I received an email Nov. 4 that began like this:
This is your official booking information email for
Thursday, November 5, 2015
**BE PREPARED FOR A MUDDY, WET DAY – please bring boots and raincoats
Remember: there will be cows on set today!
PLEASE BRING MULTIPLE WARDROBE OPTIONS**
BOOOOOYAH! I had been booked to be an extra on the current season of “House of Cards”! My ever-competitive yet loving younger brother immediately brought me down to earth and joked that I would be like Kramer on the episode of “Seinfeld” where he is an extra in a Woody Allen movie and given the immortal line, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”
My “part” in House of Cards was much more minimal than that. If you know who I am you can see me in the background of one scene on Episode 11 at around the 25-minute mark. (You almost have to play a game of “Where’s Waldo” to find me.) Also, my hand is “featured” in a closeup taking a video of Robin Wright (more on her below), one of the show’s stars, give a speech. The Hollywood A-List: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and now Scott MacMullan’s hand!
On the day of the taping, I woke up around 5:30 a.m. and drove to a remote cow farm in Baltimore County. It was in fact a misty, spooky day which kind of fit well with the general dark vibe “House of Cards” embraces. I parked at a parking lot away from the farm and got picked up in a shady white van I was sure Frank Underwood had ordered me to be kidnapped in. The “head extra” guy was in the van and was definitely one of those Hollywood types with the way he dressed and his passive-aggressive attitude.
“Great,” I thought to myself. “What did I just get myself into?”
We got to the farm and went to the “holding” area, which made me initially feel like the cows I was looking at. This holding area ending up being a lot of fun, though. A wardrobe person came around and asked me what I had brought to wear. Now, I’m not a super fashion-conscious guy, so when they asked me to bring three different wardrobes, I was at a loss. She told me to rock the blazer I had brought for the scenes.
I talked to career actors, including people who had just been featured in the movie “Creed.” I learned about Screen Actors Guild actors and non-SAG actors – that is, union and non-union. Basically, SAG actors get paid more and get better food. But, even, as a nonunion actor we were fed extremely well by some local food truck vendors who were on set.
(The career actors asked me what I did. “Assault cases in Annapolis,” I replied.)
I learned that most actors don’t make a ton of money. They would be extras in some films and featured in others. You get paid by how much and how prominent you are in scenes. Sometimes, if the director needs a line for an improvised scene, there will be quick auditions on set among extras for these more prominent roles.
My job was to hold a prop camera and point it at Robin Wright. I am proud to say that Robin Wright used my shoulder to steady herself as she slightly lost her balance with her heels walking through this wet, mushy grass. I can also say Robin Wright is much shorter and petite than she appears on camera: powerful, formidable and ruthlessly calculating. As a former ballerina, her posture is incredible and she carries herself, well, like a first lady would.
While I felt at times like a cow about to be slaughtered, the whole experience was much more humane. I made some friends, Robin Wright touched me and I will have stories about my 30 seconds of fame for life.