8:30am PT by Chris Gardner
Assistants Show Hollywood Has a Heart
Proving that Hollywood assistants have much bigger hearts than they do paychecks, they have set up their own private Facebook page — Awesome Assistants — to network and help one another when the chips are down.
The elite league of Hollywood underlings recently rallied around one of its members, Chris Roys, after he posted an emotional note about his father, Grove Roys III, who has been battling late-stage cancer. Roys — who just wrapped a gig as a postproduction assistant on YouTube Red's original series Step Up: High Water and prior to that, served as an executive assistant at Lionsgate TV — tells The Hollywood Reporter that he alerted the group to his family news in an act of late-night desperation.
"My dad restarted treatment in November, and the reality of its side effects this time around on top of the reality of his time left with us made me desperate to find some way to celebrate him and, above all, make his final days as happy for him as they could be," says Roys of his Torrington, Connecticut-based father. "I don't know what it was that made me think of posting in Awesome Assistants, but I had seen some magic happen there prior, and I figured the worst was me not giving a try to ask for help. I wrote a long, rambling note on the group and posted it late at night, figuring I'd be lucky if anyone was paying attention at that time of night."
He then turned his phone off due to anxiety, only to turn it on one hour later. What he found when he was back online was a massive outpouring of support in the form of messages and comments, but what arrived later really warmed his heart.
Assistants gathered swag from all over town and it eventually made it to his father. Particularly awesome was what those connected to the hit CBS show NCIS were able to turn up for the Roys men: a massive collection of signed headshots from the cast personally addressing Grove; a signed script from the writers and producers; NCIS merchandise like a hat, T-shirt, sweatshirt, a DVD set, and a soundtrack. Longtime star Michael Weatherly's company sent a signed headshot and other memorabilia. (Word is that other assistants are working on a signed note from Katy Perry, one of his father's favorite artists.)
Other good news: Though Grove's prognosis isn't great, he is currently responding to treatment, adds Chris.
News of the good deeds was enough to warm Steven Tylor O'Connor's heart. He started the group in 2011 while working as a casting assistant in primetime scripted programming for NBCUniversal in New York City under Jennifer McNamara.
"I created the group as a way for me to meet the assistants who covered our office in person and put a face to a name. To make connections and not just have people be an email address or a phone number. It steadily grew to be bi-coastal and then grew from there to be more than just agents-casting," says O'Connor, currently a casting associate at Aufiero/Horn casting in L.A. "It's kind of mesmerizing to see what it's grown and become. People have met, dated, gotten married from the group. People have found dream jobs, people have been helped finding new housing. In the LGBTQ+ [Awesome Assistants] subgroup, people have found the strength to come out because of the community we've fostered. I'm really proud of us and our generation and I hope we're healing the divide. It gives me hope for the future."
As for who is currently on the inside, Dreux Moreland, one of seven administrators of the page, tells THR that its basically everybody. "You name the agency, management company, production company, financier entity, advertising, law or marketing firm — from the big four all the way down to the boutique to the mom-and-pop shop to the one-person. Showrunners assistants, celebrity assistants, producer assistants, below-the-line, above-the-line, people drawing the lines, you pretty much get it all. We even have folks from the U.K., Atlanta, New York, San Fran; it's worldwide and only continuing to grow," Moreland explains. "It's an utterly utopic version of an industry that is currently getting some real shoddy broadsides, but so far, again and again, these assistants have pulled one miracle after another off for each other — many of whom are complete strangers."
Roys says that he's seen the group pull off some pretty stellar things, like providing job connections and resources, but now that he's been on the receiving end, his perceptions have changed even more for the better. "I will not ever be able to properly thank everyone involved enough for what they've done on my father's behalf. I'd never seen my dad react the way he did when I presented him with everything, and those are the memories that stick with us for the rest of our lives. I'm eternally grateful to this group of true Hollywood heroes for helping me create and preserve this memory," he says.
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.