Criminal one day, copper the next – the ultimate Tesco extra with 2,000 TV appearances


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The Independent Culture

He is the prolific part-time extra who could be one of the most instantly recognisable yet forgettable people in Britain.

John Walker’s 2,000 television appearances means he is on television every single day of the week, but could just as easily be seen stacking shelves in Tesco, where he holds a day job.

He is one of thousands of the unsung, unrewarded extras – or “supporting artists” – who work for as little as £75 a day, often spend hours waiting for a few seconds of screen time, and occasionally incur the wrath of Hollywood’s finest.

“One week I’ll be playing a criminal in Shameless, the next week I’m a police officer,” said the 40-year-old Mr Walker yesterday. He said his uncanny ability to blend into the background made him an ideal choice for work on films.

A key ability for an extra was the ability to silently “mime rubbish” without laughing, added Mr Walker, who has amassed more than 70 hours on the small screen. 

“To make a good extra you have to good at blending in the background,” said Mr Walker, from Dudley in the West Midlands, who met his fiancée Neilum Raqia on set when she was a fellow extra in Doctors. 

Extras are a significant part of production budgets on television and film. But in recent years filming has increasingly been transferred to eastern Europe where costs are lower.

Now in Hollywood there are at least two companies whose products could mean an end to the high life for Mr Walker – they supply inflatable extras.