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Strangers (Just Like in the Movies)

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“You’re not busy, are you?” Shane’s assistant didn’t even bother greeting him as he picked up.

“Andrew, you have my entire schedule, you know I’m not,” he answered tiredly, moving to lay his head back down on the hotel pillow. The filming of his most recent project wrapped up the previous night, and Shane felt like absolute death. “What’s up?”

“I just got off the phone with Adam,” Andrew said, and although Andrew rarely showed too much emotion, Shane could hear he was excited about something.

“Bianchi?” Shane raised his brows. “You have to congratulate him from me, being nominated for an Oscar is a big deal.”

“It is,” his assistant agreed. “Anyway, he and Sara Rubin are working together on this new movie. You remember, Sara, right?”

“How could I not,” Shane said fondly, thinking back to the quiet yet bubbly writer he had worked with almost two years ago. “I think she’s the only one who could make such a cliché movie good.”

“What do you mean, how could a movie with the title Love Grows in the Garden ever be anything other than good?” Andrew deadpanned, and Shane barked out a tired laugh. “Anyway, she remembered how good you were at improvising, and she and Adam want you for one of the roles. I’ve already talked to Devon about it.”

Shane hesitated a bit, thinking about what kinds of movies he had done recently, and if he really wanted to do another one. Romantic comedies were fun, but not when those were the only movies he’d been cast in the past five years. He used to get cast in historical dramas, but when he first got stuck in the always-feared rom-com loop, he couldn’t get out. Well, beggars can’t be choosers, he supposed.

“Let me guess, another rom-com? It’s not a no, I’m just- I’m-”

“Tired?” Andrew sounded sympathetic. “I get that, Shane, I really do. And I really think you’ll like this one. It’s more of a drama, with romantic and comedic elements to it. Sara and Adam want it to be heavily improvised so the script isn’t very detailed from what I gathered, but I’ll send it to you, how about that?”

“Sure,” Shane nodded into the phone, too tired to care that it probably looked very stupid. “I’ll text you in a few hours, then we can meet up in my hotel room or something. I need some fucking coffee first.”

“Great,” Andrew lit up considerably, and Shane sighed into the phone. “I’ll email it to you at once. And Devon told me to tell you to ‘please, do take the time to actually reply to some of the emails you’ve ignored these past two weeks’.”

“Fine,” he agreed with another sigh, before hanging up on Andrew and starting to make his way out of bed and over to where he had put his suitcase. He grabbed some clothes, jumped into the shower, then after stepping out, got ready for the rest of his day. Making sure to grab his laptop on his way out, he walked to the coffee shop he had been religiously using for the past couple of weeks he’d been on location for the shoot.

“Hello, Emma,” he greeted the familiar young barista behind the counter with a smile.

“Good morning, Mr Madej, what can I get for you today?” Emma turned to smile widely at him. “The usual?”

“Still no need to call me Mr Madej,” he hummed, looking at the menu. “What’s the bean of the day?”

“An Ethiopian one, it’s a pretty light roast, I find it to be a little floral and fruity.”

“That and a breakfast wrap to sit here, then,” Shane decided, looking back down at her. The first time he’d stepped into the shop, she had been a stuttering mess, but he’d made some effort to talk to her. Apparently one of her favorite movies was one he had done with Freddie Ransom a few years ago.

He paid for his meal, making sure to give Emma a generous tip, then sat down at one of the tables in the corner of the shop. First, he took a look at the emails he had ignored. There were still a few requests for talk show interviews after the incident, but those he declined right away.

Most of the emails were offers for cameos and repeats of previous roles in television. He thankfully smiled up at Emma who walked over with his breakfast, then began typing up a list of which ones he really wanted to do, and which ones he’d rather not. He had to admit that he was lucky, not many people had several offers standing at once, but he was just so tired of the same thing.

Playing the possessive boyfriend, the funny best friend, the past romantic interest of a side character, it just got boring after a while. The ones he wrote down on his want to do list, all differed from what he usually did. A repeat of his role of someone’s brother in a sit-com he really liked, a serial killer, a substitute teacher. Just something to get him through his days.

Then, after he had finished eating the breakfast wrap, he finally opened the script Andrew had sent him. He started reading, then stopped in his tracks. At first he thought maybe they’d wanted him to be the main character, but the more he read on, the more obvious it got that it wasn’t. He immediately sent a text to Andrew, slammed his laptop shut and put it back in his bag, downed the rest of his coffee, then walked back to his hotel room.

Andrew appeared a few minutes after Shane arrived, leaning against the door frame.

“It’s a queer story,” Shane said, looking at him. “I’m assuming they want me to play the part of Benjamin?”

“It is a queer story,” Andrew nodded at him. “Haven’t you heard of the new craze? People want queer actors to play queer roles. Apparently that Prom-movie kind of sealed the deal, after James Corden’s performance .”

“So, what happened about ignoring it until it goes away?” Shane asked stubbornly, thinking about how hellish the past month had been for him, ever since that photo of him and his ex boyfriend got leaked. “I certainly wasn’t allowed to be queer then.”

“You know both Devon and I disagreed with your publicists on that,” his assistant protested. Shane knew, but he still remembered that feeling of betrayal. “Anyway, you’ve gained nearly two hundred thousand new twitter followers just because of that picture. People love the fact that Shane Madej might not be straight after all.”

“It’s Hollywood, are any of us really?” Shane scoffed. “But fine. You’re right, I liked the script. Do you know if they have cast someone to play James yet?”

“I knew a few guys were up for discussion last week, but it seemed like they’ve pretty much landed. Ryan Bergara.”

“Ryan Bergara? The guy who hunts ghosts on motorbikes - Ricky Goldsworth - Ryan Bergara? What happened to queer people playing queer roles?” he widened his eyes in surprise.

Ryan Bergara was pretty much the opposite of Shane, in every single way. Where Shane made his fame and fortune in the romantic comedies, Ryan had made his in horror movies and the “Goldsworth”-franchise. The guy had a new girl every month, it seemed, while Shane’s only relationship in over three years had ended pretty abruptly last month, when he found out that it was his boyfriend himself who leaked the photo.

“What happened to ‘are any of us really straight’?” Andrew countered with a roll of his eyes. “Sara and Adam were adamant he was a good pick, and I trust them. So should you.”

“Okay,” Shane thought about it. How on earth was he and Ryan Bergara ever going to convince anyone that they were falling in love on screen? He wasn’t entirely sure if he’d even met the guy before. He sighed, opened his laptop, and handed it to Andrew. “I’ll do it. Can you check the filming dates and respond to the ones that won’t crash with the new movie?”

While Andrew did just that, he picked up his phone and browsed through instagram. Unable to help himself, he searched for Ryan Bergara and looked at the most recent pictures. There was one of him and Steven Lim, who played Ricky Goldsworth’s side-kick. Loads of basketball related pictures, including several of Bergara himself in Lakers jerseys. Not thinking too much about it, he quickly pressed the follow button and put his phone down.

“So, what’s the verdict?” he asked Andrew, who was typing away on Shane’s laptop.

“You’ll be able to do pretty much all of the ones you wanted. Not the firefighter show- 9-1-1? There are too many of these now, didn’t you do Chicago Fire last year?- but I’ve messaged them to say that you’ll be up for another episode at a later date.”

“Damn, I liked that one.”

“I know, I’ll make sure you’ll be able to play a psychotic arsonist some other time, you lunatic,” Andrew rolled his eyes, sent out one last email, then handed the laptop back to Shane. “Everything should be in your calendar. Adam couldn’t give me a concrete date for when the filming of Faithfully Yours commences-”

“I hate that title,” Shane grimaced.

“It’s just a working title, relax. Anywho, they couldn’t give me a concrete date just yet, but they think it’ll be by the end of October.”

“And yet my calendar for the next five months looks pretty damn busy,” Shane chuckled, looking through the calendar on his phone. “When are we flying back tomorrow?”

Andrew answered him, but Shane got distracted by the notification popping up on his phone.

(shanemadej): Ryan Bergara (ryanbergara) started following you.

“I caught none of that,” he told Andrew, pocketing his phone with a small smile tugging at his lips. The blond let out a sigh, but he could tell that he wasn’t actually mad.

“I realized. We have to be at the airport by eleven, so I’ll come get you around eight thirty.”

“You’re the best, Ilnyckyj.”

“I know,” Andrew smiled at him, before starting to walk towards the door. “Remember that dinner tonight at seven.”

~

“They’re releasing a statement about Faith in Him,” Andrew approached him in late August, handing him his phone for Shane to read. “Do you want me to tell them to delete that last sentence?”

‘-Bergara’s character’s rumored queer love interest is to be played by Shane Madej, famous for movies like Love Grows in the Garden and A Time for Liv. Madej has not made any statements on his sexuality since a rather risqué picture of him and his rumored boyfriend circled around back in March, but some believe this role to be a confirmation of the suspicions surrounding him.’

“Devon suggested that we give them a private statement,” his assistant said, and Shane frowned as he read through the paragraph once more.

“I don’t really care,” he lied. He did care, he just didn’t know how to deal with this. “What do you think?”

“I think you should be honest,” Andrew said, and Shane nodded with a small sigh, making room for the shorter man next to him on the couch. The two sat there for a while, contemplating what to write, but in the end, Shane felt like he was being true to himself and to his newfound fans when the email was sent.

When he returned to his own apartment after filming that night, he noticed that Ryan had messaged him on instagram.

ryanbergara: I modified my statement after you sent yours, unsure if Brent cc’d you and your assistant on the email. I’m looking forward to working with you.

shanemadej: Likewise :) See you on the first read-through in a month.

ryanbergara: Don’t you find the read-through kind of pointless? I mean, aren’t we supposed to have a lot of ‘artistic freedom’ and improvise most of the scenes?

shanemadej: I don’t know, I trust them to know what they are doing. This way we’ll get to know our characters a little bit before filming, at least.

ryanbergara: True. See you around.

~

RYAN BERGARA TO STAR IN NEW GAY DRAMA

Ryan Bergara, known for his recurring role of Ricky Goldsworth in the Goldsworth-franchise, has been announced to star in Oscar-nominated director Adam Bianchi’s new movie Faith in Him. Bergara will play a religious single father whose daughter ends up in a coma in a sports accident. The character’s love interest will be played by Love Grows in the Garden-actor, Shane Madej.

Madej tells us that he is excited for the movie, and the opportunity to work with both Bergara and Bianchi, as well as the opportunity to play a role that feels more true to himself and his identity. This is the first statement made by Madej, ever since rumors surrounding his love life circulated back in March when a photo of him and an unknown man leaked online.

When we were talking to Ryan Bergara about the movie, he emphasized that although he does not relate to the role in the same way that Madej does his, there are definitely similarities between him and his role.

“I hope I will be able to do this role justice. I’m honored to be working with Shane, who seems to be a great actor and a good guy all around.”

“Are you not afraid that people will make assumptions by taking a role like this?”

“No. People will assume no matter what roles I take, and I felt a connection to this one. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with people assuming that I like men. No one has assumed I kill people, just because I’ve played serial killers, and that’s way worse than kissing someone who just happens to be the same gender as you.”

Other actors who have been confirmed to be in the movie are Keith Habersberger, Steven Lim, Quinta Brenson and up-and-coming child actress Sofía Martín. Faith in Him will come to theaters in 2024.

~

Shane had never really felt this nervous walking into a read-through before. He’d done loads of them, because of course he had, but this one felt important. More loaded than the other ones. The script didn’t have many definitive lines. More so, a guideline of how they wanted the scene to pan out, and he didn’t know exactly how to execute something like that just yet. Not when he didn’t know Benjamin or James yet, not when he didn’t know Ryan yet.

“Shane!” Sara greeted him excitedly as he walked through the door. “It’s so good to see you, how have you been?”

“Pretty good, how about you?” Shane smiled back at her, enveloping her in a hug. “I heard you’ve worked a lot on that Ladylike show with Freddie, recently.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s fun, but doing something like this is just so much more exciting. Working with Adam has been a dream so far,” she grinned, before pulling away from him. “But come on, you have to meet the rest of the cast. Ryan hasn’t arrived yet, but pretty much everyone else is here.”

Shane first greeted Zack Evans with a smile and the shake of a hand, having already worked with him before. He did the same with Keith, whose brother he had played several times by now.

“This is Sofía, she will play Lily, James’ daughter,” Sara explained, and Shane greeted the teen with a huge grin. He had heard a lot about her recently, the girl who started with Disney Channel, but had soon made her way into movies starring Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hanks and the like.

“You did such a good job on Parachute,” he told her, shaking her hand just like he had the others’. He recognized all the other faces there, but hadn’t worked with any of them directly before. He knew he had appeared in one of the same movies as Selorm before, but that was about it.

“Steven Lim,” the last person at the table greeted him, and Shane quickly smiled back and took his hand. From what he’d seen of Steven’s work, the guy was good, but was often typecast as the awkward sidekick or boyfriend. Much like Shane himself.

“Shane Madej, pleasure,” he said, looking him up and down before letting go of his hand. “You’re playing Mike, right? Benjamin’s co-worker.”

“Yup,” Steven grinned. “The script doesn’t go into too much detail about him, so I guess we’ll get to work out how the relationship between them is ourselves.”

“Oh, let’s go for mutual hate,” Shane quipped immediately, unable to help himself. Steven looked a bit taken aback, so he backtracked pretty fast. “I’m kidding. We’ll try and get a feel for it during today’s read-through.”

Steven nodded, and Shane was about to say something else when he got startled by the door to the room opening with a loud noise.

“Shit, I’m so sorry,” the unmistakable voice of Ryan Bergara sounded throughout the room, and Shane turned around to see said man hurrying inside. He assumed the man trailing behind him was his assistant - Brian? Something like that.

“No problem,” Adam Bianchi spoke up, motioning for everyone to sit down. Shane sat down in a chair in between Ryan and Steven, feeling a bit weird about breaking up the duo. Ryan turned to him with a small smile.

“Nice to finally meet you. Ryan,” the shorter man said, nodding at Shane but not doing anything to further greet him. Shane smiled back, similarly nodding in response.

“Shane, nice to meet you too,” he said, before straightening up and turning towards the script in front of him. Sara and Adam talked them through some of their ideas and visions for the movie, and Shane realized that as long as there was at least some chemistry between him and Ryan, this movie could turn out really fucking good.

The very first scene of the movie was going to take place in a hospital waiting room, where James would get the news from the doctor that his daughter was in a coma. After this, they would cut to James’ flashbacks of when his wife died and what happened to his daughter during the second game. According to Adam, the three scenes would rotate in increasingly rapid succession, until all noise is drowned out by a heartbeat, and blacks out into a sequence of James trying to get back on his feet before meeting Benjamin.

It was almost mesmerizing, listening to Ryan read through the script, taking Sara and Adam’s feedback to heart and already improvising some lines. Chills went down Shane’s spine when Ryan quietly whispered his on-screen daughter’s name, his voice breaking as he gradually got louder and more frantic. It felt incredibly vulnerable, and he couldn’t wait to see it come to life during filming.

“Great, you guys did awesome,” Adam told Ryan, Quinta, Sofía and Kelsey, who had done most of the work so far. “Now we find ourselves in the bookstore, camera is following Ryan, but the two of you will have some on-going dialogue in the background.”

“Sure,” Shane nodded, looking at Steven who was deep in thought.

“Go,” Adam said from where he sat, and Shane immediately tried picturing Benjamin, how his character would be, what he would like. “Think of it as improv, just follow each other’s lead.”

Improvising with the others was much easier than Shane had anticipated. It helped that everyone around them were cheering them on, coming with their own ideas and together creating this story. It was clear to see that if this was just the start of it, there was no doubt that the end-product was going to be good.

The only problem was that even though Shane and Ryan had easily started bantering and poking fun at each other’s characters, everyone could tell that the chemistry wasn’t there. Ryan’s acting in the more intimate scenes turned stiff, acting like someone who’d kiss a buddy on a dare. Not like he was someone who had gone through a major life changing experience and was falling in love with someone he shouldn’t.

“How do you feel about it?” Andrew asked Shane once they were done for the day.

“They’re good actors,” Shane said honestly, hoping that Andrew wouldn’t read too much into the brief hesitation before he spoke.

“But?”

“It felt so forced, the romantic aspect of it,” Shane admitted, grimacing. Sure, he hadn’t had the greatest chemistry with some of his co-workers in previous projects, but even in those hilariously bad rom-coms, the read-throughs had seemed more convincing than this. “He’s such a good actor, the scenes with Sofía gave me literal goosebumps. So, then why-”

He trailed off, unable to know how to finish the sentence. Why didn’t Ryan try more? Do more? Was it Shane?

“On the bright side, it will make for a more natural story progression. Adam said he wanted to film everything in a nearly chronological order, right? It will add some genuinity, as you get to know each other both in front of and behind the camera.”

“I sure hope you’re right,” Shane sighed.