This happened in 2008. One of my dreams is to write a memoir, so from time to time, I’ll be sharing stories with you.
My new, white sneakers are dirty, but my scrubs are freshly pressed and hemmed perfectly for my petite frame. I pass by a woman in a white lab coat and sit down at the front desk waiting for the scene to start. It’s a tense day on set as one of the actors gets ready to film his final scene. The camera rolls and we wait for the sound of a gunshot before racing for the door.
Welcome to daytime television.
I’m not a nurse, but I played one on TV…
As an actor, you are expected to know your type, not just if you are leading or character material but, also, the types of people you are most likely to play. Working as an extra gave me a quick course in type casting. In 2008, I was most likely to play a student or a nurse, and what started with E.R. eventually led me to The Bold and The Beautiful.
I’d never watched The Bold and the Beautiful, mine was a Days of Our Lives family, but the thought of being on any soap opera sounded extremely glamorous to me. The drama. The passion. The hair. Everything is bigger in a soap opera, and I’m a firm believer that bigger is better.
I loved the handful of times I got to work on B&B, and it was one of the easiest sets I’ve ever worked on. First, there was the mid-morning call time (so much better than having to be somewhere at 6 a.m.). Then, there was the fact that it films next door to The Grove, one of my favorite places to shop.
Pulling into the lot of CBS Television City, I could feel the familiar butterflies fluttering in my stomach. There was a long line of people winding out the door and eagerly awaiting their chance to go on The Price is Right. Slipping through the restless crowd, I found my way to the secluded B&B set. I was taken to the wardrobe department, where a Tim Gunn-esque man expertly tailored my scrubs.
Extras holding was a small but plush room with a couch and TV, perfect for watching the scenes currently filming. Unlike the sets I’d been on previously, B&B did not shoot endless takes of the same scene, which I found refreshing. Six plus hours spent on one scene is enough to drive anyone mad.
Finally on set, I happily examined the faux hospital. There was a hospital room, of course, and a receptionist’s desk and, most intriguing of all, an elevator with real working doors. Well, the doors worked most of the time.
Between takes, I chatted with the other extras and eagerly listened to their career advice. Buy this book. Join this network. Always read Backstage.
But, all’s not happy on set. A character was getting ready to kill himself in order to help save the life of another character. Emotions were high, and it was surprising to be so content while the stars were clearly upset.
The actor filming what he thought would be his last scene on the show found himself for the first time in his career unable to cry. Drops were brought. His female costars huddled around him, glaring if anyone looked their way.
Acting is a strange profession, but a background actor has the strangest position of all. At once part of the scene yet removed from it, extras inhabit characters while still observing the hustle around them.
I’ve never been a fan of type casting in life or in acting. Something insides me chafes at the thought of labels and being put into a box. I am many things, and I have many dreams. When I was nine, I wanted to be a nurse, and while I never pursued that course, nurses still hold a special place in my heart. Maybe that’s why I feel honored when I get the chance to don scrubs and spend a few hours pretending that this childhood dream came true.
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