There are six weekly newspapers on the South Fork of Long Island, and the other day, the same notice appeared in five of them: ‘Want to be on TV? Hollywood Moves to the Hamptons!’ Grant Wilfley Casting was seeking ‘upscale Hamptons types of all ages and ethnicities’ to appear as extras in Royal Pains, a new show about the worried well, parts of which are being filmed on the East End. For an odd-jobbing resident, playing an upscale Hamptons type seemed far less onerous than having to work for one, and so on an unseasonably cold and wet Sunday morning, she put on an arguably upscale summer dress and reported two hours early to the open casting call, scheduled to begin at noon, in the auditorium of the South Hampton High School.
At 12pm sharp, the first competitor showed up. “I mostly do school plays,” Thomas Van Scoyoc, who is fifteen, said. His credits include the East Hampton High School production of Annie Get Your Gun (‘I was Little Jake, which is, like, a lead role.’) and Auntie Mame.
Presently a youthful man dressed like the star of some Hamptons ad campaign came through the doors — Grant Wilfley, the casting director, in fiercely white tennis shirt, clotted cream-colored sweater, and pressed dungarees. As he set up a light stand and took test shots of his associate, Rich Burridge, more job-hunters drifted in, some with braces on their teeth, others with tottering gaits. With a soft, almost myopic regard, Wilfley peered at them, as if trying to imagine how they would look in gardening hats. A diminutive woman of advanced years turned to the odd-jobbing resident and inquired, in a voice rather too loud, “Why isn’t he smiling?”
“Hello, everybody,” said Wilfley, handing around application forms. “Thanks for coming. Anyone need a pencil? Answer the questions on the form to the best of your ability, ok? No cheating!” The atmosphere intensified as the applicants took optimistic inventory of their physical and material assets (tuxedos, European cars, and adorable surf-loving dogs were among the accessories requested). Who knew that being an upscale extra would require start-up? Wilfley was especially keen on finding people with designer wardrobes, real-life psychiatrists, and classically-trained musicians.
“I’m retired,” announced the older woman to no one in particular. “I’m an old lady. My daughter drove me here.”
After the first lot had been photographed and sent away, Wilfley reflected on his casting wish list. “We’re looking for successful businessmen, Ladies Who Lunch, young trophy wives,” he said. “Upscale Hamptons types, you know?”
More hopefuls trickled in. Leo Casino, a retired police detective, wore a double-breasted suit, a gaudily assertive tie, and a black gangster-type fedora. Brian Cowell, a Hampton Bays chauffeur (“Business is slow and I’ve always wanted to get into acting.”) brought along his Bulgarian fiancé, his two young nephews — scruffy but cute in inherited sport jackets several sizes too large — and his niece, a girl of, well, traditional build. Then the auditorium was empty again. It was only half past one. Wilfley and Burridge shared a bag of pretzel rods and watched the clock.
Business picked up with the arrival of twinkly, golden-haired Geir Magnusson, from Iceland, who was accompanied by a tiny boy named Atlas, thirteen months, perched on his shoulder. To the untrained eye, the two looked like fugitives from an art-house film, but Wilfley seemed taken with Magnusson, a photographer and licensed helicopter pilot, who volunteered, somewhat worryingly, that he was great at “pretending." He was followed by a Hamptons-y innkeeper (grizzled, a little brash, clearly a local fixer) whom Wilfley had in mind for a beach scene involving a stick or a ball and a well-behaved canine.
While waiting to be photographed, one Law & Order type tried to sell a home elevator to another, but only the odd-jobbing resident made inquiries about the daily wage. As it turned out, it was $135 for an eight hour day plus complementary lunch, which might not have paid too many bills for upscale types.
At two o’clock, Wilfley was ascribing the poor turn-out to the weather and also the small size of the off-season talent pool when a beamish guy wearing cornrows and an upscale hoodie arrived in the auditorium after a three-hour journey from Long Island City. He worked in a machine shop, he said, but he was eager to try something new — for the money, yes, but also for possible glory. Asked if he’d heard they were looking for ‘upscale Hampton types,’ he replied, very sensibly, “What dat mean?”
At 3:45pm, Wilfley went off to find the janitor. Burridge said, “There’s always someone who turns up at the last minute, wait and see.” Sure enough, five minutes later, a slight young fellow burst into the hall. “Am I too late?” He scowled at the camera as if submitting to a mug shot. Afterwards, the latecomer, a barber by trade, remarked that this was the first job he’d tried out for since leaving a correctional facility a few weeks earlier. “You’d never guess that, would you? ‘Look at me.” His features were finely-wrought but rather brittle. “Is this the face of a jailed person?”
Having found a female extra in possession of a Mercedes, Wilfley declared the call a success, but he happened to mention that sophisticated individuals with designer wardrobes were still welcome to apply.