Once we learned we were picked to be in the 2016 commercials for Ancestry.com everything happened quickly.
The production company contacted us on a Thursday to arrange the flight from Cleveland to LA.
We were then contacted by the director’s team to Skype with him so we could “meet” each other before the shoot.
We arranged the interview for Friday. We were asked what time was good for us… and then the director told us he’d try and give us a ring around that time. He said he’d give us a call before we Skyped just so we’d know to be ready.
We got the call about a half-hour after the time we’d said we would be available.
The director then tried to Skype us, but the connection was bad.
He could see us… but we couldn’t see him.
We hung up and tried again, only to get the same result.
So we rolled with it.
For the next 20 minutes or so we talked with the director, who told us about himself and the work he’s done, and then he asked about us, and our Ancestry.com story.
At one point, I started crying.
This journey has been a very emotional one for me.
I didn’t want to cry.
And I’m not a crier.
But when you learn things about your family that you never knew, that were never passed down, you wonder why.
To be honest, the toughest part for me is that my dad has Alzheimer’s disease.
Growing up, he was the kindest dad. He never yelled. He was always positive and happy. He was a truly special person.
And he never knew much about his family.
In college, I sat down with him, numerous times, to map out the family history.
He knew his Mom’s maiden name, and also knew his Dad’s mother’s maiden name.
He knew where his grandparents were buried.
But that was it.
He didn’t know his family’s rich, rich history.
He really didn’t.
And that’s why as I uncovered all these amazing people who were his ancestors I was reduced to a sobbing mess, time and time again.
Dad was the most unassuming person.
I hate talking about him in the past tense because he’s still alive.
But he’s not “here.”
Anyhow, I learned my Dad’s line is weaved into the fabric of U.S. history.
Both sides of his family arrived in the present day U.S. when it was just colonies.
They fought Native Americans, and the English, and whomever else they needed to at the time for their family to survive.
One side came as indentured servants.
The other, I have yet to find out why they boarded a wooden ship and headed to a foreign land.
But I do know that once here, both sides became patriots.
They fought in the Revolutionary War, then the Civil War, then in WWI, WWII, and so on.
Some of my ancestors were killed on the battlefield.
Others came home and then fought the wilderness to carve out their homesteads.
And I never knew.
There is a shame that comes with that.
Why weren’t these stories handed down? Where was the family bard?
In a way, I feel like that mantle has been handed to me.
The nerdy researcher with absolutely no athletic or war hero ability.
But I can record history. And pass it on.
Even nerds have their role in helping the family carry on.
So, that’s why I cried. I cried out of shame and sadness that no one knew my ancestors tales of hardship and woe.
My life is so easy. I owe so much to those who had it so hard.
And, now, through this opportunity with Ancestry.com I hope
we inspire others to dig and learn their roots, and pay their respects to the
awesome men and women who lived through hell so we all can go to Target on Saturday and
Done being emotional. Let’s get back to our time in LA.
After talking with the director, we packed our bags. We flew from Cleveland to LA that Sunday evening.
We arrived in LA about 8:30 p.m. and took a taxi to our hotel.
The location was great. They put us up in the Wyndham Hotel Santa Monica at the Pier.
When we arrived, we were greeted with a bag of goodies… an LA Magazine, some mints, chocolate and water.
We checked into our hotel room and then decided to walk and find a place for dinner.
While we were at dinner we received an email from the production company telling us we would be picked up at noon the next day for our fitting.
We enjoyed dinner then headed back to the hotel to hit the hay.
On Monday, we woke up at 6:30 a.m. and headed to the Santa Monica Pier.
Nothing was open yet, but it was still fun to just walk around and take in the view.
We then walked around downtown Santa Monica, but none of the stores were open yet.
We then headed back to our hotel to take showers and get ready for the fitting.
At noon, we walked outside to meet the assistant director.
He took us by SUV to the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica for our fitting.
It was just 3 minutes way. We really could have walked. But it was so kind that they picked us up.
Once inside the vintage hotel, we took an old elevator up to the penthouse.
It was awesome.
It was roaring '20s Art Deco. We were ushered back to a room I assume used to be the bedroom.
Inside, there were two sisters who were in charge of wardrobe.
They asked to see the outfits we brought.
(We were instructed to bring 3-4. We’d texted them photos of us in our outfits before we flew to LA, so they know what we had.)
After taking a peek, they asked us each to try on a specific outfit.
Then they had us try on a few shirts they’d picked.
They finally agreed on two outfits for each of us.
One was 100% our own clothes, and the second was a mix of ours and theirs.
We were then asked to walk into the next room where the director, writers, ad agency and production company execs were pow-wowing.
We stood there and they checked out our outfits.
“Do you like these clothes?” asked one woman.
“Would you really wear this?” asked another.
We both assured them we would, because they were really our clothes.
They decided on an outfit I’d brought with me, plus the plain white T the wardrobe team had provided, and my husband’s jeans with a shirt they’d provided.
After that, we were done for the day, and whisked back to our hotel to just do what we’d wanted.
Which was a bike ride down to Venice Beach.
While grabbing a late lunch we received another email.
This time telling us they would be picking us up at 5 a.m. tomorrow for the commercial shoot.
We peddled home and hit the hay, to make sure we had a good sleep before our shoot the next day.
At 5 a.m. a van was there to pick us up. This time when we got on, we found that two other ladies were already inside.
A man who had been staying at our hotel also joined us.
On the half-hour trip to the shooting location we exchanged stories.
The ladies were shooting a commercial together.
Turns out they’d been friends for years, and only recently learned through Ancestry DNA they were also cousins. And they shared the same history of having a relative who was a witch in Salem. One also said she was descended from the Knights of the Templar.
The gentleman who rode with us was from Boston. Said it was the first time he’d been away from his young family. And he missed them.
He said during his Ancestry.com research he learned he’s descended from someone who came over on the Mayflower.
When we arrived at the shooting location it was still dark.
It was in the old Firestone Tire Factory near Compton.
It was now used to shoot movies and commercials.
They were setting up a breakfast table, so we grabbed some munchies.
After about an hour we were allowed to enter the building and head up to the third floor.
We sat there for another half-hour while they installed the lights.
Then the make-up team arrived and Eric and I were told to pop into the make-up chairs.
They spent a lot more time on my make-up than my husband’s.
But, he is naturally beautiful.
Once our make-up was done, we headed into the wardrobe tents
and put on the clothes they’d picked for us the day before.
Then we were told to head up to the fourth floor.
Upstairs, they’d sectioned off one corner of the building.
It was closed off by huge sheets of plastic and white cloth.
It was lit with natural light and a few white box lights.
Behind it was a wall with a china cabinet filled with Italian pottery.
In front was an opening for the camera.
The director met us and said “Hello.”
Then he explained that he was just going to ask questions and we should answer them naturally.
We stepped out into the boxed off area and were told to stand on our “marks.”
They had marked two areas on the floor with duct tape, so we stood on those.
Then the questions began.
We looked into the camera, which projected the director’s
My husband joked that it looked like Tony Stark inside the Iron Man suit from the Iron Man movies staring Robert Downey Jr. (And it did.)
We spent the next hour, or so, answering his questions.
And then it was done.
We headed downstairs, changed out of our clothes, and sat with the other folks who were still waiting to shoot their commercials.
It was getting so late it was time for lunch.
We all headed back downstairs and outside for lunch.
They had it catered under a small tent.
They let the “talent”, us, go first, which was very kind.
We filled out plates then sat at tables set up on the loading dock and ate.
Eric and I were stuck there waiting for the shuttle van to take us back to our hotel.
It arrived during lunch, which was great, because we then got to meet the final three “talent” which it had just brought in.
One was from California. She said she was a descendant of Pocahontas and was also surprised to learn through Ancestry DNA that she was part Asian.
Another woman said she was a descendant of George Washington, which I totally believe, because her eyes were George Washington blue.
And the other lady said she was a descendant of Christopher Columbus.
We were hanging out with a guy who had ancestors on the Mayflower, a woman who was descended from George Washington, a woman who was descended from Christopher Columbus, two women descended from a “witch” in Salem, and a descendant of Pocahontas.
Talk about America!
And then there was us. I guess we're the mutts. :)
After we enjoyed lunch, and exchanged family tales, we boarded the van and headed back to our hotel.
We were back in our room by 2 p.m. We changed and then bolted back outside to enjoy our last afternoon in LA.
We walked around Santa Monica, bought some gifts for the kiddos,
then grabbed an early dinner.
We headed back to our hotel by 4:30 p.m. to take a nap.
We woke up at 4:30 a.m.
By 5 a.m. the taxi was there to take us to LAX.
We flew out at 8 a.m. back to Cleveland.
It was a whirlwind trip and I’m still digesting all that happened.
We’ve been back a week and occasionally I get an email from the production company asking a question.
Our contact said they will continue to pepper us with questions over the next few weeks as they edit the spots.
We’re told they’ll air sometime in 2016.
Also, we’re told of the six spots shot, maybe only 2-3 will make it to TV.
We’ll just have to wait and see. And keep our fingers crossed.
But, no matter what, it was a blast and a chance of a lifetime.
And we are honored that Ancestry thought our little story was interesting enough to share with the world.
Thanks so much to Ancestry, the casting director, Production Company, director, cast and crew!
We had a blast.
--Eric & Katherine
Posted by Katherine Boyd. Posted In : Irish Ancestry