A background actor’s life is not for me

Turn_TV_series_logoI’m going to be on national television this weekend. If you don’t blink, you might even see me.

You may have heard about Turn, the television series that filmed in Virginia and recently started airing on AMC, the same station that has brought us Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead.

They needed a bunch of extras (I’m sorry—“background actors”), and I was in the mode of trying new things, so I tried it.

I won’t be trying it again.

Many people seem to enjoy working as extras in movies and TV shows. My older sister is among them. That’s great, and everyone involved was very professional, but it just wasn’t for me.

The first of two days of shooting brought me to a farm in Charles City County, Va. right before Christmas. It looked lovely when I arrived at 4 p.m. Then the sun went away and took all warmth with it.

Heated tents, it turns out, are inefficient at retaining heat. The makeup and costume crews were nice as could be, but their warm personalities failed to generate literal warmth.

They glued a thick mustache onto me, which was fine until dinner. The experience of navigating food around fake facial hair has guaranteed I will never grow more than a five o’clock shadow. I don’t know how some of you gentlemen do it.

The dinner, by the way, was excellent. Almost worth waiting around in a frigid tent for hours on end, wondering when I’d be asked to actually do something.

That night, I was a soldier. They gave my group era-appropriate rifles and taught us how to carry them. They neglected to teach us how to march in formation. Maybe they expected our mustaches to synchronize us, but no, it didn’t quite work out that way.

The director stopped everything else, gave us a crash-course in marching, assured us it wasn’t rocket science, and eventually thanked us for our efforts and told us we did great. We were then sent to holding, where we waited.

I don’t think that footage is making the final cut.

The second day involved no marching or mustaches, at least not for me.

Instead, I got to lug around an 80-pound sack over my shoulder as I walked back and forth along a defined route. It was excellent exercise, though a bit lopsided.

There was other stuff that day—the basic walking down the street, mingling with other “background characters,” cheering on soldiers, etc.

However, I have no idea what plot was going on while I was doing all that. All I know is it was the third episode, which premieres this Sunday evening.

I’m afraid to watch.

But if you do, feel free point and laugh at the skinny guy carrying the big sack and think, “Yep, that’s the author of Earths in Space and RIP.”