How to Be an Extra

Hi Background friends! I have had some people ask me how to be an extra. Really, it’s not that difficult because they need to have normal looking people to fill in the background.

How to Be an Extra (or a background actor as we like to call it).

Back when I was beginning this blog, I wrote this post on how I began and this post on how to find more work. Now that I have a whole year under my belt, I have an even better understanding of the business, although I still need to know more. First of all, take a look at this backstage article on why being a background actor is a good thing.

So Where Do I Start?

You’re going to need Facebook if you want to work in the background because that is how I find most of my jobs. Not all, but most. You will follow the casting agencies and submit when they post a casting call.

How to be an extra me on Med
Don’t take pictures on set! That’s an important rule. But someone was sneaky and caught me on camera. So here I am at my nurse’s station on Chicago Med for the 2019 season opener.

My favorite is 4 Star Casting. Click here for their website. You can click on “extras registration” or access them through their Facebook account. With 4 Star, you set up an entire profile. You also have a calendar that you can mark when you’re available and when you’re not. If they have something and you fit the look and demographic, they will send you an availability check through your email. You need to respond ASAP because you want to say yes before everyone else. Once you respond positively, you wait and see if you receive a booking email. You may be booked or you may receive a notice that says “You have been released for…” which always makes me just a little sad.

Sometimes 4 Star will post casting calls on Facebook and be sure to follow the exact directions on how to submit for that role. Joan Philo is the casting agent for Chicago Med background and Chicago Fire background. Follow Chicago Fire Extras or Chicago Med Extras on Facebook. You will also want to follow Chicago PD Extras Casting  and Extraordinary Casting. For these four, there are no availability checks. If you see a role, submit right away because they go fast, really fast. And make sure to follow the exact directions for them too. You don’t want to not be chosen just because you didn’t put down the right information. Chicago Fire and Med will call you if they want you and Chicago PD and Extraordinary Casting will send you an email.

On this post I briefly discuss how you can see their Facebook posts first and this is

how to be an extra late night in holding
Do we look tired? That’s because it was 2:00 in the morning! We’re in holding for Chicago PD’s 2019 season opener. I played a pedestrian onlooker.

important. These jobs go very quickly and if you see one, you need to submit right away. I also use to find some work. You have to pay to use this service but it is reasonable. It is about $100 for the first year. I haven’t found a ton of work but I have found some, at least more than I paid for the service. Also, I do like the work because it is always something different than your regular Chicago shows. For example, if you remember my American Greed post, that is a job I found through backstage.

I hope this post on how to be an extra helps you begin. I will warn you, however, it can be addicting. Once you start, you want to keep going. And I’m not sure why because it isn’t always fun and games. But you’ll be hooked just like me which is why I now write about my life in the background.


American Greed

American Greed Sister Wives

Hey there! Time for an update. Had a great experience on an American Greed shoot yesterday that I just had to tell you about.

American Greed

To be honest, I have never really watched this show but must have seen it in passing because I had a good idea what it was. But now that I’ve worked on it, I for sure will be watching. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a CNBC show narrated by Stacy Keach. Check out their website by clicking here.

This episode was about Warren and Lyle Jeffs, those polygamist cult guys. I must say, it was pretty creepy playing an FLDS faithful wife. I remember all of that happening in the news but never really paid too much attention. So I was kind of in awe, and not in a good way, about all these two brothers did. You can see in the picture above all of the faithful wives I worked with.

American Greed Break Time
Lisa and I – Break Time!

Other than it being a slimy subject to film, it sure was a great day. The shoot was out in the suburbs, close to my house, so no traffic issues getting there. There were only a small number of extras and actors so we had all kinds of personal attention. I met new friends and worked with some previous ones. The producer, Heidi, was super nice and even hugged me when I left. Uhm, that never happens to a background actor! But yes, she couldn’t have been more accommodating. We didn’t arrive until 11 am and were told we would be out by 2 pm. Usually, I have no idea how long of a day I will have so it was awesome knowing it would be a short day. But then, I was having a good time and they needed two of the wives to stay a bit longer. I’m sure you can guess that I, of course, volunteered along with my new friend Lisa. Take a look at our picture here on our diet coke break. And guess what, we still wrapped at 4 pm. So definitely an easy day!

American Greed Bob and Kevin
Me with Lyle Jeffs’ henchmen Bob and Kevin. It was Kevin’s first day working in the background.

Two weeks ago I worked a commercial with this guy, Bob. And here he was on this shoot too! We filmed a commercial at the Gary, Indiana airport. This small airport is no longer being used for passenger flights which is why the gate could be used for filming. The commercial was for a meditation app. Basically, the flight was delayed and this guy was sitting between one guy sneezing all over him on one side and a grandma loudly face timing her grand baby on the other side. The ten or so extras that were there were busily occupied behind and around the scene. Bob and I had to pretend to run into each other and we had that choreography down pretty well indeed. Then, the guy puts in his ear buds and turns on the app and, magically, we all disappear.

American Greed post airport scene
airport scene at Gary Indiana Airport

You would be surprised if you knew how long it takes to shoot one 30 second commercial. We arrived at 7 am and didn’t leave until 4 pm. And of course that is the worse possible time to leave that location on a Friday afternoon to return to the northwest suburbs. It had taken me about 50 minutes to drive there and took me over two hours to drive home. Yuck! But that was also a fun work day so my last two jobs in the background have been very positive. I love it!

American Greed post airport commercial
Me as a business traveler for the airport commercial.

More News

If you’ve followed this blog, you might remember how upset I was when I wrote this post. I thought I had a short term teaching job covering a maternity leave and it didn’t happen due to the reason of which I am no longer speaking. Well, guess what. I had totally given up on returning to teaching at all, short term or long term. Then I received a call and long story short, I will be working at St. Patrick Catholic High School teaching levels one through four French starting in August. I had kind of thought maybe God was telling me it was time for me to move on to something else beside teaching. Now I’m not so sure. One positive thing, since I will be at a Catholic school, I will be able to profess my faith freely and it won’t be politically incorrect. Amen to that!

It is still a short term gig but I think it will be perfect for me to see whether or not I want to continue my teaching career. I may decide to continue what I’m doing now; working in the background and freelance writing. My freelance business is doing well and I am beginning to make some good money. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings. But I have to say I am very happy to at least have a chance to change the end of my teaching career to something more positive than what happened to end my last job.

I am a bit sad to be out of the background for a couple of months this fall. I am really going to miss it. I don’t know what it is but once you start doing this, it’s addictive. Maybe it’s the food. I always eat way too well when working in the background. Right now, I’m waiting to hear if I’ll be booked for one of the Chicago shows which begin filming next week. I thought maybe not because I haven’t heard anything but neither had the people I worked with yesterday so I think they just haven’t scheduled all of the background yet. I don’t want to miss the next few weeks because I’ll be busy once school starts!

Thanks for reading about my American Greed shoot, my airport commercial shoot, and my exciting new teaching news. I’ll see you next time–in the background!