Last week, a voice on the other end of my cell phone receiver, asked: “How would you like to be a star?” A few days later, I’m standing four feet from Claire Danes at three o’clock in the morning, each of us getting our photos by the crew of Homeland, Showtime’s next original series.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s My So Called Life as an Extra.
July 13, 2011
12:15 PM: I pull my 2003 gray Toyota Camry into the cast parking/Dixie’s Bar & Grill lot in Uptown Charlotte. Immediately, a white VIP van comes by and swoops me up.
12:17 PM: After picking up five attractive male and female cast members, Eric “Poppa Sac” Wise shows up. Poppa Sac’s credentials include a past undercover drug agent, America’s Most Wanted star (episode 566), former Sports Director at the Gaston County Family YMCA, and my biggest rival for the share of the big screen.
12:25 PM: 84 of us have been cast for a night club scene where something may or may not happen (can’t give any spoiler alerts yet). Women are decked in outfits that would make Mike D’Avria blush. Apparently wardrobe didn’t like what I wore, so made me change into my backup outfit a black suit. Most recently I wore this to a funeral. Poppa Sac gets to wear designer jeans. Score me – 0, Eric – 1.
12:40 PM We hurry up with wardrobe and wait in a theater. Apparently the term “Hurry Up and Wait” is used all the time in this industry. You can feel the tension in the air as the casting department looks us up and down. Neither Eric nor I are asked to get a hair cut or makeup. I’ll count that a draw.
12:58 PM Big Break Opportunity #1. A production assistant asks me to be a possible stand in as a Middle Eastern Prince’s brother. He asks me to stand up, looking for someone six feet tall. He politley asks me to sit back down.
1:10 PM An announcement that breakfast is now served. Yes breakfast. Apparently, we stay on Hollywood time around here. Lunch is a great spread of salads, meats, cheeses, fruits, and an assortment of pies. Then we’re told we’re in the wrong line. We leave the central cast and crew’s buffet and grab a hot dog and bag of chips. No pie.
2:00 PM We arrive in Club Phoenix, though today is an awesome Washington D.C. nightspot that serves green drinks, gender neutral bathroom sinks, and has zero Golden Tee videogames. It remind me of all the college bars I used to go to, except for the green drinks, gender neutral bathroom sinks, and lack of Golden Tee.
2:15 PM Our first set of scenes are cast. Sadly, I do not get a role as a dancer. Instead, I’m told to pantomime talking to some girl, who goes on and on about her past roles in Who’s Your Caddy? and Juwana Man. I name drop knowing Poppa Sac and she seems very impressed.
3:00 PM After nine takes, I realize that the six drinks I’ve consumed are 1.) not really beer and cosmos, but rather ginger ale and cranberry juice and 2.) the glasses are never washed out, just handed to other patrons that may have communicable diseases.
3:50 PM Storms strike the Queen City, shutting down production for about an hour. Realization hits that my Kindle and phone are three blocks away, forcing me to come out of my shell and be social.
5:15 PM Big Break Opportunity #2. Asked to be in the background during a party scene. Poppa Sac crams into my shot, so I’m resigned to stand closer to the bar. However, the fake bartendar decides to quit pouring fake drinks by this point to those who don’t fake tip him.
6:00 PM Big Break Opportunity #3. Asked to walk behind the two principal characters as they stare into each others eyes. The director yells cuts two feet before I make my entrance.
6:30 PM Asked to stay “later,” since they need a few extras who drive dark cars. Score: Steve: 0 Eric: 2 Toyota Camry: 1
7:00 PM Lunch is called in. This make me nervous as to what time dinner may be served. Much better spread of beef brisket, green bean casserole, caesar salad, potatoes, and chocolate pie. The tide may have turned my way.
7:45-10:15 PM Hurry up and wait.
10:50 PM Gunfire is heard in the alley, behind our holding area. Considering the armed security guards are hanging out at the trailers by the food and don’t even look up, I’d guess a major spoiler to the plot has occurred.
11:10 PM I pick out all the green M&M’s out of the candy dishes, change my stage name to $teve McGee, consider taking up smoking to look cool with the key grips, and walk around with a clip board, suddenly giving me access to new locations on the set.
12:30 AM Our cars are asked to move onto a blocked off Tyvola Street, the heart of Charlotte. For 45 minutes, I drive 50 feet forward, then 50 feet back. Poppa Sac is still there, but his car doesn’t budge.
12:55 AM Hanging out on the streets, a loud homeless man walks onto the set and yells to me and Poppa that “You’ve made it to the big time!” He then starts making Heisman trophy poses, in hopes to be cast as a washed up USC running back. We’ll see when the show airs if they casted him.
1:10 AM I devour an Italian Sausage from a street vendor. Delicious.
1:30 AM A drunk college guy walks onto the set, yelling “F your movie, I don’t care about any of you.” Security continues to protect the food instead of the Emmy winning actors and producers.
2:10 AM Two stoned skateboarders with no shirts ride close to the shot and yell “The book’s better you assholes!” Classic.
2:40 AM Unexpectedly, Director Daniel Attias (LOST, Entourage, It’s Always Sunny), asks six extras to be in the final shot of the night. My co-actress Laura and I walk straight towards the camera, arm in arm, almost getting hit by Claire Danes gray van. And my Big Break has arrived.
3:03 AM We complete our tax papers, realizing we just got paid minimum wage + overtime + $20 for use of our cars.
Worth the money? Not at all. Worth the experience? You bet.
Get the updated story on October 17th at: