• Faith & Fandom

Swamp Thing: Being Extra

In January of 2019 I had a really fun and interesting

experience; I got the opportunity to be an extra/background

actor on DC Universe’s Swamp Thing. Someone inboxed me a

news story that DC Universe was looking for a crowd of extras

for the show, and it was only 70 miles from my home. I

awkwardly took head and body shots they requested and sent

in the paperwork, and a few days later got the confirmation

that I was selected. I didn’t have a ton of expectations or

desires other than just having a cool experience.

My 9-year-old daughter Bella loves Swamp Thing. She only

knows him from a couple cartoon appearances, but he became

her primary fighter for Injustice 2, so she bonded with him. The

idea that I could tell my daughter I'm going to be on a Swamp

Thing TV show was worth doing it alone. I drove to the

Wilmington Convention Center parking lot and hustled over to

the Coastline Convention Center (which I've done many

comicons at) and checked in. After filling out pages of

paperwork, a woman came over to inspect my clothing. One of

the conditions of the job was that I bring 3 outfits of varying

variety and let the wardrobe department play dress up with

me until they were satisfied. After that, I sat down at a table

with the least threatening group of strangers I could find and

got some dinner. Over the next hour and some change, more

and more extras filed in and repeated all the steps I had, and

then we all collectively waited.




We were instructed by a guy named Walker, who would be our

guide through this whole process. They put us all on buses and

we were shipped to an old church building in Wilmington that

has been turned into a community center, and we proceeded

to wait some more. During this time, I began to finally open up

a bit and start talking to people and sharing. I met some

rappers, some career extras, some aspiring models, and some

parents who were there to make their kids famous just to

name a few. There was a world of people there for many

different reasons, but during this process I found out

something alarming.

What was so concerning was that none of these people knew

what they were working on. Not one single person I spoke to

through the entire process knew what DC Universe or what

Swamp Thing was. If you’ve read my stuff before, listened to

our podcasts, or even met me for 43 seconds, you probably

know I'm a DC fanboy to a fault. The idea of being on a DC TV

show was mind blowing to me. At the time of filming the DC

Universe series, Titans had already finished its first season and

we were fairly deep into what they are doing with Young

Justice. I was greatly impressed with what they were

accomplishing and was excited to be involved.

I was there as a fanboy. Apparently, no one else was.

I had the same broken-record conversation about what DC

Universe was, how good Titans was, who the character of

Swamp Thing was, and why I thought it was going to be a great

project. Several people laughed at me for actually already




having the app. We were all there for the same thing, but not

for the same reason. Sure, we were all getting paid to be there,

but not enough. Getting paid to be on a tv show is a cool goal,

but it was barely minimum wage, if that. It also turned out to

be way more work and grueling than I anticipated. If I didn’t

love DC, I wouldn’t have done this.

This really helped me see that we need a clear understanding

of our own motivations. I’m not saying that these folks'

motivations were less pure or valuable than mine; I just

assumed we all shared the same motivation. Sadly, this same

truth can be applied to any church, ministry, or other

organization. Even if you are in the same place, there is no

guarantee you are there for the same reason. I’ve been burned

by that assumption many times. For example, I’ll allow myself

to get close to people in ministry life and become vulnerable

with them, sharing parts of my heart with which I normally

hold back. Then, it would only blow up in my face. Everyone’s

motivations may not be the same, and there aren’t always

easy ways to test them. The one motivational set you can

definitely check is your own.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know

my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in

me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” - Psalm 139:23-

24.

“But if we were more discerning with regard to

ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.” -

1 Corinthians 11:31.




My motivations were pretty much innocent and fun when I

started the process, but it didn’t exactly stay that way. Because

I was being introverted, I missed out some opportunities. I was

literally hiding in a corner during the waiting period, and when

Walker called us to go downstairs row by row, I was one of the

last people to go down. I didn’t know how the process worked.

So, they were filling the room from the front to the back, and

the people up front got prime locations on the set, and the

people in my group basically ended up on the side of the set

completely out of sight of everything. Then, I spent the next

five hours filming the same scene over, and over, and over,

and over. It was five hours of dancing in place, fake talking, and

being virtually hidden.

I didn’t mind not being in the forefront, but I realized my

timidity had also totally blocked my opportunity to even be on

screen. Not that it really makes a difference, but if I had

actually made it on screen, there might be some more

comicons that would bring me on as a guest. I mean seriously,

there are tons of people who come to comicons as guests just

for being zombies on the Walking Dead. If that qualifies, being

actually on camera on Swamp Thing definitely should.

We filmed our scene and were sent back to holding. I made the

determination that next opportunity, I wouldn’t sleep on it.

Sometime later, we were called back to the set to film the

same scene from different angles. Walker made a shout out for

volunteers to film a different scene where we would be

outside walking into the building. It was stupid cold outside, so




people weren’t exactly jumping on it. I had a place in the other

scene, but I wanted a better one. I yelled out, “I’ll do it,” and

Walker sent me outside. They continued to film my previous

scene without me, and I stood on the sidewalk with 10 other

people waiting in the freezing cold for a chance to walk directly

in front of the camera with the main stars of the show. Then

the person filming the shot walked by, picked 3 of the 10 of us,

and said that the rest, including me, weren’t needed. They

then took the remaining 7 of us and sent us away.

Because things were in transition, we weren’t sent back to our

scene or even back to the holding room. We were sent to a

hallway outside the bathrooms where we had to wait for the

rest of the night. My ambition and pride to get in front of the

camera literally took me out of the scene completely and left

me uncomfortably crouching in a hallway for a stupid amount

of time. I felt gross about my attitude in the first place, but

halfway through my hallway encampment, I was like, “Yeah

God, I get it.” I knew that my pride and selfishness was not a

good look, or how I needed to approach the situation

“He has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to

those who are humble.” - Proverbs 3:34.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud

but shows favor to the humble.”” - James 4:6

After we finished up with scenes for the first night, they

bussed us all back to the starting point where we would wait in



line for an hour to sign out, and then we would be able to head

home. Before we went home though, Walker came through

and offered that he needed 50 of us to stay and film some

more scenes. He told us up front, smaller amount of people

means a greater probability of screen time, but it also meant

staying there stupid late. I had already been there for 9 hours

and had already been humbled once, so I decided to pack it up.

On my hour and a half drive home, the one thing that stood

out to me the most was how well Walker had guided the

people. Here was a dude, who if my understanding is correct,

isn’t making much more than we were, yet he was leading

every single one of us. He was placing us where we needed to

go, correcting our mistakes, calming our frustrations, dealing

with our drama, and overall guiding an unruly mob of extras

who were being...well, extra. He had to yell at us plenty of

times, but in the same breath he would encourage us and tell

us he loved us and appreciated us. I had never met this dude

before that day but in full disclosure, I believe he meant what

he said. I am pretty sure in many ways it is a thankless job with

no fame or recognition, but he did it well.

During one of the many times he had all 200 of us following

him around like sheep, it really did hit me that this dude makes

a great shepherd. Watching him interact with us and the way

he took care of us made me see a lot of what I wanted to be as

a pastor. Pastors, at the end of the day, are just shepherds of

God’s people. Walker wasn’t trying to be famous, be on

camera, or make a name for himself. He just had a job. Take




care of these people, and get them where they needed to be.

His interaction challenged me, and I hope will continue to do

so. Being a pastor should never be about me, my name, or my

glory. It should be about the fact that God gave me a job to do.

I need to take care of my people and get them where they

needed to be.

"And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;

with skillful hands he led them.” - Psalm 78:72.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the

evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his

people for works of service, so that the body of Christ

may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and

in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,

attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

- Ephesians 4:11-13.

When I arrived for day 2, they told us that we all needed to be

prepared to stay the whole time, a minimum of 13 hours.

Honestly, that was a lot to hear, but he did tell us that it was

going to be a long night right out the gate. We filmed for hours

and hours. I did manage to end up in a good placement in one

scene, and I didn’t have to force myself into it.

The second night was really amazing to me. I got to see some

actors really hone their craft in ways I'd never seen. It left

some of us breathless. I also got to make friends with a handful

of other actors, and even win some Pokémon battles. I was

able to watch some stunt fights, and even see some cool




special effects with blood rigs. I enjoyed the second night way

more than the first.

The problem was that the night kept going. We all knew walker

said we needed to plan on 13 hours of work, but most people

didn’t believe it was actually going to happen. The first night of

shooting, I really spent most of the night sitting or leaning

against a railing. It was pretty chill. The second night I stood

almost the entire time, had to actually act, and be physical. I

had to respond to a gun being drawn in a scene and help get

people to safety, over and over. None of that is a complaint,

but it was a lot. I felt bad for the actual actors that were going

to pretty crazy places emotionally to make these scenes

happen.

Realistically speaking, it took almost 24 hours of work for my

squad to film what is probably only 7 minutes of TV. I had

never had an understanding of how much time went into

making a production like this. Now ever since this experience, I

look at the actors and the extras on screen and realize how

incredibly demanding it must be for them to do all of this over

and over. If it took 24 hours of work to film 7 minutes of a TV

show, I can only imagine the amount of time it takes for some

truly epic and involved productions. It requires great patience

to be involved in this world, and you really need to know you

are up for the task.

The same thing is truth for people of faith. You need to know

that when you sign up for this, it is going to be a long slow

process. It is not something that can be rushed, and if you are



impatient, not listening, or are skipping the discipline of what

you are doing, it will probably fall apart.

As the night went on, there were two younger guys who were

totally not prepared for this experience. They signed up for this

project with no knowledge of what they were getting into and

somehow missed all the announcements of how long it was

going to take. Somewhere around 1AM, one of the young men

interrupted walker to ask, “What movie is this for? And how

much longer is it going to take?” We still had at least 4 more

hours to go at that point, and when the young men were

informed of it, they became belligerent. They reminded me of

the pizza boy Michael Scott held hostage on The Office.

Walker calmly reminded them that the only way they get paid

is to finish out the work day so you can get your paperwork

signed off on. The kids thuggishly responded “OH WE GON GET

PAID!” Somewhere shortly after that, those guys disappeared.

They missed all the rest of their shots for the night, but then

magically turned up back in the holding room right before we

got bussed back to go home. I was exhausted, too, but I also

knew what this experience was going to require of me the

minute I started it. God tells us up front that following Him is

not going to be easy, and it’s going to require a lot from us. We

need to know for sure that if we are going to follow God, that

we are really all in. Far too many Christians are like the whiny

kids that disappeared from the set, ignored all their

responsibilities, then showed up later expecting to be

rewarded.




“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you

first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have

enough money to complete it? For if you lay the

foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who

sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to

build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is

about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first

sit down and consider whether he is able with ten

thousand men to oppose the one coming against him

with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a

delegation while the other is still a long way off and will

ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you

who do not give up everything you have cannot be my

disciples.” - Luke 14:28-33.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your

work will be rewarded.” - 2 Chronicles 15:7.

As I write this, Swamp Thing isn’t out, and my episode won’t

premiere before the book is published. Even though I spent 24

hours filming, I may not make it into a single panel of this

show. The thing I had to realize was that this isn’t about me.

You know what this show is about? Swamp Thing. I’m just a

background piece to the story.

Often, we make life about us when really, we are just the

background in a story God is telling. Donald Miller put it

eloquently when he stated, “I’m a tree in a story about a

forest.” We need to realize that in the big picture, our lives

should be about following God’s lead and reflecting His





presence in our lives. It’s not about trying to make our own

scenes or to glorify ourselves.

My favorite Bible verse is Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do,

do it with your whole heart for God, not for man.” I want to

live my whole life doing everything for God with my whole

heart, not for myself or to make myself famous among other

people and their perceptions.

The episode I filmed was episode 3 of Swamp Thing Season 1.

If I even make it on screen, it will be short. I'm okay with it if I

don’t. I showed up. I did my best. I helped make something

great that hopefully a lot of people will enjoy. We need to be

able to have that attitude with God. We show up where He

leads us. We do our best to obey where He guides us. We help

bring Him glory in all we say and do. If we can do this, whether

anyone else ever acknowledges it or not, it is success in God’s

eyes.

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