5 Key Background Acting Tips

OCTOBER 30, 2023
These background acting tips can get you on set.
The Good Place (NBC)

Looking for ways to prepare for the next time you're booked by Central Casting? Whether you recently onboarded or are just looking for a refresher, these background acting tips will help you be a professional Background Actor.

1. Understand your details

Understanding your booking details is an integral part of working as a Background Actor. You will receive your booking information as a details message from our casting platform, which may include an additional resource like a Details Blog. Keep in mind that our Casting Directors receive booking information as it comes in from multiple departments within production; it's likely you will not receive your details until later in the evening the night before you work.

Your details will include an initial call time, call location, and how to get your call time changes. It's extremely important to show up on time and ready to work. Before heading to the filming location, it's a good idea to factor in traffic, public transportation delays, parking, and other delays that could make you late.

Always read your details fully and carefully. It's the best way to prepare and set yourself up for a successful day.

2. Arrive camera ready

A big part of background work is creating looks for set. If you're booked for the first time, this can seem a little daunting, but it's also a really fun part of being a Background Actor. Depending on your role, you may be given very specific hair, makeup, and wardrobe instructions to create the desired look. Then there may be times you can add your own spin to your category's clothing and overall style. Either way, just be sure you're starting with your details and creating your look within the parameters given.

Often, you will be asked to arrive to set camera ready with your wardrobe on and your hair and makeup done appropriately for the role. Other times you will be instructed to bring your wardrobe with you. Be sure your clothing makes it to set clean and unwrinkled (unless your category calls for something different).

3. Brush up on production terms

TV and film sets have their own language, which can be confusing if you're unfamiliar with industry terminology. Here are some key terms for Background Actors to know:


When you hear "background" called, that's the cue for Background Actors to begin their action.


A cross is movement that passes through the view of the camera. If the Assistant Director instructs you to do a cross, your path may take you directly in front of the main action in the scene.

Back to one

When "back to one" is called, it's a cue to move back to your original position.

If you're unfamiliar with a term you hear on set, ask your fellow Background Actors when you're not filming. Chances are you're working with someone who can explain it to you.

4. Pay attention and follow directions

Background Actors are commonly given direction by Assistant Directors or Production Assistants. This can involve walking around the set, pantomiming with other Background Actors, or interacting with principal actors. Pay attention to all instructions given and keep track of your movements so you can recreate them every take. You should also be aware of the movements of the principal actors and other Background Actors to know how they may affect what you're doing. If you want to work as a Stand-In, being a professional Background Actor who knows what is going on may catch the attention of an Assistant Director looking to upgrade someone on set.

5. Know what to do at wrap

When you're finished working for the day, a member of production will wrap you, which will involve sending your SmartVoucher for approval or collecting your paper voucher. It's important to review your voucher information while on set and raise any queries with production before heading home. You can access SmartVoucher by clicking the link in the email sent to you at wrap or by logging in to your online profile and selecting the "Job Review" option in the main menu. You can learn more about SmartVoucher and getting paid by Central Casting on our SmartVoucher page.

These background acting tips will help get you started on set, but there's a lot you can learn about being a Background Actor. Find out how to stand out to Casting Directors and background acting skills you can learn now.

Which of these areas are you going to work on to become a successful Background Actor?

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By Meghan Dubitsky

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