Hollywood South provides dinosaur-sized excitement

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Although they are not exactly Hollywood movie stars earning millions, Washington Parish residents cast as extras in the Universal Studio futuristic blockbuster “Jurassic World” said the experience is thrilling nonetheless.

Franklinton’s Ken Knight, Tyfanni Cassidy and Kasey Hartzog and her children Brooke and Aden, appeared in the movie as park visitors. Scenes were shot in New Orleans East and at the Stennis Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“Jurassic World” broke records when it was released on June 12 in North America. It broke records for an opening weekend and was the first movie to generate $500 million in a single weekend. It is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time.

Lead actors in “Jurassic World” are Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Ty Simpkins, Brandon Richardson and B.D. Wong.

“We filmed outdoor scenes at the old Six Flags Park. They built Main Street right there at Six Flags. It looked like a real town,” Knight said. “For inside scenes, sets were built over at the NASA Center. Filming in two different locations is part of the movie magic.”

Along with playing a park visitor, Knight played a relief worker in a scene.

“There were hundreds of folks in the scene that you may see us or may not,” Knight said. “Some scenes were filmed with us close, but those were not used. In one scene, I threw popcorn into the camera lens, but that scene was not used. You just never know.”

Knight has appeared as an extra in other projects.

He has appeared in five episodes on ABC’s “Astronaut Wives Club” series. He played a U.S. Navy Admiral and was in a dancing scene.

Knight also appeared last January in “Geostorm,” a movie filmed at NASA about a NASA employee. Knight was cast as an investment banker in “The Big Short,” a yet to be released movie about the 2008 housing market crash. He has also appeared on the CBS television series “NCIS: New Orleans” and Will Smith’s movie “Focus.”

His most current work was in the CBS series of “Zoo.”

“They place you on the set where you may or may not been seen,” Knight said.

Knight said he has always been interested in the movie industry.

“About 40 years ago on vacation in Hollywood, I came across Raymond Burr filming ‘Ironside.’ I watched a little of the filming and saw all the actors working on the set having breakfast at the hotel. I sat down at a table, and I was asked to join them for lunch. I spent the whole day watching ‘Ironside’ being filmed.”

Knight said casting agents place available parts on the Internet for those who want to apply.

“We can put down if we’re available. That’s how we get the parts,” Knight said. “Anybody can apply to be a background actor, or extra.”

Efforts to reach Hartzog were unsuccessful, but Cassidy said she has had 25 television and movie roles in the last year.

“Ken and I were doing a lot of running from dinosaurs and pterodactyls in ‘Jurassic World.’ We had a helicopter come down on us the first day to teach us how to duck,” Cassidy said. “That was fun. Ken and I ran from dinosaurs for five or six days. It was a lot of running.”

Cassidy said singer Jimmy Buffett showed up at his restaurant and sang. She said that part didn’t make the movie.

“A lot of the scenes we did were not used,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy also appears in the recently released movie “Hot Pursuit” starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, “Daddy’s Home” starring Mark Wahlberg, the Disney movie “My Invisible Sister,” which is yet to be released, and “The Long Night” about the Deepwater Horizon explosion in which she played a New Orleans police officer. Cassidy’s television parts include “NCIS: New Orleans,” along with “The Astronaut Wives Club” and  “American Horror Story” on the FX Network.

Cassidy moved from Nashville to Franklinton more than two years ago to help out with family matters. She previously worked in pathology at a hospital.

“Working as an extra is always fun. They feed you good. The food is always catered,” Cassidy said. “You meet all kinds of people. I probably have made 200 friends doing this.”

Both Knight and Cassidy said that when extras are in the background of a scene they are not actually speaking, but pretending to talk.

Compensation for extras range from $7.25 to $8 an hour.

“There is no big money in it,” Knight said. “You do it for the fun. You do get paid for your acting and gas for your driving to get there.”

Cassidy agreed.

“I’m doing it for the fun until I get a better position in pathology. You get to play dress up, so you really can’t complain,” Cassidy said. “There is no real pressure.”