Extras Through The Ages

Posted by Indiana - 21 Jul 2023
Extras Work Through the Ages | Universal Extras

Transporting entire audiences to an era of time gone by is no easy feat.

It requires a deep understanding of history, a wickedly talented creative team and meticulous attention to detail in every inch, of every shot.

From costumes and hairstyles to makeup and accessories, every aspect of an Artiste’s appearance plays a crucial role in bringing the reality of the era to screen. That’s why casting productions can often be quite so particular – as we’re sure you’ve noticed!

We thought it might be fun to look back on some UVE projects set in periods of time gone by; UVE productions through the ages, if you will.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

🕰️ Casting Different Time Periods

Casting the 20’s

To transport an audience back to the roaring 1920’s, productions need dapper gentlemen in sharp suits, flapper girls with bobs and feathered headbands, jazz music swinging in the air, and a touch of art deco glamour.

Think back to productions such as The Danish Girl or Downton Abbey.

Productions set in this period require stripping back the modern day aesthetic completely – things such as acrylic nails (which weren’t invented until the 1950’s!), tattoos, cosmetic fillers and more.

This time period also calls for Artistes with naturally-coloured hair, perfect for styling into chic 1920’s do’s!

Casting the 30’s

To conjure up that 1930’s aesthetic, cast your mind back to films such as Rebecca, or Poirot adaptations including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.

Throughout this period, the natural look still reigned supreme, however, elements of the flapper movement carried forward and things such as sharp, dramatic eyebrows were still all-the-rage!

One thing’s for sure: the 1930s sure loved a moustache. Oftentimes, productions set in this era will call for gentlemen with facial hair they can cut, shape and style, or ask specifically for clean-shaven Artistes perfect for sending to the hair and makeup chair!

Casting the 40’s

With many productions exploring the events of WWII – Operation Mincemeat for example – we will often be on the hunt for Artistes to play military roles.

To meet military appearance standards, this can mean males are asked to appear clean-shaven, with a neatly-groomed side part or have hair trimmed down to the traditional military-grade buzz cut.

Simililarly, females may require hair that is long enough to be swept into a practical up-do, or styled into classic pin-curls (a curling technique extremely popular throughout the 30s and 40’s)!

The 50’s

The early 1950’s was all about clean lines and the classic A-line silhouette (for reference, you can look to The Crown Series 2!).

A little later, however, emerged stylish subcultures including the Beatniks and the Greasers, as well as an aesthetic known as Ivy-League.

During the 50s, it was typically understood that beards were reserved for older gentlemen, and therefore younger males often appeared clean-shaven with neat, slicked back hair.

The 60’s

For 60’s style, look no further than TV series such as Pennyworth or Funny Woman.

By the 1960s, the beard had been reclaimed by the younger generation and now served as a symbol of rebellion and creativity. Productions set in the swinging sixties may therefore request Artistes with impressive beards that can blend perfectly into the psychedelic, tie-dye era.

The 60s also introduced us to Margaret Vinci Heldt’s beehive hair style, and heavy sweeping bangs which were popularised by the iconic Brigitte Bardot – both styles featuring heavily on Anna Taylor-Joy in Last Night in Soho.

Ladies with fringes; we’re looking at you!

The 70’s

Moving onto the era of Disco, Glam Rock, Boho, and Athleisure.

Key trends included bell-bottoms, high-waisted trousers, earth tones, suede and fringing.

70s settings typically call for Artistes to ditch the contemporary skin fades and undercuts for longer hair that’s perfect for styling into a shaggy 70s do (just like you’d see in the feature film Eurovision).

Regardless of cut: 70s hair called for serious volume.

Why? Because it was also this decade that introduced us to the punk movement. Cue the mohawks, mullets and liberty spikes! [many of which made an appearance in the FX series Pistol].

The 80’s

The 80s was another fantastically experimental era for fashion. It championed self-expression, big hair and bold makeup – not to mention wardrobes chock-full of eccentric prints and fabrics!

(You can think of productions like It’s A Sin or White Noise).

The 80s was also when youth subcultures like the New Romantics and the Goth movement began to emerge in the UK. This means that productions set in this time period can sometimes call out for Artistes with bold looks like brightly-coloured hair, striking tattoos, piercings, etc!

The 90’s

The 90s then introduced us to a broad range of contrasting styles including Preppy, Skate and Grunge. In fact, style icons ranged from Princess Diana – as depicted in Series 5 of The Crown – to Kurt Cobain and Aaliyah.

As a result of such a diverse blend of styles, versatility is perhaps the most desirable quality of an Extra required for a 90’s production!

The 90s also continued the trend of colourful hair dye (inspired by the likes of Gwen Stefani, Geri Halliwell, and Christina Aguilera) – so coloured hair was all-the-rage.

Oh, and who could also forget those trademark 90s highlights and the resurgence of the hyper-plucked eyebrow?

Modern Day

Naturally, this time setting is the most straightforward when it comes to casting.

Some recent examples of UVE work set in the modern day would include TV series You and the feature length spin-off of crime series Luther – both of which can now be found on Netflix.

Modern day productions are especially keen to represent absolutely all walks of life on screen, and therefore particularly unique appearances are a huge asset here!

…& Beyond

Productions can often also cast a light on what they imagine the future could look like.

(Think dystopian series such as Silo, or the various storylines found in anthology series Black Mirror.)

From a casting perspective, this can really open things up creatively. In fact, when it comes to aesthetic, anything goes! This will depend 100% on the vision of the writer, director and creative team involved on the project!

Exciting, right?

Explore even more Film & TV content by perusing the UVE blog now?