The book goes on to explain how Johnson, the director, used some sneaky tactics in order to coax usable performances out of the sweaty, uneasy visionary. Here’s a quote from Johnson explaining how he and his crew would team up to essentially trick Serling into giving them what they needed:
“I’d clown around with him and roll the camera without letting him know and I’d say, ‘What was that you said?’ And he would sort of snap off the thing at me as though, ‘Smart ass, I’ll show you.’ The crew was with me on that; they’d shut up and be quiet, otherwise we’d never get a take under those circumstances.”
So the next time you’re watching an episode of “The Twilight Zone” and see Serling pop into the frame (often in fun or creative ways) to deliver his address to the camera, remember that deep down, my man was absolutely freaking out. It’s actually somewhat comforting: If Rod Freakin’ Serling was nervous doing his job, maybe we can all take some solace from that and use it as inspiration to overcome whatever obstacles appear in our own lives.
In a way, this story is perfectly appropriate for this particular show. The fact that one of TV’s most recognizable hosts was wildly uncomfortable talking to his own camera? That’s one of the most ironic twists in a show that’s chock full of ’em.