Investigation Discovery: Life of a TV extra

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If you think TV work is glamorous, think again. Fun, interesting, laborious, exhausting – yes. Just not glamorous.

Spotting the dead bodies!
Spotting the dead bodies!

I’ve been an extra now on a few shows here in the USA, and whilst the actual performing is fun (especially when you nail that shot!), the waiting is ENDLESS!

So, why do we do it?

It’s the bit when you see your face on TV, when you realize you worked it well and you didn’t just follow direction, you made that small scene (all 5.22 seconds of it!) stand out, and that you are part of something fun and special.

I had my USA TV debut this weekend and, in case you missed it, here is shot from the show, Investigation Discovery’s Season 3 episode, Blood Ties, where I play a cop!

If you want to see the trailer for the show it’s here. It’s actually a really great show!

This is how I reacted when seeing myself on TV in America at 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night:

Oooh, it’s me, it’s me! Quick, pause! Hahahaha, look, I’m a cop! Woohoo, I’m on the telly! Awesome!‘ (Btw, this was all to myself since I watching it by myself!)

Obviously, I was in no way excited by this event 😉 (I so was!!)

Claire the cop. (Selfie time)
Claire the cop. (Selfie time)

I was most happy that everything I filmed was in the show, and even though the close up is less than flattering (be honest, it is!!), hey, who cares – I got my British face on the telly in the USA! Tick that one off the bucket list! 🙂

When I spoke during filming, I used a really bad faux-American accent that ranged from South Carolina to Boston. It’s a good job there is a narrative voice over during the scenes, I can tell you!

This is the show synopsis: Deadly Affairs (Season 3), Blood Ties, TV-14 CC – Kathy Augustine is now on her fourth hubby, Chaz Higgs. But a whirlwind romance that seems like heaven, soon leads to hell. Later, her daughter Dallas is no stranger to a bad romance, and learns the most unconventional love triangles can be deadliest.’

My bit in the show as a cop is when they go in after the lesbians’ fight and when the neighbors are trying to find out what went on the morning after the night before – I don’t want to give you a SPOILER, so that’s all I can say! 😉

And my other ID Channel show will be in December, and then House of Cards in February! Whoop!

I also filmed for another Deadly Affairs show last week where I played a ‘party-goer’ for a different episode about some serial dating firefighter who’s having it off with all the chicks he can. You guessed it, he gets caught out!

The fun bit of this was that I spent the day hanging with the faux-firefighter dudes!

Claire with the firefighter extras.
Claire with the firefighter extras.

Being an extra means a lot of sitting around and trying not to eat the junk food they put out in the ‘green room’ (read as ‘makeshift holding area’). But, the upside to this is that you get to chat with people you might never have met before, as well as with those who become familiar faces on the extra circuit. You have conversations like: ‘Oooh, weren’t you the dead mother in that show about the home invasion?‘ ‘Yes, that was me! Lots of blood used in that one. I had to lie for ages on the floor.’

And extras like to share stories of how long they waited around last time; which jobs were fun and which weren’t; which production crews are speedy and the nice guys and which aren’t; which directors actually direct and which simply don’t; and, of course, what they’ve got in the pipeline, or not.

The bonding backstage makes it all the merrier when you become ‘background’ in front of the camera. It’s your time to shine, to get some face time, to deliver. You make it happen as a team.

My advice to extras is this: a) take your own healthy food; b) take a good book and laptop and charger; c) talk to your fellow extras and make contacts; d) follow direction and when that camera points, work it baby!; e) don’t interfere with the production team, cos you are just and extra and easily replaced!; and f) be prepared for long days and nights! (One night I got home at 3am!)

On the day, it’s not the most satisfying job in the world, but that moment when you glimpse that shot of yourself on TV during the show, it all seems worth it. Come on, folks, you all secretly want to be on TV, right?! 😉