Most folks spend their retirement years relaxing, traveling, looking for new ways to enjoy life. For Nancy and Billy Goodman, that search led them to new careers as background actors. Since 2012 they’ve worked on multiple movies and shows including Boulevard, Nashville, Still the King, All Saints, and Summer of ’67. As a result, they’ve kept busy, learned new skills, and made many new friends along the way. 

Nancy & Billy ready to go on set at Nashville TV show as featured older couple

Tell us a bit about yourselves. What did you do before you got involved in films?

My husband Billy and I had both retired from working in various jobs in the Nashville area when we signed up with On Location Casting as ‘Talent’ in the fall of 2012.

How did you first get involved as a background actor?

I don’t recall how we came to that point. Evidently someone had passed the information along, and we went for it. After we signed up as ‘Talent’, we checked the On Location Casting page on Facebook for jobs we could ask for. One of the earliest jobs was as ‘senior residents’ in the movie with Robin Williams, and we received a call one day asking if we wanted to be ‘background extras’. Of course, we said ‘Yes!’ and that started the ball rolling.

Billy on Boulevard as background, playing cards behind Robin Williams

Tell us about your experience on set of Boulevard.

Our very first trip to be ‘background actors’ was to the set of the Boulevard movie which was at the old Clover Bottom home in Donelson, Tennessee. We knew the home was no longer operated by the State of Tennessee, but we didn’t know it was being used for such as this.

We arrived early that morning, I think it was about 10 am or so, and signed in. We were told to bring certain clothing items, such as pajamas, housecoats and slippers, and maybe a sweater or the like. Then ‘Wardrobe’ took a look at us, at the clothing we brought, and they chose clothing suitable for depicting different scenes on different days. I think I had to change ‘housecoats’ twice, slippers twice, then put a sweater on over my housecoat and Billy had to put on a different housecoat two or three different times during the course of the filming.

Billy’s main ‘work’ was sitting at a table in the ‘community room’ of the nursing home where Robin Williams’ ‘father’ was. The director gave Billy a few cards and told him his job was to play solitaire. And to keep playing the same few cards over and over in a consistent manner while they were filming. That was the first time we knew they would be filming from each side of the room. The director told Billy he did a good job, so we were proud of that.

There were several other background extras there that day, but few of them, other than Billy and me and two other ladies, were called to perform and were mostly left sitting in their chairs in the ‘holding area’ (which is where we were when not on set.)

Nancy & Billy, in holding, waiting to go on set at Nashville TV show as background

What other films have you been a part of and what roles have you played?

Last fall we were in the movie All Saints which was filmed in Smyrna, Tennessee. This movie was filmed at the All Saints Episcopal Church there. The church was the scene of the story about a minister who is called to close the church, but manages to keep it open, through the help of the Karen refugees who settled in the area. Billy and I, along with six other local background actors were chosen to make up the ‘Core Church members’, who, in the story, were the remaining members staying with the church after so many had quit coming. We made trips to Smyrna from our home in Hendersonville on ten different days for the filming of the various scenes. We were all just ‘background’ with no speaking parts, other than just as a response to the minister, or singing or such. The movie is due for it’s world -wide premiere on Friday, August 25th, 2017.

Another movie we enjoyed appearing in (as volunteers) was the Summer of ’67 movie. We were in two different scenes on two different days. One day was a trip to Trenton, Kentucky to be ‘graduation grandparents’ and another day was to Springfield, Tennessee to be ‘background diners’ when the people due to be there couldn’t make it.

Nancy and Billy on set in the church as ‘graduation family’ Summer of ’67

What do you enjoy most about being on set?

Seeing the ‘process’ of making films and television shows is an interesting thing to be involved in, and we like being part of the ‘backstory’ at times. Also, we have made many friends among the other background extras throughout the years, and this has expanded our circle of friends and broadened our horizons quite a bit.

What has surprised you the most about working on films?

We now look at programs on TV or in a movie and say: ‘Look at the background people, we could have been there and done that!’ And that is something we never noticed before.

At Still the King TV show, waiting in ‘holding’ to go on set; Billy was the only one given an ‘Elvis’ t-shirt to wear for that show which was Elvis vs. Johnny Cash show. They held onto his sign-in sheet until we left, so he had to turn the shirt in to get his time sheet back!

What’s the biggest challenge with doing background work?

We haven’t really found any hard challenges, other than getting up earlier than we may be used to in order to make an early ‘call time’, or the fact that ‘crafts’ and meals are not always on time for us, as we are used to a certain schedule of eating and taking a break due to Billy having Type 2 diabetes. He must eat around a certain time as his diabetes is controlled only with diet and exercise. But we’ve adapted and learned to take sandwiches and snacks with us.

What advice would you offer to someone wanting to break into background work?

Check out pages such as
On Location Casting at http://www.facebook.com/onlocationcasting
Nashville Casting Calls at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004057676315385&ref=br_rs
Nashville Film Casting Office at https://www.facebook.com/groups/86978395108/?ref=br_rs

You can sign up as ‘Talent’ on OLC http://www.onlocationcasting.us, then check for jobs as they are posted on their page.

Nashville Casting Calls lets casting calls be posted to their group page, and you have to watch sharp and put in for it soon as you can in order to get picked sometimes.

Billy and Nancy in holding, at Opry, waiting to go on set as background at a concert for Nashville TV show

Anything else?

Other projects we’ve worked on as background extras include the Nashville TV Show Seasons 2 through 5, and the Still the King TV show in Season 1. We were highlighted and featured in an Aziz Ansari’s Nashville episode for Netflix titled: Masters of None; and Billy was the elderly man featured on a bus bench in the Cadillac Three music video Party Like You.

What do you do when you’re not acting?
When we don’t have acting jobs, we mostly hang around town, visit with our kids (we have 3 kids, 5 grandkids but 1 son & his 2 boys are in Illinois) or sisters (he has 3 remaining sisters, and I have 4). We like trying new places to eat (within our price range) and often meet my oldest sister and her husband for lunch at various places (my other 3 sisters live further away.)

One of Billy’s earliest hobbies has been working on cars and lawnmowers, then he started building computers and fixing them.

I have written for several different websites over the years, two of which, Associated Content/Yahoo Voices and Examiner both closed down after a few years and took all the articles and content down from the web. I also write songs, plus in the last couple of years, I have been writing my own blog at http://www.nancyg43blog.com and mostly concentrate on the subject of ‘Nashville Music’ there.

I also host a page on Facebook for
NashvilleSingerSongwriterFriends
Nashville Area Extras for TV & Film
plus a page for Make Rhonda Vincent & The Rage Grand Ole Opry members
along with several family history related groups and pages for my family and Billy’s.

Screenshot of Nashville TV Show as background while ‘Gunnar’ knocks on hotel door.

Written by Sharon Wilharm

I'm a female filmmaker, blogger, and speaker with over a decade of industry experience. I'm passionate about visual storytelling. I know firsthand that you don't have to spend a fortune to make a good movie, and you can tell a powerful story without ever saying a word. My desire with Faith Flix is to educate, inspire, and encourage my fellow filmmakers. I know that Christian filmmakers can make better movies, but it takes education and hard work. I'll help with the education and leave you to do the hard work.

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