For Fish’s Call Sheet, an entertainment YouTube show hosted by actor Michael Fishman (“Fish”) of Roseanne and The Connors fame, Fish interviewed Jesse Martinez Carlos, a regularly working background actor on The Connors.
In this interview from September 2020, Jesse mostly gives insight into his work as a background actor on the television series, with Fish intercutting images of some of Jesse’s more colorful work on the television show. (Jesse has also been upgraded on the series.) A former union organizer who was interested in working for SAG-AFTRA, Jesse ended up becoming a background actor as a means for making some money — and “fell in love with it.”
The interview also covers Jesse’s work as a stand-in (around 28:00), which as of the interview he was trying to become “100% of the time.”
About Working as a Stand-In
In the interview, Jesse has a fun description of what a stand-in is:
I like to jokingly say — and this is jokingly, ‘kay? — my job is doing the actor’s job while the actor goes to his dressing room and sips on his Perrier.
He laughs heartily, but he goes on to clarify:
Giving time for the actor to work on their lines for that particular scene, but also to work with the director of photography as well as the director to block the scenes that are happening.
So the actors will show the scene first. All the stand-ins are watching it. Then they say “Okay, second team!” And so as second team, you do the exact same movements, you do the exact same words as the actor’s doing it, but at the direction of the director himself as he’s directing the cameras to move from one place to another.
Multicam vs. Single Cam Stand-In Work
Jesse also lays out the different responsibilities of stand-ins working on multicam productions versus single-cam productions.
On a sitcom, or what they call a “multicam,” most stand-ins on a multicam are actors, because you need to make it believable — even though you’re not the principal actor — you still need to make it believable because, sometimes it’s just not the director or the actors watching, but it could also be the writers, it could be the producers, …
For single cam, which is more for one-hour dramas and feature films, you just stand there for lighting purposes. Very seldom do you move. If you look at an eight-hour day, it has to do with a lot about lighting, because they want to make sure the scene is well lit, the actor looks good on a particular scene.
An Actor’s Relationship with a Stand-In
Fish shares his experience as an actor working with stand-ins:
When you’re working well with your stand-in, they’ll tell you if they moved marks, what you need to hold for sometimes before you can deliver a line, something you need to move — especially if things have changed.
So it’s really this kind of interchangeable thing is: Sometimes we set kind of where we’ve moving and how we’re doing, and sometimes the stand-ins end up setting some of the movement and how things are going.
And then you try to integrate both of those together to make sure that the technical side of what we’re doing matches the performance side of what we’re doing.
A Key Trait for Working as a Stand-In?
Jesse points out a key trait that lands most people stand-in work and why.
Because you’re working with a director of photography and lighting, a lot of it means regarding the lighting of one particular actor. So if that particular actor is Hispanic, with dark skin, they want someone like me, with dark skin. Because it helps with the director of photography because it could be too bright or too dark.
But if they have the right skin tone, they don’t need to make any adjustments throughout the scene.
If it’s a Caucasian actor, they want a lighter skinned person do to the same thing. Since there’s not many Hispanic principal actors is why there’s not many Hispanic stand-ins.
Jesse notes three common facets that land stand-ins work on particular productions: “Most of the time stand-ins are skin color, hair color, and height.”
Height Considerations for Stand-Ins
Fish adds that as a child actor, he had a female stand-in (rather than a male stand-in) for height.
Jesse adds that child actors often have adult little people as stand-ins. But the “fear” is the child may grow with age, leaving their stand-in without work.
Jesse even goes into a story about his buying special shoes to lift his height from about 5’9″ to six feet when he was standing in for an actor around 6’2″. His efforts led to praise from an important person on the production.
There’s Tons More in the Interview!
The lengthy, enthusiastic discussion between Fish and Jesse about stand-in work continues with more perspectives on stand-in work. In the end, the “exciting part” for Jesse when working as a stand-in is that he’s basically getting paid to workshop his craft.
We highly recommend watching the interview!
What did you gain from watching the interview with Jesse Martinez Carlos? Post your insights into stand-in work in the comments below!