‘Extra’ challenge

Mike Brouwer is acting 'Non-Stop'

Mike Brouwer, courtesy photo

Mike Brouwer, courtesy photo

Mike Brouwer may not be rubbing elbows with the stars, but he’s certainly breathing the same air. Nowhere is that more apparent in the new action flick “Non-Stop,” set for release Feb. 28. Starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore, “Non-Stop” tells the story of a federal air marshal who receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the airline to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every 20 minutes. Brouwer plays a passenger on the flight. Is he one who gets “offed”? He’s not telling!

“Or am I the bad guy? You’ll just have to wait and see,” he said on a recent visit back home to Fort Wayne.

A 2002 Homestead High School graduate whose parents live in Fort Wayne, Brouwer has been working steadily as a stand-in and background actor (also known as an “extra”) in New York City, appearing in the background in television shows “Law & Order” and “Gossip Girl” and as a regular extra on the NBC show “The Blacklist,” where he can be seen as an FBI computer tech. This past summer, he was a stand-in for the actor playing Michaelangelo in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film reboot.

“Naturally, I root for guys named Michael,” he said with a laugh. And while his face isn’t necessarily famous yet, he has the most screen time in the upcoming film, appearing front and center in the film’s trailer and in many shots of the coach class aboard the hijacked plane. Filming took place for six weeks in November and December 2012.

“We had to (act) terrified,” Brouwer said. “The director (Jaume Collet-Serra asked) what would you do if your plane was hijacked,” Brouwer said. “We were held at gunpoint on the Sandy Hook shooting day. That was kind of spooky.”

He said working on the film was hard, as he was seated in an actual airplane seat, middle seat in a middle row (though he had a “little more” legroom than on an actual plane). His character was not nameless, he said. The director created names and back stories for each passenger. Brouward’s character was a French flight attendant named Francois Guitar, who was returning to London after vacationing in the United States with his girlfriend.

And while many may overlook the background characters, they are essential to every show.

“You can’t make an airplane movie without passengers,” he said. “There were days when we just ‘slept’ on the plane, there were days I got to protect (his ‘girlfriend’). It was great to have someone to play off.”

Brouwer was a regular on stages in Fort Wayne as a child and young adult, winning an Anthony Award for his work in 2005’s “Beauty and the Beast” with the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, as well as appearing in Fort Wayne Youtheatre and First Presbyterian Theatre productions. He also performed with the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir. He majored in musical theater at Ball State University before moving to New York City seven years ago.

And while he still auditions for Broadway shows, he’s working more steadily as a television and film “background” actor, his Midwestern blond hair, blue eyes and wholesome look appealing to casting directors. A few of his recent films include “The Delivery Man” with Vince Vaughn (unnamed bellboy) and “Hope Springs” with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep (unnamed beach-goer). He’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild, which means he’s eligible to vote for the SAG Awards and gets benefits and a decent per diem rate when he’s working.

“I’m making a living acting in New York, and I’m not starving,” he said. “I’m here, I’m doing it. It’s not easy, but I’m doing it.”

And he’ll be first in line to see what scenes he’s in that made it into the final cut of “Non-Stop.” He’s the guy in seat 15-D.

First appeared in the February 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.

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