Acting : Does anyone have any interesting stories to tell about their acting experiences? by Christopher Trastoy

Does anyone have any interesting stories to tell about their acting experiences?

As actors, we are always looking for opportunities to find work. I started my little acting career in background work and I had no idea what I was in for. I was in the waiting room in the bottom of a church with other background actors on the set of the 3rd episode from the 1st season of Blue Bloods. I sat in these small chairs in the corner of the room that was labeled non-union background. Some of the "union" background people were looking back at us and laughing. I felt like a freshman in High School with no clue whatsoever in what I was doing. I thought that background people were just background. Yes, they are needed in a scene to fill up dead space and make everything seem livelier... but I never knew how serious people actually took it. It was my first time on a set in anything that involved acting and it was a belittling experience. I went on to do about 3 or 4 more back ground projects and have felt similar experiences. I told myself I would never do that again. So I sought out acting training. I took classes. I still do. If background is your thing, that is great. I rather have a speaking role. Any stories?

Shawn Speake

My man... This reminds me of a basketball player who doesn't wanna dribble - jus wants to shoot. As a working Feature Extra Actor for CirrusFilms, on LONGMIRE, GET SHORTY the tv series, PRISON BREAK; THE JOYCE MITCHELL STORY, music vids and more, I can tell you that if we can't handle the day job, actions, of being an extra, it's gonna be even harder to make it as an actor at a higher pay grade. Being a strong extra is how actors move up the ranks in New Mexico. Being strong means, always alert, ready. Watching, learning, the inner workings of the business. Invaluable training. You didn't really understand this at the time, that's all. Try being an extra again with this POV and see what happens. I bet you nail it!

Shawn Speake

I'd be more than happy to share more with you, bro. I'm talking on the phone with creatives for the next hour, or so. Hit me up. THE BIG BOSS FILMS HOTLINE is 505-933-1518. Look forward to it. Stage 32 is here to help you achieve those goals!

Jorge J Prieto

I did over a dozen of background (back then they called it extra) I was taking acting lessons, had already worked in plays and I gotta say I loved it. Like Shaun said , its invaluable training. Many union actors make a living on background acting, especially here in NYC as I'm sure is the same in L.A. or Chicago who has three Dick Wolf productions. I did New York Undercover and they treated me with great respect, including regular cast members. You go to love it. There are no small roles just small actors. Good luck.

Stephen Foster

I once hitch hiked to a call back. I booked the job!

Ralph Cashen

I got back into acting a few years ago with SAG background acting. Now I am 64 years old and I let a lotta years go by before I got back into it. I was nervous just doing the background part. I submitted for Peace, Love, and MisUnderstanding with Jane Fonda. It was shot in Woodstock, New York. For me the most meaningful moments were to be so close to the director and actors to hear the coaching from the director. Yes it was a crowd scene but I was in the right spot. I have learned from every background job I have been on that people are still people where ever you go. The thing is I want principal parts so I don't want to work a show background that eliminates me from even a 5 line role. Do you other actors feel that way too? It seemed to me in Los Angeles years ago where I lived they really looked down on background work for SAG actors but now here in New York I get a different vibe.

Chris Herden

I played Macduff in "Macbeth-The Contemporary Rock Opera" back in 2006. I had a very scary 'Scottish Play' incident during a sword fight in the final minutes of the final performance of the season. Macduff and Macbeth (Matt Newnham) have a blistering duel near the end of the show and on the closing night we really went for it. During the months of rehearsals Matt and I underwent an extensive training program with steel broad swords that easily weighed a couple of kilos each. We had our thrust and parry moves down tight and on the last night during a crossover move between the rapid-fire clashes of steel, my sword snagged on Matt's costume. As we continued the crossover I added a bit of extra force to retrieve it and the blade snapped back into my face resulting in a bruising gash in my eyebrow - I was fortunate not to lose an eye. At the end of the staged battle, Macbeth is trapped by the chorus of villagers and I finish him off from a riser above him, driving my sword down into his heart. But on this occasion blood was streaming down my face, trickling down the length of the blade onto the stage. I looked down at the bloodied weapon in my hand and for a moment I thought my experience of live theatre could never get better than this! BLACKOUT - the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane erupted in cheers and whistles, ignited I sense by the gory authenticity of our rock opera's climatic confrontation. We took our bows to a standing ovation, the whistles and jeers got even crazier as blood dripped down my face onto the stage, though a few patrons in the front row looked more like they were in shock. As soon as I got to the dressing room Alison St Ledger (Lady Macbeth) raced in frantic with worry. I was lucky she didn't do more damage to my face when I pretended to pass out! A doctor who happened to be in the front row that night (yes, there was a doctor in the house...) came backstage and sent me off to hospital. The next day I had four stitches and a hummer of a headache... curse of the Scottish play!

Christopher Trastoy

Ralph Cashen I totally agree with you. I have been studying, researching, and training in the craft. I, in no circumstance was trying to shed bad light on background work but it is just not something that I am looking to do. I think that you must know what you want in acting. I want to play supporting and lead roles and only by going for those roles will that help me work in those roles.

Jorge J Prieto

Well said. Follow your instincts, they never fail us, buddy. Tip: if not already, sign up for Backstage.

Christopher Trastoy

On backstage and actorsacess

Christopher Trastoy

But I appreciate the tip. I can def. use some because sometimes it seems that you can submit to multiple roles and all you have is a dry inbox!

Tomasz Mieczkowski

I often hear stories about background acting, and recently, more and more I hear that screenwriters are doing it. They bring their own stuff to work on while they wait, because it often times involves a lot of waiting for a very short scene. So, if there's any writers reading the post, maybe that might spark an idea for an extra income.

Ralph Cashen

I do background acting for SAG projects only as a SAG actor and I have thought more than once that the conversations we sometimes have would make an interesting story which has gotten me thinking to take classes at SAG for free to start the writing process. This is my next goal for 2018.

Iesha Washington

Well if you had worked background on a SAG project for at least 3 days you're eligible to join SAG and then you too can become a "Union background" actor.

JD Hartman

Iesha, can you point to a reputable source that can verify the 3 days (as background) and your eligible. I've always known it to be three waivers (earned for speaking roles on a SAG project) and you are eligible to join.

Iesha Washington

JD Hartman He worked as background on a SAG film he should've been able to get his three waivers no matter if he was a non-union or SAG background actor. 3 days represents 3 vouchers.

JD Hartman

As an extra in a unique circumstance. In case #2, they (2nd AD or similar) would tell you you are getting an upgrade and a waiver. Both easier said than done.

In some cases SAG also allows waivers for non-union actors to work under a SAG contract. A non-union actor can get a SAG waiver in two ways:

1) If you are cast in a speaking role in a SAG production. You can audition for these roles as a non-union actor, but it can be more difficult to get an audition appointment, especially if you don't have an agent. However, if you do get a speaking role with a SAG contract, you are automatically eligible to join the union.

2) The other way is by working as an extra and receiving a SAG voucher, either because they do not have a SAG actor with the right look/abilities, or because a SAG member did not show up, and you take their place. Once you have worked as a SAG extra 3 times, you are eligible to join the union.

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