Everyone’s favorite bad guy on balancing “smarm” and “charm” in today’s TV landscape.
You may have come to know and love-to-hate David Anders as your favorite onscreen villain throughout the years. Whether you were onboard with him from the beginning as Julian Sark on “Alias,” followed him through his arcs on “Heroes,” “24,” “Necessary Roughness,” “The Vampire Diaries,” or “Once Upon A Time,” or are just getting to know him as Blaine DeBeers on “iZombie,” you’ve felt the power of Anders’ ingratiating lure.
What you may not know is that Anders, beyond the incredible artist, is just a guys’ guy who loves running, skiing, getting out on the golf course, watching his teams, and, of course, his mom. The Oregon native now finds himself back in the Northwest, currently living in Vancouver while filming “iZombie.” Composure catches up with Anders to talk life as an actor and as a Ducks fan.
Composure Magazine: You have experience in many different arenas of entertainment — TV, film, and stage. How does each arena help you evolve as an actor and performer?
David Anders: They all have their highs and lows, but in my experience, nothing can top the high of being on stage with an audience only feet away, in the grip of your hands. It’s incredible.
CM: You’ve established yourself as a very strong dramatic actor. Was that by choice? What does dramatic acting require that differs from comedic acting or live stage performances?
DA: I had it in my head that if I were to succeed in this business, it was going to be as a comedic actor, but that’s easier said than done. Comedy is a lot harder than drama, and I think every actor will attest to that. But with many “no’s” in both comedy and drama, I was lucky enough to audition for a little show called “Alias,” which, after four auditions with four different accents, I was able to emerge victorious, part in hand. Evidently, my team and I had been approaching the whole thing in the wrong way. I should have been going in for British parts 10 years my senior all along.
CM: How do you like to get acquainted with your on-screen characters? What does it mean to you to “live in” a character?
DA: A man is only as good as his word, and an actor is only as good as the words provided, so I let the text do the talking and flourish in my bits where I see fit.
CM: Having taken on a wide variety of “bad boy” roles, you’ve described yourself as someone “you love to hate.” What’s the best part of getting to play the villain? What’s the greatest challenge?
DA: Finding that sweet between smarm and charm is the challenge here, and over the years, I’ve been told I’ve found it a good many times.
CM: Is there a particular role throughout your career that has especially resonated with you? How and why?
DA: Sark [from “Alias”] will forever be my favorite, as it was my first and made such a huge impact on me as a human and professional. And it was my first foray into playing a terrible dude who somehow had enough charm not to be completely despised (by the viewers, anyway), which then of course, I’ve played exclusively ever since.
CM: It’s been interesting watching the TV landscape change over the past decade. Can you share your insights on working in television back in the “Alias” days versus today?
DA: If you’re referring to the social media aspect of it, I wholeheartedly agree. Back in the day, all we had were magazine reviews, your parents’ take, and a few chat boards to check in on and see if the people were picking up what you were throwing down. And now, obviously, you can’t swing a cat without hitting an opinion. Everyone has a voice and isn’t afraid to shout it. We live in an age of content and contempt.
CM: You’re right — social media and fan engagement certainly comes with the job nowadays. What aspects of it do you enjoy? What aspects do you find challenging? Best fan story?
DA: I’ll answer a question here or there on social media but really use Twitter for my own amusement, frankly, and picture-posting, breaking news, etc. I do enough conventions the world over where I really get to have meaningful interactions with fans in person. There are so many “bests” as far as fan stories go that I’m hard-pressed to single one out, but recently I did a Q&A in Houston and ran the gamut of emotions. I tickled, “truthed,” and tore my way through an entire hour, which ended up feeling like a therapy session conducted by Barbara Walters. And the audience was with me on every level, it seemed, and was really touched by my transparency. It was a pretty special experience.
CM: How do you think content and programming has evolved in the past decade? Where do you hope to see it go in the next decade?
DA: With all the different avenues, platforms, and channels with which to tell stories these days, it’s impossible not to have at least five “favorite” shows, and as an actor it’s an exciting thing to have so many opportunities to be a part of said shows. I can’t predict where it’s headed from here, but I can’t see it devolving in any way. Sky’s the limit.
CM: In the meantime, what are some things that you find invigorating?
DA: Any performance by Phil Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis or Tom Hardy. A good runner’s high when you power into some unknown gear, which turns the fatigue into extra kicks. A come-from-behind victory by my Oregon Ducks.
DA: My mother, triple black diamond runs whilst skiing, 230 yards from the green on the golf course, Sam Rockwell.
CM: How about comforting?
DA: My mother. Dianne Wiest. The golf course. Watching one of my ball squads (Oregon Ducks, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Vikings) “comfortably” dominate a game. The “Hamilton” soundtrack. A quality facial. Post-gym sauna.
CM: If you could indulge in a passion project, what would it be?
DA: I’d love to be in a Paul Thomas Anderson film opposite any and all actors in that repertory stable of his (Reilly, Moore, et al). He’s the best in the business as far as I’m concerned, and I would give up the right to bear children to star in one of his projects (I think).
Or play Marius in a Broadway production of “Les Miserables,” the Wolf/Prince in “Into the Woods,” or King George in “Hamilton.”
CM: What’s the most influential piece of advice you’ve received, and from whom?
DA: Ron Rifkin once said, “Always be 10 minutes early, and know everyone’s lines.” Johnny Depp once told me over a cigarette in his trailer on the set of “Pirates [of the Caribbean”], dressed as Captain Jack, “Hey man, we’re all lucky,” which could’ve meant as humans or as actors — I really don’t know. Whatever the intent, it was prophetic sounding to a 21-year-old kid who had just got his break on “Alias” and was having a sit with an idol.
CM: What are your career goals for 2016? Five years from now? Ten years from now?
DA: I’m barely able to keep track of the present, let alone five years from now. The year 2020 might as well be written by Phillip K. Dick, frankly. I’m somewhat content with how it’s gone to this point. Regrets? I have a many. I’m all for the forward and the forgetting.
CM: When you’re not working, what are you doing?
DA: Laughing, golfing, indulging at good eateries, working out, reading books, studying lines for upcoming eps and/or auditions, watching movies and/or TV shows, spending time with m’mates.
Watch David Anders on “iZombie,” Tuesdays 9/8c on the CW.