Background Actors in All Rise’s Virtual Episode
The CBS legal drama All Rise recently aired its virtually filmed season finale, making it the first scripted drama to produce an episode remotely. The show stars Central Casting alumni Simone Missick, Jessica Camacho, and J. Alex Brinson and features Background Actors from Central Casting Los Angeles.
“When I heard that All Rise was going to be the first drama to make an episode featuring social distancing, it made total sense,” said Casting Director Claire B. “From the pilot, this show has been about telling the story of Los Angeles, the court system, and the people who live and work within it. That this is the very real reality that we are all in, it made complete sense to me that this show would take on this task.”
There are two scenes featuring Background Actors in the episode: an online yoga session and a virtual dance party. Not only did background need to fit the look and performance requirements for the role, they needed to have reliable high-speed internet, perform device speed checks, and be able to set up their home or yard to fit the scene.
All Rise executive producer Len Goldstein told TV Line that production used different platforms to film the episode, including Zoom and WebEx. On the shoot day, Background Actors met virtually with Assistant Director Jason Melius to set up their home set and block their scene.
“It was so strange and wonderful and different - everything really - I couldn’t help but think, ‘I’ll never do this again. This is amazing,’” Jason said. “Our performers were outstanding. The yoga scene was the one scene in the schedule I had circled from Prep Day 1 as the one that scared me the most and we got through it beautifully.”
To ensure the safety of the cast and crew, Missick told People that the principal cast were also responsible for their own hair, make-up, wardrobe, set decoration, and lighting. Each department worked with the principal actors to make sure the shots were lit and framed properly and that their home sets matched those normally shot at the studio. Some backgrounds were edited in post-production for continuity and story purposes.
While Saturday Night Live, talk shows, and some reality competitions have continued their seasons virtually, All Rise and the Parks and Recreation reunion special are the only two scripted productions to air remotely produced content to date.
“The chance to attempt something new and groundbreaking, if even temporary, to do something nobody else had done before in Hollywood is a rare feat and it came down to being in the right place at the right moment in time,” Jason said. “So to try to recreate (and at times reinvent) the production world as we knew it virtually, was an absolutely unique and incredible experience that doesn’t come around all that often.”
Claire also welcomed the challenge brought by a remotely filmed show. “I was proud to be a part of this episode of television history and thankful that the writers found a creative way to include background in the show,” she said.
CBS recently renewed All Rise for a second season. There are ways you can prepare now for when production resumes and steps you can take to ensure you’re ready to get back on set. Jason offers some advice to those looking to become professional Background Actors.
“Those who know me know that I absolutely consider Background Actors as part of my team,” Jason said. “Whether you’re non-union day 1 or a 10-year SAG-AFTRA veteran - if you show up to a set I’m on and go about the day with professionalism and respect, you’ll absolutely get that in return and we’ll have a wonderful time. Treat it like a job and I’ll do my best to make it not feel like one.”