Extra work pays off: Working as an extra on 'Chicago Fire'
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[February 13, 2013]
CHICAGO -- When you work on the
set of a $5 million-per-episode network drama, you expect the best.
NBCs "Chicago Fire" does not disappoint. With five-star food,
state-of-the-art equipment, television icons walking freely among
you, a new extra can quickly become star-struck.
As a central Illinois grandmother turned film and television
actress, I was no less like a kid on her first trip to Walt Disney
World -- I stood with my mouth gaping at the wonder of it all. But
then, the professional inside of me showed up, put on her big-girl
panties, and prepared for a full day of work ahead.
When you are
"chosen" to work as an extra on the set of "Chicago Fire," or any
other film set, there are certain expectations. Understatement:
No pictures. It doesn't matter if every passer-by on the
neighboring streets of the North Side has their smartphone
plastering Jesse Spencer's sweet mug all over Facebook; you will
never work this show again if you take pictures. Got it. Sigh.
No approaching the talent. That means Severide is off-limits,
ladies. You can watch him from a reasonable distance on set, but do
not initiate contact. Trust me, swarms of security will show you the
nearest exit to Neverworkinthistownagainville.
When given direction, take it. No clever ad-libs to show off
your incredible acting skills that clearly put you in the running
for a steamy scene with Dawson, boys. You can fake a heart attack on
set, but neither Monica Raymond nor Laura Sherman will be delivering
CPR. The most you will get is your lifeless body being hauled off
set by the guy who moves the craft cart. Grab a handful of
macadamias for me while you are there.
Prepare to wait. You will do a lot of standing around on-set
while other portions of the scene are being shot. You have one
specific job: Stand here. Move there. Look worried.
Look relieved. Point and nonverbally refer to the crisis that is
being filmed. Interact in character with the other minions who are
making $75 per day alongside you. You are a star.
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Don't ham for the cam. You are not a star. You are
a set piece. Like that tree, that truck parked on the street, that
fire hydrant -- all important, but otherwise should remain
unnoticed. Your job is to blend and set the stage, not call to Chief
Boden, "I got this, Wally!" and be a one-man rescue machine. This is
not call of duty. You are not a hero, unless Michael
Brandt says you are. You will get no extra lives at the end of this
That being said, enjoy yourself. Behave, but take in the
moment, albeit a 10-hour, repetitive one. This is cool. You
are among some television greats -- cast, production and crew. And
if you learn how to network, you just might get to work alongside
them. Wait -- you are working alongside them, even in
a minor role. This is cool.
Be in awe. You will learn the inside scoop on where the crew
gets all this equipment, makes a neighborhood brownstone look
ablaze, creates smoke that won't blacken your lungs, turns a 200-man
set into an authentic crisis that you once, as a viewer, believed to
Feast. When set breaks, you eat. In a common place. Where
everyone sits together and enjoys five-star food. Where a birthday
cake surprises Charlie Barnett. Where everyone sings and raises their
glasses. And everyone is welcome to a piece.
[By PATRICIA URBONAS CLARK]
IMDb page with acting reel: