Originally posted on 10/25/2021:

I was awaiting dental surgery & hadn’t had a hair cut in months, my daughter asked me to stand against the wall & took my picture. She didn’t say why until months later when she called me and told me that she had sent in my crazy looking picture to Paramount pictures & that I had to show up at Kingston Penitentiary to be on a TV show that they were filming. My initial response was, “I’m not going to no stupid TV show.”
She convinced me that it would be a lot of fun and she actually seemed genuinely excited for me! It’s been a really long time since my daughter has been interested in anything I do & when your daughter is interested & excited about an opportunity….you just do it. So I did it & was I ever happy she coerced me into trying this new experience. It was, without a doubt one of the greatest work experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve had lot of jobs in my lifetime. But this was uniquely different.
The 1st day I show up, I was told that I needed to do a covid test. While I was standing in the covid test line I look over & I see local rock star Hugh Dillon & I remember asking to myself, “Why would Hugh Dillon want to be an extra in a tv show?” Hugh wasn’t an extra & I’ll explain that later.
About 5 minutes later I finally did the covid test and received a call from a casting guy named Rick who asked me to come to the Background holding tent to meet him. I made my way to the tent and Rick approached me, he said he just wanted to see what I looked like & wanted to let me know that I wouldn’t be needed on set today & that I would be paid for a full 8 hour day. I figured, this is it, already over before it begun…my Dad was right. He always said I had a face for radio. Then Rick explained that shooting was cancelled that day & they needed me back in a couple days.
I looked at him & to be sure I heard him correctly & said, “Just to be clear, I spent 5 minutes doing a covid test & you are gonna pay me for the entire day?”
He looked back at me and said, “Welcome to the entertainment industry Jason!”
Right away I knew this was the job for me. The job just kept getting better and better as I began to realize that the standard workday involved standing around for hours and then actually working for 30 seconds, then back to standing around for an hour.
Everyday when you arrive someone from wardrobe grabs you and dresses you in convict clothes. Others would be dressed as correctional officers. Then someone from hairdressing does your hair all crazy and then makeup dirties you up. By the time they’re done you look like a real hardened criminal. Then you are driven to the set, which in this case was the range or yard at Kingston Penitentiary.

On the first day they placed me in a cell and it was my job to throw bottles of urine and damp toilet paper at a child killer as he was being escorted past my cell on the way to his cell. I was told to scream obscenities at him while I whipped torn books and magazines at him. They would yell CUT & a crew of cleaners appeared and cleaned up everything in a matter of minutes & someone would then yell, “Rolling & ACTION.” & I would have to do it all over again.

I don’t need to explain to those who know me, how much I enjoyed this.
Then a girl with black a box and a microphone entered my cell and said, “I guess we’re gonna be cellmates for a while!”
She told me that my cell would not be in this next shot so, I could just read or sleep on the bed for about an hour. So there I am at “work” getting paid to sleep!

Next they told us that we would be heading to the gym for the Big Murder scene.
I was told to sit at a table and read a book, this is where my new acting skills really shone because as most of you know, I’m illiterate .��
When the child killer approached me he would be intercepted by other cons who would beat him unmercifully while I screamed and encouraged them.

Then they ushered us into the yard & that’s where the real fun started.
A guy named Taylor Sheridan met us out in the yard & while we all waited for the crew to set up the shot, Taylor picked up a 200 pound curl bar and started curls.
If I remember right, he did 50 curls & then exclaimed that anyone that could do more than 50 gets $100. All the extras rushed to the curl bar, to win the $100. The first few guys got to 30-35 reps but, then this huge guy starts curling the bar….45-46-47…..48……….49 and finally curls the 50th rep and throws in one final lift for good measure. Taylor reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out a gangsters roll and peels off 5 $20 bills & hands it to this jacked background actor.
Shortly after this Taylor jumped up to grab a pull up bar and proceeded to do pull ups. Not the easy kind but the knuckles-in method. I think he did 80 & again he laid down the bet to everyone in the yard. This time several people tried with little success but eventually a couple guys beat 80 pull-up & Taylor whipped out the stack of cash and paid them each $100. Hugh Dillon then approached him and they both walked together and began talking and pointing at various spots on set. It was then I realized that Mr. Sheridan wasn’t just a member of the crew, he was actually one of the writer/producers and this guy was a really charismatic character. He wore a cowboy hat and plaid shirt with blue jeans. He actually looked like he just arrived from the Wild West & he was built like John Cena. He made that day of shooting really fun & was as down to earth as they come.
I was also able to discern that Hugh Dillon wasn’t an extra, he was the creator of this elaborate mega-project we were all working on.
Things just kept getting more and more exciting from there.
One of the Assistant Directors named Adam asked for our attention and began explaining the scene to us. He told us that there would be a tennis ball landing in the yard & that we weren’t to touch it. We would all be mulling around the yard while
A guard walks past the tennis ball and this other inmate picks up the ball and hands it off to another inmate, who is sitting by a lamp post in the yard.
My performance in this scene was brilliant & my mulling was unparalleled.
We finished for the day (in the biz we call that A Wrap) and my 1st day as a blockbuster actor was in the books!
The 2nd & final day was much the same, a lot of standing around and talking with other extras until someone yells ACTION, then we work for 45 seconds.
Then we went to eat free food. Then we smoked. Then we performed the same scene 7 more times. Crew members running around yelling at other crew members while other crew members are yelling into their ear piece. Guy running around lighting fire, then putting them out….then re-lighting stuff on fire again.
just like that it was all over & it went by in a blink.
All the anarchy & excitement….just a memory now. But what a ride! Worth all the 5am call times & boiling temperatures out in the yard all day long.
Wouldn’t trade it in for anything…..

But then guess what?

They needed me to come back (again, in the biz we call this a call back)
Not only was this a pleasant surprise but, for the 1st time in years I was pumped to go back to work. Can you believe that? Me, Jay Vegas….literally excited to go back to work & fight guys & kill people.
Strange world.
So I show up and they put us in our wardrobe & brought us out into the yard again and this is when shit got REAL.

An AD named Rick instructed us perfectly, he explained that the whites know what’s going on, “Whites over here please. Sir, you’re not supposed to be with the blacks, this is prison…you’d never be talking to them.” & they are in cahoots with the hispanics, “Where are my hispanics…over here please.” and the blacks are slowing clueing into what’s going on. “Got it blacks? Can you guys hear me on the basketball court…THE BLACKS ARE REALIZING WHATS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.!!”
He then explains that when the blacks realize they are being ambushed we all start fighting. Randy Butcher then directed us how to fight without really fighting or hurting anyone. He showed us how to 1st …shove the guy, then he shoves you, then you throw a snap back left, he does the same, then a snap back right and he does the same then huddle and play wrestle until you hear the warning shot. If your birthday is between Jan & June you hit the deck & spread your arms.
Then a final shot will be fired and everyone’s is required to throw themselves onto the gravel covered yard, face 1st & spread your arms.
Rick continues with the scene by telling us that at this point the guards will be firing live rounds of tear gas at us! “It’s not filled with real teargas but the smoke inside needs to reach 500^ in order to spray out the smoke. DO NOT TOUCH THE CANISTERS, THEY WILL BURN YOU. As always remember DO Not look in the camera and Do Not smile, you’re in jail…….aaaand ACTION!”

……Wait, what? What the hell is going on here??? I just received very clear & specific instructions but, Im panicked. Did I hear him say they’re firing live burning hot canisters at us? It’s all happening so fast. I’ve run out of time, one the blacks is running towards me & he’s HUGE.
He pretend shoves me in the chest but, I still fly back about 7 feet. Now the adrenaline is rushing so I push him as hard as I could & he didn’t budge. It actually hurt my wrists.
He throws a left, I throw a left, then a right & then we fake wrestle. I swear to god he picked me up off the ground with just his left arm. I begin laughing & he reminds me, “No Laughing.”
“Then put me down.” I replied
All of a sudden BANG, I gotta get on the ground.
Cons are running everywhere, someone runs by and trips over my arm, another guy runs by & trips over the guy that tripped over me. Guys are still fighting each other then, BANG everyone hits the deck.
Then all I hear is POP ,POP, POP….POP POP POP. In come the tear gas canisters, flying everywhere. One of the canisters rolled past the guy who tripped over me & rolls to rest against my leg. I try kicking it away but at this point I can’t see it, I can’t see anything because of all the smoke. Everyone’s coughing, I’m coughing. Then the smoke clears.
The second shot killed a guy.
They send in the swat team. Someone walks up behind me & shoves my face into the gravel and says,”put your hands behind your back.” I put my hands behind my back and he proceeds to zip-tie my wrists then picks me up by my shirt and escorts me from the yard.
….aaand CUT.
“Really good fellas, great job. We’re gonna try it again though….from the top.”

So the wardrobe people run onto the set, because they have to make you look clean like you were before the riot started. When the wardrobe lady started cleaning me up she couldn’t clean the dirt off my pants so, after rubbed my thigh for 2 mins I decided it was time to tell her that it wasn’t dirt but a tear gas canister burn.
“Oh my, are you alright?”
I told her it was hot but didn’t burn me & she asked if I needed to see a medic or perhaps go the hospital. I told her, “I had no clue, I’m just an extra.” She told me that no one is JUST an extra, we were “background celebrities” & to wait here while she found a medic.
While I waited for the medic, I became more & more comfortable with the title “background celeberty”. I felt this swelling of pride & promise. A kind of confidence overwhelmed me, then wardrobe lady showed up with the medic and he said, “oh, it’s just an extra?”��
He asked me if I was OK & I explained what happened. He asked me to wait right here and he’d be back in a minute.
A minute passed, 5 minutes passed, 10 minutes passed. No one ever came back & then I hear SOUND ROLLING…..”back to your original spots everybody, masks off & ACTION
We did this 7 times. No joke, same exact thing SEVEN times. It was amazing!
After being on set for 14 hours we wrapped & Adam said “Thanks everyone, see you tomorrow at 5:00am”. Most people groaned but all I was thinking was “Can’t wait!”
The next day was all the same stuff, a lot of standing around, a lot of getting beaten up…but the novelty still hadn’t worn off. I had to enjoy this day at work because it was likely the last. We wrapped that day & were told Thank you for you effort guys & if we shoot in kingston again we’ll keep your info.

Well guess what ?

3 weeks later I get the call back. This time for 4 days of shooting!

I walk into the Prison yard like it’s my new office, just happy to see all the cameras, & crew & the madness they’ve created in the yard. I’m no Hollywood writer but it appears we’ve taken over the prison and have taken the guards hostage. It’s a mess, there a half beaten Guards tied up to standing bed frames. There’s dead prisoners strewn throughout the yard and the prison is on fire. Unbelievable!

Today it’s my job to circle around a correctional officer who we’ve tied up & tortured and scream obscenities at him until the negotiator arrives, then I freeze where I am & turn to look at the negotiator. They yell ACTION & I bring out some of the most obscene & grotesque words in my vocabulary and then out of the corner of my eye I see the negotiator enter the yard so, I freeze.

Wait…Whoa WTF? OMG it’s the MF Hurt Locker. Seriously….right here, walking directly towards me. It’s the Mayor of Kingstown himself & he’s like 9 feet away from me. He walked by me, in frame & I swear to god I think he winked at me on the way by. At least that’s how I’m gonna tell the story.��
I really wanna tell you what happens next but a) nobody likes a spoiler alert and
b) I think they can sue me if I give too much away but…..what happened next was insane, off the hook brilliant and shocking!

I arrive on set the final day & see the lead singer from headstones running around the yard, Hawkeye was in a tent eating what looked like a bagel, Michael Beech was with a makeup person & Randy Butcher had a bunch of ADs & crew in stitches telling some crazy story. The Kingston Fire department were there & pyrotechnics guys were lighting inmates and mattresses on fire. Ya know, just another day at the office! There was something different today, and I thought this was a really neat thing. The US Military we’re there. Tons of them. I later learned that they were actual Canadian Service members who were selected for this rare opportunity. I had a smoke with a couple of them & they told me that a select few were told they’d be paid to Kill convicts today. Really neat & well deserved. BUT WAIT.

This means the guards couldn’t stop us & the swat team couldn’t stop us so now they’ve called the military in & we’re all gonna die today. NO NO NO…this can’t be.
I’m a background celebrity, I’m too important. You can’t kill me off. This would mean no more dressing up as a con, no more stunt fighting, no more free food all day, no more pretending all day long?
NO NO NO, this is unacceptable…..I won’t be able to adjust to life “on the outside”.
PLEASE, I can’t be killed off today.
I though of maybe approaching one of the writers to see if they’d reconsider the story line, or maybe I’ll just run into frame & stare down the barrel of the camera and appeal to the viewing audience to write Paramount and keep me on the show. Nah, it’s not live and they’d just edit it out & fire me. I slowly came to terms with my fate & accepted the bleak inevitably that I was going to die today��

Adam arrived on set in a really cool Knights jacket with a lightning bolt on the shoulder, a great movie reference many wouldn’t get but, when he began to speak things weren’t so cool. He told us that Hugh Dillon’s father died that day & that Hughs father was able to see the trailer & was proud of his son. He continued by asking us to honour Hugh’s dad’s memory by giving our best effort on set today. I remember thinking to myself that after everything Hugh has given me from the recording studio, to the TV studio, to on stage…..this is definitely something I can do to repay Hugh for everything he’s given me. Today I am going to be the best Gotdam background celebrity in all of Kingston, or at least south of Front Rd….today I’m giving everything I have!

The day started with an AD named Lily who yelled, “I need some legs running in front of this camera.”
She grabbed me and said count to 5 then run straight over there.
They yelled action, I counted to 5, then ran to there. Simple.
So, we did that 4 more times & it was break time. We go get a coffee from the craft truck or have a smoke in the designated areas of course.
When we returned there was a guy standing there with a girl holding an umbrella over his head & he looked like Jeremy Reiner but he wasn’t. He was what they call in the biz, a Stand-in. He literally just stood there until another umbrella carrying girl approached them & this new girl was escorting The Actual Jeremy Reiner with umbrella. See, the talent needs to be 4^ cooler than the extras. That’s just union rules. So now that the lead is here, the stand-in can now be escorted off-set by both umbrella girls. He’s getting double umbrella coverage while we’re wearing prison clothes and in some cases riot/military gear, sweating our asses off. Anyway…enough about the umbrellas.
Next scene they tell us to start from our last point & run away. I start running & a guy with a shot gun runs by me and starts firing all Willy nelly. It went off right by my ear. It felt like someone slapped me in the ear, right after a Headstones concert. My ears were ringing but my right ear was in pain, I hit the deck holding my right ear unable to hear anything. Maybe they yelled CUT, how would I know? I can’t hear a thing. I look back & the guy with the shotgun is right above me, still shooting everywhere. Then suddenly the back of his shirt explodes with blood and he falls next to me. Now I’m covered in blood, I’m temporarily deaf & I feel this burning sensation in my right arm. I’ve fallen too close to a prop & a burning mattress is cooking my right forearm. I try to move over but the dead guy is there so, I start shimmying downwards & then I see the dead guy get up and everyone else makes their way to their feet so, I figure they yelled CUT & we were done.
We weren’t.

When my hearing returned I heard them explain that we were doing it one more time so that the helicopter could shoot the scene from above the prison. This time, I’m thinking, stay away from the guy with the shotgun! Throughout this entire process I felt I did a really good job staying out of shots and avoiding cameras. Let’s be honest, it could be a little embarrassing seeing myself running around acting all crazy with missing teeth & insane hair. I don’t even like the sound of my own voice when it isn’t in my head. Besides, I’m background…if No one ever notices me, I’m doing a great job.
We shot the final scene at Kingston Penitentiary.

And that was it.

Randy Butcher started packing his stuff up, Michael Beach was already long gone. Hawkeye was just here, now he’s gone. As all the extras we’re filing out through a gate to exit the prison, a voice came over the loudspeaker “Thank you everyone, that’s the end of filming here but you guys were awesome, thanks again for everything.”
Was I the only one who acknowledged the finality of this? As We lined up outside the towering prison wall to get on the buses that would bring us off-set, I spoke with some of the guys in line & realized that this was the ending for me but….for these two guys, it was just another wrap. They had to go to a hotel 45 mins away, only to go right to bed because they had to be up at 5:00am to shoot something else somewhere near Toronto. As I talked more & more to other background actors, it was the same. They just wanted to get to their hotel or get home because they likely had another 14-16 hour shift ahead of them. Now, I know that there has been a lot of talk lately about working conditions on large sets & I don’t doubt that in some cases this is true. In fact, on our final day of shooting, when they were trying to pack as much in…I remember thinking to myself that this will be the final take because the sun was beginning to set behind the prison wall. Just as I was thinking that, this great big huge box, the size of a house (with 6 enormous lights attached to it) started rising above the prison yard wall. It looked like a decepticon or something. It was a light that would make the yard look like dusk or midday. Point is …the hours can be Long & gruelling. The breaks are sparse but the food is great if you can weather the long lines. For a guy like me, none of this mattered because it was all so new & exciting. It was like backstage pass where you were allowed behind the curtain to see how these blockbusters are made and you get to participate! I really felt like I should have been paying them for being able to partake in this extravagant production. Oh that reminds me, next time I see Jeremy Renner, I need to ask him how I can get Millions for my next call back.
Besides being really close friends with Jeremy (Jer), I met alot of really interesting people. A significant portion of the local background cast were actual ex-cons who somehow or another ended up making Kinston their post incarnation home.
Didnt matter where you were from or what you did in the past, we were all oddly aware of how lucky we were to be involved in this really unique set.

I myself felt like it was very unique working experience, in that, rather than being guarded and secretive about their job, everyone was open & honest and excited to tell you about their job. Unlike most workplaces where people don’t divulge much as a form of job security, I suppose….everyone was helpful when you asked questions & weren’t reluctant to tell you how they arrived at this point of their entertainment career.

The people I worked with & their stories made this a very pleasant gig. From the locals to the background Pros they shipped in from the GTA.