Extras, sometimes called background or atmosphere, are those folks behind the stars in almost every scene you see in a movie or television show. They are the folks walking by on the street, or driving down the road, or eating dinner next to the stars in a restaurant.
Acting is a tough business and some could argue that extra work is the toughest in terms of self-esteem. Often, background actors are herded like cattle, pointed at and called by “you an the blue shirt” and told to stand here or walk there.
So why do it?
When I first went out to Los Angeles and didn’t have a credit to my name, it was about the only acting work I could find. I wanted to be acting so badly that I felt anything was better than nothing.
What I discovered is just how rich a learning experience background work can be. There are advantages to be invisible! I learned so much about acting, about different directing styles, about the technical aspects such as lighting, sound, camera angles, etc.
I came to appreciate extra work as paid training with good food.