Last Thursday night as we started to watch PhoneShop on E4 it gradually dawned on us that this was ‘the’ episode. Immediately we were transported back in time to a very hot day in Sutton in August, the first few hours of which were spent sitting in a dark nightclub bored, the second half of which was spent pretending to drink out of a plastic cup with you didn’t dare ask what yellow liquid in it and trying not to look directly at the camera.
It all started when Facebook (PhoneShop page) asked its fans which of us wanted to appear as an extra in the show.
We did! It was our favourite show at the time – but being at least 15 years older than its average audience member we didn’t think we would have much chance of being picked. Nonetheless we applied and, after a few emails, that was it – we were both through, despite one of us having lied about his year of birth (and it wasn’t me!).
As the big day dawned we got up earlier than usual, dropped the children at the grandparents and set off on several trains to Sutton. Sutton the town centre plays an important role in the programme as it is so much about the UK suburban high street and it was brilliant that we actually were filming there and not in a pretend version of it. There was everything we had seen in the show – the pedestrianised street where New Man went mad in his bear costume in Series 1 and all the favourite shops and eateries which you find in every town centre across the country and which crop up in lots of the chat on the programme. There too was the Phone Shop itself… but we were off to a very dodgy looking nightclub to wait and see what was in store for us…
Life as an extra? Well, first of all you sit and wait and fill out a form and check your phone and then you wait a bit more and then you wonder what time’s lunch. People did get called in and we didn’t so we just carried on waiting. We found out that there were two types of extras – those, like us, who were ‘friends’ from Facebook and basically fans of the show, and those Extras who actually do it as a day job. I guess the latter means that they are not sure what to do as a real job, trying to earn some money while on their way to being actors, musicians, in this case they were all young (but in this case we were all there to be ‘Clubbers’). Throughout the day we chatted to a few of these proper extras. They all basically rued the end of ‘Potter’ (the Harry Potter films) which must have kept a good few young men going for the last decade. Many of them had also appeared in Sherlock Holmes. One of them was very proud of a stint on an episode of Peep Show, so proud that we got to see the few seconds on a mobile phone too. They were also on a higher rate of pay than us. We had just gone along for the laugh, thinking it would be hilarious to be glimpsed on a TV show that we watch ourselves, and finding out that we would be paid for it was just an extra bonus – however these guys got a good £30 more than we did, presumably because they instinctively knew when to ‘wipe’ across the scene or knew definitely not to look the camera right in the lens.
Then we got called up. A bit starstruck as we caught sight of some of the actors, and a bit nervous, we went through to the other side of the club to start our work as aforementioned Clubbers. If you want to watch the episode itself (you might need to hide behind your hands as it will make you cringe, and perhaps not laugh), check the link at the top. If you only want to watch for our starring roles, you can fast forward through the first 18 or so minutes. Our scene is in a club where the phone shop store manager Lance is pretending to be a Chilean miner who has just managed to escape the danger of the mines – it’s a charity scam, thought up by their friend Jez. We had to dance and cheer madly when Lance the miner came onto the stage. Look very carefully at about 18.25 minutes and you might see me behind Janine and Jez. If you have the technical ability to freeze frames, try it at about 20.20 and you can see Dafe and his shirt and me and my outstretched arm quite clearly. What a brilliant and natural way I stretched out that arm and smiled!
Later on (in real time it was sweaty hours, but in the episode a couple of minutes) you see us again when Lance (the pretend miner) is talking to Ashley and Jerwayne and the two girls who are pretending to be interested in the guys but in fact are journalists who are onto the scam. Try looking for Dafe bobbing up and down at about 21.12ish and his nose and then my hair and me at around 21.19. I mean, I definitely saw myself on first watch (through the red face and shrieks of embarrassment) but only because I knew what I was looking for – I would be dead impressed if anyone else could spot us. That last scene was fun because we kept having to improvise with Lance as he came past us, and with Janine as she came through with the bucket collecting money, and they were really friendly. Lance (Martin Trenaman) is a comedy writer and actor who is on telly quite a bit at the moment, since he plays Simon’s Dad in the Inbetweeners, and he was really chatty with us in between takes, cracking jokes and telling us about his young family.
Ashley (Andrew Brooke) and Jerwayne (Javone Prince) were my heroes from having watched them on TV, but they were a bit less friendly in the flesh, possibly for having less years’ experience in comedy than Martin does. They very graciously allowed us adoring fans to have our photos taken with them though and I will excuse them for seeming a bit standoffish since they probably had to concentrate a bit on small things like remembering lines, acting and being funny. Let this photo serve as proof that I was there, in case you can’t quite make me out in the footage!
All in all, the day was long and pretty hard work. As a one off, I enjoyed it and as a tale to tell it was funny, particularly as we just about ended up in the final cut. It was really interesting to be on set and watch what was going on, and amazing to see how much effort went into what turned into about 6 minutes of television action. However, I couldn’t do it on a daily basis. I think you have probably witnessed the end of my career as an extra.
I’m a bit disappointed with the second series of the programme in general, and our episode last week was highly cringe-worthy, despite our wonderful appearances! However this week’s episode had us laughing again and I am hoping that the rest of the series will get us laughing out loud as some of the first series did. My hero now is definitely Lance. At least thankfully we did not have to encounter his terrifying wife Shelley.