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
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-
“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
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
“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