Quick – what do Valerie Bertinelli and Chuck Norris have in common?
They’ve both been in a movie with Karen Kimball.
Kimball is a Lake Highlands resident and has been Lakewood Elementary’s music teacher for 15 years. She also worked as an extra for the “Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial By Fire” made-for-TV movie, which recently aired. (In the late ’80s, she was in a Bertinelli-starring flick called “Pancho Barnes” – more on that later.)
The “Walker” experience started simply enough. Kimball was reading a newspaper when she noticed a call for movie extras. She sent in her picture and soon after received a call inviting her to show up for filming.
“I was surprised,” she says.
So early on a hot August afternoon, Kimball drove to Fair Park’s Hall of State, where the courthouse-depicting scenes were being staged and filmed. She worked until around 10:30 that night and was paid $48 for the hours she put in.
“It is just very interesting,” Kimball says of the experience. “There was one woman from Garland who had been in virtually every “Walker, Texas Ranger” in the ’90s. There were people there of all ages, from every part of Dallas…”
This was not Kimball’s first brush with a small part of the spotlight.
For “Pancho Barnes” – based on the real life of pioneering female aviator Florence Lowe Barnes, played by Bertinelli – Kimball and the music group she belonged to at the time were recruited by one of the group members’ relatives, who was a casting agent for the film.
“In our scene, we sang ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’” she says.
Then, in the late ’90s, Kimball’s image and voice started appearing in Whataburger commercials. She became involved with that project through one of her student’s parents, who worked for an advertising agency. Six or seven teachers from her school went to Whataburger and were filmed talking about sandwiches.
“We got paid a little for doing the filming, but we got money if any of our parts were actually used,” Kimball says, laughing and adding: “I didn’t get paid nearly enough. I mean, for nearly two years, I was on the radio, the TV…talking about ‘the bacon, the cheese.’”
Kimball was not nearly as visible in “Walker, Texas Ranger.” She spotted herself in three scenes, “but you really had to be looking,” she says. The limited exposure was just fine with Kimball, however.
“What a bad movie!” she exclaims. “I was almost embarrassed.”
But she says she would do it all over again, and it’s an experience she would recommend to anyone.
“It’s interesting that Dallas really is a place where there are things being filmed, and there are lots of opportunities for people of all shapes, sizes and ages to be extras in productions. It’s just really a lot of fun.”