Moviemaking is hard work. I should know, I've been in them since I was a kid. Well okay, I've been in one. For half-a-second. When I was in the third grade.
In 1995, the location scout for Jumanji chose to shoot the movie in my bucolic hometown in New Hampshire, and before they started filming they cast a whole bunch of us country folk as extras. I had the meaty role of "'60s-era paper boy," and if you squint real hard in the opening sequence you can almost see the top of my head. Almost. It was awesome.
Ever since then, I've wondered about the actors who build entire careers out of blending into the background of TV shows and movies. So to find out what it takes, I caught up with Jesse Heiman, who's worked as an extra in dozens of hugely successful films and TV shows, from Spider-Man and Old School to Parks & Recreation and The Big Bang Theory. He's even earned the unofficial distinction as The World's Greatest Extra, and seeing as that's the title of a forthcoming documentary about his life, it would be hard to argue that he isn't. He also got to make out with Bar Rafaeli in a 2004 Superbowl commercial for GoDaddy. He was the nerd. This man is doing something right.
To corroborate Jesse's sage advice, I also got in touch with Lee Genick of Sylvia Fay/Lee Genick & Associates Casting, which has cast background actors for hundreds of big budget film and TV projects, to get the scoop on how to break into the background. Truthfully, it's a lot easier than you might think.