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I’m sitting outside another portacabin with a couple more guys, all of whom are ostensibly the same – middle-aged, tall, bearded, bit of a stomach. There’s definitely a theme happening here. They know the look they’re going for, and it’s not exactly dissuading me of my Ankh Morpork City Watch notions. Elite fighting soldier is not the theme here. Grizzled veteran past his best would seem to be more the look they’re after. After a few minutes two more dudes – both a perfect fit for this profile – exit the portacabin, and I’m called in to make-up.

I’m expecting that make-up will, well, apply make-up. But this is just another sign of my inexperience. It’s really just a series of questions. Do you have any tattoos? Nope. Piercings? Just a few in the ears. Allergies? Well I can’t eat apples, but that probably doesn’t matter right? Then the big one:

“Now they’re going to want you to shave the beard ok?”

“Sorry, what?”

“The beard. They want the guards to be clean shaven, are you ok with that?”

I haven’t been clean shaven for over fifteen years. I fucking hate shaving. Perhaps I should have said that I have a shaving allergy? This has thrown me completely. I note that the guy sitting in the next make-up chair has looked up, clearly as alarmed as myself.

“Er, not really ok, no”

Fuck, I don’t want to blow this though.

“I mean, if I have to then I suppose so”


“Um, why have they cast so many bearded people then?”

“I don’t know – that’s not my job!”

When I’d arrived in New Zealand a couple of months previous, with my wife and two daughters, we spent two weeks of a beautiful hot summer stuck in hotel quarantine as part of New Zealand’s Covid-19 policy. The four of us spent the entire time in our tiny little hotel room, minus occasional forays into the car park for a brief walk most mornings.

As a result of this, I’d got bored and trimmed my once mighty beard back to a more presentable state, but I was still a good couple of inches away from clean-shaven, and I had no intention of taking this any further. So this was something of a dilemma. On the one hand I really don’t want to lose this opportunity, and my beard (unlike my hair these days) is a renewable resource. On the other hand: Noooooooooooooo! Not my beard!

Outside of our room in Hotel Quarantino was this lovely pool. That we couldn’t use… because covid. Bastards.

“Ok, well, whatever it takes I guess”

It occurs to me that I’ve perhaps not quite grasped the reality of the acting trade, even at the bottom of the rung as apprentice extra. I’d spent the last ten years playing folk songs in a band, and not having a beard would have been positively a dereliction of duty. New rules now boy, time to shape up.

Nevertheless, I’m not shaved yet and will live to fight another day. Or more accurately live to fight one day, because I hadn’t exactly showed any fight here. I’d acquiesced entirely with all the fight of a politician standing up to an oil lobbyist. Also, I know very little of what they have in mind for this role, but the “grizzled veteran past his best” theme just screams beard.

I’m handed another little whiteboard with my name written on it, and the make-up lady takes some photos of me.

“Ok, please make sure you don’t change your look until the role is done – no haircuts!”

This seems entirely contradictory to the beard advice.

“Sure, no problem”

I really was badly in need of a haircut. Oh well. It’s only a couple of days work by the sound of it anyway. Hirsute misgivings aside, I leave the make-up room to head back to the shuttle. There’s no sign of it yet and, after judging that the security guard is not concerned in the slightest about people already inside the property, I have a quick nose about. Disappointingly, nobody seems to have left a script lying around. Oh well.

So… after my first visit to the studios, what do I know at this point about the Lord of the Rings TV show? Next to nothing. My part is a city guard, but what city am I guarding? There is a place called Amdelyn Docks, which seems to be a human settlement, but I don’t know if the city itself is called Amdelyn, and I don’t actually know if that’s where I’ll be. The city is likely coastal, but could be inland on a river too. Umbar? Pelargir? Or perhaps it’s in Numenor? Or perhaps it is Amdelyn and – oh God no – it’s part of Seer City? I have a follow-up appointment with costume and make-up in another week or two, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

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