Let’s kick this article off by first setting the record straight and announcing that actor David Anders is not British. A lot of people think he is. Anders has played a Brit in so many roles and done it so well (8 years playing Sark, the bad-Brit-you-love-to-hate on ALIAS), that's it's a bit shocking when you first hear his Oregonian American red-blooded accent. His illustrious IMDB page produces some serious scrolling. We’ve been watching this dude’s career since ’01 and have seen him appear regularly in plenty of cool hit TV shows during the last twelve years: HEREOS, 24, GREY'S ANATOMY, VAMPIRE DIARIES, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS and currently pulling double-duty on ONCE UPON A TIME and IZOMBIE, the CW's new rom-com-zom-drom.
Anders' staying power comes partly from the fact that he loves his craft more than the fame or lack thereof at times and partly from his ability to don impeccable accents. We spent some good time with Anders and truthfully, couldn’t have had more fun. The candid, hard-working guy is enjoyable, wryly funny, and he attends every music concert he can — knew there was a reason we liked him. We’re almost best friends, right dude?
Tell us about your lead role on iZombie.
I'm over the moon and so lucky to have been tapped to be a part of iZombie. Rob Thomas [PARTY DOWN & VERONICA MARS Creator] is a comedic genius and I've been a fan of his for years. While it has been described as a dramatic procedural for reasons I don't know, it really is a hilarious comedy with dark undertones. Plus I get to FINALLY be funny, which is something I've wanted to do since I moved to LA. I play the rich, spoiled, collar popping, pill dealing bad guy Blaine Debeers (great name), who causes all sorts of trouble for the whole town of Seattle. I get to tap into darker humor, which not everyone gets to do.
What's the vibe like on set? Do things ever get a bit silly?
Absolutely. We get paid to pretend at the end of the day and if you can't have fun with that…you're in the wrong business. And the shortest time on set is between action and cut allowing plenty of time for hijinks.
What criteria goes through your mind when selecting a role: the story, the role itself, stars involved, prospective for awards?
All of what you said. Of course sometimes you say no to things then they throw a number at you and you’re like, “Ok ok!” I think as my career progresses it grows respectability and I get more choices. I’ve said no a lot, but not as many times as I’ve heard no. But I’ve still said my share of no.
You’re from a musical theater background. Would you ever do a musical or sing for a role?
Yes, absolutely. I miss the stage like crazy. It’s living a character from curtain to curtain and the immediate reaction of the audience. The last time I was onstage was a musical I did at the French festival in New York, it’s called Beautiful. It was like rock, basically singing high tenors then going falsetto then screaming. Kind of like Mark and Roger, the hybrid of Mark and Roger from Rent.
What's it like playing the contrasts & similarities of Dr. Whale / Frankenstein in Once Upon A Time. How is it playing such contradicting characteristics within the same man?
Dr. Whale is a womanizing man about town and Dr. Frankenstein is an obsessive lab rat bent on changing the world with LIFE after DEATH. 'Tis fun to play both.
Did you have a favorite fairy tale growing up?
I was a huge Peter Pan fan and of Captain Hook, which is why Colin [O'Donoghue] and I are sworn enemies. Kidding, of course - he kills in the role!
What's it like playing a fantasy-based character versus a real-life based character?
Everything I’ve done to this point has been in a genre that seems fantastical or villainous. I have a superpower, or I’m Frankenstein … or I hunt vampires [VAMPIRE DIARIES] or can’t be killed, but somehow they found a way to kill me [HEROES]. When the [NECCESSARY ROUGHNESS] part came along it was a no-brainer. It was based on the life of a real guy, I had to take it. It was an opportunity to do something lighter and to show myself in a different light.
What's the best part about being on Once Upon a Time?
The guy liner.
What's something we don't know?
That I'm not British, I’m American! I’m super funny. My family is very culturally diverse. I grew up with an adopted Vietnamese sister, my other adopted brother is African-American and I have an older blood bother. We lived in a very small racist town [Grants Pass, OR]. My siblings had their share of troubles, so that sensitized me from an early age.
What's your acting structure?
I act in the moment. There’s only so much you can do to prepare. You can come up with a back-story or blueprint but then in the next script, the writers can change that reality. I threw complex preparations out the window a long time ago. It helps in film, but in TV you can’t train or plan what thought is going to happen.
What's gives an actor longevity?
Being able to embody anybody, being able to live in another person’s skin. Whether it be with your voice, or your actions, or your walk, your look, your eyes. There are so many great actors I admire who do that and I hope I do that in some small way myself, but that’s what it is. It’s the ones who can really sell people back to themselves. That’s what art is.
Who's one of your biggest icons? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?
Peter Sellers. I would give anything to talk to him. I think I’d be so awestruck I wouldn’t know what to say. I guess I'd ask, “How do you do it?” Woody Allen said acting is 90% voice. Peter Sellers was good at embodying the main characters through his voice. He could be anybody and that’s what I’ve been lucky to do, and probably why most people think I’m British.
Story by Heather Seidler
Photos by Brantley Gutierrez
Makeup by Gina Ribisi