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Curt Clendenin Interview with, 05.22.02 ...

Curt Clendenin, an up-and-coming actor in the Hollywood community, grew up attending auditions in Chicago for various print and commercial work. His acting debut came playing an orphan in the Saturday Night Live film, The Blues Brothers. He continued auditioning and acting in projects throughout high school, eventually majoring in theatre at Columbia College Chicago. His hard work paid off as he recently landed the role of an extra, Reese McGinly, one of Paris Gellar's Student Body President opponents, on Gilmore Girls.

Under the wing of Second City's Artistic Director, Sheldon Patinkin, Curt performed in such productions as "Glengarry Glen Ross," "The Trial," "Eastern Standard," "Balm in Gilead," and "Ivanov," often getting cast as many different characters at a time. He went on to co-found two sketch comedy improvisation groups: Medium Rare and The Fresh Leftovers, leaving trails of laughing bodies in the wake of their madness. As his love for story/character driven films (and his desire to be in them) progressed, he finally threw in the towel and moved to Los Angeles. He can be seen in the upcoming independent film "Wakan," as the character Wayne. He also helped to co-found Red Dirt, a theatre company created by mostly Chicago actors. His favorite part about Los Angeles is the ocean and his favorite color is blue.

ORG: How did you get your start in the entertainment industry?

Curt: I was held against my will, actually! Just kidding! When I was very little, my parents got me involved with an agent in Chicago who sent me all over the place for auditions. I did mostly print work and commercials. Chicago is not really known for having an outstanding amount of television and film work, so every now and then, when an audition rolled through town, my agent would give me the honor of attending it. Sometimes it would be terrifying to be alone in a room without your mother. I remember having to wait in a room before an audition where all these women were flocking around a little fella named Ricky. "Awww, little Ricky, isn't he so cute? I just loved him in that commercial where he dresses up as a hockey player." I was terribly nervous, and jealous, and frightened, and stormed out of the room back to my mom. Years later I found out it was an audition for Silver Spoons. My most favorite accomplishment was getting cast as an orphan in The Blues Brothers. My lines ended up on the editing room floor, but John Belushi taught me how to make some really cool bear tracks on the beach.

ORG: When did you get bitten by the acting bug?

Curt: Despite the fact I was going on auditions and getting work, I can't say that I gave it the appreciation it deserved. I was just happy to get out of classes early! "Yay! Mom's getting me out of school again!" I think my parent's noticed my lack of appreciation and took me out of it altogether. It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I started to truly love acting, when I auditioned for and was cast in my first play, "Golden Boy." I was auditioning for theatre like mad and decided that when I went to college, I would change my major from art to theatre.

ORG: In the season two finale of Gilmore Girls you played Reese McGinly, a character who was running against Paris for Student Body President. What was it like working with the cast and crew of the show?

Curt: I know this sounds cliché, but everyone is like a family. Or at the very least, well-oiled cogwheels in a machine o' fun. They are quick to give each other compliments. There is a lot of joking and smiling involved. You can tell they are all working for the good of the show, that they love their jobs and are pushing hard for its quality and success. There is not one person who has rubbed me the wrong way.

ORG: How long did it take to shoot your scenes?

Curt: If I can remember correctly, the "Paris speech" scene took about seven hours to shoot. They had to get that really tricky continuous shot in the beginning, without tripping and falling over people or props. A few of the crew guys put a wooden step covered in a black sheet behind Liza (Paris Gellar), so the cameraman could get up there and behind her for the whole thing to work the right way. Plus, Liza had a mouthful of words to memorize and recite without making it sound like jibberish. That whole first shot in the beginning was ten takes or so, because she would forget a word here or there and had to start all over. When the camera came around for my (and Schatzi's [the other candidate]) reaction, I had to appear both self-assured and give a "Yeah right, like SHE'S going to win" look on my face. That one took four or five takes, because I was asked to keep trying different things. Later, the crew was also thinking of hiding me as a seat filler in the student body audience, but decided it might not be such a great idea because some really hardcore Gilmore Girls fans might spot me.

ORG: Are there any hard feelings because your character lost the presidential election to Paris? Do you think Reese was the first runner-up?

Curt: Oh yes, there are hard feelings! I really do think my character should have won. Reese is much more "in" with the sports-types, which should have worked in his favor. And since he is also in the Chess Club, all of those guys could have been banding together to help him out. He was really looking forward to getting those vending machines filled with more "Little Debbies." In my opinion, the votes were fixed. I have no idea why he didn't win. I smell a scandal.

ORG: Had you ever watched the show before you were cast as Reese?

Curt: I had seen bits of it before, because I am a huge Smallville fan. I always respected Gilmore Girls, but for whatever reason, was not home to catch an entire episode.

ORG: Would you enjoy or be willing to come back for future episodes of Gilmore Girls?

Curt: Omigosh, yes! I would absolutely love to see Reese become a re-occurring character. We need to explore his avenues more. Why don't Reese and Paris get along all that well? Is it a hate/love relationship between them, very much similar to what Han Solo and Princess Leia have? Maybe Reese isn't the chess player he makes himself out to be. Where is Reese from? Maybe he dropped down in a spaceship at the same time Clark Kent did, but in a different town. Who knows what will happen? I'm also secretly hoping that if I hang around the set long enough, Teal will go out on a few dates with me!

ORG: Do you have any upcoming projects that Gilmore Girls fans should be on the lookout for?

Curt: Yes! I will be playing the character, "Wayne," in an independent film titled "Wakan." I'm not sure when it will be released. First we're going to try and enter it into the independent film circuit. Gary Graver, who worked with Orson Welles back in the day, is the director of photography on it. Thom Surprenant, who won an Emmy for his makeup effects on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and worked on the "Scorpion King," is doing all the makeup. We also have John York, from the band "The Byrds," creating the entire soundtrack. I'm really excited about it!

ORG: If you were not into acting what would you be doing?

Curt: I would probably be pursuing painting/drawing more, trying to get it into art galleries.

ORG: What kind of advice would you give to aspiring actors who have some doubt in their minds about an acting career?

Curt: Sheesh. That's a bit tough, because I still have so very far to go myself. All I know is that I can't ignore the love I have for it. If you know deep down inside for certain that being a lawyer or doctor is not going to make you happy, that office work is not your cup of tea, that flipping hamburgers is not for you, that trading stocks on Wall Street is not for you, that you have an ingrown desire to affect people, then please pursue it! Chase after it like a madman/woman!!! Go after it with every last risk you have to offer. You might have to work in an office for a short time. You might have to flip hamburgers for a short time. But always keep in mind that those are a means to an end. Do what you love and the rest will follow. Don't be distracted or fooled or intimidated by the posers. Believe it or not, there is a LOT to be said for faith and trust in the amazing intricacies of the universe. Keep putting yourself out there and taking classes and auditioning for plays to better yourself. People say "Oh, there are so many people acting, how are you ever going to be able to get parts?" Keep in mind that most of those people out there have not even a lick of talent. Keep aware.

ORG: Any final words?

Curt: Settle for more. Beware of killjoys. Don't be afraid to be impressed. Give yourself a pat on the back for being unique. Allow yourself to be a little more fascinated and a little bit more impressed with the happenings around you.

Short Questionnaire ...

Hometown: Carol Steam, Illinois (about 30 minutes away from Chicago)

Coffee or tea: Coffee

Chocolate or vanilla: Vanilla! Mmmm

Favorite movie: Any David Lynch film

Favorite TV show: Now: Smallville. Before: Greatest American Hero.

Favorite activity: Laughing, going to open mics

Favorite food: A chicken/pasta concoction

Favorite book: Any Richard Brautigan book is my favorite!

Actors or actresses you admire: Johnny Depp, Billy Crudup, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Kate Hudson, Sheryl Lee, Teal Redmann, Kirsten Dunst, Scary Spice

The one thing you can't live without: Oxygen. Just kidding! I can't live without art. would like to sincerely thank Curt for taking the time to answer these questions and share his experiences. Remember, Gilmore Girls airs Tuesday nights at 8:00pm/7:00pm central on The WB television network.

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