I’ve never acted and am not particularly social, but I remember from the time I first watched The X-Files I always wanted to be an extra in a scene, to be part of that magic. I’d never pursued it though as I thought it wouldn’t be practical, and who would want me?
It turns out there is a show that does. I was surprised to one afternoon receive a Facebook message Muscular Dystrophy UK saying that a production company were looking for an adult with Duchenne to be an extra in a new show.
It was certainly something I was interested in, but I was concerned I may be too old as there aren’t that many people my age with Duchenne. But someone from the production company rang and had a long chat with my mother (I was unfortunately out, but she’s very chatty!). Age was a slight concern so I needed to send some recent pictures, but a producer emailed me back the next day and seemed happy with how I looked. It’s always nice to be told you look younger than you are! I’m sure most people have to go through a more rigorous process of auditioning and other things, but this was not a talking role so I believe that made everything easier.
Other than the fact I was personally looking forward to doing this, there was also an element of wanting to show disability on television and raise awareness of Duchenne. I think this is starting to get better but in the past often a non-disabled actor would have got a part like this.
Setting up the filming took many back and forth emails – the fantastic team on the programme needed to check in on make-up, hair, costumes, production and transport. Everything was extremely thorough, checking what I’d need and listening to my advice regarding the hiring of equipment. They were all also very friendly, patient and helpful, which was great for a first experience of the industry. I even had contact with Brendan Coyle, an actor in the show best known as John Bates from Downton Abbey, who would be with me on the day. He was an amazing and kind man who helped me feel right at home.
The day of filming was exhilarating but long. Myself, my mother and PA were greeted at the filming set by some of the production team and we were shown to the green room, specially set up with a fridge to keep my drink nice and cold. There was no star on the door, but you can’t have everything!
We had visits from all the different teams throughout the day. Filming was running a little late but I had expected that, and it gave more time to prepare and chat with Brendan too.
The set looked brilliant. I can’t go into details as everything is being kept strictly under wraps, but it was pretty much perfect for what was needed.
When filming came around, I spoke with the director Mahalia Belo, who was very soft spoken, patient and willing to listen. Not at all what I’d expected a director to be like! The filming itself went smoothly; I had no concept of time while it was going on so couldn’t tell you how long it took. I was just enjoying the experience and trying to do what was asked of me. I was checked on regularly and they sent my PA in between takes to see if I needed anything. I definitely felt part of the team.
I really enjoyed my first experience filming. I wasn’t nervous and I think I managed to take everything in my stride; I just hope my calmness didn’t make anyone feel I wasn’t happy or liking it. I loved talking to everyone and I think part of the reason I was so calm was the friendliness of the crew and how well they did their jobs. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to do something like this again but I would love too. I think I may have been bitten by the bug! I also hope to keep in touch with some of the crew who were so helpful and nice to me.
Requiem is on BBC One, Fridays at 9pm, from 2 February. The whole series will be added to the BBC iPlayer at launch.