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Office Space

How many times can one actor be seen in the background of one scene of Degrassi?

As an actor or someone who stumbled into acting (that is another story), I have done my dues as an extra in crowd scenes, along with many appearances as a background performer with specific directions. I have also done some bit parts without lines and even a few bit parts with spoken lines. One day, I realized that I wanted to act and not just be in front of the camera, so I no longer wanted to do extra work. I enjoyed stepping into a role and making it my own. I did not care if anyone actually recognized me.

I started to take acting more seriously and had to prioritize acting over just getting my face on camera just so I could brag to my friends. My agent saw this and so did some local casting directors. I started to get more auditions for minor roles that were pretty much SOC (Silent on Camera) roles portraying specific characters who did not have lines.

I started to get some bit parts (with or without lines), but that is when I really got back my acting bug. I took more lessons and auditioned for more roles. Once I started to get some more minor roles, I knew I would rather take one acting gig over one hundred background jobs. I liked having a role with a more specific challenge even if it meant less pay due to only spending one day on set.

This panned out for me and I got a few minor roles in some small to medium productions. I did a few acting roles and even a few lead roles in some student films (without pay) and a couple of low budget TV shows (again, at low rates), but I enjoyed working at my acting craft. HEY! How many other people do you know can say they played the mayor of Toronto in a Chinese soap opera?

I wanted to pursue an acting career, decided to tell my agent and my background agent, that I no longer wished to do background work. I was not saying it was beneath me or that it was out of my league, I just did not want to do that type of work anymore… This decision almost bit me, as I almost automatically turned down background work on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

When I got called to do some background work (after my choice to no longer do it) I almost turned it down, until I found out it was as a pizza delivery guy on Degrassi. I took the gig only because it was Degrassi. I grew up watching the original Degrassi series, so I was pumped to get a chance to be a background player on this new series. I was saddened by the fact that I ended up on the cutting room floor.

A year later, I once again got a chance  to be a background player on Degrassi. I almost turned it down, figuring that I would not get seen and that I really did not want to be in a crowd shot again.  But again, just for bragging rights, I took the job. This time, I did not expect any exposure, but I did it for the quick cash I would make.

Just the other day, I happened to find on the website, a special called ”Degrassi Takes Manhattan”. In clip 4 of this special, I recognized the last work I did on this show. Sure enough, I was able to spot myself in several shots.

Remember, I do not act for the money, fame or else wise, I do it for the love of acting. I did Degrassi for myself and bragging rights. I did it because I grew up with the original series. I wanted to be able to say I did something on Degrassi, even if it was background work. When the episode did come out, my scene did not make it. I was a little disappointed, but hey it was a paid gig and I at least got on the set of Degrassi.

A year later, I got another call to work on Degrassi, I agreed to take the background work, only because it was Degrassi. This time it was a casino scene and I was going to be a gambler. I was placed so that I was crossing and hanging out behind the main actors who were playing black jack. I figured now I would be seen on Degrassi and my dream would be fulfilled. I would no longer do background work and go back to seeking acting work.

As most actors will tell you, you cannot make a full time living as an actor in Canada. While I continued to audition and take workshops to improve my chances at getting roles. I kept a roof over my head by running my own business. Even though my work was primarily done at home or at my clients location, I knew I needed to have a prestigious business address to show potential clients that I was serious. I looked at several Toronto office space locations and quickly realized what I needed was a virtual office service, to give the appearance of having a real office.

As many of my readers know, I soon found that I needed more than just a Toronto mail service or even a mail and telephone answering service. I decided to take a serviced office at the same Toronto office business centre, without having to change my address or telephone number.

About Ian Payton

Responsibilities: Social Media Coordination and content creation for companies like the Toronto International Bicycle Show. Outside of work for primary clients,work was done for smaller clients like branches of the Royal Canadian Legion designing and revitalizing web sites. Conceptualizing strategies for online and offline marketing as well as promotional activities for other companies.

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