CORVALLIS, Ore. — When Sean Gettings was cast as an extra in the television series, “Grimm,” a couple years ago, he showed up on the Portland set expecting to play a doctor in a one-time gig.
Those plans quickly changed, however, and helped send the stay-at-home dad with no acting experience on an unanticipated path of appearances on additional television shows, movies and, most recently, his first speaking role in a 30-second Ford commercial.
“They hired four (people to play) Portland officers for the day and only three showed up, so they looked at me and said OK, you’re tall and you’re breathing,” he recalled.
The “Grimm” television series, which is now in its third season, follows a Portland detective who’s a descendant of hunters who fight supernatural forces. Cops are always shuffling papers at the precinct or milling about crime scenes as the main characters are delivering lines to push the plot forward.
Though a dozen or so officers were cast, Gettings became one of the recurring extras, or featured background characters, shown in 27 episodes in the first and second seasons.
“Because I had been in so many episodes, I got `promoted.’ They put me in a polo shirt and made me a precinct captain,” he said, laughing. “Nobody knows. Nobody watches the background.”
At the time, Gettings lived in Portland and took care of his kids during the day while his wife worked. He was the bike-ride and walk-to-school coordinator, as well as the recycle coordinator, at his son’s elementary school, and he volunteered with other organizations. His schedule, however, was flexible enough to be on the “Grimm” set two to three days a week during the few weeks it took to shoot an episode.
Though an extra has no speaking lines — that would lead to becoming a union member and far higher pay — he learned the art of movement, he said.
“They picked four or five cops that they liked that knew how to act and make the cuts and suicide squeezes,” he said, explaining the term: “The camera’s moving, the main actor is coming into a scene and you have to cut between the camera and the main actor. You’re just like a blur, but you’re that blur that makes that scene go into the next scene. You have to do it right or they have to do it all over again.”
The experience opened the door to being cast in other shows and movies filmed in Portland. His gigs in the sketch comedy series, “Portlandia,” were the most fun, he said. In one of the more bizarre sketches filmed in the summer of 2012, he and two other men in silver spandex body suits were cast as concrete that eventually stood up and chased show co-creator and actor Fred Armisen down the street.
Gettings quit his regular role on “Grimm” when he moved to Corvallis last fall for his wife’s job. Auditions always take place in Portland, he said, and they are hardly worth it, financially speaking.
“I had to go up there for an audition last week — 700 people for two roles,” he said. “It’s all about what they’re looking for that day — what the director wants in terms of facial hair and height and eyes.”
Gettings will soon start work as a classified substitute for the Corvallis School District, and he has been keeping busy with his other passion.
“I entertain the kids with my bad jokes and make sure they don’t throw any plastic in the compost bin,” he explained.
Clad in a First Alternative Co-op T-shirt advertising “Eat local,” Gettings on Friday spent his lunch hour like he does every weekday — at Hoover Elementary School making sure the 400-plus grade-schoolers properly separate trash from compostable material.
He runs the school’s compost program every Monday through Friday, diverting 250 pounds of organic material from the landfill per week.
“The environmental stuff is truly my passion,” Gettings said, adding, “I’m kind of a micromanager with the recycle stuff.”
Being in front — or to the side of — the camera hasn’t lost its appeal, however, even since his move to Corvallis. An agent last year finally took a chance on Gettings, which led to his six-line role as a referee in a 30-second Ford commercial. It was shot in August and is currently being aired in Portland.
In another first, Gettings is being credited in his role in a yet-to-be-released movie, “Bad Signs,” with Ron Jeremy. The director listed Gettings, the “park visitor,” by name in the online Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb.
In addition, Gettings’ commercial spot is helping secure more auditions.
It’s all pretty entertaining to the professional extra.
“I’m not looking to do this for a career,” he said. “It’s just fun to see how far you can take it.”