Being (An) Erica Extra

The National Post's newsroom was transformed into a set of CBC's Being Erica this morning, shooting a scene from later this season. The lead character Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) has edited a book which was lambasted by our fictional critic (he was wearing suspenders, of course), so Erica comes to the Post to discuss the review.

While the newsroom is usually deserted in the early morning, as first in on the online desk I became an involuntary background extra. Nothing like an 18,000-watt Klieg light aimed at your desk to shake off the cobwebs.

While the crew busied themselves snaking cables between cubicles, one set decorator marveled at the chaotic desk clutter. "If you dressed a set like this, they'd never believe you."

Extras were dispersed to fill up the desks, making their faux newsroom much busier than our real one. They were, for most part, overdressed. Ties and jackets are the exception at work, not the norm. The extras were also given pretend tasks to mime in the background, making for a lot of studious staring at proofs in-between conversations about their previous credits and making up back stories for their characters. "My guy used to be from Owen Sound and his favourite hockey team is the Montreal Canadiens."

It was soon discovered that I was a "real" and actually working (somewhat unsuccessfully) during the shoot. A makeup artist scooted over to touch up a "blemish" — can't have real fake people looking blotchy — and after a joking warning from a friend behind the camera not to stare into the lens, rehearsals and filming began.

Over and over and over again.

A few things overheard during the shoot...

Erin Karpluk chatting with her co-star between takes:

"Did you watch the Emmy's?"
"... well, that's the end of that conversation."

Then, in the middle of a conversation about the seasons, Ms. Karpluk mentioned she just got her Green Card, and is heading to L.A. soon. Are we breaking news here? New U.S. job opportunities for Erica Strange?

More from the crew, on the state of the news business:

"A lot of empty desks here, maybe they are hiring?"
"It's too bad newspapers are dying."
"Do you read all your news on the Internet?"
"Some, I get news alerts ...
"You know what they gotta stop doing, giving away information for free on the internet."

And despite admonitions to not touch anything on newsroom desks, a couple of extras were spotted rifling through CDs, expressing excitement at the discovery of Aqualung. When it was suggested that they should not peruse the contents of our co-workers desks this defence was offered: "We're just big music fans."

Then the shoot wrapped and all the equipment was quickly torn down and spirited away, leaving behind only two boxes of craft services croissants for the straggling journalists to fight over.

Look for the National Post's (and my) star turn later this year. I'll be the the stiff-looking, acting-natural guy.

Previously on Popped Culture...
My So Called Life... Truly
Ventriloquist Pulls A Billy Bob Thornton
Tragedy: Snow In Toronto


  1. Congratulations on your stardom. How much do you charge for an autograph?

  2. Surprisingly little. Fame and fortune, here I come!

  3. The only wholly Canadian show that I've watched is Lexx. Is that show a representative sample of Canadian culture?

  4. A note on the news business: I run a theatre in Montreal and we're doing this great play on the demise of print media in January, you should check it out: