set, didn't know how it was. So I remember on one of the first days, the guy with the boom [mike] was standing next to me and instinctively when I said my line, I turned my head and said it very loud. Everyone broke down laughing. It taught me to take it down and mumble a lot."

Marcos Siega (executive producer-director, "The Following")

First job: Directing an episode of "Fastlane," 2002

"'Fastlane' was shot at the Columbia/Warner Bros. Ranch, and I had no idea where I was going, so I parked where the crew parked and walked over to where a couple of guys were unloading a truck and struggling with what they were taking out of it. I put my bag down and helped them get it down, then went to walk away. Another guy said, 'Do you mind helping with this?' I think they thought I was a [production assistant]. Later that crew member saw I was directing and said, 'Dude, I'm sorry!' But he didn't do anything wrong. That first day, I was a wide-eyed kid in a candy store."

James Purefoy ("The Following")

First job: Guest star on "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes," 1991

"Jeremy Brett was a very big, famous actor in England who played Sherlock Holmes in many shows in the 1980s and 1990s, and he was an eccentric, grand old-school actor and a very charming man. I was going to do this show 'Coasting' as a co-lead and knew nothing about cameras or films. In those days, it took 30 days to shoot an hour of television, which beggars belief today. So I was only on his show for six days as a guest and asked him for tips. And he said, 'My dear boy, I will have you called for every day of the shoot,' and he did, and I sat on set and he took me through all of it, how to hit your mark, how to walk down a dolly track without looking at it. It was a very concentrated course in film acting."

Bryan Fuller (executive producer, "Hannibal")

First job: Writer, "Star Trek: Voyager," 1997

"I remember driving onto the Paramount lot with an ID pass as a hired writer for 'Star Trek.' There couldn't have been a better job. Walking into my office was so surreal; to walk into a building, past offices I had stalked as a fan, and as someone who went in to pitch stories, there was a legitimacy to it and a great fear of 'Gosh, I hope I don't blow this.' If you'd asked me what I wanted to do at age 26, it would be, 'I just want to write "Star Trek" until the day I die.' And there I was."


Giancarlo Esposito ("Revolution")

First job: Clay Tynan, "Guiding Light," 1982

"I created a young 17-year-old kid who went the wrong way and was robbing liquor stores. So I was on this set with all these very white-bread, staid people, and it was probably their first experience having a young black man on the show waving a gun. I walked in, fully in character, and the director comes over to me with his pocket protector and says, 'Giancarlo?' And I'm like, 'What, man?' because I'm already in character. And I'll never forget they didn't want me to be so angry. I had to buffer my performance. They were like, 'You can't point that gun at his head! This is Procter & Gamble!' We've come a long way on TV in being able to be edgy."

Harry Hamlin ("Mad Men")

First job: Joey Popchick, "Movie Movie," 1978

"The first day of filming, Art Carney walked outside, saw George C. Scott — who was coming from the makeup trailer — and they screamed and hugged and said, 'I didn't know you were in this movie!' and went into this huge motor home George had. Then one of the assistant directors was sent out to a liquor store at 8 a.m. to buy Wild Turkey because George and Art got into doing 'Honeymooners' routines and needed grease for the wheels. So I could see people looking panicked around 10 in the morning, because young guys would knock on the motor home but no one could get in. The panic level got bigger and bigger and they said they didn't know when they could get to my scene because these guys were locked in their trailer getting [smashed]. Then at 11:30 two black limos pulled up, the men were shoveled out of the trailer and driven home. So we lost the first day of shooting."

Bill Lawrence (executive producer, "Cougar Town")

First job: Writer, "Billy," 1991-1992

"I was such a neophyte that my first day of work I showed up and didn't know how it all worked. Every day an assistant PA would ask what you wanted for lunch. And I didn't have any money — I'd been painting houses before this and living in a crappy apartment — so I'd just eat the cereal or crackers they had sitting around the office. Then like the third day of work, they said, 'Hey, genius, we pay for lunch.' So then I ordered everything, including a salad and food to take home."

Sharon Gless ("Burn Notice")

First job: Lynn Baker, "Marcus Welby, M.D.," 1972

"I was a young contract player for Universal Studios, and they always gave us our first shot on 'Marcus Welby' so we could get our SAG card. They took me from behind a secretary's desk and put me in front of a camera, so I was really green. So my first day on the set, I was so green I didn't even know I had a stand-in. A woman kept coming over to me and saying, 'It's my job to stand here,' and finally I realized, 'Oh!' And one of the other actresses I was working with said, 'I hope you're this untouched years from now.'"

Alex Gansa (executive producer, "Homeland")

First job: Story editor, "Beauty and the Beast," 1988

Writing partner Howard Gordon "and I sat in the story room that first day for the first time from about 9 in the morning until 6 in the evening without a break, and it was the first opportunity to talk story with a bunch of writers, including George R.R. Martin and David Peckinpah. By the end of the day Howard and I were so exhausted — and we were sharing this tiny office with desks pressed up against each other — that we went back to our offices and crawled under the desks and went to sleep. About 7:30 that evening, Ron Koslow, our boss, came in and our legs were sticking out from under the desks, and he was like, 'What are you guys doing?'"

Allen Leech ("Downton Abbey")

First job: Shane Kirwan, "Love Is the Drug," 2004

"This was my first lead role in any kind of TV show, and since the director came from a theater background, we had about 21/2 weeks of rehearsals, which is unheard of in TV shows. We were shooting on location outside of Dublin, and the first shot was an early morning in June, outside this church, and I remember going to the set just as the sun was coming up, and I thought, 'This is a good place to be right now.' That calmed my nerves a bit, but then we were outside and I'd never experienced people stopping to watch you film before. That was a battle through fire for me."