After 14 hours on the set of Grimm yesterday, I have learned very little about Portland's new fairy tale police procedural—although quite a bit indeed about "Wizard's Staff," pro skateboarding, and the proper rearing of teacup pigs.
But! If you ever wanted to know what it takes to be an extra, this is how it went down.
Grimm, which many of you may also know as That Thing Downtown That Made You Late to Work This Week, is an upcoming NBC supernatural drama set and filmed in PDX. On this particular day, we are working on the fourth episode of the first season. It is called "BeeWare," and it is ostensibly about evil bees. You know, like that one X-Files episode.
I arrive on set at 7 am, having been instructed to bring a few different business-type outfits. There are 15 other extras already there, and we are immediately ushered away from the craft services tables (and the delicious bagels and coffee undoubtedly waiting there) and off to wardrobe. I learn that I have been labeled "upscale/professional" rather than "ND" (which I suspect is a kinder term for nondescript), and I am oddly proud to have been qualified by some casting agent somewhere as notably fancier than the other applicants.
I am quickly waved on by wardrobe and make-up, and hair takes a moment to kindly fix my horrible bun. Nearby, I overhear a huddle of crew members cheerfully trashing on Leverage. I'll later learn that many of them have worked on the series, which wrapped filming in town last week, and that all of them think it totally sucks.
We are first ushered over to Director's Park in front of Ringside Fish House, where we get busy looking super casual while one of the actors exits a fake hybrid cab. Later, I am pulled from the group and told to wait inside in case the director decides they need someone to walk all fancy-like past an elevator.
After a scene in which some guy from Prison Break follows a bewigged blonde into said elevator, there's a location change, and we are sent back to Extras Holding, which is a room in the Portland Art Museum equipped with 30-some chairs and a table of water, almost undrinkable coffee and a couple Costco buckets of animal crackers and pretzels. We sit, the make-up people change their minds and decide I need an All Blush makeover, and then we are ushered back outside, where it is supposed to be stupid cold, and a grotesquely swollen young woman lays dead on a yoga mat in the middle of the Park Blocks.
It must be an unusually light workday for the real cops in the area, as a gaggle of fully uniformed police extras with working (!) mace wander around the park looking all puff-chested and aggro for most of the afternoon. (I am jealous of their cool outfits, if only because I have been wearing new heels for over six hours and can barely stand.) While filming the scene, I am made to walk and gawk at the commotion from four different angles, which means that when it's edited together, there could be a wall of Fancy Professional Me lurking in the background of every shot. Which would be awesome.
The non-fake spectators are probably the most amusing part of the day. At one point, a group of Japanese schoolgirls swarm a flustered crew member (whom I suppose they mistake as one of the actors):
After a few hours, the scene wraps, most of the extras are sent home, and those of us that remain are served a late lunch at the church across the street. We are then sent back to Holding, where we proceed to sit. And sit. And eventually bond. We discuss our favorite drinking games (Wizard's Staff apparently entails taping your emptied beer cans together until they exceed your height, thereby making you a Wizard), the fakery of modern media (did you know the Monster energy drinks that pro-skateboarders drink on camera are often just canned water?!), and our life's dreams (see: teacup pig farm). We flop around, compare zombie fighting strategies, and never speak to anyone but a few PAs for almost seven more hours, and then we are sent home.
So there you have it. My fellow extras were pretty cool and made good company for the huge amounts of downtime, and it's certainly easy money if you have literally nothing better to do with your day, but it's 14 hours of your life that you're never getting back. And to be honest, while I don't mind doing the occasional background work, most of my film experience has been behind the cameras as a production assistant. So although I really didn't dig up much dirt on Grimm, even if I had, I wouldn’t go blogging about it—partly because that’s just rude, and mostly because, well... I'm still hoping they'll call me back about that PA job.
"Mercury intern" doesn't pay the bills, you know!