Sheryl Whalen saw an ad for extras
for a movie being filmed in Pittsburgh and thought it would be fun.
She went to the casting call not expecting much. When she was selected,
she didn’t really know what to expect. Since her initial foray
into show business, Whalen has set up profiles with Nancy Mosser Casting
and the 31st Street Studio. She has appeared as an extra and had larger
non-speaking roles in commercials, television programs and films.
According to Whalen, “It’s all very organized, and you know
upfront which kinds of parts are available. Sometimes, they will issue
a casting call for unpaid extras. I’m not doing this for the money,
but my time does have value, so I only attend casting calls for paid
extras. Extras are typically paid minimum wage and time and a half after
eight hours. Some production companies pay a daily rate. Production
companies will compensate you if they use your car in a scene. If you
have a speaking part, you are usually paid at a higher rate. Depending
on how long you are there, you receive one or two meals (breakfast and
lunch) which are always excellent.”
There is typically an air of secrecy surrounding filming. The sets are
usually closed to the public. Extras are instructed to arrive at a location
by a set time. They are then bused to the studio or an outside location
where filming will take place. For some outdoor scenes, roads or city
blocks may be shut down to accommodate filming. Many fans come to these
shoots hoping to see a famous actor.
“For most roles, someone from casting tells you what to wear.
If the movie is set in a particular time period or the scene takes place
in a specific location that impacts how people will be dressed, you
might have to go to wardrobe or makeup. Unless you are in several scenes,
they get you in and out quickly. I use any down time to catch up with
extras I’ve met on other productions, or I bring a book to read.
We are typically isolated from the leading actors unless they appear
in the scene. On the set of Jack Reacher, I saw Tom Cruise
walking between takes with Katie Holmes and their daughter, Siri.”
Whalen appeared in the stadium scene of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
She was one of 100-150 extras during the helicopter scene in Jack
Reacher. She also appeared in a train scene for the movie, The
Last Three Days.
Being a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, Whalen was excited to be part of the
audience in a commercial starring Sidney Crosby. She has made appearances
in the Netflix series, Mindhunter, and the WGN America drama,
Outsiders, where she played a nurse.
“You never know what a director is going to do,” she says.
“On an episode of Mindhunter, we filmed at a small restaurant
in Baldwin. It was supposed to be a two-three minute scene. I was an
extra at one of the tables pretending to have a conversation with my
dinner companion. The director shot and reshot the scene doing over
150 takes. The other extras and I had memorized the lead actors’
lines by the time that scene was completed. Three months later, I received
a call back to redo that scene. Unfortunately, I had a schedule conflict
and couldn’t attend the reshoot.
"The most takes I’ve ever had to do for a scene of Outsiders