An “Extra” day on the set of Vintage “Vegas”


My "Vegas" extra day, photos courtesy of Margie Barron

If you enjoy playing “dress up,” then you’d probably have fun being an extra on the set of the exciting drama Vegas, which airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. on CBS. The show is set in 1961 so the costume department is kept busy outfitting a herd of “atmosphere players” in vintage attire. As part of the impeccably detailed background on the Las Vegas streets and casino denizens, they help bring a big screen quality to the TV production.

Jumping at the opportunity to be an extra on Vegas, I saw how the attention to details really makes the series come to life. It’s easily the most stylish show on the air, equal to Mad Men if you have a passion for retro fashions and appreciate the finer points that go into recreating a bygone era.

Almost every young lady I saw on the set was wearing a chic hat and outfit, accented with divine jewelry and gloves. Skilled make-up artists applied eyeliner, mascara and painted lips a bright matted red. Plus hair professionals styled French curl updos. The fastidious job by the pros was to ensure that the director could shoot a close-up of anyone on the set for any scene. Every episode of the show is a work of art because of their efforts.

Fremont Street

Since its debut this fall, Vegas has impressed. It started with the simple premise of local Nevada rancher turned sheriff, Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid), clashing with wise guy Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis), who works for the mob’s Savoy Casino. Now that the show is back with new episodes on Fridays through it’s season finale on May 10, it’s even better with surprising plot twists. The strong supporting cast includes Jason O’Mara, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sarah Jones, and Taylor Handley. Fine performances by O’Mara and Handley have earned them meatier storylines, mixed with a little romance, that’s sure to please the show’s loyal audience.

Jason O'Mara, Margie Barron, Taylor Handley

Vegas takes you back to an interesting time full of great characters in Las Vegas circa early ’60s. The casinos were filled with dazzling showgirls, well-coiffed elegantly dressed women, and men in sharp suits wearing fedoras or cowboy hats. And I took my place among them as an atmosphere player, sometimes portraying a gambler or seen strolling down Fremont Street. Even as some scenes were reshot over and over, I never lost my enthusiasm thanks to the 2nd ADs and production assistants on the show. They were great to work with and made me (and every extra) feel like an important part of the production.

Based at the Santa Clarita Studios, Vegas has been busy building up its sets since the first episode. The casinos of the era and downtown Vegas have been recreated and executive producer Greg Walker is proud of the enormous care that has gone into the Savoy Casino set. Walker says, “There is a multi-layered environment both inside the casino and outside on Fremont Street, that was the start of what Vegas became.”

Vintage "Vegas"

Walker says that executive producer Nick Pileggi, writer of the classic mob films Goodfellas and Casino, knew Vegas in the 1960s and called the production’s set “a time capsule.” Production designer Carey Meyer’s attention to details such as the “atomic lights” of the era, the curves in the furniture designs, the upholstery on the chairs, and over 10,000 feet of neon set the mood. The retro series utilizes vintage slot machines and classic cars, along with makeup, hair and costume department dedicated to the authenticity of the drama.

All of that would be nothing without great storytelling and intriguing characters who deal with corruption and dangerous outside influences, from the mob as well as Hollywood. Plus some romance is thrown in for good measure. I saw it has all that going for it. And seeing how the show can grow, a second season for Vegas would be a good bet for CBS. #

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.