Background actor on Narcos – and what’s that like

Background actor Narcos

Narcos Season 3 – Starring Viki Urbanek

There are moments in life that are incredibly hard to put into word. Why? Because they are hard to believe. And last week something absolutely amazing happened to me.

I was cast as a background actor on the  3rd season of Narcos. Some of you may think that the casting process was lengthy and exciting but I have to disappoint you.

The casting was done via WhatsApp.

As a member of a Facebook group for foreigners in Colombia and from some Colombian students I heard about the casting and decided to send a photo and some info about myself to the contact person. I am aware that this could have been a scam but my gut feeling reassured me. One of my fellow students has also had a role as a background actor on a previous season and absolutely loved it.

It only took a couple of minutes to receive a positive answer: Te confirmo! You’re in!

Narcos Statist

Wicked! I would never have believed it if someone told me I would be part of a Netflix production. Bonus: I would also get paid! What else can you possibly ask for!?

Makeup and dressing room

I arrive at the agreed meeting point just before 6 am. I had already wondered if I had the correct address. When I got there, there was no building. Just a car park with two with tents and a trailer. A few other gringos (originally gringo was a term used for Americans but nowadays it is used for all foreigners) are there already.

Most of us have never been background actors before. Some people have been part of other productions or other episodes of Narcos.

Tu – al vestuario! I am sent to the dressing room where I am given a navy-green skirt and a turquoise blouse. The outfit certainly takes me back in time. We have a small problem though: the shoes! Latinos tend to be petite and have small feet – in comparison to them I have monster feet. I wear a 41/42 and they only have one pair of shoes that kind of fits me.

Sigue a maquillaje! Off I go to get my make-up done. I walk to one of the tents and see two tables with a beauty mirror on each. My hair gets backcombed, blow-dried and set with hair spray. The makeup artist applies more makeup to my face than I wear in a year – but the result is perfect for Narcos (and my face won’t be shown in a close up anyway!).

Narcos Statist
Getting my hair done
Narcos Statist
Post-make-up and post-dressing-room

On Set

We all walk to the actual set together, well I waddle because my shoes really don’t fit me, which is in the Old Town of Bogotá. People turn their heads as we walk past them.

Well, picture this: About 40 gringos dressed in 80s/90s clothes, wearing tons of makeup wandering through the historic centre of Bogotá. I can’t help grinning. This must be what it feels like to be famous ^^

We enter an old building, the Palacio de San Francisco, and I am very surprised to see so many cables lying around and how busy the place is. Nobody seems to take note of us. We are told to wait in the – absolutely beautiful – inner courtyard.

Sientense y callados – super callados todos! Sit down and be quiet! They are shooting a scene in one of the auditoriums on the first floor and every little noise we make in the inner courtyard echoes and destroys the scene.

We repeatedly hear RODANDO! ACCIÒN! We don’t hear much else in the courtyard. Oh how much I would love to be upstairs watching them shoot scene after scene.

Luckily the call us up – it’s showtime!

The Juror

We are lead to the first floor and into a small courtroom. Behind the judge are two flags – one US American flag and one from the state of Lousiana.

The director, the camera team and a few others, I don’t really know what they were in charge of, are running around the courtroom like a swarm of busy bees.

I can not tell you what the scene is about but you will find out in episode 10! 

I am part of the jury. Together with eleven other gringos, we sit on two benches on the right side of the courtroom.

Fun Fact 1: Nobody is from the US.

Fun Fact 2: The director wasn’t too happy with the person who cast us. He said: No todos los gringos son rubios! Not all Americans are blonde! (Not all of us are blond but the vast majority.)

Y Acción!

But first, we are told what is going to happen in the scene. Who moves how, who looks where, what we absolutely should not do, the actors rehearse their lines one more time. I am fascinated by the camera team – they dance around the room and practise every angle to make sure they get it right.

Auf zum Set Mit meinen minder bequemen Schuhen watschle ich dann mit den anderen zum eigentlichen Set. Die Leute drehen sich reihenweise nach uns um. Stell dir die Situation mal vor: Um die 40 Gringos, die in alten 80/90er Looks komplett aufgetakelt durchs historische Zentrum von Bogotá wandern. Ich kann mir den fetten Grinser im Gesicht nicht verkneifen. So fühlt es sich also an wenn man berühmt ist^^
A lot of technology happening around me

A famous actor sits in the dock, he has been part of many Hollywood productions and seems to be very relaxed. He is a real pro – and so sympathetic! He tells jokes after jokes and bursts into a song more than once. I can’t keep my eyes off him, who knows what he is up to next.

Technically we aren’t allowed to take pictures on set but as the director leaves the auditorium Mr Actor grabs my phone and takes a selfie with us.  <3 My hero!

Auf zum Set Mit meinen minder bequemen Schuhen watschle ich dann mit den anderen zum eigentlichen Set. Die Leute drehen sich reihenweise nach uns um. Stell dir die Situation mal vor: Um die 40 Gringos, die in alten 80/90er Looks komplett aufgetakelt durchs historische Zentrum von Bogotá wandern. Ich kann mir den fetten Grinser im Gesicht nicht verkneifen. So fühlt es sich also an wenn man berühmt ist^^

Ready, set: Acción!

And all of a sudden, everything happens fast – the director wants to shoot the first shot. With camera and all.

One of the attorneys gives his short speech and opens the scene, the defendant sits – much too casual for his situation – there and waits until he can instruct the lawyer. We jurors listen to the lawyer as if he was reading out the most exciting of all crime stories. In the background, the secretary types down his words audibly.

Everything seems to be going well – until two court ushers carry in an easel, or rather they try to carry it in because they look well clumsy doing it.

At the same moment, someone screams CCUUUUUUUT!!! and ends the scene. The director storms into the room and rages.

Both court ushers are then trained several times in easel carrying until it no longer looks so clumsy.

We repeat the scene seven times until it is perfect and the director dances jubilantly through the courtroom! The entire crew chimes in and everyone starts hugging everyone. This scene is one of the last of the entire season and the accused actor has his very last day on set today. After six months in Colombia. (The filming started in June / July 2016 and ended in the beginning of May 2017.)

The End

Just as quickly as we were ushered into the auditorium, we get ready to leave. Lunch is ready and we queue like ducks in a row in front of the dressing room.

Narcos Statist
Lunch on set of Narcos

Wearing my own pants and shoes has never felt so good before.

And now it’s time to collect my fee.

Thank you, Cali Cartel for the money & on being a background actor on Narcos

Who would ever have thought that I would make money thanks to a drug cartel – and in a completely legal way 😉

It isn’t a lot of money, but 120.000 COP / 40€ for half a day of work isn’t bad at all in Colombia! That’s two weeks of groceries or several times eating out.

Narcos Statist
My fee

After the few hours I spent on set of Narcos, I have to admit that I NEVER thought that so many people would be involved. The scene we shot airs a maximum of one minute in the raw version. The effort for it is, however, gigantic (and also costly).

So, this was my time behind the scenes of Narcos. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be adding “background actor on a Netflix production” to my CV 😉

Keep on travelling

Viktoria Urbanek Travel Blog Chronic Wanderlust

Grüß dich, I'm Viki!

At Chronic Wanderlust, I write about my two great passions: travelling and diving – and have been doing so since 2013.

I usually spend a solid majority of the year travelling to experience extraordinary underwater adventures, taking road trips through countries I don’t know (yet) or exploring my home country of Austria.

As a certified divemaster, passionate underwater & travel photographer, road trip enthusiast and individual traveller, I collect unique moments all over the world.

I don’t believe that severe cases of wanderlust – aka chronic wanderlust – can be cured, only treated. On this blog, I want to show you how this can best be realised.

Curious to get to know me better?