Tom Holland stars in Cherry, which is coming to Apple TV+ on March 12. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be on a movie set? I've worked as an extra, otherwise known as "background," on a number of films, including Cherry. I love being a movie extra — though it's far from glamorous, it does give you a fascinating inside peek into the filmmaking process. And yes, sometimes you do get to rub elbows with celebrities (but usually not) and sometimes you do see yourself on-screen (but usually not.) In addition to working as an extra in Cherry, I also helped to cast other extras in the film.
Top secret location
I work with an agency that casts background actors (movie extras), so when the email blast came out for a film starring Tom Holland, I responded right away with my application. The application includes photos, as well as measurements and sizes, in case they need to put you in a costume. I got the call telling me that I was cast, and given a time, date, and place to show up. I was told to "dress up for a night out."
I arrived at the designated spot (a downtown Cleveland parking structure) bright and early. A bus arrived to pick us up and whisk us to the secret location, which we were not allowed to know ahead of time. All of the extras were herded into a large room, where we sat to await further instructions. Because we're just extras, we're literally lowest on the totem pole, so there is a lot of "hurry up and wait." There were probably a hundred or two of us in the holding room. At that point, I still had no idea what or where we'd actually be filming. Absolutely no cell phones or cameras are allowed — if you are caught taking pictures you'll be immediately dismissed from the set.
Finally on set
After a few hours, someone on the crew walked us to the set: one of the main theaters in Playhouse Square, Cleveland's version of Broadway. Most of us were to be theater patrons, with some extras acting as theater ushers. As it turns out, one of the women lied about her measurements on her application, and so her usher's costume didn't fit. I was the right size, so I was "upgraded" to her usher role.
Here's what we did as extras: the ushers ushered the guests to their seats. Several "real" actors were standing near the stage, talking. Tom Holland was up on the mezzanine, in the front row, yelling angrily down to the actors near the stage. As background actors, we were told to look at the actors when the yelling got loud. That was it! This was a day's work, repeating this scene many times. Glamorous, right? So, yes, I did get to see Tom Holland, though he was across a crowded theater and a floor up. It's highly unlikely I'll be visible on screen in this film since I'm quite far from the action in a large theatre. If I am able to see myself, it will be just as a red vest and a head of silver hair.
Approaching young men in gyms
In addition to being an extra, I've worked as a temporary casting agent on the film as well. The directors needed a large number of fit young men to play extras in the military scenes of the film, which was more than the casting agency could find in their database. So, two other women and I drove all over town, going to gyms and other places, asking fit young men if they wanted to be in the next Tom Holland movie! We also had to ask them if they were willing to shave their heads for the film. It felt pretty odd doing so, and many of the men looked at us like we were nuts. But, a handful of these men were willing to give it a shot, and I expect I will see some of them in Cherry.
I have worked as an extra on five films and one commercial so far, and hope to continue doing so as the film industry ramps back up. People ask me these same questions quite a lot, but feel free to ask me anything in the comments below.
Q: Do you get paid to be an extra?
A: Yes, it's usually not much more than minimum wage, but it varies from film to film. Actually, the commercial (an Intel commercial starring LeBron James) paid more than any of the films. In addition, extras are usually fed one or two meals, plus snacks, depending on how long the day of shooting is.
Q: Have you met any celebrities?
A: I really haven't met any celebrities this way, no. I did get close enough to Matthew McConaughey (in White Boy Rick) and Algee Smith (in Judas and the Black Messiah) to touch them, but they were in character and focused on their work even between shots. As extras, we are consistently coached to never bother the real actors.
Q: Have you ever seen yourself on film?
A: Yes. I saw myself very clearly in 2007's Spider-Man 3. It was a crowded street scene, and it was only a second or two, but it was me. I saw the back of my head in Escape Plan 3: The Extractors. I can barely pick myself out of the blur in the commercial I did — you'd have to take my word for it that it's me. I haven't seen Cherry yet, but I doubt I'll see much of myself if anything. I was totally cut out of the other two films I did, which was a bummer because they were small, close-up scenes and I was wearing interesting period costumes.
Want to watch Cherry? It's in theaters now, but if you want to watch it at home, you need an Apple TV+ subscription, unless you're an Apple One customer. Both are well worth the money depending on the number of Apple services you enjoy. You'll also need to make sure you have a device that can have Apple TV+ on it, such as the Apple TV itself.
Want to know if Cherry is worth watching? Watch To Watch has you covered with its review.
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