I Was An Extra In "Red Nose Day Actually" And It Was So Bizarre
I had to pretend to be a journalist while being a journalist. It was wonderful.
Today in the UK they screened Red Nose Day Actually, a 10-minute sequel to the film we all get drunk to and debate each Christmas: Love Actually.
I was asked to be an extra in the new press conference scene, a scene I was fucking obsessed with in the original Love Actually.
The scene where our PM, David (Hugh Grant), fucked up our special relationship with the United States because he had a crush on a colleague, and then, in another scene later on, danced to "Jump for My Love" by The Pointer Sisters.
The scene where David referenced Harry Potter and made a joke about David Beckham's left foot and right foot.
A joke I still don't understand.
The scene where this guy did this amazing Whoa wtf face.
He fucking nailed it, that extra. Best bit of the entire film IMHO.
Anyway, like the original, the 2017 version wasn't filmed at Number 10. Instead it was filmed in a fancy house a mile away that was made to look like Number 10.
When I arrived I was ushered into an upstairs room to wait. There were some very famous vloggers in there too, all of whom would be appearing in the scene pretending to be journalists.
They were all passing the time by taking selfies and uploading them to Instagram to their millions of followers.
These photos racked up more than 100,000 likes on Instagram in just a few minutes. I was too anxious to say hi and didn't want to take selfies alone.
So instead I took a photo of 30 bottles of water and three half-drunken coffees. It would have got 0 likes on Instagram because the photo was so bad, so I decided later never to upload it. Here is the photo:
It then got a bit weirder because actual real journalists then arrived.
I had no idea that there were going to be real journalists at the fake press conference.
Yes, I know "I had no idea that there were going to be real journalists at the fake press conference" is a weird sentence to read.
There was Susanna Reid from ITV's Good Morning Britain. Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News. Keir Simmons from NBC News. Victoria Derbyshire from BBC News. ITV's Robert Peston from Peston's Peston on ITV.
Hang on a minute.
I whipped out my phone.
I googled something discreetly in the corner.
And Charlie Stayt from BBC Breakfast.
Look, I recognise his face on TV all the time but the name escapes me as BBC Breakfast is on when I'm fucking tired, alright.
And now I feel bad.
I am gutted to say that these news rivals meeting each other was not the scene from Anchorman.
Less blood. More talk about what we were doing that afternoon.
I did however accidentally splash water all over my trousers in front of BBC Breakfast's Charlie Stayt in the men's toilets 20 minutes later.
I'm blaming the taps.
So at this Love Actually shoot there were journalists pretending to be journalists, extras pretending to be journalists, and vloggers even pretending to be journalists.
I mentioned this to one of the newsreaders, who said this back to me:
"I don't think the journalists are pretending to be journalists, Scott."
Everyone was then given pretend press credentials for the scene.
The other news presenters got passes with their names on.
I received mine and instantly realised that there was something slightly wrong.
On the stairs I came across this weird sight: Tony Blair and Gordon Brown on top of the Number 10 staircase.
If you look closely at the top image from the original Love Actually, you can see David dancing down the stairs with a photo of Tony Blair at the very top.
SO WHEN WAS GORDON BROWN PRIME MINISTER IN THE LOVE ACTUALLY UNIVERSE??!?!?!??!!?
Oh yeah, and it seems David Cameron never existed.
I foolishly decided to check Twitter at this point and didn't notice the guy that was standing on my right.
This photo makes us all look like we're an indie band on their fourth album and it's had very mixed reviews.
The guy introduced himself, said his name was Keir Charles. He said he was an actor. I assumed he was an extra.
The room then filled up and we were told to act as if a real press conference was about to take place.
And Hugh Grant pointed at Keir standing next to me, and Keir started talking:
"Prime minister, when you came to power the first time, you were very optimistic. You said that the power of God will finally win. That Love Actually is all around."
Notice my face on the right.
My face was like, "oh fuck", but also one of, "I'm a journalist and there's a camera near my face and we journalists have serious faces all the time."
You don't see journalists making a facial expression of "OH SHIT" every time someone near them gets asked a question by the prime minister.
So I hatched a plan. During the second take, I decided to turn my head to the front and then back to him, to act like this was real press conference and this was a proper question.
Here we go:
Looking at this back, I think my year 9 drama teacher would be proud.
When the take was over, I immediately turned to Keir and said: "I never knew that you had a line in Red Nose Day Actually."
He then told me that he was in the original film, where he gave the opening line at the press conference.
And if you look at both versions, it's true. Look!
You know the photo that all the papers used of them three standing together?
This isn't it.
We then did the three- or four-minute scene three or four more times. Each time Hugh Grant improvised a line at the very end that wouldn't make the final cut.
At the end of one someone in the audience shouted: "Where's your Red Nose?"
Hugh: "I wear my Red Nose someplace else."
At the end of another one he pointed to one of the extras in the press conference and said: "You, from Horse & Hound."
Everyone shrieked. It took me two hours and a conversation with my partner to realise that it was a Notting Hill reference.
I looked over at the other journalists during the takes too. A few of them were writing in shorthand, which for non-journalists out there, is basically writing symbols instead of words so you can transcribe stuff quickly.
You can see them doing this in the film.
They just loved the thrill of the press conference so much and were happy to go along with it. It was wonderful.
Between takes, one of the producers came straight for me.
"Why does your badge say you're a woman?!"
I was then changed from being a woman at The Observer to being a man.
Oh, and I now worked for BBC News apparently.
I lasted as long working at The Observer as it takes to read a copy of The Observer.
And after four takes of filming, it was over.
We were quickly moved off set. The PM disappeared.
I ate a chicken salad.
I also met up with my boyfriend, who was in the area.
He asked what being an extra was like. Instead of responding calmly with what I saw and what the scene was like, but I was too excited and said something like:
For 45 minutes straight.
In hindsight, I think I can summarise being an extra as this:
It was the best day of acting like a real journalist when I was in fact a real journalist I have ever had.