For One Actor, Being Real is No Illusion

HOLLYWOOD.  Mike Schnepper thought he had it made a decade ago after a string of films in which he played fresh-faced teens in gross-out comedies, including I Know What You’re Scratching, While Your Mom’s Away, and Farthammer II.  “I was making more than my dad,” he says wistfully.  “I never had to clean up my room.”

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All that changed when Schnepper hit his twenties, and his looks and the image he projected turned from boy-next-door to something more along the lines of sullen millennial barista.  “My agent told me I might not get any real work until I was in my thirties, and then I might have to play creepy villains,” he says, shaking his head at the painful memory.  “So I just sort of stumbled into doing commercials.”

Schnepper is now in great demand playing a person in “real people-not actors” commercials that consumer products companies use to engender favorable opinions of their wares.  “Mike’s a natural,” says Tom Fleis of Build Your Brand Consultants.  “He’s not like other young actors who’ve taken too much Stanislavski to be naturally natural anymore.”

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Today Schnepper is in the studio for two different “shoots,” one for a tire company, the other for a new low-calorie brand of pork rinds.  “What would you say if I told you that you’d never have to buy another set of tires again?” an actor not playing a real person asks him and four other allegedly real people who are being filmed through a two-way mirror.

Schnepper laughs softly and says in a convincingly real tone “I’d say you’re kidding,” adding a goofy grin to put the crowning touch on the delivery of his lines.

“No way,” a young woman adds, and a middle-aged man with a paunch and a crew cut says “I’d say that’s too good to be true” with a skeptical tone that bespeaks a wealth of tire-buying experience.

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“That’s a wrap,” says producer Gary Osgord from behind the glass after the filming is done.  “Thanks one and all–you were fabulous!

The actors gather their things and head out to their cars, but Schnepper lingers as this reporter asks him whether he has any moral qualms about pretending not to be something that he obviously is–a professional actor.

He visibly bristles at the question, and for the first time in the interview his face loses the affable air that television viewers associate with his tousled hair and freckles.  “Dude, that is so wrong,” he snaps as he slings a backpack over one shoulder.  “I’ve been a real person since–like forever.”

 

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