Extras Gig #4: The Office, Part 2

(Go to Part 1)

Wow. I never noticed how nice his eyes are. Funny how the camera can miss so much. He has really pretty eyes. Really pretty eyes that are… waiting. Maybe I should say something.

“Hello.” I replied. He smiled in return.

Steve Carell and I spent what felt like an hour locked in an awkward, courteous gaze. Both of us smiled and nodded.

“So…” He said, trailing off and looking around.

Oh! He’s as embarrassed as I am. Heh. He’s blushing. I probably am too. This is cool! We’re both blushing and confused! Wait. Actually it’s just incredibly awkward. I should say something nice to end this.

“I’m… waiting for the bathroom.” Brilliant. That will leave a lasting impression.

“Oh! Oh, I’m sorry! I thought… They said…” Just then, the 2nd AD rounded the corner.

Second ADs hate extras. We are constantly over-complicating things. Many of us are either vying for that extra little bit of screen time, trying to get a celebrity autograph (or worse), desperate to “prove” how much we “know” about their job, or begging for a SAG voucher. I’ve had that job. I can seriously relate. I’m sure this didn’t look good.

“Sorry, Mr. Carell,” he said. “Hair and makeup is through here.” He gently guided Steve into the next room. Steve gave me a shrug and a smile, the 2nd AD gave me the “I’ll deal with you later” look. He never did. I didn’t get a SAG voucher, either. Steve didn’t even say goodbye. After all we shared.

A woman left the bathroom right as the commotion was winding down. She looked into the room and then back at me with the “was a celebrity just here?” look. It’s a great look. For a moment, you are elevated to celebrity status by proximity. I call it proxi-lebrity status. Or maybe celemity status? Vote in the comments below.

A bit of Hollywood advice: if you achieve proxi-lebrity status, try to keep a level head about it. “I saw Johnny Depp in line at Starbucks” is interesting blog fodder (and awesome), but it’s not an appropriate answer to “how’s that entertainment career coming along?” Geek out about it, for sure. I’ll geek out with you. Just remember you still have work to do. Occupying the same space as another person is not actually an accomplishment. Unless you are literally occupying the same space as another person. That might get you a Nobel Prize. Though even that could just be an accidental slip into another dimension or a transporter malfunction. I digress. A lot.

After that excitement, they finally called the pool experts to the set. As I walked down the winding staircase, I couldn’t help but notice a noise that sounded like a large fan. I am presenting it like was a minor thing, but it was actually deafening. It sounded like a wind tunnel. It only came on between takes. Obviously, I had to ask what it was.

“It’s an indoor skydiving thing.” Some PA at the base of the stairs was responsible for communicating between the set and the noise. That answer raised more questions than it answered, so I asked if I could take a look.

What sounded like a wind tunnel was actually a wind tunnel. A giant fan blew people up, suspending them in midair while giving the illusion that they were falling. So yeah. Guess what I did for my birthday later that year?

Yeah, baby!
Indoor Skydiving Thing!

The PAs paraded us through the crowd of very tired half annoyed/half intrigued extras. We took our spots and were given the rundown. The first thing we were told was that the balls were fake. Since actual pool balls make noise, only the stars were allowed to hit them. We had to play with racquet balls lacquered with pool-ball-colored paint.

The actual pool experts were at a total loss and understandably disappointed. Rubber balls flew everywhere for the first several efforts. I just laughed. I went back to the message on the casting hotline. No one doing this job would need to sink shots, do tricks or even make contact with the balls. In fact, the fakers had a much easier time than the experts.

Once we were in place, they brought in the stars.

I have to confess something here: at this point in time, I didn’t actually watch The Office. I had seen an episode or two and knew the general storyline and the major characters, but I just couldn’t get into the show. I wasn’t in love with my job when the show first came out and the last thing I wanted to do was to go home from my real-life awkward office world and watch a fake awkward office world.

I fixed that after this job. I had so much fun on this set! Actually, I probably had a little more fun than I should have…

Extras Gig #4: The Office, Part 1

Part 1? Yeah. I’ve done this before- broken a long narrative into multiple posts. People appreciate shorter blog posts, or so the blog gurus/content optimization experts say. I’m also really good at cliffhangers.

 

 

That didn’t count.

Moving on. I’ve chronicled my “career” as an extra in a few other posts spanning several years. Want to catch up? First, I explain the process of becoming an extra. Then, my first gig on 100 Questions. (The first of those questions being, “is that an actual show?”) After that, I moved on to a chilly night on the set of Cold Case. From there, I had a sadly un-Fillion experience on Castle. I wasn’t exactly excited about doing these things anymore. Especially after having been passed as an “Avatar fangirl.”

 

courtney hoskins avatar freak
Come on! This took forever to wash off!

I was about to give up on it entirely. Until…

One day, I hit the extras jackpot. It wasn’t all luck, mind you. Like all big breaks in Hollywood, it took skill, determination, persistence, and a fair amount of lying.

A random call to the casting hotline surprised me when I heard they needed people for The Office. I didn’t hold my breath. Popular shows fill up fast. This was a four day shoot, to boot. That’s about as long-term as one can get as a TV extra. I actually skipped past the general call, fairly certain all the spots would be filled. I paused, however, when I got to a message asking for extras with a specialized skill set.

Having an unusual skill can get you a featured extra role or a coveted SAG voucher. Alas, I have no facial tattoos, cannot ride a unicycle and my car at the time was the useless color of black (they don’t use black cars for background because they distract the eye). I can, however, play pool.

“We need males and females who are pool experts. Please don’t submit for this role unless you can sink shots and do tricks.” I immediately submitted.

Before you send me a message challenging me to a game, you should know that technically I can do neither of those things. I CAN sink shots. Sometimes. And I can do really neat tricks where balls jump over other balls. Accidentally. This was my best chance at getting on the show, though, so I submitted anyway. I knew that they were not going to get a lot of female applicants. I also knew that they did not actually require pool experts. All I would really need to do was make my blurry shape look like it knew roughly what to do at a pool table.

baby-playing-pool
This, right?

 

Of course, this didn’t stop me from worrying about it. What if they DID need me to do trick shots? Do I actually hold a cue the right way? Do I lean over the table with the proper form? And then there was the guilt. What if I just took a job away from someone whose ONLY skill set was “pool expert” and here I am, a talentless hack, raking in the fame and money? Oh, right. This is Hollywood.

I was accepted on the spot.

The set was “on location” at Universal Citywalk. My Winter-in-Scranton sweater and the 90 degree “location” weren’t the best match. Luckily, all of our scenes were indoors and they had the air conditioning cranked up to “Arctic Front.”

Climate control wasn’t the only luxury. I meandered over to crafty. Unlike my previous experiences, crafty was not a folding table with a box of assorted chips and a Costco-sized tub of pretzels. The set of The Office was fully catered. I had my choice of drip coffee, tea, espresso or freshly-squeezed orange juice. For food, I could choose from fresh Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets, granola, yogurt, (gluten free, of course) toasts with jams or peanut butter, bagels with real cream cheese or a variety of fruits. The good ones. This wasn’t just soggy melon balls and grapes! This was mango, papaya, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and ALSO melon balls and grapes!

It didn’t take me long to realize that the “pool experts” were the royalty of extras. (Yes, that’s tough to envision when everyone is making minimum wage, but… work with me.) We got to laze around between pool shots because they couldn’t risk reusing us in the background. It might destroy the continuity. It also didn’t take me long to realize that almost all of us lied about being “pool experts.”

All of this made my job a little boring. After several hours of reading and not a single moment on the set, I got a little restless. I wandered over to the restroom. Thwarted by a locked door, I leaned against the wall, stretched my back and started wondering what I would read once I finished my book.

That was when Steve Carell said hello.