Since the mid-eighties, North Carolina has been the location for many a film and TV show, particularity the Wilmington (hello, Wilmywood!) + Asheville areas. Movies like “I Know What You Did Last Summer“, “Empire Records” and the TV show “Dawson’s Creek” were all shot in Wilmington while many scenes from “The Hunger Games” and “Forrest Gump” were filmed in the beautiful mountains of Asheville. Even that iconic lift in “Dirty Dancing” was shot in Lake Lure!
Which means there are A LOT of opportunities to do work as a background “extra”.
My first experience as an extra was back in 2002. I had just graduated high school and it was the end of summer. My friend, Leann called me about a casting crew that was set up at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh. They were in need of “punk” extras for an upcoming episode of “Dawson’s Creek” that was taking place at a “pretend” No Doubt concert. Not really knowing what to expect, I got dressed, grabbed a couple recent head shots and met her at the mall. We waited in a long line of hopeful teenagers + their parents for about 20 minutes before we were able to leave our photos + contact info. We got calls the next day letting us know the filming time + location, which was later on that very same day at the former RBC Center, now known as the PNC Arena in Raleigh. We were told to come camera ready and to bring as many clothing options as we wanted. Being a somewhat-angsty, goth-rock eighteen-year-old girl who needed to look like she was going to a rock show, I had PLENTY to choose from.
In the clip below (it’s cued up for your viewing pleasure), as Michelle Williams + Jensen Ackles (yes, I was in BOTH of their presence) walk towards the concession stand, you can see me in all my nerdy, somewhat-angsty glory as I walk away from the counter of said concession with 2 other girls. I’m in a red, plaid skirt and fishnets, of course. Also, around the 7:00 mark, as Michelle is using me as her “focal point” (director’s orders, yo!), I walk behind her with my lady friends. See how I totally just happened to look towards the camera? That wasn’t a coincidence. For I am an Absolute. Nerd.
We were on set for nearly 12 hours that day. I arrived at noon and didn’t leave until 11:30 that night. Once I checked in + filled out the appropriate paperwork, I headed upstairs to a huge lobby where about 100 other people were scattered amongst racks of clothes and bags of shoes. After I found Leann, we waited around for about 45 minutes before we were instructed to follow a chick with a walkie-talkie + badge who was obviously important. We were led downstairs to a roped off area where there were dozens of cameras, crew-workers and even more extras. We were placed at a concession stand and told to make small talk while buying popcorn. After about 15 to 20 seconds, we were to exit to our left. Easy, right? It’s something we naturally do whenever we go to a concert or movie. Imagine doing it 11 times in a row in silence while the main actors are ACTUALLY acting behind you. It starts to not feel “natural” at all and is kind of weird. I had to make a constant effort to not laugh each time we walked away from the concession stand.
Once that shot was complete, we were moved to a column and told to wait until the actors passed us before walking behind them. After two takes, the director instructed Michelle to look towards “plaid-skirt blonde” as she walked (we are now best friends). Each time I walked into the frame, I was determined to look towards the camera, to gaurentee an “AHA! There I am!” moment. Like I said: Absolute. Nerd.
Fast forward thirteen years later to this past weekend where I once again, got to be a “punk” extra. This time, it was in downtown Wilmington where I filmed scenes for “London Calling“, the upcoming biopic about The Clash‘s Joe Strummer starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (hubba hubba).
My mom actually found the posting on an NC film website and left me a voicemail about it. I looked up the official info and emailed my photo to the casting agent. I didn’t hear back until a few days later but was eventually told to be camera ready at 7pm to film in the streets of downtown Wilmington on Sunday Sept. 20; holding would be at The Hilton Riverside. Well, ALL RIGHT. 🙂 (Thanks Mom!)
After a lovely two hour drive with music blaring + the windows down, I was in Wilmington. Once I got to the hotel, I went upstairs to the DeRosset Room, located on the third floor, where I waited with about 50 other people. We all checked in, signed release forms and got into whatever we planned to wear for filming.
Around 8:00, an assistant came up and took everyone across the street to an alleyway behind a parking deck. He put us in random groups and gave different directions. I was to walk across the street and up the stairs as this beautiful London Black Cab or “hackney carriage” drove down the narrow street, carrying Mr. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (hubba hubba again).
I also had to run up and down the street a number of times, which was closed off by police cars on either end, their lights flashing. A nice size crowd ended up gathering to watch us “punks” gallivant in the streets. It was pretty wild.
I was in Wilmington all of 3.5 hours before I needed to drive back home but it was pretty much nonstop the entire time. “Should I Stay Or Should I Go“, “London Calling” and “I Fought the Law” were on repeat in the background and are STILL stuck in my head. The whole trip was kind of a blur + went super fast but I met some cool + interesting people, ran around in the streets as cops watched and “filmed a movie“. I think that’s pretty rad for a Sunday night…