On set

Mr. Gyllenhaal, Mayor McGinn is ready for his close-up.

Hizzoner joins a ‘Grassroots’ shoot aboard—where else?—the Monorail.

By Eric Scigliano August 6, 2010

Director Gyllenhaal discusses transit policy and how to be an extra with Mayor McGinn.

On Wednesday night Mayor Mike McGinn got promoted to movie extra. And Grassroots, Stephen Gyllenhaal’s movie-in-the-making about an unusual Seattle political campaign, got some real-life Seattle political color. Grant Cogswell, whose 2001 City Council race and battle to build a monorail system inspired the movie (and who now finds McGinn inspiring), had invited the mayor down to that night’s shoot aboard the existing Seattle Center Monorail. (Nice ride, but nowhere near a system.)

McGinn pedaled up late, in cargo shorts and faded polo shirt, with one young aide. Either hizzoner was aw-shucksing or he was the only one who didn’t expect he’d be in the movie.

Set sergeant Jim Charleston made McGinn doff his Cascade Land Conservancy cap (to avoid trademark infringement) and director Gyllenhaal waved him aboard. The mayor occupied a background bench while the movie Cogswell (Joel David Moore) sang the praises of traffic-hopping elevated transit to his campaign manager (Jason Biggs). Truthful disclosure, should the scene make the cut and you see the film: The skinny guy on the bench across the aisle was yrs. truly. All to legitimate journalistic ends—while the camera ran, I caught up on transit politics with People’s Waterfront Coalition founder Cary Moon, who also got roped in.

“Look meaner,” Gyllenhaal called out. “You want more New York?” McGinn replied, clenching his jowls. Let it be known: The mayor can take direction, at least on set.

“You were brilliant!” Gyllenhaal laughed afterward. “I’m on my way,” McGinn chuckled, though he evidently didn’t plan to give up his day job. “You know, this is the third movie I’ve been in.”

The train got out of the station before we could find out what the other two were.

More dispatches from the Grassroots front lines:

Cedric the Entertainer meets Richard the Politician and Grant the Polar Bear

Grassroots in Between Takes. When Joel David Moore and Jason Biggs aren’t filming, they’re getting drunk.

Grassroots Effort in Seattle

Tonight at the Sorrento: Phil Campbell, author of Zioncheck for President

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