published Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Curtain Call: Cleveland, Tenn., actor pursuing dream

P.J. McKay, right, is shown on the set of “Drop Dead Diva” with another extra, Nicole Mushtare.
P.J. McKay, right, is shown on the set of “Drop Dead Diva” with another extra, Nicole Mushtare.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
P.J. McKay

• Hometown: Cleveland, Tenn.

• Age: 26.

• Education: Bradley Central High School, Cleveland State Community College, bachelor's degree in psychology from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

• Vocation: Horn's Creek Resort assistant manager, actor

Acting terms

• Extra: Extras can make up crowds, perhaps a person walking along a street or sitting at a table near the action. They are not the focal part of a scene.

• Stand-in: Stand-ins are not on camera but stand in for the principal actor while cameras are set up and angles are calibrated.

• Featured extra: They audition for roles and are on camera but in the background. Some may have small speaking roles.

• Photo double: They are chosen for their similarity to the principal actor and are used in faraway shots or are shot from behind.

• Principal or main actor: This actor has the camera focused on him.

A conversation with his mother convinced P.J. McKay to forgo a modeling and acting career in Germany or Los Angeles and focus on getting his college degree.

With graduation behind him, he has decided to give acting another try. In the past six months, he has gotten a number of stand-in, extra and featured extra roles in television series such as "Drop Dead Diva," "Vampire Diaries" and "Teen Wolf."

All of those are shot in Atlanta, a fact that makes pursuing his dream much easier, the Cleveland, Tenn., native said.

"That is the best part," McKay said. "If I didn't live so close to Atlanta, it wouldn't be realistic."

McKay said he spent Monday getting fitted for a costume he will wear as a featured extra in an upcoming "Vampire Diaries" episode that will shoot Tuesday.

Q Have you pursued acting for a while?

A Yes. I started in seventh grade and took a break my freshman year of college, I guess it was. I did fitness modeling through Ambiance. I went to the [International Modeling and Talent Association] in New York and got some interest and callbacks. One was a fitness modeling agency that wanted me to move to Germany. I was 19 at the time and couldn't make that happen. I got another call back in Los Angeles, but my mother talked to me about finishing school first.

Q Are you pursuing anything in the psychology field?

A I'm taking a break for a year.

Q How long have you been back into acting?

A I guess it's been about six or eight months, so I'm really just getting back into it. I just officially graduated, so now I'm going to commit to it.

Q What are some of the things you've done?

A I did some stand-in work for a couple of companies. The first thing I did was "Teen Wolf" for MTV. They were going to pull me up as an extra, but the first guy they'd hired showed up. Then I did "Vampire Diaries" and then "Drop Dead Diva." Then I was an extra in (the film) "Joyful Noise" with Queen Latifa and Dolly Parton. That was as an audience member.

Q What kind of money are we talking about for these parts?

A Extra work is usually minimum wage. Stand-ins get about $10 an hour. The featured role I'm doing [Tuesday] will pay $125 a day for 10 hours. After that, it's time and half, up to 16 hours. I don't think they can go over 16 hours in a day.

Q What do you know about the part?

A I don't think I'm supposed to talk too much about it, but I'm one of five guys. They selected 14 of us to audition and took four of us. The fifth guy has a speaking part, and he is a British guy out of LA. The speaking roles usually come out of LA.

Q Do you see yourself doing more serious roles, comedy, musicals, what?

A I'd say more serious roles. I also do fitness modeling.

Q So you work out a lot?

A I was working out when you called. The "Vampire Diaries" role is a shirtless role. That's why they called me. That's what got me the part.

Q If the gig in Germany or LA was offered to you right now, would you go?

A Definitely. I'm dedicating myself to this, and things have been building up. If that continues, I'm committed to it.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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