Wanna be an extra? Join the (growing) crowd

Nathan Johnson has landed in one of the longest unemployment lines in Los Angeles. Just another face in the crowd, Johnson is here because he's hoping to get a job as, yes, just another face in the crowd. But the crowd keeps getting bigger every day.

The lobby at Central Casting is so packed it seems impossible that one more person could squeeze through the door. Johnson, 30, handsome and elegant in a crisp, white shirt, has been waiting to sign up for an hour. "It feels like two hours," he says, eyeing the registration desk. It's only a few feet away, but it will take a lot of patience to reach it. "I'm an EMT," he says, gazing around the congested room with the sort of dignity that Will Smith might envy. Utter cool in a crisis. "If someone goes into cardiac arrest, I'm there."

Johnson has been out of work for two years. He injured his shoulder, which made it impossible for him to do the heavy lifting required in his medical tech job, and he's seen the toll of the recession all around him. "All my friends who owned houses are out of them now," he says. He grew up in Venice, but when the housing boom hit, his old beachside neighborhood became gentrified almost overnight. "The past five years was kind of a greed session, and now everybody's got a hangover."



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