Being an Extra

Today I was on set for a new ABC show set to premiere early next year some time. Surprisingly, they’re filming here in Minnesota and this was the second episode I was in, my first being at the end of September. The only catch was that I was an extra – background talent which meant that I wasn’t a principle character, didn’t have any lines, spent about nine hours on set, and may or may not even be featured in the final edit of the episodes. Being an extra seems to be considered taboo in the acting community, but in spite of all of this, this has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.

Yeah, I was on set from 8am til 7:30pm and 10 hours for the first episode, but I still had a good time. There’s a lot of waiting around, but by noon, I was on set for the rest of the day, which made the time go by quickly. I talked with other actors and we chatted about our experiences and latest projects and I even ran into a few actors that I’ve worked with before including the girl that played my girlfriend in my acting reel. (Honestly, speaking with others makes me feel like I DO work a lot more than I’ve realized.)

For a TV show and most on-camera work, things are mostly always shot out of sequence so unless you know what the story is about, you’d be lost.  But I watched the actors and they were well prepared and knew their lines.  Another thing is that they, along with the crew, and directors, never made the background talent feel like extras. They said, “thanks” and “you guys are doing a good job” and “thanks for hanging in there”. They actually made me feel important, which must definitely be a Minnesota thing. No shade, but I can’t begin to think that anyone in LA would give extras this much attention.

Now, I’m not like most people. I try to be super positive and look on the bright side of things and I genuinely try to learn from every experience. The thing is that getting work as an actor, especially in a smaller market like Minnesota, isn’t easy. Even though my colleagues and friends consider me to be pretty busy compared to most people, to me, I spend a lot of time waiting for my phone to ring for my next gig. That’s what I feel like it’s important to embrace any and every opportunity that comes my way. Even as an extra, it’s an opportunity to be on set, connect with other actors, and to learn.  And that, above anything, is very important.

This was a union project so lunch was catered which was definitely a step up from the small table of Kraft services that I’m used to. On top of all of this, I got paid for a days work. Considering that I’m supposed to report to set for the rest of the week, I consider this to be a good deal.  Any opportunity can be a chance to grow and learn and it can prepare us for the next level. Today, I was in the background, but someday I’ll be upfront and that’s something I truly believe.

And there’s nothing extra about that!

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