Actor David Anders is best known for playing characters that fall squarely on the bad guy chart, usually somewhere between heartless wretch and full on mustache twisting villain, and more often than not they tend to be of the British persuasion. So, it may surprise you to find out that when Anders moved to Los Angeles to become an actor he had his sights set on comedy, and that the move was not from across the pond, but actually from up the coast in Oregon. That’s right, the accent he donned for some of his most famous roles in shows like Alias and Heroes is fake, but don’t feel to bad for being fooled by it. When I sat down to talk to Anders for this interview, he revealed that he’s had to convince directors that he can “do” an American accent and that people are often surprised he’s not actually a brit. But, Anders takes it all in stride, finding the whole thing humorous and praising his ability to go incognito in public because people think ‘it looks like that guy, but it’s not the guy’ when he’s speaking in his everyday voice.
And that glass is half full attitude doesn’t just apply there. Anders comes across as such a charming and generally cheerful guy, that it left this interviewer wondering why he’s not gracing the silver screen as the lovable leading man in rom-coms instead of playing the characters we love to hate. Not that I’m complaining. Anders’ impressive resume has contributed some of the most devilishly fun characters to grace our televisions over the past twelve years. Lucky for us with his latest role as Troy Cutler on Necessary Roughness and his return to Once Upon a Time next season, it looks like he’ll continue to do so in the future.
I recently got to talk to Anders about his prolific television career (including the fate of Dr. Whale and his new role on USA’s Necessary Roughness), his penchant for accents, and a film you all have to see called The Revenant. Read on for the the interview…
The Daily Quirk: We like to start at the beginning. So can you tell me a little bit about when you first realized you wanted to be an actor?
David Anders: I was always ruled by sports growing up. Then I stopped getting better at the game of basketball. I was riding the bench so I quit and did a play. I won Actor of the Year in my school and it was really great. I was like ‘Oh, geez. This is what I’m best at. Let’s start doing this.’ So I was doing plays in the winter [during high school]. Then I would do my sports. Then I would do a musical in the summer. And then I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, got an agent and just started doing it. So, I think I was about 15 or 16 when I realized it was my calling.
TDQ: How about the penchant for accents? When did you realize you had that talent?
DA: [Laughing] My first paying gig was My Fair Lady. It was a musical that we did in southern Oregon and interestingly enough Meghan Hilty, a wonderful singer, Broadway girl, she was Eliza in that show and I was Freddy Eynsford Hill. [With a British accent] I got to do an English accent. So, I started doing it then. [Without the accent] But then came Alias and I played an Englishman for five years and everybody thought I was English. I couldn’t get hired as an American so I kept playing English people on Heroes and the like. It’s something I have an ear for. I have an ear for music too; I liken it to that. I can just do any accent. I can hear you talk and I can do you. I’m a mimic.
TDQ: Are people routinely surprised to find out you’re not British?
DA: Yeah! A lot of people are. I was just at this gifting suite for the ESPYS and a lot of people were like ‘I expected you to be British. I thought you were British.’ I was like ‘Yeah, I get that all the time.’ It happens all the time. In some ways, it’s good because I have my anonymity when I’m just talking like this. They’re like ‘Oh, it looks like that guy, but it’s not the guy,’ [laughing]. I have my privacy protected in some ways. But, it can be frustrating when directors are convinced that I can’t do an American accent. I’m like ‘Dude, I’m from Oregon. I’ve been doing an American accent my whole life,’ [laughing].
TDQ: You mentioned Alias, which was your first big television role. I read somewhere that Julian Sark was originally planned as a guest appearance. Is that true?
DA: It did start out as a guest star. I came in as a guest star in the first season and then they made me a regular after the first season. I got my SAG card with that. So it was a really nice surprise and just a treat and pleasure to do that show and work with all these award winning actors. And learning on the job and learning from such pros, it was an absolute godsend, you know?
TDQ: Definitely. Your cast on Alias was amazing.
DA: Ron Rifkin, Victor Garber, Jennifer Garner, [Michael] Vartan, Bradley [Cooper], they showed me the ropes. I was very lucky to be in such a nice TV family. I thought it would ruin me for future projects because we were so close and had such a fun time. But every show I’ve been on since then has been great too. There’s such nice people in this business. And you have the jerks, but there’s just a lot of good people.
TDQ: You also guest-starred in Season 8 of 24 as another villain, Josef Bazhaev. Was filming 24 any different than other dramas with its unique one day concept?
DA: Yes, it was because you’re used to living an arc of an episode which can go days or months. So every day you have wardrobe changes and such. It was interesting being like ‘Oh, I want to play this differently this scene.’ But it’s like, ‘Oh, that was just like an hour ago [laughing]. So, I really can’t do much different with it. I can’t be a different guy in the next scene.’ It was interesting. And it was challenging at the same time which is what I look for in work, to be challenged. It was a very interesting job, but fun.
TDQ: You then went on to play Adam Monroe in Heroes, again with the British accent, but this time speaking Japanese as well. What was that experience like?
DA: I know, more accents. I think acting is like 75 percent voice. It’s fun to be able to just sink into the skin of these completely different people that are completely different than me. And Japanese was so hard. [With a British accent] Going from being an Englishman with elongated vowels, to [drops the accent and says something very quickly in Japanese], which is very tight and very and forward in the face. Sometimes, I would be working with Masi [Oka] and other real Japanese speaking people and I would just wait for them to stop, I had no idea what they were saying, so I could start saying my phonetically learned Japanese. Sometimes, I had cue cards even when I couldn’t get it. I would just look at Masi and then look away from him at the cue card, and then look back to him. [Laughing] It worked. That was another challenge. And at the same time I was in a hundred pounds of Samurai Armor, which didn’t make it easier, in like the dead, dead heat of August in LA. It was pretty crazy.
TDQ: Do you approach things differently when you’re playing a sort of more than human character?
DA: There’s a bit of a different approach that you take. But there’s also a freedom to it. There’s a freedom to being a freak, having a power where you can’t die or hunting vampires, you know? Now with Dr. Frankenstein it’s the same way. That’s what genre television is all about. You read the truth of it, but you can go so far outside the lines of the truth in that kind of role on TV. It’s liberating.
TDQ: On The Vampire Diaries as John Gilbert, you had a similar power to Adam Monroe as long as you were wearing a special ring. Is it true that Ian Somerhalder talked you into taking on that role?
DA: The part was offered to me and I always thought I would never do a show on CW. I never thought they would call and if they did call, I never thought I’d say yes. But, Ian and I are buddies and so it came to like ‘Why not? I’ll go to Atlanta. I’ll do a teenage vampire drama. My boy Ian’s there.’ And it turned out to be a great experience and a great choice because I have friends for life now. Nina Dobrev, Zach Roerig, Michael Trevino, Matt Davis and Sarah Canning, it was just such a fun crew. I was always working with older people on all my shows before. Now I was working with people my age and a little younger. It was a fun time and one I’ll never forget. And of course Ian and I just had a blast together. We always wanted to work together. We got to and it was great.
TDQ: And then you did Once Upon a Time as Dr. Whale/Frankenstein, not with a superpower, but not exactly your ‘Average Joe’ either. When you signed up for the role, did you get to know who your character’s fairytale counterpart would be?
DA: I did know. It was the reason I took the part, because I was going to be Dr. Frankenstein. Little did I know that it was going to take a year to get into it [laughing]. But we finally got into it last season and there were two real ‘Frankencentric’ episodes that I’m really proud of. It was just a lot of fun to get into that lab coat and wear the eyeliner and do the Frankenstein thing. I mean, it’s kind of a dream to play Dr. Frankenstein, so when they told me that, it was a no brainer. And at the time when I accepted the part, it was yet to be a hit. It was yet to air. Now it’s a big ol’ fat hit and I’m privileged to be a part of it.
TDQ: What was it like playing two versions of the same character, Dr. Whale in Storybrooke and Dr. Frankenstein in the fairytale world?
DA: It’s different. I approached Frankenstein differently. [In his Dr. Frankenstein accent] He’s got a different voice and a different manner and he’s all obsessed with work. [Drops the accent] Whereas, Dr. Whale just loves the ladies [laughing]. He’s kind of a womanizing wretch. There’s not really anything to it because it’s two completely different worlds that you’re in when you’re on the green screen, in the clothes, in the different hair and all that stuff. And the different voice. It’s like playing two different characters. Whale knows who he was and wants to go back to where he came from, but it was like playing two different parts frankly for me.
TDQ: Is there any chance we’ll see Dr. Whale again in the new season?
DA: Yeah! I’m still alive, aren’t I? Soo…
TDQ: The last we saw…
DA: I haven’t heard anything, but they’re having me sign all this paperwork so I know I’m coming back in some facet. I just can’t speak to when or how many episodes or what have you, but I will be back!
TDQ: Right now fans can catch you as Troy Cutler on Necessary Roughness. Was it a pleasant change getting to be a character in a more realistic world?
Yes, and that was another no brainer because it was an opportunity for me to play a real person [laughing]. Not like I don’t play real people, but it’s a sports agent who doesn’t have a superpower, or a special ring, and it’s not Dr. Frankenstein. It was like ‘It’ll be nice just to play a dude from the real world and not worry about the next script being killed off.’ And it was an opportunity to do some lighter fare which USA does. Although, I do twist my mustache a bit. I am a bit of a prick, but that’s what I do. I’m the bad guy. That’s who I am. I just wrapped it [Necessary Roughness] last week and it was an absolute treat to work with Callie Thorne and John Stamos who are just wonderful. All we did was have fun on set. And they [USA] built this amazing set for John and I’s agency that we run. They really went all out for it and it was cool to shoot on that and do walk-and-talks like West Wing and stuff like that. It was a really great experience. And that’s all you can hope for as an actor, is to have great experiences and hopefully be proud of your work.
TDQ: Did playing the role of a sports agent have a special appeal to you given your love of sports?
DA: Yeah, I love sports so to play a sports agent was pretty cool. Of course, the dream would be to play an athlete [laughing], but I suppose this is pretty cool too.
TDQ: The show recently has undergone a bit of a reboot, with Dr. Dani [Callie Thorne] coming to work at your character’s agency, V3. So far, the two of you have not exactly seen eye to eye. What can viewers expect from the second half of the season?
DA: I don’t like her from the get go [laughing]. I want her out of there from the get go. And all this stuff will unfurl as the season goes on. There’s stuff that I’m hiding, stuff that V3’s hiding and Dr. Dani is such an astute mind that she poses a threat to those things being uncovered. I can’t speak anymore to it, but just know that there’s going to be some ‘tumult’ soon on the show.
TDQ: There’s a lot of secrets and intrigue going on for such a generally light-hearted show.
DA: I know. That’s really true. It’s become like a spy drama. Spy dramedy [laughing].
TDQ: Can you share your favorite scene to film from filming the ‘spy dramedy’ so far?
Oh, I don’t know if I could tell you [laughing]. Loads of fun stuff. All we do is laugh up until action. I mean every day is fun. Every scene is fun. The only drawback is shooting in three piece suits and what have you in a really hotly lit white and glass set in Atlanta in the heat. Those are the only times we have a bad time because it can be so hot. The summer in Atlanta is terrible. But all the most favorite moments… they’re not ‘PC’. They’re not printable [laughing].
TDQ: I thought you were worried about revealing spoilers.
DA: No, not at all. I’m worried about language and embarrassing my co-stars [laughing].
TDQ: You mentioned you recently wrapped filming on Necessary Roughness. What’s next on your agenda?
DA: We are currently looking for next on my agenda. I’m sure that before anything else Once Upon a Time will be next on my agenda because they just started principle photography on the 12th [of July]. I’m not in the first episode or obviously I’d be up there right now. But something always comes for David Anders. I’ll let the world know on Twitter when that does happen [laughing].
TDQ: The roles that come routinely seem to be villainous characters and you hit on that topic earlier. Is that by choice or just how it’s worked out?
DA: How it’s worked out. You can blame JJ Abrams for that or thank him, I don’t know [laughing]. It’s a lot of fun to play villains. It’s a lot of fun to play the bad guy. But sometimes you want to play the protagonist. One time. [In a faux anguished voice] Just one time! I came down here [to Los Angeles] and I really wanted to do comedy, but then JJ Abrams made me a villain for the rest of my life. Not a bad guy to have as a friend or to give you your start. So the next thing, I don’t know. Hopefully, JJ comes calling about Star Wars. I want to be in that.
TDQ: You should be!
DA: I could be Han Solo or something [laughing].
TDQ: Well, we like to end things on a fun note, so if you had to choose a superpower, what would you choose? Would you go with Adam’s power of rapid cell regeneration from Heroes or would you choose something else?
DA: That’s a pretty cool power to have, isn’t it? But I think at some point life wears out its welcome. I think we tapped into that a bit on Heroes. People come and people go. People you loved die and you keep living. I’d like to be able to travel through time. I think that would be the cool one. Or flight. Time travel or flight would be cool.
TDQ: Do you have any other projects that you can share a bit out with our readers?
DA: There’s a really funny cool horror movie-vampire buddy-comedy that I did called The Revenant that I’m really proud of. It’s becoming kind of a cult hit. It’s something I’m very proud of. It’s very funny. It’s very gory and it’s a completely different take on vampire movies.
The Daily Quirk would like to thank the incredibly entertaining and ridiculously charming David Anders for taking the time to chat with us! To find out more about David Anders you can follow him on Twitter, and for more about his film, The Revenant, visit the Official Site.