CARROLL GARDENS — On her second day working as a waitress, Lois Robbins swapped her heels for sneakers.
Dressed in her uniform of black pants and a black shirt at Vinny’s of Carroll Gardens, Robbins cleared tables, took orders and made cappuccinos for patrons during her seven-hour shift. All the while, she prepared for one of the biggest roles of her career.
Later this year, Robbins will star as “Ann Willis” in “Blowtorch,” an independent film by Me3 Productions shot in Brooklyn. Alongside the former “All My Children” actress, the movie will also feature William Baldwin and Jared Abrahamson.
Robbins worked at Vinny’s for two days, spending the first day shadowing the head waitress of the restaurant. The second day, she was on her own.
Having never waitressed before, Robbins wanted to prepare for the part of Ann Willis, a single mother raising three children and working as a waitress in Carroll Gardens.
Back in November, Robbins took on the waitressing job, just before the film started shooting. While the patrons were unaware of Robbins’s star-status, the staff knew what she was doing.
During her shift, from 11:15 a.m., to 6 p.m., Robbins served everything from pasta and chicken parm to espressos at the Italian eatery on Smith Street. The actress waited on a blue-collar clientele some kind, some funny and sometimes, rude, she said.
She even got to chat with police officers that had stopped by for a meal, asking them about drug-related crimes for her role of Willis, a woman who investigates the death of her son after he was brutally killed. In the film, Willis believes that the detective, played by Baldwin, isn’t taking her son’s case seriously.
In one incident, Robbins said three people came into the restaurant at 11.15 a.m., and asked for three glasses of wine. After draining them, the customers asked for three more.
“’Just keep them glasses coming. We’ve had a very rough day,’” Robbins recalls them saying.
Robbins didn’t just experience the social side of her job, but the physical toll of working constantly for long hours.
“The way my feet felt, the way my back felt,” said Robbins, remembering her exhaustion at the end of the day.
The experience, she said, was similar to working with a film crew, a group of people who “become your family,” said Robbins.
From the kitchen staff to the servers and managers, Robbins said they “worked as a very tight-knit group.” And just like with a film crew, “you really start to rely on each other,” she said.
It was humbling, said Robbins, looking back on her days at Vinny’s. It gave her a better perspective of her character Ann Willis, a woman who has led a hard life of loss, pain and sadness.
“She doesn’t have any of the niceties that I have in my life,” said Robbins.
The movie will finish shooting later this month and is expected to release in November. For Robbins, it is a major role in her acting career, she said.
“Opportunities come when you’re ready for them. This is one I was ready for,” she said.