Beyond the Cubicle: Living the Life As a Stand-In

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a stand-in on a hit TV show?

There are some of you reading this who may not have any idea what a stand-in is.

It’s ok. That was me prior to my “big break” in 2015.

Here is how it all started: I was BOOKED to be an extra on the set of EMPIRE.

I got on set and the word around town was that a brown-skin African-American woman who was 5’7 was needed to stand-in for Tasha Smith.

Say what? Tasha Smith is my girl.

The PA (Production Assistant) who was managing the background celebrities looks in my direction and points at me.

“Have you ever been a stand-in before?”

I didn’t know what was going on. I was fairly new to the set life (working on my second month of set). I had no idea what a stand-in was but I knew it sounded like a great opportunity. And when opportunity knocks, you have to be willing and ready to roll with it!

I quickly responded, “I haven’t but I’m sure I can catch on quickly.”

And just like that I landed my first role as a Stand-In.

That one opportunity gave me the experience I needed to work on set as a Stand-In for Vivica A. Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Ta’Rhonda Jones, and other actors who you see on the big screens.

It’s truly been an honor.

So what exactly is a Stand-In?

A stand-in watches the movement of an actor closely so they can mimic those actions for lighting and camera set up purposes when the actor is not on set. If you are working as a stand-in, you’ll receive the script for the day (sides) so that you can know what scenes the actor you are standing in for will be a part of. Remember, you are the substitute for the actor and must internalize the movements to ensure that everything goes smoothly when the actor gets on set.

After finding out what a stand-in was, I was pretty excited about the opportunity.

Did I forget to mention that it is an automatic pay bump if you were initially booked as an extra?

More money, more money, more money.

We all know that money is a great tool to live our dreams and help others do the same.

But what is it really like to be a stand-in on a hit TV show?

Hold on to your seats because these perks may make you run to the nearest set to find out how you can get a piece of the action.

1. Free Food

And not just any food. You get a buffet of options to choose from …breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

So I usually get free breakfast when I arrive there. Breakfast includes bacon, sausages, biscuits, omelets, grits, oatmeal, sausage sandwich wraps, fruits, and so much more!

Then I arrive on set and see more food staring at me.

Honey roasted nuts, rice cakes, fruit snacks, cookies, and the list goes on and on.

Of course you will need something to drink to digest all of that food. You’ll find an assortment of drinks ranging from the naked smoothie mix to coffee.

Then you’ll get “snack foods” which can consist of tacos, salads, Chinese food, gyros, or other delicious options.

You look up and it’s time for lunch. Say what?!

As you can see, you will have foods to nibble on the entire time you are there.

I guess that explains why I gained 10 pounds during my first season as a stand-in!

2. Best Acting Classes

You don’t always have to pay thousands of dollars to receive top notch training as an actor.

If you’re working as a Stand-In, you get to see the pros in action and mimic what they are doing.  You get to watch as the Director’s give the actors feedback. This gives you a better understanding of what a Director may be looking for.

Your big chance to say lines could come any day. Sometimes you will have to memorize the lines and rehearse them when you get on set. Be ready! You never know what your consistent performance could lead to.

Now, I don’t think regular classes offer that unique perk.

And the best part is you get paid to do this!

3. Multiple Breaks

Some jobs only give you a 15 minute break.

While working as a stand- in, you could possibly get 4 hours of break time!

Say what?

Anytime the actors are on set, you are in a holding place waiting for the production team to call “Second Team!”

That means you have time on your hands to learn how to invest in the stock market, find out what the heck is bitcoin, or discover ways you can profit from your passion.

4. Great Pay Structure

There are some jobs that will work you until your limbs fall off.

They’ll even make you come in on your “off day” because you’ve signed the line to become a salaried employee.

Do you know what that means?

It means it doesn’t matter if you work 40 hours or 80 hours a week, you are still getting paid the same amount. If you’re working 60-80 hours a week and thinking about work in your sleep, you’re probably working at a minimum wage rate every hour!

It’s not like that when it comes to set life.

If you work two hours, you will get paid for a full day of work.

Say what?


I worked as a stand-in for 2 hours and got a full day of pay…and a whole lot of food!

5. Connections

Every time you stand is a chance to connect with a new face who can play an instrumental role in your career advancement. You can connect with other stand-ins, cast members, and set crew! It may sound very appealing to try to run towards the “important people” but you must realize that everyone you come in contact with is important. You never know how one conversation with the person you think has no power can influence the direction of the days ahead.

Seriously, one conversation can take you places you have never been before.

So there you have it! There’s more to standing-in than just standing-up. If you ever get a chance to stand in, the first thing you must do is scout crafty for the most appetizing snacks.


Charlene Rhinehart

I’m Charlene - International Speaker, Published Writer, & Career Strategist. I help women skip the most common career mistakes, move from fear to confidence, and enhance their professional profile so that they can create a life that is better than their dreams.

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