By now, unless you watch television that is thoroughly scrubbed for commercial content, you may have seen me in an ad for Sprint where I play an impatient, fault-finding German boss, criticizing one of his employees.
I was very fortunate to book this job. The director, Randy Krallman, is a talented young guy who knew of my ability to do this kind of character, because we had done some very elaborate shorts for Volkswagon about 8 years ago with me in essentially the same persona.
I auditioned, and Randy had to be very persuasive to get the client to sign off on my unusual approach. The part had originally been created for an American, possibly even a female.
I can tell you, it is rare for American actors to be permitted to do any sort of foreign accent in an advertisement; it used to be common, but the “politically correct” wave of the last couple of decades had been quite thorough in expunging this kind of performance from the small screen and radio, too. (Something about the “Frito Bandito”, if memory serves.)
So, I was surprised and delighted by the possibility of playing this part, and also crossed my fingers that it would even run on television at all. The last national commercial I acted in, for another telecom company, coincidentally, never saw the light of day.
We improvised a lot of variations on that last line… I can’t recall who came up with the memorable, “These shorts are for a younger person, wouldn’t you say?” I did improvise the “uuh.” I do remember that.
Amazingly, the spot has really “saturated”, as they say. The spot started to run on all the major TV shows like Survivor, American Idol, The Apprentice etc. I have had many friends text me from cinemas saying they just saw my commercial before the blockbuster movie they were there to see, even in iMax theaters, which is a scary thought.
When I first started in commercials, with Quality Inn’s “Man in a suitcase” spots back in 1986, a national commercial had considerable airplay, on the then three major channels, and the budding cable outlets, of which there were maybe about five. Now, a national spot can show up on planes, movie screens, on smartphones, mobile devices, YouTube, Facebook, and of course TVs. That’s a lot of platforms.
It’s a whole new game. One that I was beginning to think I had been invited “Out” of.
If by some chance you haven’t yet seen this spot, it’s on YouTube, and I invite you to watch it and comment how wonderful it is, and how actor Jim Meskimen needs to be used again and again and again, in all his various personas, not just the uptight German one.
Click here, and thanks for watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drRTJWbxRzg
And of course, come see the JIMPRESSIONS live show, info at http://www.jimpressions.net