This year is turning out to be a banner year. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people. Here’s the latest….
I just completed filming a new kid’s series tentatively titled ANGEL ON CAMPUS. We shot 13 episodes over the summer and had a blast. It’s going to be on The Family Channel in Canada – I’m guessing beginning early next year.
From l. to r. - me, Demetrius Joyette, Jamie Bloch (in front), Sebastian Hearn, Dylan Everette, Brittany Adams, Brian White, and Hannah Lochner
It’ll also air in England and Europe – and, of course, the U.S. – I just don’t know which network yet. We shot in Toronto – so had access to a wonderful pool of hugely talented actors, some of whom were from The Second City comedy troupe. The regular cast of the show, other than myself, is: Dylan Everett, Demetrius Joyette, Brittany Adams, Brian White, Jennifer Robertson, Jamie Bloch, Hannah Lochner, Sebastian Hearn, Steven Morel, and Jenny Parsons.
Dennis - and me, as Dr. Cassabi
Dennis, my raccoon minion, is a puppet operated by two very funny and talented actors/puppeteers named Matt Ficner (who created Dennis, the raccoon) and Mike Petersen (one of the talented team working on the Gemini-nominated PBS Sprout T.V. show THE MIGHTY JUNGLE). Check out Matt’s work on YouTube by entering ‘Creepy Puppet Project’. Very creative stuff – and very ‘creepy’….
Here’s an early press release on the show: ANGEL ON CAMPUS is a live-action comedy series about a devil-may-care, 16 year-old ‘Angel-In-Training’ (Demetrius Joyette from THE LATEST BUZZ and ROXY HUNTER), who has been sent to earth to get his wings. His assignment: making down-on-his-luck Carl Montclaire (Gemini-nominated Dylan Everett from HOW TO BE INDIE) the most popular kid at school. ANGEL ON CAMPUS is created by Frank van Keeken (BILLABLE HOURS).
So I play the head ‘Angel’ who oversees Demetrius Joyette’s character Porter Jackson. My character’s name is Dr. Cassabi – and I pose as the high school guidance counselor so I can keep a close, watchful eye on my ‘angel-in-training’. As I mentioned earlier, I have a ‘raccoon minion’, Dennis, who is able to go into ‘stealth mode’ – or ‘invisible mode’ and report back to me on his findings. I enjoyed filming this series very much – but I would have to say my favorite scenes were with Dennis. The guys who operate Dennis – Matt Ficner and Mike Petersen – consistently cracked me, and the entire crew, up.
A big treat for me was on one of the last episodes we shot. There was a very funny role of a security guard played by none other than Colin Mochrie.
Colin Mochrie and me
Colin, who has had such wonderful success with WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?, and many other shows, attended the same theatre school as I did back in the late ’70’s’ and early ’80’s’ – Studio 58 (no, not the dance club in New York). We did an improv show together with the Vancouver Theatre Sports back in 1984 called SUSPECT – A GAME OF MURDER which was a huge hit. And over the years, Colin and I have run into each other here and there. But having Colin on ANGEL ON CAMPUS gave us a chance to really catch up – and what a treat it was. He is so funny and such a great guy. In March 2010, he will be starring in The Canadian Stage Company’s production of “ART” directed by Morris Panych – so if you’re in that area, be sure to catch it. It will, no doubt, be a wonderful production. I saw the original production of “ART” in New York (and later again in Los Angeles) with Alfred Molina, Victor Garber and Alan Alda. Great show.
In June, in Los Angeles, I auditioned for a pilot called SINGLE WHITE SPENNY. In the audition room was the very funny writer/performer Stevie Ray Fromstein and the legendary David Steinberg.
What a thrill! I mentioned to David that I auditioned for him once before, years ago, and he asked me if he had hired me then. I told him ‘no’, but that I was about to give him a second chance. The audition went well – so I got a callback. At the callback, I got to read/improvise with the star of the upcoming pilot – Spencer Rice. Spencer (or Spenny) is a very funny performer who had a huge hit in Canada with a show called KENNY VS. SPENNY. You can check out scenes from that show on YouTube. I loved improvising with Spencer and I suppose he felt the same way – cause I booked the job! Yahoo!! Within a few days I was in Toronto filming the pilot. We had certain ‘beats’ we had to hit within a scene, but for the most part we were improvising. Once something worked, we would try to hold onto it, but there was a lot of freedom on the set to play.
Just before heading off to Toronto, I shot a short film for my daughter’s elementary school. One of the many joys of living and working in Los Angeles is the caliber of talent available for even the smallest of projects. The cast in this short film, created by the multi-talented Pete Schwaba, were Paul Ganus, Rick Hall, Michelle O’Neil and yours truly along with many other talented parents and students.
'Mr. Wayne' in the school movie
The film was set in the 70’s – so I thought a big mustache was in order. I like to call it my ‘macho mustache’ – and everyone was kind enough not to disagree. It was a very different look for me – and I loved it.
Back in March I recorded two terrific T.V./radio ads for the San Diego Zoo’s new exhibit called ELEPHANT ODYSSEY. Besides airing on television and radio, they are playing the spots on the San Diego Zoo website at www.SanDiegoZoo.org or directly on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd9R4dsYtGk & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze3gvoXPVdw . I loved working on those spots. First of all I got to work with Joel McCrary – a very funny actor who does a lot of improv in Los Angeles – and is a member of the improv troupe Houseful of Honkeys.
Me, and Joel McCrary, filming the 'Kitty' spot for the San Diego Zoo
And second of all – I got to do the voice of an animated character. I find that kind of work fascinating. And even though the final product is animated, they filmed Joel and me doing the moves – so the animators could watch our facial expressions and body movements. They then used those as a reference for the animation.
One of the earliest jobs I did this year was a T.V. spot for BARONA CASINOS here in Southern California. We shot that spot at the Casino itself – and talk about a beautiful complex! Top of the line all the way. The exterior grounds, and surrounding areas, were gorgeous and the hotel was HUGE. My call was for 11:00 p.m. the night of the shoot – and we shot until 7:00 a.m. the next morning. I rarely shoot at night like that – and it took days to recover! It was like having ‘jet lag’. Ahhhhh, the joys of becoming an older actor! I guess the Barona people were happy with the spot – because a month or so later, they called me back to shoot some stills for newspaper ads, magazine ads, their website – and billboards! How big can my head get?? I mean on a billboard – not in real life! I have yet to see the billboard – but when I do, I’ll be sure to post it here on my blog.
And last, but by no means least, is the T.V. spot I did for GAIN detergent. They did such a good job with the spot – and to me it’s one of those ones I don’t get tired of seeing. The music, the images, the very funny ending make it endlessly watchable. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfKik95Jc_c&feature=related My ‘wife’ in the spot was played by Lauri Hendler who used to be a series regular on 80’s GIMME A BREAK! A very funny lady. I hope I get to be her ‘husband’ again soon!