Christi Dubois barely got to meet her husband.
Ushered aboard a train car at the Durant Central Illinois Railroad Depot, Dubois took a seat. Next to her was a man she’d never met. He, Dubois was informed, was her husband.
As an extra in the ABC series “Women of the Movement,” a six-part project telling the story of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Oak Hill Academy high school art teacher recently spent two days filming in Greenwood and Durant. Often, they were filled with twists and turns just like her impromptu train-car “marriage.”
“You don’t have a clue as to what you’re doing,” Dubois said. “You are just a background body.”
A few minutes later, just before filming began, the man seated next to Dubois was moved elsewhere in the train. A young woman took the seat instead.
“Well, bye, husband,” Dubois told herself. “I guess I’m just a divorcée now.”
And despite the sudden breakup and a few other twists and turns along the way, Dubois said she had a blast.
“It was a really, really, cool experience,” she said.
Wearing all the hats
Back home in West Point, Dubois has a family of her own, and it’s not going anywhere. Her son Camden is in ninth grade at Oak Hill, her daughter Divi is in fourth grade at the school and her husband Jeremy works for the West Point Police Department.
A longtime member of the West Point/Clay County Arts Council, she saw the casting call to be an extra on the series come across the “Filming in Mississippi” Facebook group and decided to take a shot.
To find a full-length picture for the application, Dubois scoured the web, eventually finding a shot of her patrolling the sidelines at an Oak Hill basketball game, taken by one of the players’ parents. Dubois has assisted with the Raiders’ varsity and junior high girls teams for the past five years, and she acknowledges it’s an unusual confluence.
“I’m a basketball coach and art teacher,” she said. “I like to wear all the hats.”
The photo worked. Dubois was the series’ newest “featured background” actor — a role with slightly more screen time and slightly more pay than a conventional extra.
With Oak Hill’s support, she cleared her schedule and headed to Greenwood on March 30. Upon arriving at the Leflore County Civic Center, she took and passed two COVID-19 tests before being fitted for costumes. Handed an item of clothing that was too long, Dubois — used to being behind the scenes — offered to hem it, surprising the fitter.
“She was like, ‘No. No, you don’t have to do things like that. That’s why we’re here,’” Dubois recalled.
The right side of things
The next morning, outfitted in a smart black dress, gloves and pearls around her neck, Dubois arrived at an old American Legion hut to begin the day.
With no script and no idea what scene she was shooting, she figured she was headed to a fancy dinner party. Dubois walked through the building’s vintage double doors to find she was wrong.
Dubois took a seat in one of the rows of chairs laid out. She was one of about 30 extras in the hut. All of them were white.
She was uneasy.
“I had prayed the entire time since I got it that I would be on the right side of history,” she said. “You always want that, especially when it’s a period piece and you’re white and you’re in the South.”
Dubois said the scene she filmed wasn’t “a Klan rally,” nor did it overtly bash African Americans, but she could tell she wasn’t getting her wish.
After filming that night, she headed downstairs to the bar at The Alluvian hotel (a treat of her friends) to get something to eat.
She sat down at a barstool next to a man she immediately recognized: Glynn Turman, the actor cast as Till’s great-uncle, Mose Wright, in the series.
Dubois struck up a conversation with the actor she knew best for his role in the sitcom “A Different World.” When she eventually voiced her concern about the earlier scene, Turman reassured her.
“You are on the right side of things,” he said. “You’re part of a story that needs to be told. It takes white people and Black people to tell this story.”
An educational experience
That made Dubois feel better as she headed to Durant for her final day of shooting. In her first scene on the train — Dubois realized it represented the journey from Chicago to Mississippi — her car featured white people and Black people. In the second, as Turman’s character made the return trip alone, the car was segregated. Dubois exited the train to see a young Black woman getting off near her — but from a separate door.
Then, the enormity of what she was doing hit her.
“It was a really, really educational experience,” she said.
After being involved with smaller independent productions — including a part in 2017’s “The Atoning” by West Point filmmaker Michael Williams — Dubois said the scale of “Women of the Movement” was impressive.
“There’s so many moving parts,” she said. “To see something this big in motion was really cool.”
The series is the biggest production ever in Mississippi, she said — larger than “The Help,” also filmed in Greenwood, or “A Time to Kill,” based in Canton. That, Dubois hopes, can bring similar productions to the Magnolia State. If so, she hopes others will follow her lead.
Dubois, for her part, is hooked. She recently applied to be an extra in the film version of the novel “Where the Crawdads Sing,” filming in Houma, Louisiana.
“I submitted the other day because I’ve got the bug now,” Dubois said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do this some more.’”