What Do Background Actors Do?

APRIL 11, 2022
Working on set is part of a Background Actor’s job description.
Mariska Hargitay behind the scenes of Law & Order: SVU (NBC)

Ever wonder how Law & Order finds jurors? Or who gets to cheer for the South Crenshaw High football team in All American? These people are Background Actors hired by Central Casting. Chances are you don’t pay much attention to the New Yorkers Clint Barton saves in Hawkeye - and that’s because it’s part of a Background Actor’s job description to blend in.

What is a Background Actor?

A Background Actor is someone who performs in a nonspeaking role, usually in the background of a scene. They help make movies, TV shows, and other productions look and feel more authentic. After all, hospitals, concerts, and city streets would just look like movie sets without Background Actors to give them life.

At Central Casting we book hundreds of Background Actors every day in shows like NCIS, Abbot Elementary, The Endgame, New Amsterdam, Cobra Kai, The Resident, Killing It, and The Secrets of Sulphur Springs. You’ve also seen our background in films like Avengers: Endgame, Passing, Queenpins, and Reminiscence.

What do Background Actors do?

There’s no universal Background Actors job description because your role can change from booking to booking. One day you may be portraying a 1980s high school teacher and the next a DJ working with your own equipment. Background are usually directed by the Second Assistant Director, Second Second Assistant Director, or a Production Assistant. Your duties can involve walking around the set (even crossing the camera), pantomiming with other Background Actors, or interacting with principal actors.

Whether you’re interested in advancing your career in the entertainment industry or just want an opportunity to see how your favorite movies and TV shows are made, working as background gives you a unique opportunity to be behind the scenes on a variety of productions.

How to become a Background Actor

If you want to get booked on one of our projects, the first thing you need to do is make a reservation for a Talent Onboarding session at one of our offices in Los Angeles, New York, Georgia, or Louisiana. During Talent Onboarding you will fill out paperwork, then take a photo for our casting platform. To make a reservation and learn more about signing up, including the required documentation you need to bring, visit your location’s Sign Up page.

Interested in other types of background work? In addition to Background Actors, we book Stand-Ins, who take the place of principal actors for lighting and camera setups, and doubles, who appear on screen in place of a principal actor.

Minors from 15 days old to 17 years old can also work as Background Actors and doubles in movies and TV shows. Our article How to Get Your Child on TV and Movies has all the detailed information you need to sign up and help your minor get cast by Central Casting.

How to get booked

After you’ve completed Talent Onboarding, you will be able to access and fill out your Central Casting online profile. We use this information when booking our shows, so the more accurate information you include, the easier it will be for Casting Directors to determine if you’re right for a role.

The two main ways to get booked are by responding to availability inquiries from our casting platform and by submitting for work on our Jobs page. In these messages and posts, Casting Directors include information and requirements for the role, like portrayable age, portrayable ethnicity, union status, and other details.

Ready to get on set as a Background Actor? You can learn more in our articles A Starter Guide to Background Work and How to Prepare for Your First Day on Set.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Industry Essentials