Since we’re all such close friends around here, I know that you guys are every bit as addicted to Nashville as I am. And since you’re addicted to Nashville, I’m sure you watched last night’s episode. And if you saw last night’s episode, then surely you spotted my big TV debut … right?
No? You’re drawing a blank. I’ll give you a moment to replay the episode in your mind.
Still nothing? Well, maybe this will refresh your memory:
And, in fact, SVV insisted we go back and watch all of the concert scenes again—I was there for the filming of all the on-stage performances by Hayden and Connie in last night’s episode—and we spotted me several times in the crowd.
Right before Christmas, I was an extra on the set of Nashville for 12 hours, during which they shot three musical numbers (two by Juliette and Deacon, one by Rayna) for the current tour, as well as some B-roll and a promo. New songs! Killer dancing! Free swag! Even some pyrotechnics!
And I reached my life celebrity goal (if such a thing existed): I met Connie Britton. And she was even sweeter and prettier and tinier in person than I could have imagined. (And yes, I wanted to run my fingers through her hair but resisted the urge for fear security might find that a little weird and kick me out of the joint.)
Back when Nashville first debuted in October, I joined the On Location Casting’s Nashville Extras Facebook page, which anyone can do. If you want to be an extra, you’re then prompted to fill out a (free) profile form in their database and can throw your name in the hat for any extra opportunities that arise. Every day they film (usually five days a week), the show needs extras, but it’s difficult for many people (myself included) to have an entire 12 hours open to sit around and wait to be called.
It doesn’t pay a lot either, between $8 and $12 an hour with a guaranteed 12-hour day. And some days are pure “volunteer experiences” in which you don’t make a penny. But I gather you’d be doing it for the experience and not the money in the first place.
My friend Deanna, songwriter and performer extraordinaire, really wanted to go, and so when they opened up a day for volunteer crowds for the concert scenes, we pounced. Anyone could come, you didn’t even need a talent profile. And so we did. Deanna is a nurse and had just come off a 12-hour overnight shift; by the time we were finished filming, she’d been up for 36 hours straight! That’s dedication right there.
The day was a loooooong one. But it was also ridiculously fun. Here’s how it went down:
12pm. Arrive on set. Check in. Realize we dressed all wrong as it’s 30 degrees outside and we’re in a huge, drafty warehouse with concrete floors and open doors.
1:45pm. Finally, we’re called! Deanna grabs my hand, more or less jumps in front of 300 people, resulting in us landing on the front row. We stand in the filming room another 30 minutes or so as the stand-ins do their thing, and finally Juliette comes out to film her “Consider Me” number (a song written by Pistol Annie, Ashley Monroe, who I couldn’t love more). Since it’s a slow number, there aren’t too many takes.
3:45pm. Suddenly, we are called again. More people have caught on that the faster you run, the closer to the stage you get. I figure lightning doesn’t strike twice. And yet sometimes it does. Deanna gets us on the front row again. This is when Connie comes out to do the song she sang last night. When she first emerges, she chats casually with all of us in the immediate vicinity. She is just darling. And then when she films, she walks up to me on every take and grabs my hands! I’m never washing those hands again (ewww).
4:30pm. Her scene doesn’t take all that long, and then it’s back to the pit for another loooooong wait. The extra handlers decide to bump up the music a notch and start a dance contest. After it was over, many of us joined in for one big, sweaty dance party (line dancing! The Wobble! Gangnam Style!). It was super fun, a bit of a cardio workout and a great way to pass the time but—
5:30pm. Early dinner in the form of pizza and more waiting. If you’re ever an extra, I advise you to bring the following: ample reading material, your phone charger and comfortable shoes. In a moment of weakness as I was walking out the door, I swapped my cowboy boots for some higher-heeled Vince Camutos, and my feet were not happy with me by the end of the night.
7:45pm. Finally, we are called back in for the remainder of the night. This time, it’s for the big dance number “I’m a Girl.” It was really fun to watch, though, as there was so much choreography and dramatics involved.
In between takes, Hayden and Charles would pal around with everyone. The two were clearly such close friends—and had such natural chemistry—I had to remind myself they’re not an item in real life (he’s pushing 50! though he doesn’t look a day over 38).
10pm. We had a bit of a break in the concert space while they changed out the set and then shot some B-roll with the actual pyrotechnics. This was supposed to be a short little promo, during which many of the extras left and the set emptied, but Deanna and I stuck it out. When it was all over, we waited while they did drawings for prizes. I didn’t win a new Kindle, but my name was drawn for an awesome Nashville prize pack (so the day was all worth it, ha).
2am. We finally arrive back home. Whew! What a long day. And Deanna being the budding starlet that she is already wants to do it all over again.
The funny thing about the whole scenario is that I actually had met Hayden when she was doing Heroes and I was the in-house reporter for Entertainment Weekly at the upfronts back in 2007. She didn’t blow me away…then. The next morning, I saw her again, this time in my office at Lucky (my day job then). Funny enough, the same night, I also met the Friday Night Lights cast, but seeing as the show was still in year one and many people weren’t watching it—I only started watching it the following summer before season two premiered—I (and many others) had no idea who any of them were. Totally missed opportunity on hobnobbing with Tami, Coach and Riggins. Sigh. On the other hand, Matt Saracen had come in our office the previous fall and had a meet-in-greet so I can add him to my list of celebrity acquaintances.
But this encounter endeared me to Hayden. It was a long shoot day, she had to play/sing/dance/perform the same songs over and over and over again, she was wearing an itty-bitty leather outfit and the most uncomfortable-looking heels, and she was just as sweet and hilarious as could be, talking to, interacting and joking around with the extras until we finally wrapped at midnight.
In essence, it was a great day, I got to cross “being an extra” off my Life List, and I love the show even more now than I did before going on set and seeing how great the whole cast and crew truly are. I will definitely do this again the next time my schedule allows. Who wants to come with?