Background Acting Doesn’t Lead to Lead Roles

Wendy Alane Wright

Wendy Alane Wright

If you’re doing extra work, don’t believe that extra work is going to get you the next step up on a film. So, if you get hired to go play a guy pushing a lawnmower across a yard behind the main action, that is all you’re there for. And if you’re on the set pushing that lawn mower. 

That’s all you are supposed to do. 

Pay very good attention to pushing that lawn mower to the best of your ability. And then go sit in the holding area where they told you. Don’t talk to any of the actors on set. Don’t talk to the casting directors, the producers, the directors, the writers, anyone on the set. Don’t ask them for more of a role. Don’t ask for lines because that’s not how it works.

Background Actors are Hired To Be in the Background

The actors that are hired in the foreground who have the lines, both were totally different audition process. It’s not the same audition process. So, if you’re in an extra, you tend to be registered to a casting extra company. 

I know Bill Dance has been out here in LA for years and years and years and Central Casting is the main one. And there are lots of other ones. And you’re doing a casting process with them. You go there, you fill out all your size, your shapes, what type you are, they register you in the computer. And then when a casting director calls for backing actors, they look in their database of who fits those profiles and you’re put on that set. That is how you get there. 

That is not how actors get on the set. So, actors get on the set in a completely different way. If you want to make the jump from being a background actor to one of the actors with a line, you need to stop doing background and go the way that the other actors are going, which is you stop doing background, you start taking acting classes, you start doing theater, you start becoming an actor. 

Because I’ll tell you being a background player and an actor are two totally different things and two totally different skills. And then you start meeting other people in the business, doing student films, doing short films and get an agent, start auditioning, register on all those online sites and submit yourself for films and commercials and student films, and start becoming an actor. You will never become an actor from a background job

Background Actors Rarely Get Lines

I’d say one in a hundred thousand actors on background get given a line and 99% of the time, it’ll just not be you. It won’t be you. It doesn’t happen. It’s so rare. I’ve been on thousands of sets and I’ve never even seen it. So, I hear stories about it once in a while that it happened but I’ve been on thousands of sets and I’ve never seen a background actor get a line. So, that is not how to become a respected actor in this business. And also, if you want to be an actor, you certainly don’t want the cast and the crew and the directors and all those people to see you as a background actor, because then they won’t think of you as an actor. They’ll just think of you as a background actor. And honestly, background actors have the least amount of respect in the business. 

They’re needed, it’s true because you can’t have a football stadium scene without background or a restaurant scene or train station scene, or any scene on the street without background. I hate to say this, but backgrounds are used kind of like cattle. 

They see how many they need; they write down a number. “We need 67 backgrounds today. I need them black, white, Chinese, Asian” or “I need all Asian” or “I need all of them six feet tall” or “I need them all women.” And then you just get hurdled in. They set you off into a tent by yourself. They feed you probably some pretty good food. That’s the one good thing. And then you wait a long time before it’s time for you to get up and do whatever it is they want you to do. And that’s the only thing they want to see from you and then you go home. You are not going to become an actor that way.

So, I just wanted to make sure you’re clear because I keep hearing stories from people who think they’re going to become actors, or they’re going to be discovered while they’re being a background actor. You’re not going to. That’s not how it works. So, reread this article if you need to. Write down the things that I said of what you do need to do and go start doing them. And keep sending me your questions


 Click here for more information:


Sign up for free guidance to take your acting career to the next level.

Join our mailing list today


Sign up for free guidance to take your acting career to the next level.