The morning of the wish, we were instructed by the Make A Wish California liaison to be in the lobby of the hotel by 8am, where an accessible limo would arrive to take us to the set of Speechless. So, to save some time, we ordered room service for breakfast. Once we arrived in the lobby, we were greeted by Ray who would be escorting us throughout the day. While we were anxiously waiting to get the party started, there seemed to be a snafu with the coordination of the limo and it turned out that it wasn’t supposed to take us until the next day. So, we waited another two hrs. and then finally a vehicle arrived. By the looks of it, as it was throttling across the driveway of the hotel that was smack dab in the middle of Hollywood, the limos outer body looks greatly congruent to the DiMeo’s van. Except for once we entered the vehicle, the unpleasant sight of a bar full of liquor rotted my eyes but it did have a tv that played movies while we were driving on the 105. Meanwhile as the limo was gridlock in the horrible traffic of Los Angeles. Waiting an hour and half to get to the studio which was only thirty-eight miles away is definitely way worse than the ruckus traffic of Houston. As our limo driver was pulling up to the studio, I pinpointed my view of a sign saying, “Speechless” unconvinced to what I’m experiencing by the excitement! After I got out of the limo, the producer of the show, Daniel, greeted me with a kind voice. Overlooking the background behind him at the set-up shop of an old abandoned hospital. He then led us to the room next door where the actual scene was taking place. While we were all obnoxiously waiting to meet the cast, Daniel brought us all some headphones, so we could hear the tv screen of them doing their scenes from the room next door. The scene was for their Thanksgiving show in a hospital. So, the first thing my mom was thinking, was “what happened to JJ?” We were told it was a secret! Then we watched a funny scene with the dad (Jimmie, played by John Ross Bowie), his dentist brother and Kenneth (played by Cedric Yarbrough). Trying not to laugh sporadically is practicably incapable for me! I had to stuff my handy towel in my mouth to muffle my loudness, so I wouldn’t screw up their act. Repeatedly, they had to re-do the same scene over and over. Daniel mentioned that the cast will do this hundreds of times until they are satisfied with their work. I can’t tell you what actually happened in the scene so you will just have to watch the episode…trust me, its funny!
Once Kenneth and Jimmy entered in the room we were in, I immediately knew I was seeing two funny men. Jimmy should be himself because he’s such a naturally funny guy! He asked me, “what my favorite movie was?” I said, “Talladega Nights.” After I said that he immediately started laughing and he said he had a funny story about that movie. He told us that his wife was actually in that movie and she had a scene with the actual producer’s kids and she was thinking that there was no way that they would ever cut her scenes because it was with the producer’s kids…well she got cut and so did the producer’s kids. I guess if there’s one thing you must be in Hollywood if you want to be an actor is thick skinned and humble!
Next, Ray (played by Mason Cook) enters the studio. He was very polite and mild and told potent jokes. I thought he was cool, especially when his sister Dylan (played by Kyla Kenedy) came by. I thought it was hilarious how they interacted with each other because they acted like brother and sister bickering and joking back and forth. My sister kept asking, “where’s PJ, where’s PJ, where’s PJ?” This is what she calls JJ (played by Micah Fowler). She loves him as much as I do and it’s really the only adult show she will watch.
As time passed by and the urge to meet JJ was becoming greater every second, my palms started sweating as I clinched my fists to straighten my arms. My chin sat on my right shoulder, as my eyes were finally overjoyed by the sight of JJ. As he positions his manual chair next to me, the conversation starts with a smile and a fist pump. He spent an hour or so just talking with us. He seemed to be very gracious and humbled that we chose to meet him as my wish! I was very surprised how well that he could talk verbally. My parents could tell right off the bat that his speech was a little more advanced than mine. He has trouble with starting his sentence, then as he goes on it suddenly clears up and the speed of his voice accelerates. I could understand him easily each time he glanced at my questions and answered one of many I had pre-written for him. What’s funny is that he uses the show as a crutch to get away from collage because he never really wanted to go. Incredibly, he doesn’t mind flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles. If I had to do that, I would probably like it at first but then I would get tired of flying eventually. Anyway, I loved hearing his laugh as he clapped his leg after a funny joke. The perfect timing of his laughter is so connected to his body motion that his jaws were chasing his hands. Once JJ answered all the questions, the director decided to guide us around the set through all the clutter of cameras, people, lighting, chords and suit cases packed with scripts.
Soon after, JJ needed to go eat with his mom and assistant AJ. We said our good byes and we entered the limo starving, the perplexing sense of a hamburger at McDonalds made my parents stomach rumble as there was no plans for lunch. So next, my dad yelled from the back of the van, “I’m hungry!!!” I turned back and said thank you to him as I was about to lose it, I was so hangry! With a bulging stomach, we headed to the Fox Studios.
When we finally got there, it was a series of buildings/warehouses where several other shows are taped as well as Speechless. They were about the size of airport hangers. This is where we got a tour of the school and house that they typically shoot their scenes in. They first took us to the school where we saw they had a very steep “emergency ramp, I guess”. We saw the hallways, the cafeteria, principals’ offices and the library. After looking a while for the house, they finally found it which was very surprising because it’s all discombobulated. Well to sum it up, it was a dump. The lady said they took pictures of a house that was going to be demolished and mimicked the house and that it cost a whole lot of money to make the house look old and dirty. It looks much better on camera than in person! I think it made my mom feel bad for the cast since they must spend much of their time shooting in the dingy house. My dad investigated the closets and around the house. It had wide doors and was accessible. Next, we went up to the office building and took us to the creator of the show, Scott Silveri’s office and he sat down with us for a good amount of time asking us questions and answering our questions. He seemed very down to earth, engaging and generally seemed like a nice guy. He talked about his brother having cerebral palsy and what inspired him to create the show. He let us watch the first uncut episode of season three (three weeks before it was aired on tv). He talked to me about getting started in script writing and what I would need to do if I wanted to pursue it in the future. Finally, he took us into the writer’s room where all these young writers sit around a huge table and come up with ideas for future shows. It was funny because they had a bunch of toys on the table to play with, like kids, to keep them busy and a bar full of different hot sauces and candy. The neat thing was seeing Zack Anner as a writer on the show. He is also a very funny comedian and just so happens to have cerebral palsy as well. I kept my cool though! As we were getting ready to leave, we thanked them all for the awesome experience. Scott Silveri kindly stopped us before we left and gave me a link to all copies of scripts from season 1 & 2 of the show. He walked us out to the limo van and told me that if I ever had any more questions in the future or wanted to pursue script writing that I should give him a call. He didn’t have to say that, but I thought it was pretty awesome!
The next day, Make A Wish hooked us up with Universal Studios Hollywood tickets. I was super stoked because I had wanted to go to the one in Orlando when we were there previously but didn’t get a chance. I was excited to go check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. First stop was ordering a frozen butterbeer which Jimmy said we had to try, and it was quite tasty. We checked out a few stores and rode a few rides which Caleryn got scared of. We ate the best meal of the whole trip at Three Broomsticks. I picked out a few souvenirs and of course had to find a wand at Ollivander’s. Unfortunately, the day was not so pleasant because Caleryn saw a stuffed rabbit (Snowball) from the movie “A secret Life of Pets” that she had to have after my mom had already paid for items. So, she started throwing a fit and didn’t give in the entire day.
The whole trip was quite the experience that I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon. I’m so grateful to Make A Wish Colorado for not only accepting me but making all the details unforgettable! If there is a charity that you might be interested in giving to, then please consider Make A Wish, much of their donated money, over 85%, goes back into making wish dreams for kids. I’ve experienced it first-hand!
My name is Cameron Broyles, I'm 16 years old and I started my blog 5 years ago when I was 11. I have paraplegic cerebral palsy and cannot communicate in a traditional fashion. I am home-schooled now but I used to go to main stream public school. My love of exploring first began with going on field trips to learn about history. I play power soccer and it's become my sport of choice! I am originally from Texas but now I live in Colorado and LOVE it! I love to travel and explore but the majority of times it is much more difficult than the average person. I want this blog to not only be my mouthpiece for my friends and family but also give some ideas and maybe light a spark for other people with disabilities to get out and explore life! I was first coerced into starting a blog from my mom and dad and I have to admit that sometimes it's not my favorite thing to do but what I love most about having a blog for these past 5 years is that it's a daily reminder of all my blessings from God and how grateful and thankful I am for everything I have in my life.