From the 1930s to the 1950s, legend had it that major movie stars could be discovered as they hung out at the soda counter at Schwab's Pharmacy in Hollywood.
But no more.
First off, the Los Angeles icon was demolished in 1988. Second, it's much more likely that today's casting directors use the Internet to find talent.
Which is exactly how Phoenixville's Graham Dellinger connected with the producers of Turn, an AMC original miniseries that begins airing this Sunday, April 6.
Dellinger has woven the details of the American Revolution into many facets of his life: He works at The Encampment Store at Valley Forge National Historical Park. And he spends time as a historical re-enactor, bringing such historical figures to life as a Continental Army infantryman and Thomas Jefferson.
Graham interacts with kids at Valley Forge
To keep up to date on news and trends, he uses Google Alerts to ping him on terms such as "Revolutionary War" and "Valley Forge." In November 2013, he started getting multiple hits from a production company looking for extras for AMC's Turn, a filmed version of the book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring.
"Notices were coming just about every other day about this TV series," Dellinger says, "looking for background actors. I finally went to the casting company's website and filled out an application, complete with headshot. I made sure to mention my experience as a re-enactor, and I think that helped." So, too, Dellinger suspects, did his ponytail, even though the historical experts at the park tell him that by 1778, they were starting to fall out of fashion.
"It still meets the expectations of what people think of when they think of the Continental Army," Dellinger explains.
Eventually, Dellinger was notified that he was in. Schedules were traded back and forth, and he reported to Richmond, Va., for his first of three days on the set.
"I have a friend in Fredericksburg," he says. "So I drove there. It's only about an hour outside Richmond. I would go down the night before and stay over. Which made it easier in the two-degree weather."
The Richmond site included both location shooting and scenes filmed on an indoor set. "When you walk in this warehouse, it's not very glamorous," Dellinger says. "It's all just concrete walls and floors. And then all of a sudden - Hey, that's an 18th century house! With all the rooms just meticulously created. It was fantastic. And they're always building new sets for whatever's coming up on the filming schedule. The woodwork on the interiors is just so detailed. It was really neat."
His role contained no lines, but he walks through several shots. And served as background filler, stoking a fire or peeling an apple or performing everyday military tasks.
The cast of lead actors was mostly unknown to him, but later, Dellinger was able to identify a few notables. "One of the actors was very, very good. He had a real presence and a striking personality. I found out later that he was Samuel Roukin as Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe. Roukin was the lead snatcher in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Also on the set was Angus Macfadyen as Colonel Robert Rogers, whose past credits include Robert the Bruce in Braveheart.
Angus Macfadyen as Colonel Robert Rogers
The experience was fun for Dellinger, but it wasn't as always as exciting as people might think. Set call was often early in the morning, and involved much waiting around until the cameras were ready to roll. He recalls: "They ask you to show up early, well in advance of when they actually need you. So you might wait an hour before you even get into wardrobe. And then there's wardrobe and makeup and props. And it might be a few hours more before you actually start filming everything."
Still, Dellinger enjoyed the experience greatly and hopes that high ratings spur a second season on AMC.
"If I had the chance to go back, absolutely, I'd go back," he grins.
"I don't show up until Episodes two or three," he concludes. "But I'm thinking of getting some people together for a Turn party, so we can all watch together."
If his trajectory continues, Dellinger may find himself providing more than just customer service at the Encampment Store; he may be pausing from time to time to sign autographs.
Graham starred in our video for the Revolutionary Run (above) before he made it big!
The plot of Turn involves the trading of secret information during the onset of the Revolutionary War. It's no secret, though, that the Valley Forge and Montgomery County area has a stockpile of terrific hotels and restaurants, ready to serve you. If you're looking for recommendations for a sweet suite, try our website. For a memorable meal, grab a table at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. The mac-n-cheese is to die for, especially when combined with either chicken or bacon.