Kat Murello

Kat Murello is a background artist in film and television working out of New York. I've been reading her blog since the turn of the year and its become one of the few I try to read every day. It does everything you'd want a blog to do. It's entertaining, kinetic and edgy (in a nice way) and the reader really feels as though they're seeing through a window into someone else's world -- as well as getting some of the inside track on the entertainment business. I wanted to make sure I got an interview before she became too famous to talk to the likes of me...

Do you prefer background artist or extra? Or are they two different job descriptions?
Background Artist and Extra are the same thing. Many actors prefer Background Artist over Extra, however I don't have a preference either way. It is what it is - we are moving wallpaper no matter what you call it.

How long have you been working as a background artist?
I've been pursuing a professional career for about 15 months full time. I was able to gain SAG elegibility within 6 months of fully committing myself to the industry so I am very proud of that.

Tell me a bit about your background.
I am a Maltese-American. My family moved around a lot from when I was very young. My father died when I was two and my mother had a hard time raising myself and my sister and brother so we moved probably about 4 times a year. I'm told that probably helped me build character and resiliance. I've always had a passion for theater, literature, and dance - those things were always my solace when my home life was crazy. I used to be big in the rave scene back in the day, now I'm more of a pub person. I love dogs. I recently gave up dairy - that's been a bit of a struggle. What else? I am deathly afraid of spiders.

How did you get into acting?
Ever since I was a little girl it's what I always knew I wanted to do with my life. Acting, dancing, performing in some capacity.

What was your first job?
My first real job was as a counter girl at an ice cream stand. My first acting job was as a performer at Universal Studios Florida.

And when did you first work as a background artist?
A few years ago I saw an ad in my local paper looking for women with wedding gowns. I sent in a photo and booked the job. It turned out to be for Will&Grace.

Was it a good set?
It was amazing! They filmed in Central Park in NYC. It was a beautiful day and I found it very exciting. After that I decided that I needed to pursue acting full time. I spent the next couple of years putting my ducks in a row to have finances set so that I could give it a shot. You don't make very much money in the beginning.

What would you say is the best set you've worked?
Definitely working as Jessica Alba's Stand-In on Awake (due out this summer) was by far the best. It was a long term booking and I learned so much from that experience.

Can you say what was the worst?
I probably shouldn't do that!

Do you discriminate about the kind of job you do or are you happy to work on any project?
I am thrilled to book any type of work, however I really don't enjoy doing "club scenes". Sometimes the male Background Actors forget that we are just working and they start acting like they are out at a real club. I think you get the idea.

Do you prefer working in film or television?
Film, definitely.

What differences are there between the two types of work?
With television (to me) it seems like there is a much more regimented consistant way of working. There is a formula to the program and it generally follows that formula and doesn't stray from its path too much. With film, because it is something fresh and unfamiliar, there seems to be more opportunity for creativity and different ideas. If you are able to be up close you really get to see more of the creative process.

I've heard that there are some shows which employ background artists on a weekly basis in much the same way as their leads -- is that true and would it be something you'd be interested in?
Yes, they do. There are many "regular" cops on the Law & Order franchise and I know a girl who is a waitress in a particular restaurant on a soap opera so when they film scenes there she is called in to work. I wouldn't mind something like that although I would prefer to do Stand-In on a regular basis - that is more the type of work I am interested in.

You've talked somewhat on your blog about literally rubbing shoulders with the leads. When you mentioned that Adam Sandler had introduced himself the other day he really went up in my estimation. Are they all as friendly as him?
Many are! Terrance Howard and Vincent D'Onofrio were incredibly friendly. So was Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos. Catherine Zeta Jones is very nice. I've had the opportunity to talk to many of the leading actors and actresses on sets. Of course, there are some that are not quite so nice. The rumor that you are not allowed to look some of them in the eyes is true - but seems to mostly be the rule for leading females.

Now that you have experience is there anything you wish you could change about the industry?
I would definitely make it more selective on the lower scale - meaning the background casting. Sometimes you get on a set and there are people working who are just extremely difficult and it can be frustrating. People need to realize that they are just doing a job like anyone else - whether it's acting, serving burgers, or doing accounting. There are way too many self important people on set at times and they forget it's just a job and that their job is to be a blurry color in the background.

I once worked as an extra on a British film -- it was a low budget thing about a school boy with magic soccer boots and voluntary -- we were paid in meat pies and chips. Something I noticed was how long it took between set-ups and how much standing around was required. What are your coping mechanisms?
Meat pies and chips? YUM! I have worked for the same sort of compensation myself in the past! I enjoy the whole process of setting up between shots so if I am doing Stand-In then I am on set and I can watch everything being put together. If I am hired as Background I bring my headshots and mailings and work on those or several books to occupy myself while in holding.

Why did you start blogging?
Over the summer when things really started to pick up for me I decided to start writing about my experiences because I wanted to be able to look back on things and remember them. I wanted to be able to recall the emotions I felt. When I discovered that people were actually reading it and getting something out of it - that's been really interesting. Now my blog has kind of evolved into more of a release. I don't talk about my career in my personal life. My friends and family know I am an actor but that's it. My blog gives me a chance to say things that I would feel uncomfortable talking about in regular life because I don't want my excitement to be interpreted as boastfulness. I just write it down and let it go. But also... I've met a lot of great actors from all over the world thanks to blogging. We are a great support for each other, cheering each other on.

It's an excellent thing, really entertaining. You seem quite understandably to want to stay pretty anonymous on the blog -- but have there been occasions when you have been approached by anyone on set who's been reading?
I had tried to keep anonymous because I was worried that what I was writing about would be taken as very self absorbed. But it's gotten to where I feel like the regular readers of my blog know where I'm coming from and I've slowly been introducing more of my personal life. I've linked my MySpace page there and things like that. And yes, I have met people who read my blog and then realize they know me. They send an email and we connect that way. It's fun.

What are your ambitions for the future?
As long as I can make a living doing what I love then I am happy. Not be be dramatic but the truth is that I can't believe where I am considering where I've come from in the early part of my life. And everything I've ever wanted to achieve in my life I have done... so anything that happens to me now is just the cherry on top. I've booked speaking roles and featured parts in films that are due out this summer so I feel like I am not in the wrong business - I'm moving forward, progressing upward. The background work finances my acting career, gives me the advantage of picking and choosing the days I work so I can fit in auditions and such. Every day I am thankful and amazed to be doing what I do. It's a wonderful feeling to love your job and want to go to work every day.

Will you continue to pursue your stage career?
Absolutely! This summer I am going to be playing Velma Kelly in Up In One's presentation of Chicago at The Center For Performing Arts of Rhinebeck. It's my dream role. Life is delicious!

Thanks Kat.

Kat's blog is magickat. Her myspace area is here and she's also listed at the imdb.

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