The glamorous job of an Emmy seatfiller


Kate Hauersperger in front of the Emmy stage
Senior Kate Hauersperger, like other seatfillers, was identified by a gray ribbon pinned to her outfit. (Courtesy photo)

When I found out I would be spending the fall 2019 semester in Los Angeles, I knew I had to make the most of my time. I remembered reading an article years ago about seatfillers: normal people who get to dress up and go to awards shows to sit in the seats of celebrities when they leave.

Being a seatfiller is a highly desired gig, so websites have lotteries giving away tickets to a couple hundred people. The Emmys is the biggest awards show in the fall, so I entered the lottery and hoped for the best. About a week later, by some miracle, I got an email saying I had been chosen. I filled out a background check and frantically rushed to the David’s Bridal clearance section to find something that would work, because the show was only two weeks away.

When we got into the theater, we lined up against the sides of the walls as they briefed us on the protocol, which was basically: Please Don’t Make it Weird. We weren’t allowed to talk to anyone unless they spoke to us first, and we definitely weren’t allowed to ask for selfies. They pinned gray ribbons to our chests to identify us, and we waited as people started to file in from the red carpet.

When the show was about to start, they sent the seatfillers off on a mad dash to find any empty seats. I ended up sitting pretty much in the middle of the “Game of Thrones” cast, two rows ahead of George R.R. Martin. I started the show there, and after the first commercial break, the ticketholder for my seat came back, and I started my quest to find another open seat. I saw an open seat on the aisle, about five rows from the front, directly in front of Patricia Arquette, and sat down in it. During the next segment, they announced that she was a nominee, and there was suddenly a slew of cameras swarming our vicinity.

Kate Hauersperger at the Emmys
Hauersperger won her seatfiller ticket to the Emmys through a lottery. (Courtesy photo)

“And the winner is … Patricia Arquette!”

Oh, god.

Everyone around me erupted in cheers. Cameras rushed at Arquette, which meant they were also rushing at me. I felt very awkward because I was surrounded by her friends and family who were all crying tears of joy, and I was just clapping and smiling. How do I not make this weird? Was I supposed to stand up? Should I be crying? I decided to stay seated, and I later learned that I made it on TV during this part, in all my slightly awkward glory.

During the next commercial break, I saw Maisie Williams approaching me, and she smiled and said, “That’s my seat, thank you!” I hadn’t realized I was sitting in her seat, next to her boyfriend with her phone in the cup holder, until that moment. Dazzled by her smile and the fact that she was talking to me, I scrambled to find another seat somewhere in the middle.

If you know me at all, you know I love Amy Poehler. I have for years. She’s the celebrity I most look up to and the one person I’ve always joked I wouldn’t be able to keep my cool around. I looked around and saw her sitting in the very front row on the aisle: a prime seat. As luck would have it, she got up and left right as the person came back to reclaim the seat I was sitting in. I made a beeline for her seat and plopped down in the first row, knowing that she would have to acknowledge my existence when she came to get her seat back.

I sat there for a glorious five minutes during that break, while a voice counted down until we went live. There were only 10 seconds left, and I was feeling pretty good. I was going to get to sit in the front row for a whole segment.

Then I heard yelling from the staff telling me to run. I looked behind me and saw Amy Poehler, my absolute hero, barreling toward me. I sort of blacked out at this point, but I think I said something super eloquent along the lines of “AHHH!” There were six seconds until we went live, and I had to get the heck out of the shot, so I ran past her and sprinted as fast as I could in a long dress and heels to the back of the theater as the staff yelled at me to go faster.

Out of breath and still in shock, I decided to take a seat more toward the back for the rest of the show. We were nearing the end of the show, and the exhilaration of running past dozens of celebrities and accidentally yelling at Amy Poehler had tired me out.

After the show, we all filed out the front. As I was walking down the aisle, an older man stopped suddenly in front of me, and I ran into his back.

“Sorry,” he said as he turned around. It was Lorne Michaels.

Luckily, I didn’t scream at him. All the screaming this time was internal.