5 Questions with Jesse Heiman, the Hardest-Working Extra in Showbiz

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With appearances in everything from Glee to The Social Network to American Pie, Jesse Heiman just might be the most ubiquitous man in Hollywood.

After New York magazine’s Vulture blog shared the above video, highlighting just a fraction of Heiman’s work as an extra, NewsFeed knew we’d noticed him before. We also knew we had to speak with the hardest working man we didn’t know we knew. Heiman was kind enough to take a moment to speak with us about extra work, meeting Tom Hanks and his dream role.

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How long have you been acting in total?

I’ve been acting for 11 years. I was 22 back then. I graduated high school and I graduated college and I moved out here [to Los Angeles] and my parents made me get a real job before I started acting. They knew that I wanted to act, but they wanted to make sure I could survive. My first job was working at a video duplication company, making duplicates. I was bored so I started signing up for extra work.

I’ve heard that your IMDb page doesn’t even begin to cover how many appearances you’ve had in movies and television. Is that right?

Yeah, it’s definitely cut off because they don’t generally count the uncredited stuff, which is generally all the background stuff. But at this point it doesn’t matter if it’s credited or uncredited, people now know who I am.

So in total, how many movies and TV shows have you been in?

You know what? I’m not even sure the exact number. It’s above 100 TV shows and maybe 40 or 50 movies. It’s amazing, most actors don’t get to be in that many films, but as an extra you can be in as many films as you want, until people recognize you too much and then you can’t be in [the background]. So actually, I don’t know if this is going to help me or hurt me. (Laughs.)

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So of these 150 plus times you’ve worked as an extra, do any favorite experiences stick out?

Well, I have a couple of favorites. I worked on the movie Old School for the majority of the time that they were filming so I got to work for six weeks with Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn and Jeremy Piven. Working with certain people just blows my mind. I worked on the movie Orange County with Colin Hanks and Jack Black and I actually became great friends with Colin Hanks during filming. But then a couple of weeks later I worked on Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks, [Colin’s] father, and I was totally starstruck. I couldn’t talk to him.

If you had to pick an ideal dream role, what would it be?

My ideal role would be if they ever remade Smokey and the Bandit, I’d love to play Smokey, the Jackie Gleason role. That or if they ever made an updated version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I’d love that. Anything that John Candy or Chris Farley would have been cast in, I’d love to get those type of roles. I’d love to not just be a character actor but like, say, Kevin James, get the leading roles as well.  And after all this [work], there’s no reason I can’t do anything in this town.

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