Steve sent me an email a few days ago:
Just in case you have nothing better to do with your time, they're currently filming Grimm outside on 3rd ave in front of Voodoo.
Really! I'm downtown- will probably check it out. Thanks!
Like a coked-up labradoodle I galloped downstairs outside the New Market Theater (my day job shares an office building with the Mercury, which I find sort of weird) and began watching the filming of a show which, while I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of, I’m definitely somewhat rooting for.
A man in a black jacket with lots of pockets came up to me and tried to tell me about how I was going to cross the street in the next scene. “Oh,” I said, “I’m not an extra.” He apologized. “Could I be an extra?” I asked. He told me that it was too late to take on extras that day, but gave me the email address where I could ask about it. Soon after, I got an email informing me that I’d be playing a perp in a police lineup for episode nineteen, which will doubtlessly be the single greatest hour of television ever to be inflicted upon an airwave.
Adventures in extra-ing and how you (yes YOU!) can be a Grimm extra after the jump.
I got to the set just before two and checked in. At the time, I thought that I’d show up, it would take ten minutes to shoot a bunch of dudes in a lineup, and then they’d pay me $10,000 for putting my amazingly handsome face on television. I was somewhat mistaken in my notions. After checking in there was a whole lot of nothing, followed by long stretches of nonactivity. It was going to be a while. One of my fellow perps, who’d been an extra for Grimm before, said that it was usually five or so hours before people were actually needed. There was lots of waiting. One of my fellow extras punctuated the time by telling us about all of the other shows and movies he'd extra-ed on. "So you do this a lot?" asked another guy. "Oh yeah," he said, "I do this for a living." I did not think that one could actually pay the bills by being an extra. I've always assumed it's a supplementary non-job, like being a freelance writer.
I asked if I could leave the small holding cell that was given over to storing the extras, and was told that I could go ahead and explore the set and watch filming if I wanted. I was not, though, allowed to take pictures. I walked around several of the sets, and was kind of surprised to see that in addition to the “real” storefront on SW 2nd and Couch, there’s also a very elaborate version of the herb and spice shop on the soundstage. The set for Nick's magical trailer of plot exposition was there (it's trailer-shaped) and I took the liberty of going on in and lounging about for a few moments. Were I a raging Grimm fanatic (I'm sure those exist in a dank basement somewhere) I would have probably hyperventilated with ecstasy while sitting in the chair where Nick studies up on beasties. Instead, I just got a feeling of vague niftiness, and resisted the juvenile urge to carve my initials into the desk.
Me and the other perps were eventually called over to the sizable police headquarters set, and various crew were moving around desks and chairs. One of my comrades tried to give the crew a hand, but was told to stay put, as furniture-moving was a union job. For some reason, a smoke machine was running, giving everything a hazy glow. The director found it annoying, and was wearing a gas mask. David Giuntoli (the guy who plays Nick) and Russell Hornsby (Hank) were cavorting around the fake police station. Given that both of them vastly outranked me, I didn't talk to, interact with, or even make eye contact with either of the lead actors. At one point they started loudly singing "I Feel Pretty," though, so my impression was that they were agreeable, jovial gentlemen. Sasha Roiz, who plays Captain Renard is approximately thirteen feet tall. Disappointingly, Silas Weir Mitchell, a.k.a. Monroe, was nowhere to be seen, but he's not usually in the police station bits.
They filmed several scenes with numerous cop-extras walking about doing cop-things. I commented about how the uniforms looked disconcertingly real, and was informed that was because they were real. The Portland Police donated several old uniforms to the show. Extras were shuffled about, the leads were told where to stand and what to do, and watching the whole thing recalled Hitchcock's notion that actors should be treated like cattle. The leads were fancy cattle, I was background cattle, but we were all being ordered about and herded nonetheless.
After a few hours, the lineup finally rolled around. Me and four other guys stood in front of a number board with David Zayas, best known as Batista on Dexter. Zayas, introduced himself to all of us, asked our names, and made smalltalk. He told me I had a nice beard. Zayas was wearing makeup and prosthetics that made him look like he'd just been beaten up pretty badly. He said that it felt weird to wear, and that he'd been in makeup for over two hours. It looked uncomfortable. The scene was shot several times, and, being in a lineup, I did my best to look vaguely bored and somewhat criminal-minded.
We eventually finished up just after nine thirty. I "worked" for maybe forty minutes. Sadly, I learned nothing about wizard staffs.
All in all, it was a good experience. Extra-ing seems to be, more than anything else, all about being patient and resisting urges. I resisted the urge to take pictures with my iPhone, after being told to put away my camera. I resisted the urge to ask cast and crew "Why on Earth did you decide to make Hitler a werewolf?" I also resisted the urge to ask David Zayas what it was like to play the bad guy in The Expendables, even though I would have loved to hear him wax poetic on the directorial style of Sylvester Stallone. I resisted all of that, and just did what I was told, stood the way I was supposed to, and allowed myself to be used as a human prop.
But anyhow, no matter how mediocre, bad, or otherwise poorly done other Grimm episodes are, episode nineteen will be fantastic. It will melt your mind. It will make you a better human being. It will cause you to achieve enlightenment. It will answer all of your questions. It will be brilliant. Why? Because I’m in it. Because I'm going to be standing right next to Batista from Dexter. Because I’m gonna be on the TV. I’m gonna be on your TV. I’m a star. I’m a star. I am a big, bright, shining star. That's right.
Do YOU want to be a background person on a show about detectives, monsters, and were-Hitler? Of course you do! Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can mill about on screen for money.