Forewarning: there’s some serious fangirling and one scene spoiler ahead…
A few of you have seen the picture, but for those curious, here’s the story about that time I was an extra in Captain America: Civil War.
During the winter doldrums of 2015, a friend alerted me that the new Captain America movie was filming in Atlanta, in the spring, and casting was looking for extras. I got it into my head that applying to be an extra was a brilliant idea. I knew it’d never happen, but as is my usual justification for the things I do in life, I decided if I didn’t at least try, I’d regret it forever and never forgive myself. So, eff it, I sent in a few head shots for the casting call of “Upscale Women.” I never heard anything and let it go. Just applying, and sneaking around at work taking head shots, was a hilarious enough event, and I’m all about finding joy in the random hilarity of life.
Then, in April, on my birthday, I got an email from the casting agency. I was needed in Atlanta, on May 13th, to be an upscale woman at the funeral of a VIP.
I screamed. I mean, I SCREAMED, in the middle of the Nike Outlet, jumping around, losing my mind. The Bad Girlz present thought I’d gotten a book deal, I was that excited. I was about to go on a cruise, but I’d return two days before shooting. I was told to wear a dark business suit and conservative jewelry, and be on set “before 6am,” in Atlanta, 2 hours from my house. That email was the best birthday present ever! I returned from the cruise, sick as a dog, but knew, somehow, I’d miraculously heal in time to drag my sorry a$$ down I-85 and get to that set. And I did! I opted to drive down the night before, and stayed at the sketchiest La Quinta known to man (but wth, it’s all part of the experience, right? I wasn’t killed in my sleep, so I call it a win) and woke up at 4am, not knowing where I was going or when.
See, the thing about Marvel is they’re super secretive. Like, sooooper super secretive. I knew the film name was Sputnik, and I knew what that meant (Bucky fangirl street cred, right here), but all the other details were only given to me about an hour before I needed to know. So, at about midnight, they told me exactly what time I needed to be on set the next day (5:30am), and sometime overnight I got an email with an address and instructions to go to this location where a bus would pick me up there and drive me to set. So here I go, creeping out of the hotel at 5am, drive into the middle of downtown Atlanta to park in this dark, deserted parking lot, where these school buses are waiting to pick up me and my new buddies, the other extras. There were many “upscale women” and men, a few clergy (they’d had fittings prior), some choir boys, and military types. The buses drove us to another lot on Peachtree, across the street from this gorgeous church (the Peachtree Christian Church in real life, a Lutheran Church in London for the movie). I figured that’s where they’d film, what with the cranes all around it, holding huge spotlights and the AV and prop equipment scattered on the lawn beside it. Us extras, however, were kept in this really nice museum and lot across the street. Huge white catering tent outside, hair and makeup inside.
I will say this about Marvel: they take care of their people, even the extras. They had hot breakfast – which I could not eat because OMG I WAS ON THE SET OF FREAKING CAPTAIN AMERICA, WHAT EVEN IS LIFE??? – coffee, fruit, the whole 9. Those who had their cell phones had to surrender them to the powers of Marvel, because we’d been told to leave all communication devices in our cars. This was a locked-down set and Marvel wasn’t messing around. Once all phones were confiscated, it was off to hair and makeup. This took FOREVER. This was why they needed us on set at 5:30am. A costume designer checked our outfits first and green lit us, then we went to make-up, where I was told, “girl, you look good. Go see hair,” (and I did a little fist bump to all those youtube makeup artists I watch religiously). There was a team of 10 hair stylist and EVERYONE got a fancy ‘do. Keep in mind, we’re on screen for maybe 3 seconds? But, as one stylist said, “the directors want everyone to look polished and perfect,” and who am I to argue with Joe and Anthony’s vision of the perfect upscale funeral guests?
Finally, by about 9am, everyone was coiffed and costumed and we had to line up, double-file, across from the church and parade across the street, into the church. My stomach was in knots. Somehow I’d managed to find the ONE other fangirl in the entire group of extras, and giddy doesn’t begin to describe us. (No really, the majority of the extras didn’t know who Steve Rogers was, much less care. This was a job for them, a fangirl fantasy for me.) I was FREAKING OUT, yet somehow managed to appear normal. Ish. I guess? The set crew stopped traffic on Peachtree, for all the mourners to go in, and there were paparazzi helicopters circling the church, and paps on the street, trying to get pictures.
We got into the church and they wanted us to fill the pews. The church had a center aisle with gorgeous stained glass lining both sides. Very regal, very old world, and I realize, I HAVE TO SIT ON THE INSIDE OF THE AISLE. I figured the action would take place in the aisle and, as one of only two fangirls in a sea of muggle mourners, it was my duty to be close. So yes I did step right in front of this guy to get my coveted aisle seat. He went on the end of the next row. Sorry I wasn’t sorry, but this was Cap and I had to be right THERE. (And you can see me in the movie if you look hard enough. The wide shot of them bringing in the casket, I’m on the left of the screen, near the front, right in front of a tall, reddish haired gentleman. But idec, because that had nothing to do with why I went.)
As soon as I sit down, I look up and BOOM! On the altar is a portrait of Peggy Carter…and I welled up. I have a lot of Peggy feelings okay? I love her. Anyway, once I pulled myself together, the couple next to me asks, “Who is that?” because they see it means a great deal to me. I explain – okay, I over-explain, the significance of Margaret “Peggy” Carter, SSR officer, trailblazing feminist, founder of SHIELD and all around amazing woman. Then the crew passes out the funeral program, and I welled up again. Yes, a printed and detailed program for Peggy’s funeral, with a poem I can only interpret as meant for Steve (I’ll include the poem below), in my hands, and I’m supposed to sit there like it’s any other day?
Luckily, that’s when the stylists came around to powder and primp everyone, as the cameramen set up and test sound and visual. Then here comes Joe Russo, no big deal, strolling down the aisle, talking to the lead boom guy. I’m all, “Ohmigod, it’s a Russo,” and the lady next to me says, “Who?”
They were killing me, y’all, for real. None of these people knew anything.
Finally, they start running test footage. They don’t cue up any sound, but they have action. We’re all reminded we’re at a funeral, we are somber, we are to face front as they bring in the coffin. The pallbearer extras go probably five feet past my spot and turn around to roll again…and who do I see? Chris Evans’ double (yes, I know who his double is. This isn’t amateur hour for fangirling). He’d been holding the other side of the coffin. Which meant… (as I started to have palpitations) Chris Evans would be in this scene.
I was fine. No really, I was okay. I kept it together. Until they rolled test footage the fourth time, I look over after they yell cut, and SWEET BABY OTTERS, THERE IS CHRIS EVANS! Less than two feet from me. Chris Evans.
I didn’t meep, I didn’t move, but inside was a litany of excited profanity and flailing, the likes of which you cannot imagine, none of it appropriate in church, because it wasn’t just Chris Evans. It was Chris Evans as STEVE ROGERS. Midnight navy suit so dark it could be black, vest and tie, Steve hair and jawline of justice. I don’t know how I didn’t make a noise. Maybe I blacked out. I dunno.
There was a little murmuring on set. Everyone realized the star was there. Joe told us we were going to film for real this time, reminded us to keep looking forward and not turn around to gawk at Chris, even though everyone knows he’s really pretty. (He wasn’t talking to me about facing forward. I didn’t turn around. I’m a professional. I saved my gawking for when he came back up the aisle.)
People who’ve worked on movies already know this, but when they shoot actual footage, there’s a lot of scurrying about beforehand. They sprayed this stuff in the air each time to create the right glow and mood with the sunlight, streaming through the stained glass, there were these big panel things they flopped in the air for idek what reason. Then there’s the yelling. “Quiet on set!” “Cue sound!” “Set Mark!” “Rolling!” A boys’ choir began to sing one of the saddest sounding songs ever and the processional began to approach. You don’t see all of it in the movie, but there was a minister in robes, several altar boys, and six men carrying Peggy’s casket (*takes a moment and a deep breath*) and I could imagine Steve, on the other side of that coffin, barely keeping it together, jaw clenched firm as he fell apart inside, because Peggy was his best girl.
In a way, I thought it was fitting that at least one Peggy fangirl was at her funeral. I mean, right? A room full of people who were all “Who?” but I love the character and her TV show (Come on, Netflix. Contract the series!) I understood the gravity this moment would have in the movie, and what it’d mean for the other characters. I think that’s what kept me from openly flailing about Chris Evans being so close. Because, each time they yelled cut, and the extras carried the casket back up the aisle, while Joe Russo talked to Chris about to tweak the scene and his emotions, Evans walked right by me. Less than two feet away, walked right by. I could’ve reached out and touched him, but I didn’t.
I will take a moment here to say, you can tell it’s unnerving for an actor to do this intense scene and there we are, an audience of 200, just…sitting there. Like a congregation. It had to be awkward for him. I even tried not to stare, but c’mon. I couldn’t help it. After one take, I was absorbed in the moment (because Steve Rogers) and I tooooootally got busted staring. Probably on the seventh or eighth take, Chris was walking back up the aisle. I had the distracting thought, He’s so pretty, even in real life, and he looked up, our gazes locked, and I got his sheepish grin of “Yep, here I am. And there all of you are and now I’ve made eye contact with you so I better smile or it’s rude, hey.”
The moment was hilarious and, ngl, heart fluttery. They shot about eleventy-million more takes of that same scene, and finally, we got to break for lunch. Again, Marvel pulls out all the stops to feed and hydrate us. It was like going to a fancy wedding, minus the open bar.
A bit later, we all had to file back in to the church. The big spotlights outside kept the lighting just right and they sprayed more of that stuff in the air. I ended up sitting in a new spot, next to my fangirl buddy for the day. Then, who do I hear talking? Loudly? Anthony Mackie. Aka Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, aka MCU treasure. We can’t hear or see the scene they’re filming, because they were on the front row and all they do in that scene is elbow each other and look at Sharon. But, between each take, Mackie had a joke or comment and Evans, as well as the rest of the crew, were all noticeably lighter and more at ease. There was laughter on set and the mood was ten times more relaxed. Emily Van Camp had on bedroom shoes with that suit, because you can’t see her feet in the scene. Chris had taken off the jacket near the end, only wearing the shirt, vest and tie, and I was like daaaaaaaamn, keep it together, Heather. They shoot this scene another eleventy-million times and finally, around 6pm, they call wrap for the day.
Mackie got up and thanked everyone for working such a long day; he thanked the extras, called us awesome and went down the aisle fist bumping everyone. The cast and crew were all very gracious and kind. Sadly, there was no Sebastian Stan, but it was probably for the best. I barely survived my Steve moment. I’m not sure I could’ve kept it together around Bucky.
Marvel fed us, again, and gave us caffeine before we got bused back to the parking lot. I got in my car to find my phone too hot to use – because it was Atlanta in May – but as soon as it cooled off, I definitely did not call anyone I knew to flail about one of the most random and wonderful days of my life. 😉