A couple weeks ago, I got a message from a casting director. It said they’d like me to come work as a background extra on a high profile upcoming TV show that’s currently filming their first season. Now, to preface this, you need to know that I am a recently graduated actress with a fancy degree and training coming out of my ears. Right now, I’m a post-grad with no job, so a little money and the opportunity to work on a real film set made me practically pee my pants with joy. Here’s a little rundown of how my day went.
5:15 AM: Wake up. Do my makeup and hair (trying to impress anyone important I might see. Naturally. Imagining people saying “Who’s that adorable extra?! We need to hire her as a series regular IMMEDIATELY simply based on her wicked good looks!!”)
6:00 AM: Leave my house. Drive a nice long drive in rush hour traffic to get to set early (I am perpetually the goody two shoes. Again, why not impress people?)
6:45 AM: Arrive at the sound stage. Feel important because a very nice worker in a large, fancy van picks me up at my car and drives me to base camp. Maybe getting up early wasn’t so bad.
6:50 AM: Get to check in. Immediately lose my newfound sense of importance. Feeling lost and confused, feeling like everyone’s staring at me because I’m clearly incompetent and have obviously NEVER done this before. Feeling like I’m making everyone (including myself) feel uncomfortable.
7:00 AM: Sit down next to a man and woman (early 40’s) who look like they know what they’re doing. I learn they’re extras all the time and have worked on every major project that’s filmed here. They’re making themselves sound important and all of a sudden my fancy degree is making me feel even more incompetent, since both say they didn’t go to college.
7:30 AM: Tentatively say, “Am I allowed to eat the food?”
7:31 AM: Get overwhelmed by the amount of nice food and end up getting scared and panicked and randomly selecting a dry cereal. Brilliant.
8:45 AM: FINALLY get to set! Eager to get started! Let’s make me a movie star!
8:46 AM: The production assistant leads us through the incredible set and into a horribly lit back area where we are instructed to sit in metal folding chairs and be quiet until someone comes to get us.
9:30 AM: Still sitting in this folding chair. The PA re-appears, tells us to continue to sit and to please be quiet. I am now feeling like an abandoned kindergartner and I’m getting antsy.
MANY HOURS GO BY. MANY, many hours. So many hours that I’m feeling like they’ve forgotten us. All of a sudden it’s lunch and we still haven’t done anything. I’m feeling confused and irritated, but the other perpetual extras don’t seem to mind. I drown my sorrows in a giant piece of Cheesecake that’s not very good.
3:30 PM: After 8 1/2 hours of waiting, we are fetched by the PA and led, like cattle, onto set. Our big moment has arrived!!! But wait…our big moment includes walking from one end of a hallway to another, over and over and over again. What? This is not what I signed up for. I cannot decide which is worse: The evil folding chair room or the sad, back and forth walking.
4:00 PM: I am somehow paired with an insanely annoying and slightly creepy boy, about my age, who keeps insisting on holding my waist while we do our incessant walking. Umm…can you not?! I don’t even know your name and you smell. Please go away and stop trying to get me to put my head on your shoulder. I’m not ACTUALLY a hospital patient and you are NOT my boyfriend. Goodbye.
4:45 PM: “BACKGROUND?! Can you NOT make so much noise with your shuffling feet?! Again, NO noise with your feet. Clear?”
…College degree certainly necessary for this job. Not.
5:00 PM: We are returned to our hell hole of a waiting room. My butt is no longer amused by this game, and is not enjoying the return to its awful folding chair. The lady I met back at 7 AM insists upon showing me picture after picture of her cats. I do not like cats and I certainly do not care about yours. Please desist.
7:00 PM: I am hungry. I am sleepy. I am starting to feel like an awful person for not keeping up a chipper attitude even though we’ve been here 12 hours.
9:30 PM: We are FINALLY released! Oh thank you, little baby Jesus! Unfortunately, I had to return the next day and do it all over again. Lesson learned: being an extra is essentially being a glorified prop. Actors not needed, just people with inordinate amounts of patience.