We’re talking the people playing victims of foul play on TV shows like “CSI” and “Law & Order.” Since those shows are so popular, “dead body” roles are on the rise! In the past few years, TV dramas have attracted fans by keeping up with real-world headlines. That means delivering more violence and more shocking scenes – including blood and guts on the autopsy table. Since over half of the top 10 most-watched TV dramas use live people to portray dead people, that means a lot more so-called “corpse duty” for Hollywood actors, as well as work for the make-up artists who turn the living into the dead.
It can be an actor's big break! Kevin Costner's first role was as the dead guy in “The Big Chill.” Mark Horowitz is the executive producer of “NCIS.” He says it’s not always affordable to use mannequins for corpses. They take two weeks to make and cost around $8,000 apiece. So it’s more time- and cost-effective to hire actors to play the dead. Horowitz says they look more realistic anyway.
It’s not as easy to play dead as it looks! You don’t need experience to play a corpse, but a top New York casting director says not everyone can pull it off. For example, the job requires you to lie perfectly still without blinking or twitching, and taking only tiny, short breaths for long periods of time. That’s not all. You can’t be afraid of “critters.” That’s because shows often use crime-sniffing dogs, as well as cockroaches, worms and insects to crawl on corpses.
So how much can you make playing dead? If you’re a member of the actors’ union, you’ll bank $139 for the day, plus free food, overtime pay, and $100 for wardrobe fittings. Just one rule: You have to wear a trash bag with arm-hole cutouts and latex gloves at lunch and during breaks. Why? So you don’t get fake blood on the catering!