The knack: How to be an extra, by Tony Murphy

"First of all, find yourself a good agent. If they try and charge you to get on their books, they're dodgy, so don't pay them (the actor's union Equity can advise you). Alternatively, go directly to the television companies and ask to go on their extras' book (although we're not actually known as extras now, it's `support artists'). It doesn't matter what size or shape you are, and it's best to be a blank canvas so they can make you up as they want.

Don't become an extra if what you really want is to be a main character. Once you get classed as an extra, you're an extra for ever, basically. There have been quite a few extras who've got small speaking parts, but once you've said a few lines you won't be used for about five or six months, because you've been seen and might be recognised. You don't have to have any acting skills at all. It's simple: chat to the other extras in the dressing room, then when you're called on to the set just carry on those conversations. That way it looks natural when you talk.

You can approach main characters, but if they don't want to talk, leave them alone. Don't go pestering for autographs, and don't take your camera: they won't like you taking photographs that you could leak to the press. It's great seeing yourself on TV and knowing what's going to happen before anyone else, but don't be tempted to give away storylines - if someone found out you'd be struck off."

Tony Murphy is a drag queen and entertainer and has been a professional extra for 10 years in shows such as `Mr Wroe's Virgins', `Coronation Street', `Brookside' and `Band of Gold'