MY LIFE IN THE BACKGROUND

During my first year in L.A., I had the idea of getting ahead in Hollywood by becoming an extra. I even had 8 x 10 photos taken, but never did anything with them (except give my parents a nice shot of me to frame and put in their living room). But I did end up working as an extra on two occasions, although you would be hard pressed to spot me in the finished product.

The first time was back in 1996 when I was at a nightclub with some friends. It turned out they were filming a scene for an independent film that evening, and one of the production assistants must have liked my look because they asked me to be an extra in the scene. My job was to stand beside a very pretty girl in the background near the bar.

While at the time I didn’t recognize any of the stars, it turned out they were filming what was to become one of my all-time favorite movies, “Swingers,” starring Jon Favreau and  Vince Vaughn! Unfortunately, when I finally saw the movie, I wasn’t exactly featured prominently in the scene. In fact, all you can see of me is my left shoulder because the director made the choice of focusing on the pretty girl, and really, who could blame him?

That turned out to be a template for my second shot at extra work. When I was working at Universal Studios in 1999, one of my favorite TV shows, “JAG,” rented the European square on the backlot for a scene. In an effort to hang out on the set and see the stars, I asked the production coordinator if I could be an extra and he said yes, provided I didn’t get paid. That was fine with me, so I took a few hours off one afternoon and headed down to the set.

My first disappointment came when I realized that the scene didn’t feature the main stars of the show, David James Elliott and Catherine Bell. It turned out the episode they were filming, “Soul Searching,” spotlighted two of the supporting players, John M. Jackson as Admiral Chegwidden and Steven Culp as Clayton Webb, who in the episode went to Europe to solve a kidnapping.

But at least the assistant director placed me right beside the actors, who in the scene were meeting beside a fountain. But again, I was doomed to disappointment! When I saw the episode, I was there all right… but all you could see of me was my shoes!

I guess next time if I want to be on screen, I’ll hold out for a starring part!

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