When HBO descended upon my small resort community, putting out a casting call far and wide for millionaire types, upscale business types, and amusement park goer types, I was ready. Sort of. It was spring 2019 in Lake Placid. I’d signed up to attend a school-based mental health summit and then I saw the flyer seeking extras for Succession. The dates overlapped. I’d toyed with responding to the call for days and then assembled my paperwork, headshot, and hit “send.”
I was a dutiful audience member at the conference, visited with local colleagues I hadn’t seen in months, made the rounds at the tables with stress balls and suicide prevention literature, and then ducked out to change in the hotel bathroom into the outfit I’d been told to wear for my starring role as a “lodge staffer.” I reported for duty at a parking lot by the ski jumps, got my number, and boarded the school bus with the millionaire types and other lodge staffers. The amusement park goers were slated for another day, another bus. Once on location, I was sent to makeup to fix the eyeliner I’d expertly applied that morning. The artist twirled me around in the chair and transformed me into my role…a little blush, a comb through my hair. She’d worked on Rachel Brosnahan of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fame.
I’d worn my own white button-down and khaki pants, but I had to report to wardrobe for the boiled-wool green vest. We ate. We ate well and well after the unionized actors. Tables of salads, sandwiches, meat, hot dishes, side dishes, desserts. Catering – just like in the credits!
Later, I joined the others for my “shift” and we heard about our scene: we were to ride in a black minivan together, disembark, sign-in with our supervisor to get our gold name tags, and then proceed through a tunnel. I announced myself as “Roxy” every time and got “Michael” or “Ashley” or “Phillip” handed to me.
As we performed the scene over and over again, our driver spun backstory ideas for us to consider before exiting the van: Who just slept with someone last night? Who’s jealous? Hungover? Who’s ruthless and competitive? Who just sold the novel? Who’s loyal and kind?
People in the service industry in LP would scoff at HBO. There are no employee vans. Your name tag is part of your uniform. No one checks in for a shift with a supervisor holding an iPad.
Still, it was seven hours of well-paid work. I listened to others’ lives: the exuberant young guy talking about his vision to open a comic book store on Main Street (he’s succeeded), the ER nurse and Whiteface ski instructor with the raspy voice and perfectly bobbed salt-and-pepper hair. She’d found the daughter she’d given up for adoption and discovered they’d lived two hours apart since that day. There was the blonde and fit prison system employee thankful for one more day to tick off the calendar that didn’t include concrete walls. I met a millionaire-type on the bus back to the ski jumps. He split his time between nearby Lake Clear and LA. He wore a dark suit, slightly rumpled from three consecutive days of work. Trim white beard, blue eyes.
And there I was, pushing myself out the door over and over again. I am clearly visible in the 15-second scene, smiling broadly, stepping forward. When the episode aired, my dad said it was the best egress he’d seen on TV in a long time.