Unsolved Mysteries

There’s a proliferation of true crime shows currently on cable. TruTV, Investigation Discovery, and a multitude of other channels have programming that highlights a real criminal case or mystery. Often times, in addition to interviewing the people involved, these shows also incorporate dramatic reenactments of the case. These can range from the crime itself being re-done for the camera to the act of solving it being dramatically interpreted for the screen, to make it more interesting for the viewers. But who are these people who have to play the scumbag boyfriend or the intrepid detective hot on the trail of his suspect?

Hopes & Fears tasked an actor who has appeared in multiple true crime shows with writing about his experiences, from how the reenactments are cast to what it’s like to film the scenes. It’s a great piece that’s full of insight into a very specific corner of the entertainment world. The author, whose name is not given, writes about all the different types of roles that are usually nothing more than glorified extras without much dialogue. But due to the wealth of content that can be covered and the number of shows out there that need reenactors, the author has a pretty impressive resume of characters:

I’ve played a chief investigator, a sociopathic murderer, a gambler on a riverboat, a cowboy who blows his brains out. You name it. There were some other ones, where I was just playing a cop or a bystander, but those are the ones I can recall for certain.


The reenactor also goes into depth about the entire casting process, how people can get involved in the reenactment business, what the shooting is like, and how it feels to play these roles with varying degrees of scumbaggery. As for who would want to take on these parts, the writer states:

The job attracts all different types of people. It’s a carnival of freaks. On one hand, you have these theater people who hold such strong opinions on which one of Shakespeare’s plays is the best or why Martin McDonagh sucks as a playwright. Then you have the trained professionals who do this for a living. They’ll show up with a pillow and a blanket and just camp out. There are the SAG people, who are usually the professional hot girls or hunks for the scene. And there are the first-timers, who don’t have union representation and are working thirteen-hour shifts for seventy-five bucks. They’re standing outside in the rain and they’re just so gosh darn happy to be in a movie.

If you’ve ever hung out with actors, you know they’re either the coolest people in the world or, literally, the worst.


The entire essay is full of candid talk and can be read in full over on Hopes & Fears.