Extra! Extra! – My experience on the set of The L Word
As some of you might remember, last September I went to Vancouver
to be an extra in episode 607 of The L Word. I signed an agreement
when I got to the studio that I couldn’t reveal anything that
happened there…sort of like ‘what happens on the set
of The L Word stays on the set of The L Word’. The show is
over and I can finally tell you my story: how I became an extra
on the final season of The L Word and what happened on the set.
All the way to Vancouver I couldn’t stop smiling. I know
I looked like an idiot to people around me but I didn’t care.
Earlier in the summer I went to Vancouver on my usual annual spoiler-hunting
trip and I was hoping for two things: to get an official set visit
arranged by Showtime and to win a walk-on role for the L Word that
was offered by OurChart.
As you all know, I did get my set visit and it was really great
read my report, see the photos, and read the interviews here).
At one point I was shown the Planet set while they were taking a
break from filming a scene between Alice and Shane. As I think about
it now, I’m pretty sure it was a scene from episode 603 when
Alice asked Shane about her affair with Jenny while they were eating
I was watching Leisha and Kate taking a break while some of the
crewmembers checked the lights, actresses’ make-up and some
equipment and I remember thinking that I would love to spend a whole
day on the set just to see how it works. I’ve been fascinated
with the movie business since I was a teenager and the behind-the-scenes
stuff is always the most interesting to me. Well, I didn’t
win the walk-on part and I was okay with that…one out of my
two wishes coming true was good enough.
When I got home from my trip I received an email about Equality
Now TLW Auction. Equality Now was founded in 1992 to work for the
protection and promotion of the human rights of women around the
world. Working with national human rights organizations and individual
activists, Equality Now documents violence and discrimination against
women and mobilizes international action to support their efforts
to stop these human rights abuses (http://www.equalitynow.org/english/index.html).
To raise the money for their needs, Equality Now was auctioning
off a walk-on role for season six. To be completely honest, I didn’t
have that much money to bid on it but I did it anyway, knowing that
someone will overbid me and in some way I would help raising the
money. And I was overbid in the next five minutes. After that I
watched that auction on e-bay but the price went up too high for
me and I let it go, thinking that the only reason I would want to
be an extra on The L Word if I will see the filming process. I never
wanted to be on the screen anyway, I’m not photogenic or talented.
Three days after the auction was closed I got an email from one
of the members of Equality Now who informed me that the winner of
the auction couldn’t commit to the dates and if I’m
willing to pay the amount that I offered, the walk-on role is mine.
It took me about five minutes to decide and I said, “Yes!”
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not a millionaire
or an heiress with a trust fund. I have a full-time job and I use
my savings to travel to the events or participate in auctions because
money I can always earn but the opportunities like this only happen
once in a lifetime.
I was allowed to bring a friend and we had to sign a confidentiality
agreement. They were really strict this year. I was told that they
even had to kick an extra off the set because she was taking pictures
when they were told not to do it.
Before we had to report to the AD we went on a short tour of the
studio and the sets. Jenny and Shane house looked the same as before
but Bette and Tina house was completely empty because they were
remodeling it, building upstairs bedroom. We also went through the
Planet, Alice’s apartment and Art Department at CU hallway.
Our first stop before the filming was at the make-up and hairdressing
room. I got my make-up done with fake eyelashes and dark lines under
my eyes by a make-up artist who won an Emmy Award.
Another lady from the wardrobe department helped us choose our
costumes that were supposed to look like the 70’s or 80’s
style. I was wearing my own pants but got a colorful shirt and a
vest. My friend was only supposed to watch at first but they decided
to use her as well and she was wearing a long hippy-looking shirt
with a dark blue boa around her neck. We looked like the attendees
of the Woodstock festival.
As we were getting dressed and getting our make-up done, most of
the cast was there, filming the scenes in between dances. At one
time they all took a break and I saw some of the actresses walking
around in robes and funny hair nets. One interesting thing that
I learned was to find out how different the cast members are working
on the set from attending fan-based or charity events. They all
are really focused on their work and it feels like they stay in
character even during the short breaks, though they still find time
to joke with each other.
While I was waiting for my turn to do the hair, a hair stylist
came in and asked me how I ended up being an extra. I told her my
story and she took me to an actual hair/make-up trailer so my experience
would be more authentic. When we got inside, to my surprise Laurel
Holloman was there, doing her hair for the next scene. I know now
that she was getting ready to do their scene before the samba dance
and she needed to look like she was from the 80’s. Unfortunately,
the actual dances for the marathon we filmed on Thursday, the day
before I was on the set and I didn’t have a chance to see
any of them.
But I was close…at first, I was supposed to come on Thursday
and be in the crowd who was cheering for the couples. The day I
arrived to Vancouver, the person in charge of extras told me that
there were already too many extras involved in that scene that I
won’t be noticeable. Instead, she told me to come on Friday
and be in one of the backstage scenes and be more visible.
Now I wish that I was there on Thursday because I didn’t
really care to be visible; all I wanted was to see how the show
is being made. As it turned out, if I was there on Thursday I would
probably see myself much clearly than in the scene I ended up shooting.
I was in the bathroom scene with Bette and Jodi when they were talking
about Kelly who told Jodi that Bette had slept with her. I was on
the background, pretending to look at my hair in the mirror while
they were talking.
The funny thing was that the scene took about 30 minutes to shoot
with only four takes. I didn’t hear what Bette and Jodi were
talking about because they were using sign language, and when I
saw the final scene, I wasn’t visible at all. So now I really
wish I was there on Thursday because I would see the complete TiBette
dance and I would be there filming for 15 hours and not just 30
However, it still was a great experience that I will cherish for
a long time. It was very interesting to see the actors in between
the takes. Jennifer Beals was slowly pacing around and looked like
she was concentrating on her breathing and one time she chatted
with a camera guy. It was really funny during the first take because
Marlee Matlin was supposed to come out of the bathroom stall. The
AD yelled, “Action!” but nobody let Marlee know about
it so she was standing inside the stall, waiting for her cue to
come out. They all had a good laugh about it.
Anyway, back to my hair trailer experience. I was in there for
about 30 minutes and during this whole time Laurel and I talked
about different things. Of course, I was eager to learn any spoilers
about the final season so I asked Laurel if Bette and Tina were
still together by episode 607. She replied that all she could tell
me was that they are pretty much at the same place as they were
at the end of season five. She also added that season five was still
her favorite and she couldn’t wait to see what the fans will
think about season six. That comment made me a little worried but
after watching the final season, I know now what she meant.
I also asked Laurel about her family and her baby girl that she
had just adopted and Laurel said that her family is happy, the baby
is healthy and everything is just fine. We talked about a few upcoming
events and Laurel said that Jennifer and she were really excited
to go together to L5 Convention and if nothing urgent would happen,
they won’t cancel. I told her that I hoped it wouldn’t
happen because majority of the fans were coming just for them. She
asked if I was attending and I said, “Of course, both of my
favorite characters will be there, I wouldn’t miss it for
the world and I can finally get my picture with you both”.
I think I mentioned a TiBette sandwich but now I’m not sure.
All I remember that Laurel laughed at my statement and I hope it
happened because it was funny and not stupid.
Well, as you all know, the L5 Convention was a great success and
Jennifer and Laurel had both attended and made their fans very happy
After awhile, even my hairdresser participated in the discussion
and asked me what I will do after the show is over. I just joked
in response, “My life is over”. We all had a laugh about
it and my hairdresser said that there’s a spin-off in the
making and she asked me if I knew anything about it. At that point
I only knew that the spin-off involved Alice and she replied, “We
were told it’s about prison but we don’t really know
We all know now that Showtime decided not to run it, so I guess
we have to wait for The L Word the movie to see our favorite characters
Then a lady who was in charge of us, came inside the trailer to
tell me that I only had five minutes left before I had to be on
the set. I still didn’t know what scene I was doing, so Laurel
told me just to go and have fun. I said, “I will” and
I really did.
My friend and I were taken into the studio where they filmed the
dance marathon and took us to the back stage that was transformed
into a bathroom. You already know what happened during the filming
of my scene so all I can add is that even though I’m not in
the final cut, I still enjoyed my experience. Just being there in
the same room as Jennifer Beals and Marlee Matlin, watching them
work and being a part of my favorite show was totally worth it.
When we finished, I asked if we could stay a little longer and
maybe watch another scene being filmed. We were seated behind the
director’s monitors and watched them filming Alice and Bette
little confrontation scene before the Salt-N-Pepa number. Rose Troche
was directing so she was watching the monitors and later, Ilene
Chaiken joined us and watched that scene being filmed for a few
The actual script only had this dialog:
Alice: Is Dance Fever back on the air?
Bette: I’m sorry, I didn’t realize Kriss Kross was looking
for another member.
They did about five or six takes and Leisha always improvised some
of her lines and they added a few things, like the ‘nice cameltoe’
line by Jennifer and ‘they have costumes’ line by Leisha.
It was really funny to watch and we were all laughing all the time.
Between each take the make-up people would run and checked the actresses’
make-up and other crewmembers would check the cameras and lights.
Laurel was in that scene as well but it was filmed behind the curtains
so I could only see what was going on the monitor and I didn’t
actually see the actresses. In the room where we were watching they
had several chairs with the cast members’ names on them. Unfortunately,
we couldn’t take pictures so all I could do was to watch and
After they finished, everyone took an hour lunch break. They called
it a “lunch break” even though it was already after
7 pm. My friend and I joined other extras that were staying for
more scenes and we had a lunch and talked to some people at our
table. And then it was over. We went back to the office to collect
our things, and then we were on a way home.
As I said, maybe my experience would be more exciting if I was
there when they filmed the actual dances or if I could see myself
in the final cut, but it still was such a great opportunity to watch
the show being filmed and to participate in that process. I will
always have fond memories about that day.