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Arts / ‘It’s been a blast’ – 41 scenes and counting for Shetland extra

Stan Semple ready and waiting as a police officer (left) and as seen on screen (right).

NO TOO many people can say they have appeared in every series of the Shetland crime drama.

Core cast members, sure – but what about council insurance officer Stan Semple from Gulberwick?

He has featured in the show as an extra in every series so far, racking up appearances in a total of 19 episodes.

Among the roles the 60-year-old has taken on are a police officer, a pub-goer, a photographer and a wedding guest.

Some of the appearances have been fleeting – a figure in the background, perhaps – but it seems Semple is just happy to be part of it all.

“It’s been a blast,” he says. “It’s something different from your day to day life.”

The popular crime drama is in the midst of its seven series, airing on BBC One, and while it is lead actor Douglas Henshall’s last, it is getting plenty of positive feedback.

And it will not stop there – an eighth series is set to be filmed in 2023.

Semple first got involved as an extra as the first series shot back in 2012, when the show was smaller in scale and not the worldwide release it is now.

Back then people were asked to come to the Market Cross in Lerwick to be involved in crowd scenes.

But since then a formal casting process has been in place for paid extra work, which gives locals the chance to be involved in the production on their doorstep.

A number of folk have racked up repeat appearances, but Semple has calculated that he has featured in a rather impressive 41 scenes so far.

“What I was interested in when I was doing that was how the crew worked, and how they actually put all these scenes together. It was interesting to see how it all worked,” he says.

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“And I’m the kind of chap who doesn’t mind seeing my face on the telly. Who doesn’t want to pick out themselves when the programme comes on?”

Life as an extra – or supporting actor as they are called – can involve long waits, with days sometimes starting before 9am and only finishing at teatime.

Even then, the extra might not even be called forward for a scene, with the production often a moving feast.

Semple, though, is happy to be involved whatever the outcome. “It’s like a different kind of world,” he says – adding that he has made some good friends from folk he has met on set.

“Even though my appearances on the screen might be very brief and somewhat in the distance, at least you’ve been used and needed in some kind of way,” he adds.

A behind the scenes shot of lead actor Douglas Henshall at work. Photo: BBC/Silverprint Pictures/Mark Mainz

So what are some of his highlights? The scene where he drove Henshall and guest co-star Brian Cox in a car, while acting as a police officer, will stand long in the memory.

“The car was parked on a slope, facing up the slope a little bit from the driveway,” he explains.

“All the locals were angry, as Perez was taking Brian Cox’s character into the back of the car, and I had to drive off swiftly away from this angry, baying mob.

“I was in a sweat hoping that I wouldn’t stall the vehicle. And also I had obviously millions of pounds worth of actors in the back of the car, I was hoping that when I was driving away at speed I would be able to keep the car on the road.

“There was a bit of concentration required there.”

Another highlight was getting up close to the now Oscar-nominated actor Ciaran Hinds in the NorthLink ferry terminal in series three.

Not only is extra work a bit of fun for the locals, but it is also a hugely important part of the filming process.

“Our supporting artists are an incredibly vital part of our production,” Shetland producer Louise Say adds.

“Their professionalism adds authenticity and a genuine sense of place, making Shetland the compelling series it is.”

Semple though is a little coy about the prospects of going for more extra roles in series eight. “I wasn’t sure, but I think I’ll probably put my name forward and see if they’re needing anybody again,” he says. “It’s a change from the drudgery of the real life”.

Even if some of his appearances might only last for a second or two, in the background of the shot, there is a feeling that the local extras are involved in something big, something global.

“I think all the folk taking part know this is a worldwide thing know, and it’s good to be part of that, and many us believe that we’re helping promote the islands,” Semple says, “despite all the murders.”

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