During the past two years, I have appeared as a Background Actor (also known as an extra) on several film, video and television productions. Although a large part of it is attributed to luck, there is also planning, research, hard work and a lot of waiting that goes into background acting!
|I portrayed a wedding greeter (wearing a big pink hat!) on the 100th episode of Scandal “The Decision” that aired on April 13, 2017 on ABC.|
I have always been captivated by film, television, musicals and plays. With a love of writing that started when I was a child, I was enchanted by the written word that could be turned into a visual piece of art, such as a movie.
Growing up, I read all I could in magazines and books about movies and celebrities. During the summer, my mother would let me stay up later at night so I could watch The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. I also watched both local and national news programs because I wanted to know all I could about current events.
So it wasn’t unusual when there was a chance to meet a celebrity, I would try to go. I can still remember meeting actor Henry Winkler during the first season of Happy Days at a scheduled appearance at a mall in Little Rock. And anytime an ABC soap opera star came to Arkansas during promotions events for the local affiliate, I was there!
|My daughters and I met actor/singer Darren Criss at an event in California in October 2012|
During the summer of 2016, I attended the summer program at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. While I was taking classes in screenwriting and the television/film industry, I also worked as a background actor on several productions.
Following the advice from a friend in California whose four children have appeared in many commercials, movies and television shows, I signed up online with LACasting.com. Within a day of signing up and paying the $14.95 monthly fee, I began receiving email notifications of extra roles that fit my specifications, such as gender, height, weight and racial status. In other words, when someone needed a tall, skinny, older white woman, they sent me an email!
In addition to signing with LACasting.com, which is done all online, I also registered in person with Central Casting of Los Angeles while I was in California in November 2016. There are also Central Casting locations in New York City, Atlanta and New Orleans. The registration process does not cost anything but requires you to show up on certain days and takes a few hours to listen to a talk about casting, fill out forms and take photos that will then be available to all the casting agents.
You can find out about possible film/television/commercial roles by checking with your state’s casting office, contacting a talent agency in your town or looking at Facebook accounts such as Arkansas Casting Calls & Auditions.
- Know where you are going and how you are going to get to your location.When you first get your “call time”, you should prepare how you are going to get there and where it is. Whether you are driving yourself, taking a car service such as Uber, or being dropped off by a friend, you should know exactly where you are going. In addition, be ready for unexpected issues, such as not being able to park in a parking deck or last minute location changes.
- Show up on time, or even better, 30 minutes early.
When I book projects through Central Casting, I get a call time. For example, I am working on a mini-series tomorrow, and my call time is 6:18 am. Since I’m currently visiting my friends in Burbank, I have to make arrangements to get to the set location by 6:18 am. I also will find out tonight after 7:00 pm where the filming is being done. I have a phone number to call at Central Casting, which is their Work Line. When I call that number, I put in a four digit code number that will then take me to a recorded message that gives me all the details about the shoot.
- Be quite on set.Whether you are shooting in a studio, such as for Speechless, or on location, which I did last week at a coffee shop in Van Nuys for the upcoming mini-series Unsolved on the USA Network, you need to always be quite and listen. There are many people and different moving parts involved in a shoot, so the crew and the actors need to be able to hear their direction.
- Take something to read or work on while you are waiting. And you will wait. And wait. And wait some more. Ever hear of the phrase “Hurry up and wait”? That’s what background actors were made for! I always bring a couple of magazines to read. I’ve seen people bring books to read and afghans to knit. Many background actors will just play on their phones the whole time. I’ve been at shoots where background actors will bring their own chairs, PCs and just set up camp while they are waiting.
|I played a Defendant on The Verdict With Judge Hatchett|
|I appeared in the audience (on the front row wearing pink dress) at|
an Infomercial starring Dick Van Dyke
|In costume/hair/makeup for the pilot episode|
of Young Sheldon
|Dressed for 2042 for the pilot episode|
of Me, Myself and I
|In the 2017 Season finale of American Housewife on ABC, I appeared in the audience of a dance recital|
I’ve really enjoyed working as a background actor and have been fortunate to meet many amazing people. I’m not doing it to win an Academy Award or to make a lot of money. I just do it because it’s fun and I get to eat great food on set!