Cait on Culture: I Was An Extra On ‘Girls’

I was an extra on "Girls"By Caitlin Abber

Last week I was called in to be an extra on HBO’s “Girls”. I had applied for a casting call a few weeks prior, and figured since I live in Greenpoint (the neighborhood most of the show is filmed in), and look like their target demographic, as well as a complete composite of what the casting call was asking for, I was a shoe-in.

It was weird to be told, “You will be playing a hipster at a nightclub”, as if I could put on some costume and parody myself. Trying to decide what a parody of myself would wear out on a Saturday night was even stranger. I ended up putting four outfits together and sending photos to my girlfriends for second, third, fourth and maybe fifth opinions. This is not how I usually roll on a night out, but I guess on most night’s out I don’t end up on a popular cable television show.

I had to be at a nightclub in Manhattan at 7am (so much for my dream of stumbling out of bed to Café Grumpy), with my hair and makeup totally done. Dressed like a party animal on the 6:30am train made me feel a little silly, but I figured serious actresses do it all the time, right?

When I got to the holding pen — where all the extras hang out and wait to be called on to set — the place was packed with young people wearing ridiculous club gear, sucking down coffees and munching on fruit salad from craft services. Some of the other extras were friendly, while some seemed to be a little diva-ish. Though really, who can tell at 7am.

We had to get out outfits approved by the costume director, and she decided she wanted to change my shirt. First she gave me this really long drapey mesh number that exposed my bra (sorry Mom), and then decided to instead go with this bright blue, cut up number that made me feel roughly 15 years old. I hated it! All the other girls were in stilettos and sequins and looked really hot and put together. Meanwhile I looked like a raver from 1998.

I let some of the other extras know that I was unhappy with my outfit, and they reminded me that I was actually lucky to be wearing flats, as we would be dancing for about eight hours straight.

That is right, dancing for eight hours.

Around 8 am we were called to set — a club where two of the show’s main characters are partying hard for the first time. (Yep, you’re not getting more plot than that out of me.) All of the extras played partygoers, which involved pretending to be really hyped up. The director would play a minute of the music they were using in the scene, so we could get the rhythm down, and then he would yell “Action!” Then, the music would stop, so the principle actors could do their lines. Meanwhile, us extras would have to keep dancing, to relative silence, for however long the director needed us to. This went on for four long scenes, from about 8am to 5pm, with a half an hour break for lunch (which I have to say was really big and delicious, thank God).

It was like being forced to jazzercise for your life.

Everyone was so sweaty and gross and tired by the end that we all looked like puppets on strings, just sort of wagging our arms to the music. It was weird being in a nightclub during the day, totally sober, and wearing clothes that I hated. I felt nothing like myself, which was ironic, as I was supposed to be playing me.

By the end of the day, I was utterly exhausted, but I had that slight high you get after a good workout. I met my boyfriend for dinner in the city and told him everything as we had a big glass of wine. Then I went home, took a long shower, and was in bed by 9pm – which was actually sort of nice.

I’ve always wanted to be an extra (well, I’ve always wanted to be an actress…), so this was a cool experience for me, as I got to really see how a TV show is made. It was crazy to think about all the work that goes into creating just one small fraction of one episode — all the people, the gear, the direction and money. It was truly impressive.

So would I do it again? I don’t know. Maybe if I got to wear better clothes.

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Cait on Culture is a column running on Kate-book.com every Tuesday at 2pm. It is written by the pop culture obsessed Caitlin Abber, who you should follow onTwitter.

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2 thoughts on “Cait on Culture: I Was An Extra On ‘Girls’

  1. Catherine says:

    This is really cool! Being an extra is on my NYC Bucket List…I’ve had a few calls to do SVU, which I think would be too scary, but I think doing something like Girls would be a lot of fun.

  2. Kaitertot says:

    This is awesome!!!! I’d LOVE the chance to be an extra in television. Everyone has those delusions of grandeur, so it’s really interesting to see a more humbling account

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