We practise our smiles under white diffusers
larger than sunbeds. We are the extras, paid in plastic
trays of bread and moist sandwich fillings,
flagons of instant coffee and saccharined juice.
We do as we’re told, laugh towards a glass eye,
capturing our imperfect dentistry.
We are en masse, this pack of us, hungry
to be chosen, yet trying to be bland.
(Some of us find this easy.) One is moved
from the front; she would have been featured,
but her dress is too purple, too shiny.
She is to remember, she is simply background,
darling; for we are the extras.
The real stars beam with their squeaky teeth –
the same baby-girl blondes
with heavy eyes and plump, biteable lips.
They earn so much more than us,
relaxing in their comfy chairs; we are 40
to a dressing room, hot bulbs heckling
our sunken skin as we snack on chocolate,
ease our boredom on caffeine and twitter,
while our agents snaffle their 15 per cent.
The new girl asks: Is this a broken lunch?
Not on these rates, love. There’s so much civility,
for we are the extras. We read The Mirror,
calling out crossword clues in repressed voices.
When we tire of this, we turn in
on ourselves; a hierarchy of Holby, EastEnders, Casualty.
A tall man boasts of his walk on in Star Wars.
We quieten, try not to look
impressed, stare into our mini screens
as if someone really loves us.
Then we’re back on set, the same lipstick brush
wiped over 80 paid-for smiles.