Willie Burton

Journal

Whether You’re Leonardo DiCaprio Or Jesse Heiman, There’s A Path Towards Acting Royalty

The life of a celebrity is both revered and fetishized by the world. Some love the art, want the status, the money, or all the above. From scripted shows to vlogs on YouTube, reality tv has been the driving force in our obsession with fame. But traditional theater is still the dream many chase. I’ve never dreamt of becoming an actor but I do believe we’re all connecting the dots in our lives one experience at a time; so who knows. 

My passion and curiosity of the unknown tends to lead me to places I’ve would of never expected. So when the opportunity to be casted as an extra for a network television show appeared, I said why not see what that worlds about. Due to the agreed confidentiality and ever growing list of NDA’s I’ve signed this year, I won’t be name dropping for cool points (which I think is corny anyway, say less do more). This is more so centered around my experience through the process and learning the journey of a working actor.

Not everyone has the “I was discovered on the bus home” story. Many usually try and break through starting as an extra. After getting a 6:00 AM text from my friend who acts about a casting, sending in my info at 9:14 AM, I was booked for my first extra role by 1:53 PM. The booking wasn’t until a few days after so it gave me time to “prepare” and calm my nerves. All extra’s were required to supply their own wardrobe based off the crews guidelines. Arriving fully dressed in our desired option and two other alternatives. 

My call time was scheduled for 6:48 AM and I was notified in advance to expect to be on location for about 14 hours. Which really meant you’re going to be here for the ENTIRE day so I hope you don’t have plans.  Once I arrived on set I was greeted by security and surrounded by crew members hyper-focused on their task. I made my way to holdings for sign-in, paperwork, and a continental breakfast. The room was clearly filled with aspiring actors toting their luggage and people who just enjoy being an extra for the extra funds. I grabbed a blueberry muffin, cup of milk, and sat at the first open table I seen.

Minutes after I was approached by the wardrobe stylist. He started to judge my outfit and asked to see my other options. Which I forgot to mention I was so focused on not being late, I realized once I got there (10 minutes late) that I left my bag that I prepared the night before at home. Rookie mistake number one. I explained my noob-ness and it seemed to be whatever. But he wasn’t too impressed by my outfit and gave me a shirt to change into. Sadly my JW Anderson alternative wouldn’t make the cut. 

After changing, the next hour consisted of waiting patiently until it was time for my scene. People watching and unintentionally eavesdropping about how back in the day hustlers would use a straight razor to slice open old drunk men’s sagging pants on the train for a clean grab-&-go robbery. All I could think about was how comical those Looney Tones robberies must of looked. As well as how sweet, for lack of better words, when the person mentioned, “they never wanted to kill you in the process like these boys do now”. 

The story book ending lead to it finally being time to shoot my scene. The PA’s ushered my group of extra’s to the shooting area and stressed multiple times to silence our phones and photography is strictly prohibited. I already planned on secretly snapping a few photos for my personal viewing, just a matter of catching moments as opportunity arise. But during the first couple of hours I did oblige to their wish. 

I quickly realized how important extra’s are to the overall production. One would assume only the leads and characters with lines are the main focus. But the director held us to the same regards as everyone else. Showing nothing but respect, encouragement, and feedback as we went through the scenes until perfection. Despite not having lines, extra’s do have the ability to freestyle a few words depending on the scene. Natural emotions and reactions help create the moments viewers will react to. It was beautiful to see how dedicated everyone was no matter their role. The mentality that any face-time is great exposure for an actor held true. You never know who might be watching and where that 10 seconds will take you on your journey to stardom. 

My only dissatisfaction came from how long the day is. The pay is enticing but they sure make you work for every single dollar. It does get quite boring between scenes and rehearsals. You can’t leave or make a sound. No choice but to thug it out as the director reminds everyone to “settle down background” at the sound of a peep. The lunch wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad. “Meh” is the best way to explain it. If you’re hungry, which you will be, you’ll eat it. 

My day ended with exhaustion and inspiration. Ready to go home, eat a meal, shower, then sleep. As I prepared to go I was graced with “this check about to be fat” by another extra and Sicko Mode playing in the background. A proper end to my scene. 

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- Willie

Willie Burton