Putting the Extra into Acting

by Meg Rowles about a year ago in career

Take One

Putting the Extra into Acting

It's so hot and I'm stood here in five layers of vintage clothing sweating absolute buckets. Along with the musty, moth ridden smell that lingers within my armpits, I peel away the sleeves that stick to my wet skin. Yes! I thought, this feels so good. This 1940s aqua coloured cardigan is finally being relieved from its clammy occupier. The feeling however was short lived; as soon as I go to pull at the neatly sworn buttons a flurry of makeup artists swarm me, correcting my sliding cardigan back onto my shoulders. "Let’s just fix your wig my Love" "How are your feet holding up?" "What colour lipstick do you want?" I stand there grinning, holding my clammy hands awkwardly, trying not to hold too much eye contact with the lady waving a peach coloured lip gloss at me. I did admire her eye colour for a short few moments, before realising again where I was and how I was trying hold my head towards the circulating air around me, doing my best not to pass out. Oh no! I glance once more at her light green eyes before a wave of black dots invaded mine. It was like a swoop of a cape surging over my sight. I know what some of you are thinking... Pass out... that will be hilarious... Thankfully I don't, and this colourful lump stays on her feet for three glorious more seconds... then you guessed it, I hit the deck... Blackout.

Again sorry to burst your bubble of illusion but that moment of drama was unfortunately not created by me, but by poor Mildred who was holding herself so tight against the railings in the hope she would see Helena Bonham Carter she faints falling back onto a pushchair loaded with Primark bags and now a screaming toddler covered in sausage roll.

Rolling. Stand by. Background action. Action. With the director completely obvious to the unravelling coronation street scene taking place only metres away from his tent, the hormonal mum who has now two more kids clinging to her already tight leggings has started hurdling rusks biscuits at the startled older lady who bolts upright swinging her handbag in the direction of the balding security guard who she insists it was him who knocked her over. It was carnage. But it was eventually defused with the production team offering her a complimentary cup of machine coffee, and a sit in the cast’s greenroom for her troubles. The smile on her face was a picture as she brushes to the floor several biscuit crumbs from her floral skirt.

As the makeup artists fluster over another sweltering actor, I still have a few moments before I go on set, so I’m going to talk about my aching feet, because if you were to wear heels for an entire 12 hours with your big toe almost bursting through the top of it, trust me you would want to moan about it. Tip one for being on set: If wearing heels take them off at EVERY opportunity. It seems that in the 50s women had perfectly, narrow feet and could walk effortlessly around in these beige triangular fronted heels for hours. Safe to say they were definitely not made for my 21st century wide roman toes.

Tip two: There’s a lot of waiting around but like you have just discovered your entertainment is sorted. And if you’re like me and love to talk, then making friends over your common interest of why you are sweating knobs dressed like a middle class Edna mode from the Incredibles on a beautiful summer’s day you’re sorted. You don’t want to arrive like me on my first acting job, with a suitcase bursting with costumes, a whole game of monopoly, uno, three days’ worth of microwavable food, plus a family sized bag of cheesy puffs and a pillow which had holes for your earphones. Needless to say you don’t need any of it. So take the advice and don’t look like a camel.

Being an extra is great fun, and as you are reading this you’re possibly thinking, but Meg, everything you mention sounds horrible. It’s not, trust me. It is just my sense of humour and how I like to dramatise every event. What can I say, once a drama queen, always a drama queen.

The day always begins with the most important C lettered word. COFFEE. Arriving at base at 5 AM in the morning, coffee is the first thing anyone is able to think about. The hot liquid touching your dry, sleep deprived lips as the sweet yet bitter taste lingers on your tongue. Okay, so I’ve thought about coffee a lot. Moving on; the first day is always a little apprehensive as you don’t know who you’re going to meet, but you always, always make friends, as they are usually as quirky and crazy as you. The first few moments as you sit on the supporting artists bus is the usual... Hi there, how are you? You look bright and happy ready to engage. This lasts for approximately until the fourth or fifth new and wide eyes human being steps onto the bus along with their bursting suitcase, monopoly board, travel sized Uno, three days’ worth of food and a bag of cheesy puffs spilling out from their backpacks zipper. You get the picture and I’m pretty patient. I sit their looking out the window facing the portable toilets after the sixth time someone has asked me how I am. After that you start to become introverted sitting on a table of four refusing to saying that my name is Meg, yes I have done it before, yes I really enjoy it, and no I am not related to Emma Stone.

I stand up to leave the crowding bus and the chatter of who should win love island and head towards the breakfast van. Grabbing my plastic cutlery and paper plate my eyes gleam over the fried eggs, the grilled sausages, and the perfectly round black pudding. I quickly weigh up in my head what quantity of food could I order without sounding greedy. Six hash browns may be out of the question then.... I stood behind a red headed girl whose plate is filled with scrambled egg and kale, it looked... lovely. "Two sausage, two bacon, two black pudding, a fried egg, three hash browns and a dollop of beans please," I piped up. The girl turned round as she placed seeded bread onto her plate. I smile already biting into a cumberland sausage. Errmmm delightful. Note that the food at any acting job is amazing and pretty much unlimited!!

One more thing before I finish this article, which hopefully some girls and boys will be able to relate to: TIGHTS!!!! They are the worst creation known to man; I fought to get these American tan tights on as they wrapped themselves in knots around my ankles. I look up to my dresser who tries to guide my foot into the right hole this time before I get too frustrated and ladder my crotch. Is it because of my dyspraxia or my dyslexia? Is this why I can't do simple tasks most people find so easy? I masked the embarrassment with humour, then went on to bury my feet into the wrong shoe. I take it all in my stride, because it's our differences that make us individuals.

Remember: Acting is amazingly magical. Change your look, your attitude, and you can become anyone.

Meg Rowles
Meg Rowles
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