I have been wanting to write a blog post about my day on Sherlock for a while (since March 2013), but of course I couldn’t allow myself to post any spoilers or hints from the episode. I think the BBC would be very upset with me if I did. But now the episode has aired I can finally tell you everything.
A lot of you won’t know this, but I am signed up with a TV Extras agency, and last March I was lucky enough to receive a phone call – asking if I would like to be an extra on Sherlock, Episode One. It took me approximately 0.2 seconds to reply; YES PLEASE.
I was on the Sherlock set a few days before – set reporting and briefly appearing as an unpaid extra, which you can read about here – but this was different. I was told I would be playing a “geeky student” who is a part of a “Sherlock fanclub”, and then told the typical rules of being an extra; no bright clothes, no logos, etc. After I spoke to the agency, I immediately phoned my friend Gareth to see if I could borrow his Deerstalker. (This turned out to be a great move later on.)
A week later, nervous and excited, I made my way to the filming base in Cardiff on a bright Thursday morning. I quickly met the other extras who I would be working with that day. There was only 7 or 8 of us in total – which felt strange to me as my previous experiences with filming, productions have needed 20+ extras needed on set – but I realised we were filming a very small scene.
After we were signed in and settled, a friendly crew member introduced herself and handed everyone a call sheet with most of the episode’s script stapled to it. I was immediately shocked. She’s just... handing me the script? This script had a LOT of spoilers – about 40-50 minutes of the episode, I’d guess. And she was handing it out without a question. She misread my scandalised expression; “Oh, don’t worry, dear! Your scene is only on the first two pages.”
So, of course, as anyone would, I read the entire thing. Twice. Maybe three times. Okay, maybe more. I didn’t want to forget a thing.
The first thing I realised about the script was how funny it was. I was giggling to myself as I read it. I particularly enjoyed reading the scene I was going to be in. Laura and her theory of Sherlock’s survival had me in tears I was laughing so hard. And seeing it on screen was even better!
Once the crew were prepared for us, we were sent off to the costume department so they could decide if our clothes were right for the scene. This is when I was happy to have brought my own Deerstalker with me. The script specifically referred to several members of the fanclub wearing the hats, so I proudly showed the deerstalker I borrowed to the costume department. They were delighted. I got a – totally imaginary – gold star for effort. They then noticed the scarf I had brought with me (it was quite chilly that day) and insisted I wear it, along with my black coat, to be a “proper Sherlock Fangirl”. It’s like I was born to play this role.
Having read the script, I was aware my scene would be with Sharon Rooney and Jonathan Aris (who plays Anderson), so I was excited when we finally made our way to the filming location.
Jonathan Aris was the loveliest person I have ever met on any TV set. He walked straight up to me, shook my hand, introduced himself, and engaged everyone in great conversations. I was sort of lucky, I think, as I shared the name of Sharon Rooney’s character in the scene, so no-one had any trouble remembering my name. I was asked to sit on a very comfy looking chair, to the side of Jonathan Aris, but the chair, and the blanket that covered it, caused problems (Aris was constantly fixing the blanket for me), so it was switched for a more practical chair in the end.
The scene was quite short, but involved a lot of fiddling with camera angles and other technicalities, so sometimes I wasn’t needed (as the camera sat directly where my seat was for the close-up shots of Rooney’s face), and sometimes I was the only extra in the room.
Filming the reaction to Rooney’s line, “I don’t think we should wear the hats…” was the most fun. I figured we should react to the line, as most of us were wearing deerstalkers, so I touched my hat protectively and looked as disgruntled as I could. (This never made the cut, but I enjoyed it.)
As I was waiting for them to set up the final shot in the scene (me reacting to the television; HAT DETECTIVE LIVES which didn’t make the cut either), I waited in the room next door as I kept getting in the way. This room was empty, as it only served as a hallway to get to another room which contained the small monitors, so I stood awkwardly in the corner, observing the crew set up the shot from the doorway.
It was at this point where Benedict Cumberbatch (in full Sherlock costume) walked in.
I knew he would be filming a scene with Aris (where he tells Anderson how he survived the fall) shortly after my scene was completed, but I didn’t expect to actually see him.
And to be the only person in the room when he walked in.
And to be the only person in the room when he walked in.
He was heading for the other room, but spotted me in the corner before he left, and paused to say hello. There I was, wearing a Deerstalker and trying to act normal, and Benedict Cumberbatch was talking to me.
He was so lovely and polite and gentlemanly that I immediately felt comfortable talking to him. He asked me how I was and how filming had gone so far. I then followed him into the room with the monitors and we spoke to the other crew members before I was then called in to do my final shot.
And then Cumberbatch followed me into the room where I was filming.
And Mark Gatiss also appeared (not in costume).
I had to act with those two watching me?! No pressure. Sure. I could do that. Oh god, no I couldn’t.
But I did.
And it got cut out.
That’s the trouble with being an extra. You could tell the world you filmed amazing scenes, only to be cut out in the end. I was on set for about 8 hours and my scene was barely a minute or two.
But it was so, so worth it. That week, where I was either on set as an extra, or set reporting for #Setlock, was the craziest and best week of 2013. Sure, it was cold, and tiring, and busy. But it’s weeks like that which really make me realise how much I want to work in television. It’s the best job in the world.
Screencaps of me in the episode can be seen below.
(made by Tumblr user thewatsondiaries)