Extras Gig #4: The Office, Part 1

courtney hoskins avatar freak

Part 1? Yeah. I’ve done this before- broken a long narrative into multiple posts. People appreciate shorter blog posts, or so the blog gurus/content optimization experts say. I’m also really good at cliffhangers.

 

 

That didn’t count.

Moving on. I’ve chronicled my “career” as an extra in a few other posts spanning several years. Want to catch up? First, I explain the process of becoming an extra. Then, my first gig on 100 Questions. (The first of those questions being, “is that an actual show?”) After that, I moved on to a chilly night on the set of Cold Case. From there, I had a sadly un-Fillion experience on Castle. I wasn’t exactly excited about doing these things anymore. Especially after having been passed as an “Avatar fangirl.”

 

courtney hoskins avatar freak
Come on! This took forever to wash off!

I was about to give up on it entirely. Until…

One day, I hit the extras jackpot. It wasn’t all luck, mind you. Like all big breaks in Hollywood, it took skill, determination, persistence, and a fair amount of lying.

A random call to the casting hotline surprised me when I heard they needed people for The Office. I didn’t hold my breath. Popular shows fill up fast. This was a four day shoot, to boot. That’s about as long-term as one can get as a TV extra. I actually skipped past the general call, fairly certain all the spots would be filled. I paused, however, when I got to a message asking for extras with a specialized skill set.

Having an unusual skill can get you a featured extra role or a coveted SAG voucher. Alas, I have no facial tattoos, cannot ride a unicycle and my car at the time was the useless color of black (they don’t use black cars for background because they distract the eye). I can, however, play pool.

“We need males and females who are pool experts. Please don’t submit for this role unless you can sink shots and do tricks.” I immediately submitted.

Before you send me a message challenging me to a game, you should know that technically I can do neither of those things. I CAN sink shots. Sometimes. And I can do really neat tricks where balls jump over other balls. Accidentally. This was my best chance at getting on the show, though, so I submitted anyway. I knew that they were not going to get a lot of female applicants. I also knew that they did not actually require pool experts. All I would really need to do was make my blurry shape look like it knew roughly what to do at a pool table.

baby-playing-pool
This, right?

 

Of course, this didn’t stop me from worrying about it. What if they DID need me to do trick shots? Do I actually hold a cue the right way? Do I lean over the table with the proper form? And then there was the guilt. What if I just took a job away from someone whose ONLY skill set was “pool expert” and here I am, a talentless hack, raking in the fame and money? Oh, right. This is Hollywood.

I was accepted on the spot.

The set was “on location” at Universal Citywalk. My Winter-in-Scranton sweater and the 90 degree “location” weren’t the best match. Luckily, all of our scenes were indoors and they had the air conditioning cranked up to “Arctic Front.”

Climate control wasn’t the only luxury. I meandered over to crafty. Unlike my previous experiences, crafty was not a folding table with a box of assorted chips and a Costco-sized tub of pretzels. The set of The Office was fully catered. I had my choice of drip coffee, tea, espresso or freshly-squeezed orange juice. For food, I could choose from fresh Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets, granola, yogurt, (gluten free, of course) toasts with jams or peanut butter, bagels with real cream cheese or a variety of fruits. The good ones. This wasn’t just soggy melon balls and grapes! This was mango, papaya, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and ALSO melon balls and grapes!

It didn’t take me long to realize that the “pool experts” were the royalty of extras. (Yes, that’s tough to envision when everyone is making minimum wage, but… work with me.) We got to laze around between pool shots because they couldn’t risk reusing us in the background. It might destroy the continuity. It also didn’t take me long to realize that almost all of us lied about being “pool experts.”

All of this made my job a little boring. After several hours of reading and not a single moment on the set, I got a little restless. I wandered over to the restroom. Thwarted by a locked door, I leaned against the wall, stretched my back and started wondering what I would read once I finished my book.

That was when Steve Carell said hello.

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