An SFU background extra tell-all

Cornelius Cucumber opens up

People playing table tennis in the convocation mall, sweating nervously. Joy Johnson is hiding behind a concrete pillar to the right, holding a megaphone and saying, “Look engaged people!”
ILLUSTRATION: Angelina Tran / The Peak

By: Petra Chase, Editor-in-Chief

SFU students have been observing a strange phenomenon across campuses — more and more common areas filled with students just hanging out. 

At first, The Peak assumed it was some conspiracy. But the tips have been impossible to ignore — eyewitness accounts swearing SFU hires background actors on campus have been flooding our inboxes.

“I walked by a student tour one day, as the guide was giving them this speech about how student life here is unmatched,” one anonymous student wrote. “All those fresh faces with dreams and preconceived notions of university based on what they see in movies, like Monsters University.

“Then I got to Convocation Mall, and it was packed with students enjoying themselves and socializing. People were lining up to play corn hole. Table tennis balls were bouncing between laughing faces. I’d never seen anything like it.

“All of a sudden, I heard a voice from behind a pillar saying, ‘Get back to your places!’ and everyone froze in strange positions. One group huddled together looking at an upside down textbook. When the student tour approached, the voice yelled, ‘ACTION!’ and everyone was in motion. People were giving each other noogies as they roasted marshmallows and mouthed words to each other.”

Another student wrote to The Peak about what they saw when they stumbled into a tent in the Blusson parking lot. “Racks with nothing but SFU hoodies, backpacks full of stuffing paper, and a line of people who looked like regular students sitting to get their hair and makeup done. Someone with short blonde hair and a bushy mustache was saying, ‘Give them dark circles but not too dark — we want to be realistic, but still make them look engaged.’”

The Peak was also approached by Cornelius Cucumber (this is a name we have created to shield them from retribution). Cucumber claims to be a professional background actor hired by SFU in 2022 after he did background work on Nickelback’s “San Quentin” music video, famously shot at Convocation Mall.

“President Joy Johnson was scouting for actors that day, wearing her usual disguise (Fuzzy Puzz Mustache Glasses from Party City). She approached me after filming and complimented my ability to look engaged with such young people hipster music,” Cucumber said. “Her words.”

Johnson told Cucumber they were looking to hire full-time extras to look like “regular university students who love SFU.” He signed a contract for full-time work, which stated he could not disclose that SFU was hiring background actors.

Cucumber’s role since then has been as a whistleblower in the AQ — blowing his whistle when the foosball ball goes out of bounds. “It’s been quite repetitive, and after two years, I don’t feel like I’m learning much that will help advance my career, and there aren’t many foosball referee roles out there.”

Cucumber says you might recognize him for his roles in such films as Oompa Loompa #48 in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971) — a role he got to reprise in Glasgow earlier this year — and Chipmunks Fan #2 in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015).  

When The Peak asked Cucumber if SFU’s recent budget cuts and layoffs have impacted the background extras, he said there have been zero layoffs among the extra crew. They’ve actually been working more hours and given more dialogue, such as, “We sure do pay a fair tuition here at SFU, no cap!” and, “This is certainly an institution that puts people above profits, dawg!”

“SFU cut their football program, but hired more ‘football jock’ roles,” Cucumber explained. More recently, SFU shut down its Woodward’s Cultural Programming, but the SFU extra casting director has allegedly been told to represent more arts and theatre students to make SFU appear like it “cares about the arts.”

“They want me to be a whistleblower — I’ll show them whistleblower!” Cucumber attempted an evil villain laugh as he walked away, and we never saw him again.

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