Television’s biggest night is a production in and of itself. The most notable names on screen gathered together on Sunday for the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, but what happens when someone’s seat is empty?
Enter, the seat fillers. Seat fillers play a crucial role in making the show go smoothly. Non-celebrities fill in the gaps left by stars who leave their seats, often ending up sitting next to some of their idols. Caroline Wohl, a senior at USC, was chosen to be a seat filler at Sunday’s show.
“Essentially, my job was to fill any of the empty seats where if James Corden wasn’t able to be at his seat, or Stephen Colbert, I took over their seats,” she said. “There were about 200 of us and we were just instructed to fill any open seat that we saw.
Wohl ended up taking the seats of stars like James Corden and Sam Rockwell, and even found herself sitting amongst the writers of the Emmy-winning show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
As someone who was in the room, Wohl also got to witness many moments that were not seen on the broadcast.
“The biggest takeaway was at the end of the day all these celebrities and writers and directors, producers, actors - they’re all people at the end of the day,” Wohl said. “It was so funny to see them right there and you forget that at the end of the day they’re just regular people!”
She also learned about the functions of commercials by observing what was happening during the show.
“It was so interesting because I didn't really understand how the commercial breaks worked,” Wohl said. “Really the commercial breaks were used as a time to close deals, find new talent, maintain relations, introduce a producer to an agent and really start signing these incredible business deals.”
The same principle of needing a full audience for the cameras applies to the red carpet as well. Joanna Yang, a junior at USC, also won a lottery to be an Emmys seat filler. She was stationed in the stands lining the red carpet with a front view of her favorite stars entering the building.
“I basically got to talk to all my childhood stars,” Yang said. “I didn’t get to go inside, but I saw all the fashion.”
According to her, most of the stars who walked the carpet were friendly to the fans in the stands as the came up and said hello. However, Yang also said that some were not as receptive to the crowd.
“Some stars had a big ego and wouldn’t even look at us,” Yang said. “They just went straight up to the press desk to do their interview and then walked away, even though we were 10 feet away from them.”
Both Yang and Wohl said their experience at the Emmys was inspiring since they were both interested in pursuing a career in entertainment.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the Emmys took place on Monday. The show actually took place on Sunday September 22.
Correction: In the first version, the name Stephen was spelled incorrectly, this has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of his name.