If you read this blog, you know that New Orleans is the new mecca of movie and television filming. And, if you know me, you know that I am obsessed with the creepy, campy, and oftentimes bizarre television show American Horror Story (for fanatics like me, better known as “AHS”).
When I heard that AHS was filming its third season in New Orleans, I put out an APB for information on how to become a background extra for the show. My friend and hilarious pop culture blogger for the Houston Chronicle, Therese Odell, clued me on how to sign up. I did and the rest is television history!
Well, not quite, but I (along with 40 other people) did get selected to appear in the background of a scene for a Halloween episode of AHS. After about 12 hours on the set for a segment in the show that might last five minutes, I learned the following:
1. Bring your own clothes. Or, for this scene, Halloween costumes. I totally thought that someone would pick out the wardrobe for the extras. That’s not necessarily the case. We were asked to come already dressed in our own clothes or Halloween costumes and, for the ladies, with hair and makeup done. While there were some touch-ups here and there, for the most part, all the extras looked exactly as we did when we showed up to the set.
Except my hair. They teased my hair to high heaven. Not cute.
2. If you miss the bus for the extras, you may just run into someone famous. So I accidentally missed the bus taking the extras from Second Line Stages to the set at the bar Cure. A nice woman driving a van told me that I could catch a ride with her to the set. The next thing I see is Gabby Sidibe walking past the van. Then Jessica Lange hops in the front seat of the van. Then Sarah Paulson sits right in front of me. Then a giant black poodle arrives. Ms. Paulson kindly introduced herself. I tried to play it cool, like I always sit on vans with Oscar and Emmy-winning actresses. But then the driver broke the spell, letting me know that another bus for the extras was en route and essentially kicked me off the van. How dreadful.
3. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Twelve hours for a three to five minute scene. Enough said.
4. Bananas and Apples, Apples and Bananas. Without giving too much away about the scene, the background extras were told to act like we knew each other, were having a good time, and were talking with each other … but we had to pantomime talking without making any sound whatsoever. One tip I learned from the seasoned background extras: to look like you’re actually speaking, without making sound, silently say the names of two fruits — “bananas and apples, apples and bananas” — or whatever fruit you like. Weird, but it works.
All in all, my day as an extra was exhausting but fun (I got to meet Jessica Lange!).
Be on the lookout for me (and my giant, teased hair) in a shot or two when the AHS Halloween episode airs in October.
In the meantime, catch all of the creepy trailers for American Horror Story Coven here!