NEW WILMINGTON, PA. Hundreds turn out for casting call hoping to become 'West Wing' extras
In addition to 400 extras, the casting director is looking to hire a four- or five-piece country band and a German Shepherd to play the part of a police dog.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. -- Some 1,200 people -- young, old and in-between -- turned out for a casting call at Westminster College Saturday in hopes of landing a role on NBC's Emmy-winning drama "The West Wing."
Doors at Orr Auditorium were expected to open at 11 a.m. but instead opened about 9:45 a.m. because by that time, the line of hopefuls stretched across campus, and those in charge didn't want the crowd to grow out of control, said Julie Shenker.
Shenker and her husband, Mark, were among 30 volunteers commandeered by the Lawrence County Tourist Promotion Agency to distribute casting forms, attach photos to applications and help control the crowd.
The first person in line, an older man with gray hair and a gray beard arrived at 6:30 a.m., "and he was surprised that he was No. 1. He told me he thought 20 or 30 people would be ahead of him," Mark Shenker said.
The early birds came prepared. "They had their folding chairs," Shenker said.
By 10:30 a.m., between 300 and 400 people had filled their forms and turned in their photos, said Nancy Mosser, owner of Nancy Mosser Casting, Pittsburgh, the local casting director for the production.
"The turnout is wonderful, but I was a little worried we were going to be overwhelmed," she said. "We've had a good mix of people, and they are all very enthusiastic."
About 400 extras will be hired to play the part of spectators, police officers, Secret Service Personnel, reporters, White House staffers, bus drivers and paramedics for a scene at a Lawrence County soybean farm Aug. 23 and 24.
Lawrence County will double for rural Indiana, where the scene is set.
Most extras will work from dawn to dusk. The work, Mosser said, involves "a lot of waiting around with little bursts of excitement. I tell people to bring things to read or play cards."
In addition to 400 extras, Mosser is looking to hire a German Shepherd to play the part of a police dog, a four- or five-piece country band, and the owner of a red, mid-1990s Jeep Wrangler with an automatic transmission who would allow the vehicle to be used in the production.
Among those who turned out hoping to be cast were a soon-to-be college student, a teacher, a preacher and a woman whose sister once lived with Robert DeNiro.
Brienne Eckart, 20, of Hartford, Ohio, is interested in acting and got very excited when Chris Fatherly, 32, of Sharon, Pa., told her about the casting call after he read an article about it in The Vindicator.
They both turned out to take a shot at a part.
"It all just seemed like a novelty," Fatherly said.
Eckart, who plans to attend Kent State University, said she'll "jump up and down" if she lands a role.
Adele George, a second-grade teacher at Thaddeus Stevens School, New Castle, said she likes to try everything and thought working as an extra in a TV show would be great.
She routinely walks her dog at Westminster College, so she was already familiar with the campus. Because of the crowd, George said she left her dog at home and dropped in at Orr Auditorium for the casting call.
J. Gary Brown, pastor of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Connoquenessing, Pa., said he's loved movies since he was a child and always wanted to be in them.
"A preacher is a frustrated actor," he joked.
Brown has appeared in a few films shot in western Pennsylvania over the last several years and worked at Penn Power for 22 years in its advertising, public relations and communications departments.
"Moviemaking is a good way to communicate, and I like to communicate," he said.
Three others accompanied the pastor to the casting call: a couple from his congregation, Bill and Diane Richards of Butler, Pa., and Teresa Sinchak of Pittsburgh.
"The pastor didn't have to talk us into it; he just said, 'C'mon. Let's go,' and we came," Sinchak said.
The four arrived in a black Lincoln limousine.
Brown is the only one of the four to have appeared in films before.
"My only brush with fame was when I met Robert De DeNiro," Sinchak laughed. "He and my sister lived together in New York for two years, and she brought him home to meet the family. I was only about 14 years old, and he wasn't famous yet."
"This is my very first time," said Diane Richards. "The pastor knows my husband, Bill, is a very big 'West Wing' fan."
"I'll be there just to see them film it, even if they don't cast me," Bill Richards added. "That's why I'm here. I think it would be a lot of fun."
Roger Juntunen of Hubbard is in it for the fun, too.
"I got up, came over here, ate breakfast, went and saw the Amish, went over a covered bridge, got my hair cut, went to CVS and got my instant passport photos, and came here. I just thought it would be something fun to do."
Juntunen is a salesman for Andrews Metal Products, Youngstown, and a former military man.
Those who aren't cast as extras in "The West Wing" may be called to appear in other films or commercials. Mosser said she keeps all photos on file.
For more information, access Mosser's Web site at www.mossercasting.com.