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Micarelli fell into acting -- literally.
Last summer, the classical violinist tripped backstage after a concert in Tuscany and landed on a wine glass, severing three nerves in her left hand. Doctors told her she might not play at the same level again. Then she got a call from HBO.
"The timing couldn't have been better," says the musician who plays Annie, a soulful street fiddler with the chops to make it big. "I figured I could try this out while I rehabbed my hand."
Born to Korean and Italian parents in Queens, N.Y., Micarelli picked up the violin when she was 3. She attended Juilliard and has toured with such acts as Jethro Tull and Josh Groban.
Under the tutelage of the Big Easy's musicians, she learned how to play traditional New Orleans jazz. "This has been such an education for me," she notes. "Coming from a classical background, I often get lost in the technical side of music. But these songs are all about the story."
As to her severed nerves: "Luckily I healed quickly, because I play a lot on the show."
"In those days," says McDermott, recalling the months after the hurricane, "we were worried about core elements of the music culture -- high school marching bands, gospel choirs, Mardi Gras Indians -- getting wiped out completely."
Luckily, McDermott's career didn't get wiped out: he landed a lot of what he likes to call "Katrina sympathy gigs." Between the benefit concerts and festivals abroad, the jazz pianist raked in more money in one year than he had the previous 20, playing everywhere from riverboats to Carnegie Hall.
"A lot of largess flowed toward New Orleans musicians," he says.
This trumpeter had a favorite way of passing time on the "Treme" set.
"I'd set up my portable grill, invite a bunch of friends and we'd drink beer and barbecue until someone yelled 'Action!' " says Ruffins, whose high-octane Thursday night gigs at Vaughan's Bar in New Orleans are legendary.
Ruffins grew up in the lower Ninth Ward, a block from where the levees broke, and didn't start playing trumpet until he was a teenager. In 1983, while still in high school, he formed the Rebirth Brass Band, which appears in the opening scene of the "Treme" pilot, before going on to front the jazz quintet Barbecue Swingers, a nod to his favorite hobby.
In "Treme," Ruffins plays himself -- with his full rakish attitude and trademark side-cocked hat in place -- as a musical do-gooder who helps struggling musicians get work. Simon made sure that Ruffins' own reputation as a hometown saint is palpable on-screen.
That's just one of the reasons why he's happy.
"Someone finally got it right," Ruffins says about the show's authentic depiction of New Orleans. "I've waited a lifetime for a show like this."
In the very first scene of "Treme" a musician haggles with a parade organizer over a fair price for his brass band to play a "second line," New Orleans' speak for musical street parade. "But you said you were gonna have Shorty," the organizer says. "He ain't here."
Lesson: If you want to get paid, get Shorty.
Back when Andrews' instrument towered over his 7-year-old frame (hence his brother dubbing him "Shorty"), the trombonist was already making a name for himself playing funerals and second lines in New Orleans' real Treme neighborhood.
Hailing from a musical family--his grandfather was 1970s soul singer Jessie Hill--the child prodigy went on to perform with U2 and Green Day. Days after Katrina hit, he took off on a world tour with Lenny Kravitz. "It was tough watching it all go down on TV and not be able to do anything," says Andrews, a wiry jeans and t-shirt guy who's also a busy recording artist of jazz, funk and rock. A self-professed fanatic of "The Wire," Andrews jumped at the chance to work with Simon and join the "Treme" cast.
"I can literally watch this show, walk out my front door and experience the same thing," he says. "You can't say that about too many shows on television."