Wednesday, December 28, 2016


This is where it all began: my first job as an extra -- but, through the magic of television, my third onscreen appearance.

I was familiar with the cable sitcom Younger by its title, but little else. I knew that I fit the role required, though: an attendee of a certain age in a self-help program. (No jokes, please.)  I figured there would be nothing more to do than sit in a chair and nod appreciatively. And it was a two-day shoot, meaning twice the salary. Nice way to start a new job!

But when I received the OK from Central Casting, I was terrified. Would I nod too much? Too little? And did I have enough options, wardrobe-wise? The idea of losing my first gig due to the wrong shade of khaki was too much to bare. The night before the first day of shooting, I somehow fit most of my clothes into an overnight bag. My sleep was fitful, as I seemed to wake up every hour to check the time.

Hooray for Hollywood... wait, make that Astoria.
There was no need. Younger was shooting at the Melrose Ballroom in Queens, a half-hour subway ride away, with a  9:30 AM calltime. Being perpetually concerned that anything from a power outage to a subway jumper will prevent me from getting where I'm supposed to be on time, I left earlier than necessary. As I checked in at 8:45, I mumbled to the p.a., "I think I'm early."

"Better early than late," he replied. It pays to be paranoid about the time.

It was interesting to watch the holding area fill up. If you saw any of these people outside on the street, you wouldn't give them a second look. But put them together in one big room, and suddenly they looked like they should be on TV. 

My clothing concern was unnecessary, since the wardrobe people were OK with what I was already wearing. And as expected, the make-up & hair folks could do nothing for me. All I had to do now was wait... until 3:00 PM, when we were finally called to set.

One of the production assistants had already given us a quick rundown of the episode, adding that it was the season finale. Everyone in the room let out an excited Oooooooh! The only thing better than the season finale is... well, nothing is better than the season finale.

The ballroom was filled with roughly 150 folding chairs; I was placed in the third row, with the onstage camera pointed in my direction. Sweet! The director explained what we were supposed to do: be excited, clap wildly, show over-the-top emotion. 

And we did all of that for three straight hours as the scene was shot from different directions. By the time we were finished, my hands were raw from applauding, my voice hoarse from cheering. I swore that Christina Kirk, the actress playing the self-help guru, looked familiar -- but it was only because I had been looking at her all afternoon. She was pretty funny, by the way, capturing and satirizing your average psychobabble star with uncanny accuracy. Not that I've spent time with anyone like that... recently.

The following day, I was placed in the back row. Oh well -- at least it allowed me a good look at Younger stars Sutton Foster and Hillary Duff, who were sitting three rows ahead of me.  Plus I had the previous day's shoot to look forward to watching one day. You know, the one with the camera pointed straight at me.

Only none of the first day's filming was used. And I applauded so well! Yet ironically, my face was visible from the second day's shoot, when I figured I'd be well-nigh invisible.

Serious guy with the glasses, middle of the back row. For the first time since my gigs started to air, you could actually see my face -- and you didn't have to hit "pause." Of course, if you didn't know I was there, you wouldn't have noticed. My face really isn't curved in, as it appears to be -- that's the hair of someone sitting in front of me. 

You couldn't really call it acting, although a moment later I stretched my talent by turning my head to the right -- which we were told to do. No way I was going to ad-lib on my first show.

Due to cropping the photo to focus on me, you see only the heads of the aforementioned stars Foster and Duff at the bottom of the shot. Even in a room with over 100 extras, they forced me to re-evaluate my original opinion as to who looks like should be on TV: the two good-looking women with talent that went beyond clapping their hands.



Kevin Thomsen said...

Well done! Great story.

Kevin Thomsen said...

We want more stories like this1