My ‘Nashville’ family shares experiences as series ends
The Nashville Ledger recently asked me to write a first-person story on the family of extras that have come together to appear in ‘Nashville’ as the music-themed television drama now probably goes away after a four-year run on ABC. That article is now available here.
In preparing this article I asked some of my ‘Nashville’ friends – strangers when we met, but soon close friends, almost family – to share their on-set experiences. This is the final installment (they’re all here) and I wanted to let them tell you of their ‘Nashville’ experiences in their own words. Most of us are extras, just ordinary people from all walks of life. But today, I want to introduce some talented Nashville-based actors who have their Screen Actors Guild cards and appeared on the show. You’ll meet a few of them, too. Wednesday’s guests are Beverly Baker Hanley, Franchesa Kirkpatrick, Paula Williams and Mary Edwards.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 25
Beverly Hanley is always great fun to talk to and see. She has turned the ‘Nashville’ experience into even greater opportunities, and I’ll be watching for her at the movies: Over four years ago I embarked on a lark of a journey, never knowing it would lead to a whole new aspect of my life! After retiring from teaching and moving from my hometown of Clarksville to Franklin, I realized I was floundering and searching for something worthwhile to fill my time. Oh yes, we had the grandchildren and the beautiful Williamson County to explore but I needed more! Then came the notice for the new ABC TV show Nashville! It had been many years since my drama classes in high school and college, but this sounded interesting.
From day one I realized that this was more than a “filler” and I was hooked! I loved everything from the lighting, staging and of course, the music!! During the fitting for the
“Gala” on season 2, I met my first lifelong friend and from there on it exploded into more friends with lunches, shopping trips and eventually movies such as Jurassic World, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Captain America as well as TV spots on Devious Maids, Survivors Remorse, Food Channel’s Best in Chow, as well as countless videos and shows locally in the Nashville area. Several of us have also branched out into acting classes and have accepted speaking roles, moving into a truly scary area!
The friends I have made, and subsequently traveled with, have become part of the fabric of my life! We have gone beyond the menial chitchat and have become true friends who are there for each other in both good times and bad!
We are all reeling from the cancellation of Nashville but, as the characters would do, we will rise from the ashes stronger and with more Southern Spunk! I will hope for a Nashville “pickup” from another channel, yet will keep searching and accepting other roles as offered. As I research the sides sent for a new role tonight, I think, “How would Rayna, Juliette, Scarlett, Layla, etc. interpret this?”
I’m thankful for every single cast member, fabulous crew and most especially, for every background extra who sat through long hours, crazy weather, card games and goldfish to get us all to this point! We can only hope that the fans of the show know that ‘We Are Family!’
Franchesa Kirkpatrick is very a creative person, full of ideas. After we met, she invited me to participate in a stage reading for a “pivotal role.” I was the one who got shot: Nashville was not just friends working; so many of us have a stronger bond. We worked on projects for Metro Parks. Sometimes spending four days together over 16 hours. It was so much fun checking who would be on set with us in our Facebook comments. In the community we supported each other’s events. Yes, I will miss you each and every one. Please stay in touch, you never know what can be done in the future as a team. Thank you all for being my Nashville ABC family.
Paula Williams is so, so, so talented. She has a bubbly personality that shines. She’s a winner (especially on The Price Is Right)!: I started with the Nashville TV show in Season One and have worked all seasons up through this last season. It opened the door for me to pursue the
Entertainment industry. I’ve been to New Orleans and also LA and worked on many projects!!! The show Nashville gave me the opportunity to start my career as an actress and I have been very lucky to have been given a unique opportunity!
Didn’t get to know Mary Edwards too well but, like me, this author and screenwriter has stories to tell: I started working on Nashville in Season Three and a short time on Season Four. I had the great privilege of being featured throughout the third season of the show. During this time, I had met many great people, and a lifetime of memories. I was very fortunate enough to meet some of the actors on the show. I will always be very thankful and remember all the great times I had working on the show. I will miss everyone and miss the show greatly.
TUESDAY, MAY 24
Terri Hatcher-Goodwin is a veteran at this being-an-extra thing and she gave many of us pointers. Her personality makes her fun to be around. I have enjoyed working as a extra/actor for twenty-something years. Working for the show Nashville since day one all the way till the end of a four year run was very special. Being a Nashville native, I loved that our city was getting world wide attention. Working as a extra can be hard work with long hours on the set. With those long hours we all got to know each other pretty well. We had lots of bonding time working in all kinds of weather etc. We all have become friends or a respect for one another. We all knew we were blessed to be part of this show. As others would have loved to taken our place. The main actors of the show were great to work with. We all felt like a family from the set crew, directors to catering. Relationships that will last a life time.
I will miss being part of the show Nashville But I carry with me wonderful memories and working experience. I love the behind the scenes of filming. Nashville has grown a lot in the filming industry. So I will continue my work as a background actor with other projects. Where one door closes another one opens as they say. So I know all of the talent and crew of the TV show Nashville will continue on to the next adventure of our life.
Tyler Allen (center, seen here with me and Roger Uselton) is now pursuing his show business dreams in Atlanta, but says Nashville – the city and the show – was his launching pad: I worked a lot all four seasons. When the TV show came to town, I was also new to town and didn’t really know anyone at the time. I wanted to be an extra on the show because I thought it would be something fun to do, at least just once. But little did I know the impact that being a “Nashville” extra would come to have on my life. That first time on season 1 was all it took for me to catch the bug, because not only was I intrigued by the “behind the scenes”, I was also meeting wonderful people who were fellow extras and who have become lifelong friends. I had moved to Nashville to pursue a career in radio, but because of the connections that I was making on set, other opportunities began opening up in film and TV. I’ve been blessed to have some exciting opportunities in this industry so far, while gaining some very dear friends along the way, and it all started with being an extra on “Nashville”. There’s a special connection of friendship and support among the “extra community” in Nashville; so I hope that other film and TV projects will be drawn to this wonderful city because there’s a wonderful group of dedicated extras waiting.
Tim Kernell is another recovering journalist, and we were cast as golfers for a scene at Hermitage Golf Course. Tim reminded me how chilly it was that, “probably not somewhere you would normally find me on that cold of a day!”: Believe I worked in something like 4-5 episodes, so not really a lot of stories, or experiences, to share. Would have liked to have worked more, but work commitments really didn’t allow it. It really was fascinating to be a part of the process, though…probably nothing I’ll ever do again, but a pretty unique, and fun, experience.
The one story I would share would be the very first time that I worked, I got there, having no clue what was going on, and was immediately grouped with your co-worker at The Ledger, and my old newspaper colleague, Leigh Singleton. Both of us, at that point, were not that far removed from our newspapering days, and the scene we were going to shoot we were, you guessed it, reporters. I remember we joked about already being typecast.
I’ve had this same experience as Ashleigh Elliott Hall a few times. My car was used for a scene, but I wasn’t (sigh, that’s show biz): I had the pleasure of working as an extra on Nashville several times! I was an extra on the pilot episode and I remember how nice the cast was! Specifically, I recall a time when Chip Esten sat down to look over his lines at the same table with us extras. One time my car was an extra! I spent an entire day driving my car around the set! My car ended up with quite a bit of screen time!
MONDAY, MAY 23
Demetriss Tapp (left, with friend Sandy Mendez) has true star power, with several records that you might want to check out on YouTube. She was also an extra on ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ with Chuck Norris: I have spent a lifetime in show business as a singer/recording artist and was looking for a different direction — something to keep the fire in the soul alive. I found it in the production of Nashville working as an extra.
This was a totally new experience with a crew of people who were right there at all times to direct and help in any way and soon began to feel like family, which is what we all became. Brothers and sisters unifying for a cause — a show that made the city of Nashville and us, proud to be a working part of. Extras are people of all genres … housewives, unemployed, retired, playing hooky from work, driving hours from other states to simply be able to say “I was there. And of course, extras are packed with “wanna-be’s” … and that’s the exciting part. No matter our age, our income, our status in life … when that red light went on, we became the stars of Nashville. It gave us a reason to dream, and that we did. Thank you, Callie Khouri, Connie Britton, the crew and of course, all my extras family for a fun run!
Laurie Ritz Charland is part of a large crew of friends that you always see at the same table, taking photos together, laughing, chatting, having fun and making the time pass a little faster in the holding area where they keep extras. And she’s certainly the center of attention in this accompanying photo: Losing Nashville is making a huge impact on many people worldwide in different ways. As for me living in Nashville and working as background, it’s only one of my part time jobs. I started out as a volunteer for concert scenes until they called and asked if I would consider being a “paid extra” in Season One. That surprised me and opened my eyes to a job I never thought I would do. I’m thankful I took them up on it. Not only did it provide a little income, I now have another large family of friends. I have made so many friends working on this show and some are very close friends. Nashville has given many people work opportunity as well as a way to get out and meet people. For me that was huge having recently moved here. So many people love the music and the talent Nashville showcased. We all hope that the show would keep that it’s main focus as well as use local attractions and businesses for filming. No need to really mention the boom in tourism it has brought here. That is obvious.
Hal Gibbs is one of the friendliest guys I’ve met in four years as a Nashville extra. Always smiling. Words can’t describe what Nashville did for me–a whole class of new friends for life, a much needed outlet for me, money was helpful but it wasn’t about that, no shame for being an extra because the show would not have made it without us, a bittersweet surprise ending.
Holly Calhoun, a member of WIFT & NSAI, was cast in Nashville roles such as backstage VIP with Steven Tyler, Deacon’s friend at the grand opening of The Beverly, and guest at Deacon and Rayna’s wedding & reception: It was a bittersweet day on set of Nashville filming and wrapping the season finale. It’s been a privilege to work with the industry’s finest professionals including cast, crew and writer/producer Callie Khouri. I wish them all the best.
SUNDAY, MAY 22
We talk just about every time we’re on an episode together, but I didn’t know Anita Harrod’s poignant background story until I asked her to send something for farewell this series. I grew up in a home filled with music. My father is a self-taught musician (anything with a string) & sings. Dad played in a band which took us to small town Opry’s, or other family venues. If they weren’t playing in public a “jam session” would often take place at one of the members’ home. We learned early that my sister Terri could sing. She began at the age of five and was so little my dad had to stand her on a milk crate to reach the microphone. We were very close and shared the red haired gene. People often thought we were twins as children but I’m two years older. She was always the “funny” sibling and had a huge personality that everyone loved. We were very close. I moved away from Louisville in 1987. She visited often and talked on the phone constantly. She passed away May 5, 2010 at 49 years of age. She wasn’t the only sibling I lost. My youngest sister, Gina (also a phenomenal singer) passed away in 1978 at the young age of 14. Carrying the pain of losing both is unreal. Watching my parents suffer is something that can’t be explained.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with Ménière’s and a Pancreatic disease. Between the illnesses and my sister passing away I was a mess. I had dropped to about 101 lbs, was losing my hair and suffering from Migraines. Sitting around isn’t an option for me, so my forced life change was difficult. It seemed life wanted to knock me over and with the death of my sister I almost allowed it. I struggled to find joy in my life even though I have the greatest family and friends in the world.
Darla Pelton Perez is a friend and told me how to contact OLC and submit for a role. I signed up and was picked immediately to work the Parthenon and Jimmy Kelly’s scenes for season two. Darla had already worked another scene for that episode, so I had to go on my own. The only thing I’ve ever done was in high school theater. I’ll never forget how excited I was to get on the show but panic hit me hard driving to the lot where we were picked up. Somewhere along the drive I started to cry. I couldn’t help thinking of both of my talented sisters and how much they would have loved to do this. I allowed pain, fear and doubt to take over. Sitting at a traffic light I thought what would Terri say to me right now? She would have said get over yourself and go do this! It made me laugh mostly because she loved people, the spotlight, and you never had to guess what she was thinking.
When I got there, Kyler Wilson was the first person I met. He made everything so easy! From that moment on I felt like a kid in a candy store. Every single person on the set that I encountered was so helpful and kind. By the time we wrapped I had made several friends. Watching everyone work captured my attention. It was amazing to see how much effort they put into their job.
The next scene I worked was the Gala with my friend Darla which was over the top! The dress wardrobe had picked was very full and long. I had strangers (even the crew) helping me up and down the stairs during those three days. The kindness continued from craft services all the way to the stars! It seemed to be that way each episode (23 or more) that I worked. To this day I’m amazed how well every person worked together.
Friendship came easy through many people. The list of names is long and I am thankful for each one. There were just a few people that knew about my illnesses & broken heart. Being exposed to the music atmosphere was a little overwhelming at times. I couldn’t help thinking about my sister Gina and would she be singing on a stage if she had lived. My other sister Terri would have been staying at my house and working on that set as much as they would let her. I actually had to put on my happy face and hide the pain when those thoughts took over.
A hello, how are you, or short conversation in passing from all of those wonderful people I met would be my saving grace on more than one occasion. They never knew. I believe people are placed in our life for a reason. Nashville wasn’t just a job, it was an amazing experience. I’m very thankful to have been a very small part of it, and every person I met.
Zan Buckner is one of the first folks I met on the Nashville set, funny and quirky and a treasure to be around: I’ve loved being able to see — literally and figuratively — “behind the scenes” and learn how a TV show is made: all the work that goes into it and the magic that converts sets and sound stages and actors and extras into something on screen that looks and feels like real life.
I’ve met people from a wide range of life situations and almost every income levels who also work as extras, from one actor friend who is homeless and lives out of his car, to others who live in mansions in the most upscale parts of town. I’ve become friends with people whom I might never have crossed paths with otherwise. When you have a shared experience with someone doing thing you love, it is easy to bond. I will miss that and all the truly interesting people I’ve met working on Nashville.
Jeromy Nichols asks his friends to call him Tod. You can, too: It was very sad to hear that Nashville was cancelled. I started working on the show during the second season. A friend convinced me to come with him and I was hooked. It didn’t take me long to realize that there were several people who seemed to show up as much as I did, and we have become quite close. We have spent so much time together waiting, it would be hard not to. I have been very blessed to work on 26 episodes of Nashville. I’ve also had the pleasure of working on several music videos, other television shows (Crazy Hearts: Nashville, Still The King), and movies thanks to the growth in the industry brought on by Nashville.
SATURDAY, MAY 21
Victor Hollingsworth was been in the news business (Nashville Banner, Charlotte Observer and CNN), and now is an actor and filmmaker. I asked him for a contribution and this is what he sent: City and state officials aren’t the only ones lamenting the non-renewal of “Nashville.” The local acting community will miss the show, too.
“It was a great gig,” says Victor Hollingsworth, a local actor who appeared on the May 11 episode as the minister officiating the funeral of character Will Lexington’s mother. “The cast and crew were so solid and professional, the pay was good, and network-television appearances aren’t easy to come by.”
Hollingsworth is among those hoping Netflix, Hulu or some other streaming service picks up the series, especially since a fifth season would have seen Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz taking over as show runners.
“Those guys are the real deal,” he says of the Zwick and Herskovitz, the team behind the films “Legends of the Fall,” “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond.”
“I’m sure they would have energized ‘Nashville’ and taken it into great new directions.”
I met Connie Maynord on ‘The Identical’ and we’ve been friends since. She played the role of Charlene Lexington, Will’s mom. I enjoyed working with all the crew and staff and actors of ABC/Nashville. Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) is a fabulous actor and a nice young man and I so enjoyed “being his mom for episode 19.” I was disappointed the producer cut his scene as the taping included him crying deeply at his mom’s casket; as a young man would and they cut the part at the funeral where the real choir of the Ashland City sang! I will miss the TV show. And I look forward to the $8 million our TN Film Commission was giving them to be given to some great films who will hire our Local Great Actors as Actors- not just extras. We have some Great Actors here.
Keith Sausedo has been on more episodes than any of us, but never gets screen time. Well, actually, he did get cast as a producer for one episode in 2015. The rest of the time, he literally stands in the spotlight for directors and cameramen to get the lighting set, etc.
I have to say that this show has been a blessing for me in more ways than one. It came to town right at the time that I was changing careers in my life and was trying to figure what my next step was. I went to the first open casting call and on the second day of filming I was featured with “Rayna” (Connie) in episode 2 of the Bluebird. From there I started working with On Location Casting to help PA some of the larger crowd days. Then half way through season 1 one of the crew asked me if I would be interested in being a stand in, of course I said “Yes.”
I was really excited to be offer the chance to work with the crew and learn more about what happens behind the camera. There is so much movement and details that goes on with every shot and it was a wonderful learning experience. I would talk to as many of the crew members to ask them in details about the role that they had in each department so I could learn as much as possible about what it takes to create a TV show. …
… Season 4 was announced and I couldn’t wait to get back to set to do this thing again. It was wonderful to see everyone come back to the show and ready to make some more magic happen. I was given another opportunity to be a part of the show in episode 12 doing a voice over part. When the news came out about the show being cancelled, I was heartbroken. I was going to miss my on-set family. Nashville has given a chance to work with the most wonderful, caring, passionate, creative, cast and crew. It has also given me the chance to start a career as an actor and the opportunity to work behind the camera. I have made some special relationships with so many people that I will always cherish. Thank you to everyone that has been a part of my life for the past few year. It has been a life-changing experience that will always be with me.
FRIDAY, MAY 20
I met Debbie and Walter Swierk sometime during the second season, got to know them a lot better in season three. Really great folks that you are naturally drawn to, they seem know everybody on the cast and crew as well as all the extras. Walt is a retired Tennessee State Command Chief (USAF) and Debbie takes charge as our group photo coordinator. Here’s Debbie: May 12th I was saddened by the news of ABC’s cancellation of NASHVILLE. Working as an extra has been such a memorable experience. I am blessed to have been a small part of my favorite show.
I have made so many good friends filming and having fun on set. Many groups shots have been taken in holding, memories were made and friendships that will last forever. The staff and crew have been unforgetable especially our favorite director “Fernando.” His well known phrase “PANTOMIME” will be with all the extras forever!
Getting to work with the stars of the show up close and personal is a special part of being an extra/background. Also filming with all the guest stars such as Sir Elton John, Christina Aguilera, Thomas Rhett and Steven Tyler was a huge bonus. As an extra on Nashville, it has opened many doors through networking with other extras to be a part of many other projects being filmed in Nashville.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity to experience the magic of television from the other side of the camera. It’s amazing to me to see how it all comes together in the end.
I’ve been on set with Kerry Lance for several productions, and it seems like I see him in the background of practically every show: Thank You Nashville ABC!!! It’s all positive, from working on a prime time television show, to meeting and becoming friends with people from all walks of life. I have met other songwriters and written songs that otherwise would have not likely have happened. So grateful for every opportunity with the show and every opportunity developed because of the show. Thank You Nashville ABC!!!
Missy Crowder-Compton is always sweet and cheerful on the set: I will never forget the day 4 years ago, I had just sent my children off to school, sat down to drink a cup of coffee watching the local news and they said a new TV show was being filmed in Nashville and needed Extras. I thought, “I will send them an email but never in a million years would they respond, well they did,” and in a few hours I was working on the set and my life changed forever. It has opened so many doors for me and gave me confidence I didn’t even know I had, and lifelong friendships that I will be forever grateful for. Thank you “Nashville!”
Dennis Adkins is like me, a recovering journalist. He was at the Leaf-Chronicle in Clarksville for a lot of years and has also been in public relations: Working on Nashville has been a truly amazing experience, and something I will always remember. Of course it’s always great to be included in a scene, but to me it’s equally interesting to see the creative process, the behind the scenes work that goes into producing a weekly network television show. It’s fascinating to see how the show comes together with the hard work of the crew, writers, actors, and producers.
I started working as an extra during season two, and I was hooked. From that point on, I submitted to work as much as possible. It’s hard to believe that I have worked on the show for three seasons.
On a personal level, I have met so many interesting people on the set, and have developed friendships with many of those people. There are lots of times, when working as an extra, you’re confined to the holding area until needed. These long periods of waiting provide many opportunities to get to know each other. There is a natural bonding and feeling of camaraderie. It’s so nice to show up for work at the production stages, and see all those familiar faces. It’s a close-knit group – like a work family.
One day I was arriving to work at the production stages, and the shuttle driver said, “you’re going to have a special guest on the set today.” Everyone was surprised when we learned that Sir Elton John would be participating in a concert scene that day! Of course, he performed a song for the scene several times, but in between takes he treated us to piano versions of “your Song” and a bit of “Rocket Man.” Each day of filming is different. You just never know what to expect! That’s an aspect of working as an extra that I like.
THURSDAY, MAY 19:
I first met Chuck Shaw more than 40 years ago (has it really been that long?) when we were both students at Middle Tennessee State University. We took some Mass Comm classes together, I worked on the student newspaper Sidelines and he earned a spot as one of the school cheerleaders. Then after graduation, we drifted apart, lost track of each other, went on separate career paths and didn’t see each other until four years ago. On the set of Nashville. This photo below came at the end of Season One. Chuck is an avid MTSU supporter, and I have allowed myself to become one again since retiring as a sportswriter (you can’t show favortism when covering teams). A real thrill for both of us was the day Elton John taped his appearance for the May 18 episode. It was the same day MTSU’s men upset Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We watched it in the holding area on Chuck’s phone.
Chuck: Back around this time in May 2012, I was forced into retirement by Standard Register a couple of days after celebrating my 28 year anniversary.
I had a severance package and while taking my time to decide my next career, I ran across a post on the Facebook Page for 365 things to do in Nashville. One that intrigued me was to volunteer as an extra on Nashville. I had never done any acting but was a Mass Comm major at MTSU. The technical aspect of it is what got me interested. I signed up to do a concert scene at the Bridgestone Arena.
I had a friend, Scott Adcock who was a stand in for Bucky (David Alford). I called him and he said to let him know when I arrived. I called him and he came and pulled me out of the Volunteer group and took me right up to the stage. Rayna and Juliette were both performing that day and I was hooked. I was never a volunteer again and worked on over 40 episodes. I had 3 “featured extra” parts. I was an “older businessman with a young girl”, I was the “wedding officiant” for Will and Layla, and was the “minister” for Beverly’s funeral (barely seen in that one). It was fun every week when Facebook friends from all over would try to find me during an episode. All in all, I really enjoyed my time on the show. I had many people ask me over the years how to get started and helped everyone that wanted to be a part of it get started. My favorite was Debbie Swierk. She and I had both graduated from Madison High School together and were friends on Facebook. She asked one day how to get started and we ended up working together as a couple on the first episode of season 2. One of my favorite episodes was the opening episode of season 3. I worked the rehearsal and the “live” episode from the Bluebird. That was a fun time. I think working on Nashville gave me an opportunity as a Realtor to meet some new clients. I will keep working extra work as the opportunities arise. I believe some of the friends I have met will continue to be so for many years to come.
Don Day was among the first friends I made on ‘Nashville’ and we’ve worked together on a couple of projects since. Joining us in the photo below is actress Olivia Franchessa. He has a grandfatherly persona, but you didn’t see much of him that first season because he was a stand-in, and they make a little more money but don’t get much camera time. I’ll let Don tell his story:
Don: I am grateful that I made numerous lifelong friends while an extra and a stand-in stand-in for Powers Boothe (Rayna’s father) for ten episodes while on “Nashville”. The Extra Community was a fabulous way to network with those with the same acting interests. Since “Nashville” I have acted in music videos, film, industrials, book trailers, television serials, commercials, and I have done several voice-over assignments.To date close to sixty(60) on camera shoots. “Nashville” gave me my start and built confidence in me to do much more in the film community of Nashville. I hope it can return for another season with such fine local and non-local actors. The craft services food wasn’t bad either!
I met Howie Garouette on the set near the end of season one, if I recall correctly. We hit it off quickly, two kindred spirits – only Howie has a lot more hair. He’s a fun guy to be around on set. Hollywood Howie – he strikes me as a Wolfman Jack kind of guy – hosts a Top 40 countdown on VRadio 101 each Tuesday at 7 p.m. Check him out.
Howie: What losing Nashville means to me: it means the loss of work with great people from the cast to the crew and extras. We became a big family on the show. I guess special moment for me would be the day Lennon saw me outside and gave me a hug and ask how I was feeling after having a cancer scare. Since working on the show I have been asked to host a number of events and been recognized from the show.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 18:
A lot of musicians Susie Monick is a talented banjo player, one of many Nashville musicians I’ve met on the show. She’s also written a children’s book. We got to hang out for a while with then-Mayor Karl Dean and actor Eric Close, who played Mayor Teddy Conrad, at one gala event. Through Susie, I met ukulele player Donna Frost. Take it away, ladies:
Susie: I bonded with many extras and we became a family…a family of all ages, colors, and walks of life. One common bond that I noticed was that many of us were creative souls in all kinds of arts…music, painting, knitting…oh, and theater and acting. We spent a lot of time in holding, so we had many hours getting to know each other..
One special moment was running into Donna Frost. I moved to Nashville 40 years ago from New York and had heard of Donna. .She had heard of me.. I moved to Nashville in 1976 as founder of the first all-girl band Buffalo Gals. Donna had an all-girl punk rock band..We were the same age and as we talked..we knew some of the same people , same clubs.. same gigs.. we exchanged CDs, Then we booked some shows together at Douglas Corner….We are now friends for life….As we both let our hair go natural gray, when we sat near each other on set, our hair stood out and we could pick ourselves out in photos. One photo of us in the audience at The Bluebird Cafe taken by Mark Levine showed up in the Tennessean newspaper and the online Rolling Stone Country.. Donna and I would laugh when we talked about our “famous hair” that would soon need an agent.
I made new friends. Slim Rob Dee came to my folky/bluegrass gig at The Idle Hour, I went to his North Nashville church to hear him rap. We probably would have met no other way. Abby Pihl Hawkins taught me how to knit via youtube. We were cast by On Location Casting as knitting Nuns role in the Novitiate movie .
Tia Blanton was a visual artist who I was later to network with during The Downtown Art Crawl and the Tennessee Art League..I met Bobby Pizazz in a small dive bar scene of Nashville. We were never used in the scene but we found out that we had tons of friends in common… Stories of the crazy days..Townes Van Zandt kind of drama.. I now play writers nights with Bobby at The Commodore Lounge in the Vanderbilt area.
A bunch of us friends, old and new, had so much fun on Nashville we sought out other background actor outlets..which led to The Identical movie..I was in a church scene with Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, and new friend Zan Buckner, …..and Boulevard with Robin Williams…more new friends, old friends,,.Aziz Ansari Master Of None on Netflix …Billy Ray Cyrus in Still The King on CMT…The Dust Storm, working with set Production Assistants Justin Mickelson and Kyler Wilson ..So we kept running into each other and strengthening the friendships..
There were Group Photos..Debbie Layhew Swierk, Laurie Ritz Charland, Missy Crowder Compton, Lucie Miller Carroll, Tina Williams, Tom Wood…..I don’t want to leave anyone out ….but you could see us tagged in hundreds of photos on Facebook..over and over…for 4 years!!! Four years of friends..!! Then there were celebrities on Nashville in addition to the cast …We could put Elton John, Steven Tyler, Christina Aguilara, and Derek Hough on our resumes.. Then there was crew!!!! A camera man, Fred Cooper, .was an old friend who played drums in a band with me 35 years ago…A set designer, Ken Stanley, also played drums in a band I used to be in…Wardrobe–!! I love shopping at Thrift stores so bringing 3 full outfits according to instructions gave my old clothes new life!..There was even a connection with Creator Callie Khouri. I worked at art museum and botanical gardens Cheekwood with her Mom, Virginia Khouri, who was so excited that her daughter was up for an award for writing the movie Thelma And Louise in 1991.
There was a spiritual aspect to being an extra. Many of us were getting close to retirement so this new hobby gave us a new lease on life … a new excitement … a new thing we wanted to be when we grew up.
I don’t usually like to get up early but I greeted the day as a TV star…steady part time work.It was a way to make money at something enjoyable…often more money than being a musician…I had been a side person for most of my life as a banjo, mandolin, and accordion player. Being surrounded by actors and the show business lifestyle gave me the confidence to become a front person.So at 60 years old, I became the lead singer of my own band “Holly Wood And The Extras” . It has been a blast so far!
Oh, and being an extra led to a medical miracle.. During Seasons 1-3 , I had bad knee pain and my legs were bowing …I had trouble walking but being an extra gave me something to look forward to and to not miss any opportunity of being on an episode, I would limp to my car to drive to wherever location would be. … Randy Massa, a knee salesman led to surgeon Dr Stuart Smith of TOA, which led to a double knee replacement. My recovery was quickened by “Nashville” because I could bring my cane to set..I wanted to heal and not feel sorry for myself..So for Season 4, my new knees made all the standing, walking and climbing easie r… long skirts gave way to skinny jeans and boots. Then I found out that Mark Levine, the still photographer, was the proud owner of a new hip..another extra I met at The Ryman had a new knee by the same doctor. Lucie had knee surgery. Beverly Baker Hanley had back surgery. Beautiful Rachel Boyce, who wore cool vintage clothes showed up for work in her wheelchair.
I am overwhelmed by how much being an extra for Nashville has enriched my life!
Donna Frost (at right, in this Season 4 photo with Dottie L. Snow Tubb): Working as an extra on the “Nashville” series was one of the most enjoyable and special times of my life and career! Back in the early 1990s I had worked as an extra in the feature film ” The Thing Called Love” and a couple of TV movies for CBS. It had been a good 20 years since when I got my first gig on “Nashville”.
I had registered with On Location Casting during Season 1 but never was available for work due to my schedule with my music. But some things are meant to be. Luckily I was called to work in the season 1 finale. I had been picture picked by the director! I was in town and I was in! I worked in the scene where Deacon fell off the wagon in the bar. I got some serious face time on that episode! My family and friends were thrilled beyond words … as was I! That was really an incredible time when we filmed that night. There were only a few of us working and Chip Esten was the best! He came around and introduced himself to each of us and thanked us for being there. I remember he was cracking jokes between each take of this very key scene. I am so happy I was a part of it. I worked a number of times each season afterwards, and luckily I did get some face time at some point each season. Any time I was on, my Facebook page would be going crazy with posts, people would call and text me. It was so cool!
Working on the show opened some doors for me as a background actor..I have been in several music videos (including Kip Moore’s “I’m to Blame”), other TV series (including “Still the King”), and a couple of indie films including my first speaking role in a movie called “The Silver Twins”. And everywhere I perform on the road…the venues tend to include in my PR that I am an extra on the show…people are always asking me questions about the show too! I absolutely love it!
Most of all, I have made many wonderful friendships with some of my fellow extras that will last a lifetime. We truly are like one big family and I will miss working on the show with everyone. I am hoping we all get to be together for another series! I know Susie Monick and I will be doing some things…we traveled in the same circles musically for years but did not know each other until we worked on “Nashville”. Now we are the best of friends and we team up for shows with our bands several times a year around town. Some of our Nashville extras family come out to see us and support us. A few weeks ago, I played at my friend, Nick Pride’s gallery opening in Smithville. We became friends while working on the show…and again some of our Nashville extras family were out to support.
And Tod Nichols…he saved my life literally. Two years ago while leaving the set, snow was falling, it was very late. We had wrapped up a 12 hour day at the Opry House. Tod waited for me to walk me to my car at Opry Mills. As we parted ways and I was getting in my car, I fell on black ice. I broke the upper big bone in my right arm in two places (which required surgery to repair) I could not get up. I was screaming for help. Luckily Tod heard my cries for help, and came to my rescue. He was able to get Opry Mills security and the EMTS there to get me to the hospital. I do not know nor do I want to know how long I would have lying there in the freezing cold so late at night had he not been there. Most of the people had already left.
I will truly miss working on the show. I am so very thankful for the good times, the friends I made, so many memories I shall treasure always!
Tom here again. Later this month: I will be attending my first Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. While there, I am doing a signing at Indy Reads Books on May 27 at 6 p.m. If you’re in Speed City for the race, I hope you’ll drop by the bookstore and say hello. And pass the word to your friends and family in the area.
As always, thanks for reading.