Want to be an extra on a television show? Be prepared to wait. A lot. I got my first taste of the on-camera life when I was invited by ABC Family publicity to be a guest at Mel and Joe’s wedding in the final episodes of “Melissa & Joey” Season 3.
Clearly the first step after accepting a wedding invitation, even if it is to a fake one, is to buy a new dress. If it’s on TV, you spend a little more money than you probably would’ve in real life. (Sorry I was cheap for your weddings, real-life friends. And congrats, whomever’s wedding I attend next, because I’m going to be wearing a FABULOUS dress).
There are plenty of cons to attending a televised fake wedding. For starters, the call time is incredibly early. It’s hard to get enough beauty sleep when you have to wake up with the sun. There’s also no booze, which as we all know makes a wedding truly fun (but, pro: craft services has all the Diet Coke you’d ever want).
And then there’s the waiting.
You know what happens when you get to set? You wait. You wait until they’re ready for you in hair and makeup, you wait until it’s time to go to set, you wait while they rehearse the scene. Then, after they rehearse, you wait until it’s time to film. Then, once you’re filming, you wait while they switch setups so they can film from a different angle.
At this point I should confess that I had it a little better than your typical extra. Because I was on set with a publicist, I hung out eating snacks in a green room until rehearsal, then during rehearsal I fooled around on the phone that I probably wasn’t supposed to have and chatted with the other folks seated in my row, whom I decided were all there for Joe because I am originally from New Jersey and I felt solidarity with the Longo family. (This whole not paying attention thing would come back to haunt me later.)
After rehearsal, instead of hanging out on set and chatting with my fellow guests, three other reporters and I went to another room on set and interviewed the actors. Usually when talking to a celeb decked out in fancy dress and full hair and makeup, I’m on the other side of a red carpet, but at least this time we were all wearing the same amount of makeup (and we all looked awesome).
Once it was time to film, though, things happened very quickly.
Being a fake wedding guest doesn’t seem all that different from being a real one. You make small talk with your neighbors, you talk about what the bride will be wearing, you count the minutes until the open bar. But being in a TV scene is totally different in that you’re not actually making noise when you’re talking, you don’t know the people next to you and there is no bar. Only Diet Coke. So much Diet Coke.
Oh yeah, and the cameras. You know what you’re not supposed to do? Look directly into the camera. You know what your first instinct is when you haven’t actually absorbed the scene around you and suddenly people are spending a lot of money and time to do something in which you’re marginally involved and you’re not fully sure what’s happening? Look directly into the camera.
Oops. Luckily, a bit of last-minute advice from my row-mates — a recently laid-off woman making some bill money, a professional actor who’s been doing this for years and a theatre actress looking for some on-camera experience — helped immensely. Here it is: “They’ll only tell you if you’re doing something wrong, so if they don’t say anything, you’re doing it right.”
Nobody called out my name (or a variation — “you,” “girl in the floral dress,” “the one who’s looking at the camera”), so hopefully I didn’t make a complete mess of things. Or they cut me out. Both are equally likely.
Once we were rolling, we were moving quite fast. The cast took the spots that were occupied by stand-ins an hour before, the cameras turned on and the wedding processional began. I fake-gasped at Mel’s dress, I fake-gossiped about some goings-on, and I fake-reacted to something pretty huge that you’ll discover at the very end of the episode.
You’ll get to see what I’m talking about — and possibly me; look for that floral dress in the back row — when the “Melissa & Joey” wedding episode airs on Wednesday (June 4) at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family.