If you like to watch network television shows, particularly police and courtroom dramas, don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of James Glorioso Jr. in the background.
Last week, Glorioso appeared in several scenes as a courtroom spectator in an episode of "Law and Order Special Victims Unit," once with series star Ice-T, and as a bar patron in an episode of the CBS' police drama "Blue Bloods" with Donnie Wahlberg.
"Somehow my first two cameos are on my two favorite cop shows with two rap artists from the 90s," Glorioso said after the appearances.
Glorioso is not an actor, at least not yet anyway, and his recent turn toward the theatrical is the result of a strange sequence of events that involve politics, random dumb luck, felony criminal charges and dreams, both awake and asleep.
Locally, Glorioso is best known for running for political office twice and losing both times, first in his bid for Amsterdam's 2nd Ward council, and the second, just last year, after a bitter, year-long campaign as the Democratic candidate for Montgomery County Sheriff. It was during the latter campaign that Glorioso and his campaign notary, Kirsten Lemire of Amsterdam, were both arrested by the New York State Police on felony charges of both offering a false instrument and offering a false sworn statement. The charges stemmed from allegations that signatures in Glorioso's petition to appear in the Conservative Party primary had been improperly notarized and that one signature had been supplied by a father for his autistic son.
More from this week: Our top stories Feb. 9-15, 2019
While the court cases against Glorioso and Lemire are still pending, Glorioso has argued from the beginning that his mistakes in the petition process were innocently made without any criminal intent, and that the criminal complaints against him were politically motivated.
Nonetheless, the publicity of the case and his court appearances landed him in the media spotlight, with front-page newspaper stories and coverage on local TV and radio.
Glorioso was defeated handily by Republican Jeff Smith on Nov. 6.
Dejected, Glorioso said he considered quitting public life altogether and moving out of the area. In 2017, he had quit his job as a regional loss prevention manager for Dollar General in order to focus on his political campaign for sheriff, and now he had little to do except wait for his court case to be resolved.
Then he received a strange text message from a casting company on Nov. 15 asking him if he was available to report to New York City the next day to be an extra in a movie.
Random texts and half-remembered dreams
Glorioso graduated from Dutchess Community College in 2003 with a degree in criminal justice. After that he worked mostly in the private sector, as a management-level employee for Starbucks for about seven years, also doing part-time jobs as first a county sheriff deputy in Dutchess County and then later as a part-time deputy in Montgomery County and a part-time police officer in Fort Plain. He moved to Amsterdam around 2010 to be closer to his son, 12-year-old Leonardo Glorioso, after his divorce from his first wife.
During those years, he worked for Dollar General and was required to travel to other parts of the country. Working in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he became familiar with an organization called Crime Stoppers U.S.A, which he then used as his model for creating the Mohawk Valley Crime Stoppers in 2015, an organization that takes in crime tips and helps provide police with information.
While in Oklahoma, he met his wife Courtney in 2013. He would propose to her in 2014.
But before that, in 2012, Glorioso said he was on a Dollar General business trip and staying at a Holiday Inn when he awoke in the middle of the night from a dream. He said he immediately wrote down the premise of this dream, which was a story involving Montgomery County.
He decided to write a 180-page novel about the dream, as yet unpublished, and began researching how to turn the story into a movie. This was all unusual behavior for him, as he had never been interested in drama as a kid, never participated in school plays and by his own description isn't much of a reader.
"I don't even read books. I don't have the attention span to read a full book. I couldn't tell you the last time I did, maybe in college," he said.
During the course of his research into movie-making Glorioso said he filled out a "free casting company profile" on a website, the name of which he can't remember.
"I couldn't even tell you. I really don't even know. I remember doing it. I remember a long time ago I did start one, and I don't even think I completed it. It was one of those things where I put my picture on it, and some information, and then I never did anything with it," he said.
Now, six years later, Glorioso was staring at random fate. At first he wasn't sure the text message was legitimate, but after checking into it he saw it was real. He said the fit the profile of what the casting company was looking for, as a 5'11, 230 pound man with an "everyman face" of Italian ethnicity — he fit the bill for what many companies shooting in the New York City area were looking for in their extras.
"I was like wow, this is interesting, and we just talked about, and I said 'I have nothing else to do, I'm going to check it out'," he said. "When I went down there the next day, I even asked the people who were checking us in, 'I said, how did you get my application for this', and they couldn't tell me."
Glorioso spent that first day as an extra on a movie set in New York City playing a Republican National Convention delegate, in a film starring Russell Crowe.
More from this week: Our top stories Feb. 9-15, 2019
And he decided he liked it. Glorioso said he signed up for several casting websites, and started applying directly for extra jobs. He said he started working about two days a week, for TV shows on Showtime, HBO, NBC, CBS and on the Investigation Discovery channel, where he's made several appearances in reenactments for the documentary news show "On the Case with Paula Zahn," often playing a police detective.
For a man who wanted to be a sheriff and found himself a defendant in a courtroom instead, he was suddenly in the surreal experience of fictionally portraying police officers and spending time in TV courtrooms. He said he thinks the glare of the local spotlight has helped prepare him for work in television.
"In the picture with Ice-T, I had these two giant cameras on me, but they were focusing on Ice-T, but I'm there, and it didn't bother me. I can be natural in front of them," he said.
He said it costs him about $50 or so to make the trip down to where the shoots are, and he might only make $150 for the day as a extra, sometimes more for 12-hour shoots, so it isn't about the money.
"Here's a very important reason why I'm doing this, and why this works. After this year my life was turned upside down. It was the most toxic year of my life. I was arrested for something that was such [expletive], for politics. To have people drag my name through the mud, to be blacklisted as a police officer in the county — they destroyed 20 years of my career. I've never been so happy in my life as to go down to New York city and forget all of that. Because when I'm down there I'm having fun," he said.
One reason Glorioso can devote enough time to pursuing a part-time career as an extra is his household has income from his wife Courtney's career as an ultrasound technician, as well as from three rental properties that they own and he manages.
Courtney Glorioso said she supports her husband's pursuit of TV success, in the same way she supported his political aspirations. She said he's actually able to spend more time at home during the week, doing repairs for their house as well as the rental units, than he could when he worked for Dollar General.
"Jim is a very spontaneous guy, and that's one of the things that I love about him," she said. "When he got this opportunity to go down for this first movie, I said go ahead and give it a try. I think we were all a little surprised, this wasn't exactly planned, but it just sort of happened. Jim has really turned this into something with a lot of potential. I've seen all of the hard work he's done into being prepared for some of these roles."
Glorioso said he's learned about the economics of being an extra, and one of the keys is becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild, which increases the pay significantly. He said TV shoots are required to use a certain percentage of union extras, who then receive better pay and better overtime. To get into the union, however, an extra must have three "waivers" or a speaking role. Waivers can come from being an actor featured in the action of the show.
Glorioso's son Leo, who goes to Shenendehowa Central School, has also started working as an extra, after his dad filled out the necessary paperwork for him to be a child actor. Leo is considerably closer to becoming a SAG member than his father, having already received two union waivers, one for playing a Syrian soccer player in an episode of the CBS drama "Madam Secretary" and for being used as a photo stand-in, which is having his portrait taken to be shown as younger version of a featured character on a show.
"I didn't even know that was how that's done, I figured they grabbed stock photos off the Internet or something. My son will be in the union before I am," James Glorioso said.
Leo said getting to go down to New York City once a week or so has given him a chance to bond with his father, who he would normally only get to see on the weekends. He said the experience has sparked his interest in a possible career in television and film.
"It's really exciting. It's a lot of hard work, but it's a lot of fun," he said.
James Glorioso Jr. said he knows he won't be satisfied working as an extra forever. He said he'd like to try to establish some kind of a TV and film commission in the city of Amsterdam to try to market the city to production companies looking to take advantage of the New York state tax credit that can provide a substantial subsidy to upstate New York film productions.
He said he also wants to get his unpublished book made into a short film.
"This has all really lit a fire under me to pursue this. I've said you have to follow your dreams, and this has become my goal," he said.
Courtney Glorioso said she and her daughter, Allison, 11, have also now filled out extra profiles for casting agencies, so she's hoping one day they may be able to get in on the action, too.
"Down the road, you may see us on a show together. I've told Jim, if I have a day off of work, I'll give it a try," she said.
More from this week: Our top stories Feb. 9-15, 2019