Yesterday I worked on Grimm as an Extra. Probably – contrary to trite expressions – there are small roles, but it’s a nice sentiment.
Anyway, I’m not working and this gets me out of the house every now and again. This was the second time I have been on this show and somehow I seem tethered to the Captain. I don’t watch the show, so I don’t know the character’s name, but I do know the actor’s name is Sasha.
Now that I think about it, maybe my move back to Portland is tethered to this guy.
Before I even moved back, I was coming to town frequently for work…ah, the good old days. When in town, I would work out at my old gym. It’s a space that I just love, so it was a big deal for me to be able to work out there and enjoy the environment since my local gym in Seattle had been a – let’s see, I want to get this phrasing just right – um, an absolute shit hole. Naturally, the Fox had to check in on my triumphant return to my hometown gym and texted me toward the end of my first work out while I was doing cardio.
He asked how it was. Naturally, I responded with how beautiful the men had gotten in my absence and then immediately reverted to form by taking a pic of a guy doing mountain climbers on a treadmill and texting “WTH?” along with it to the Fox. My point being that he was pretty but doing some made up, jackass exercise.
How precious of him.
“Oh, that’s Sasha! He’s probably working out with a black guy and they’re speaking French, right?” I paraphrase for all of my friends, but still “quote” them.
I had no idea what he was talking about and told him as much, which is when he explained to me that Sasha was an actor on Grimm.
Leave it to me.
Anyway…when I eat solid food, I run into him shopping at Whole Foods.
I run into him on the streets of the Pearl.
Then each time I have worked on Grimm, I’ve been in his scenes.
I see him about once each month, so let’s call him my PDX Mascot. Hehe.
Anyway, this Extra acting is something I used to do when I lived in LA in the 90s and then in the aughts when I bought a house here in Portland and needed extra income. Actually, back then I was modeling along with my ex and every now and then we would do some sort of Extra work as a favor for our agent who was dating the guy that started Extras Only – which does the local Extra casting for Grimm.
Total sidebar, but I remember one of the Extra gigs we did for her/her boyfriend was a vanity movie that George Pamplin’s son did for his father as a birthday present. George Pamplin being the owner of the Portland Tribune – or whatever it’s called. It turns out that the scene we were in was shooting at an abandoned convent at the end of the street we bought our house on and Manlove (our agent’s last name, believe it or not) used that proximity to hook us in.
Sadly, it was a military scene from old Georgie boy’s service days. The hair guy kept inching closer and closer to my scalp trying to get a look that fit with the era and didn’t go total buzz cut, per Manlove’s orders. Sadly, when I went to see her the next week, she hugs me to thank me for helping out, looks up at me during the embrace, pushes me away and exclaims, “Go away and don’t come back until you have hair!”
Modeling. Oh, the glamour.
When I had originally begun doing Extra work in LA, I was a poor junior retail manager. I think I made $12/hour at work and when I booked a job as an Extra I made $150-$1000.
Yesterday I think I made $100. Meh, whatever. Now it’s not the difference between eating or paying my electric bill like it was then.
But when I thought of working in retail and/or working in Hollywood as and Extra, this is what my secret goal was:
I have no idea who this woman is, but she’s arguably the most famous Extra in Star Trek history. Wait…now that I’m looking closer, this might be Michelle Forbes. But she definitely looks like the Extra that I’m thinking of so just go with it – you’d be surprised to learn that IMDb doesn’t really list recurring Extras in the show’s cast list so this picture was a bitch to find. Oh well, the Vaguely Lesbian Extra was in several episodes each season and survived on the Bridge as an Extra without getting killed, so that’s quite an accomplishment. If this is Michelle Forbes, well, she had a speaking part and her character ended up in a Star Trek Penal Colony, so Vaguely Lesbian Extra made out way better.
In reality, I never got close to booking a recurring Extra role like our vaguely lesbian friend, my schedule at the day job just didn’t allow for it. I was very sensible back then, not the frivolous middle-aged grump you see now.
However, I did get to work on Thirtysomething several times. That was fun. I was an Extra several times over two seasons. Definitely less than a half dozen times. But one time I did get bumped into a speaking role…as a waiter.
Good, old LA variety Irony.
During the lunch break that day I also got to sit adjacent to Tom Poston and Bob Newhart, that was pretty friggin’ exciting since I had grown up appreciating Bob Newhart’s shows way more than the way higher rated Magnum PI.
Someone revive my Tom Selleck crazed mom.
No, I don’t know where you went wrong, Mom-Donna.
Anyway, that bump to Speaking Waiter made me legend amongst the Extras for the day. The Know It All Extras started telling me how many speaking parts I needed before I could get my SAG card – not that I had known that I wanted it prior to learning what it took to be eligible.
I never got it.
But I did make $1000 for my scene as a waiter and get to ask Rosalind Cash and Mel Harris what they wanted to eat.
Then I got completely cut out from the shoulders up. Not even a disembodied voice.
A couple of friends still called to tell me that they recognized my unique gangliness.
Then, just a few short years later, my agent in Portland is calling Sir Gangly a fattie.
So, back to Grimm and present day.
The first time I worked on a scene it was a pretty small affair. Two Principles and four Extras. I was completely surprised at how much technology had changed the way that scenes are created.
I was a Sound Tech on a film crew that was interviewing the Captain for a political endorsement and was positioned standing between a tree, leaning on a ladder feeling completely…extra.
Everything had been going along pretty much as I remembered it. They did several takes of the scene with a traditional camera set up as well as a dolly shot, which is what I expected. Then when I was thinking we were halfway complete and going to flip everything for reaction shots, they brought in different cameras and did several more takes with a handicam.
Crud. The agony. When will they finish? Hehehe.
I’d forgotten about those. I’d actually heard of them being used in Star Trek: TNG for the first time but didn’t really think of how they impacted filming a scene. I just assumed that they replaced the other types of camera work. Apparently, they used them all in conjunction with one another.
Y’know, so they have it.
Just in case.
Fine, so we do the handicam shots…and then we flip.
I was bored.
Which was kind of a bonus, since that’s what the director said I should look like. I’m not an actor, so this was quite the boost to my overall feeling of competence. Not that I wasn’t obscured by a tree or a ladder, depending on what angle they ended up using.
For yesterday, I was part of a big scene at the Police Station.
There were about 60 extras for this scene where the Captain gives a press conference from the station. I was a…Sound Guy for KGW.
Fuck. I’ve been typecast.
Anyway, originally, I was positioned behind a camera on a tripod and a column in the Police Station. Then they moved me when we flipped so that I was standing at the complete edge of the crowd obscured by everything else in the scene.
But at least my Extra had a name this time.
So there’s that.
The other lead actor was also there, lurking in the press conference crowd…is his name, nah, I’ll never get it. He plays the actual Grimm, if I understand correctly. Move over Sasha, this guy is more my type. Hehehe. Short, dark-haired, cute. Yum.
See, mom? I can like normal looking guys that have jobs. I just can’t date them, apparently.
There’s a big difference between shooting a scene with a few cast and crew versus shooting a scene with almost 100 people in it. At least from my perspective. First of all, it takes a long time to process all of the Extras in to the set. I was dressed in my own clothes, but there was probably 20-30 Recurring Extras dressed as Portland Police Officers and I’m there pretty much waiting for that to get completed before they really even start getting Hair and Makeup to touch up us Lesser Extras.
From Wardrobe, we are herded to the Extras holding area. A tent that is probably designed to hold 30 people comfortably. Fortunately, it’s both cold and rainy. Meaning, the extra bodies of too many Extras huddled together created a little extra warmth. We also all got to hold our bags because the ground was standing water.
Oh, yeah…when you’re cast as an Extra wearing your own clothes, you are instructed to come dressed camera-ready but to bring 2-3 additional “looks” in case they need to change your outfit at all. So many of us had bags.
Mine was a back pack, because: Sound Guy. How do you fuck that up? But we did go through all three of the jackets that I brought with me, just because the other Sound Guy – I’m guessing from some other local news program – had also worn green, so what I wore was out. So was my brown hoodie, which was a bummer because the Wardrobe Lady really liked it, until she saw that it had a print logo on it. So, we ended up with the blue track jacket that Jesse is pictured wearing above. Luckily, I didn’t need to break out my bonus 4th look, which was side-eye.
A special note to Manlove regarding Jesse’s picture above…NOW I’m fat.
So, there we all are, huddled together and shivering in the moist.
Some of the Extras are making meals out of the assortment on the snack table that takes up the room of six people.
Others are keeping warm by leaning together and talking too loudly about their personal lives.
Realistically, they had to speak too loudly in order to be heard over the Know It All Extras that were holding court in front of the space heater in the corner.
There was one Police Officer Extra in the opposite corner that had managed to fall asleep in his chair with his red bag on his lap. His bag looked like a red nylon pet carrier and I wondered briefly if he had brought his pet with him, since he was a Police Officer and theoretically didn’t need any wardrobe changes.
We were slowly thinned out as people began getting placed on set; cops first, then reporters and then crew – ie: me. I was pretty surprised in today’s world to see these Extras just leaving their bags sitting in the tent. On chairs, of course. I was one of the last remaining people in the tent and didn’t see any Production Assistants stationed to watch over the belongings. I only had a few jackets in my bag, so didn’t really worry about losing anything per se.
Seriously, though…Chrisism for you: Honor Systems are for suckers.
I did muse about my salad days in LA and how I worked as an Extra because I was poor and needed the money, wondering how many of these people were in that position today. Worried that it could be really unfortunate for someone to find their belongings stolen in that situation.
Once I was placed by my camera and column, we did a couple of takes – maybe six? – then lunch was called.
We were on set for less than 30 minutes.
More thoughts about being alone in the holding tent as everyone else worked their way through Craft Services for lunch, which I was skipping. I had picked up some jerky on the walk up to the set.
Yes, Grimm films on a studio lot that I can actually walk to in less than 30 minutes.
Shortly after everyone filed out of the tent, another guy walked back in. I’m guessing he was a Perp Extra given his dress, but I also briefly wondered if he might actually be disappointed to find me there and whether he might have come to riffle through luggage. He was also cute as all get out, so there was that. Who wants to get potentially ripped off by an ugly crook?
Nevertheless, as other Extras started filing back in from lunch, he was legitimized by another Extra that he knew – which was nice, since I was in grumpy old man mode and not really in the mood to invest in talking to anyone else. I’m sure I would pick one of the Cliff Claven type Know It All Extras. Who needs that?
Shortly after the tent refilled with belly-full Extras, we were taken back onto the set. I was pushed to the back of the crowd, someone dicked around with the prop camera standing next to me for five minutes, we did four takes and wrapped our scene.
I was done for the day.
The post-lunch work was about 20 minutes.
So, for being on set for five hours, I worked less than an hour. Ok. I still get paid for the whole day, so who cares? Bonus for me was that I just had to get signed out. I didn’t have to go through the reverse wardrobe process before I could leave, so I was back home by 3:30.
You can look for Jesse in an episode that airs in April, but you better have really good eyes and a sharp pause-finger! Hehehe.
It was still an interesting way for this Early Onset Grumpiness guy to spend a rainy January afternoon. And it gave me plenty of time to think back on the odd-type jobs I’ve done throughout my work life in addition to my retail career. From what I gather, that’s what old people are supposed to do: sit around and reminisce about the good, old days to anyone who will listen. Hopefully, people reading this get a little amusement out of my experience as well, since you’ve invested in reading this far.
Matter of fact, you might as well click “like” since you’re this close to the end of the blog, too! <—Shameless.
Given the choice, I’d probably take the bump to Speaking Extra with the fatter paycheck over the Extra-On-The-Edge-Of-Obscurity any day and the Extra-In-The-Small-Scene over The-Extra-In-The-Big-Scene for the quicker ramp up to actually getting on and off set.
A choice that maybe I’ll randomly still pursue when I win a Brazilian dollars in tomorrow’s Powerball drawing.
Want to hear the joke that I ripped off the use of “Brazilian” as a number from?
Ok…but you asked for it.
President Bush was getting his daily briefing during the Totally Justified Iraq War and was told that the previous evening, three Brazilian troops had been killed.
Visibly shaken, Bush sinks into a chair and takes a moment.
Confused, his staff exchange worried glances.
Soon, he looks up and asks with a heavy voice, “How many is a brazillion?”