Scott Anderson's double life on TV & Chicago stage

For most of people, filming yourself in underwear and posting the finished product on YouTube is never a good idea. But for Chicago-based actor Scott Anderson, who'd set aside his performance career for a "real" job, it landed him a starring role on "Reality Show," a new Showtime dark comedy created by and co-starring Chicago native Adam Rifkin.

Anderson plays Dennis Warwick, a strait-laced dad whose life unravels when his family is filmed without their knowledge for a "real" reality show. But they turn out to be so dull that the producer is forced to inject outside conflict into their lives and the consequences become tragic. "Reality Show" debuted Nov. 1 and continues through Dec. 20.

On Friday Anderson, a singer-songwriter and guitarist in the band Wooden Hearts who also performs as singer Fred Schneider in a B-52s tribute band called Planet Claire, takes the stage in Theater Seven of Chicago's world premiere production of "American Storm." He plays Robert Duffet, the owner of a prize thoroughbred that was discovered in 1962 at a small-town horse track.

RedEye called Anderson to catch up and find out more about the play and his TV show.

What type of character do you play in "American Storm?"
I play the owner of a horse track in a small fictional town called Weldon, Ohio. And unlike my character in "Reality Show," who's very sure of himself, this character in "American Storm" is very conflicted about what his role in life should be. He's got a lot of money; but he really wants to roll up his sleeves and be part of the group that actually works with the horses. He's had an affair with a woman--he's got a lot of complications going on.

And what attracted you to the role of Dennis Warwick in "Reality Show?"
This guy is Mr. Conservative. Every T has to be crossed and I dotted. He loves order. His biggest commitment in his life is to his family and his idea probably of letting his hair down would be like having one martini on his anniversary or something. He's just Mr. Straitlaced. And when all these things start happening to him, he becomes unglued. Of all the things that happen to this family, he's the only one who kind of tries to maintain his integrity and at the end, he just loses it. And it's a great, great trajectory of a character. It's really cool.

It was not much of a stretch for me because while I may have more than one martini to let my hair down; my biggest commitment is to my family.

And so I could really draw on the things that were happening to him, where his wife was in a big way moving away from him and his daughter was coming apart at the seams--I could relate to what that must be like. That hasn't happened to me, fortunately, but there's one huge scene that happens at the very end in the final episode. I don't want to give it away but it's a major bad thing to happen. I just thought about it every single day.

I think that was probably my most successful scene because it affected me the most as it relates to my family and my daughter.

How did you get cast in "Reality Show?"
A friend of mine has worked closely with the director on several shows--he's the art director--and he called me up and said, "They're having a hard time casting the lead--the dad. Would you be interested in auditioning?"

I was in the process of moving from one apartment to another apartment with my family and I was super-stressed. I said, "Yeah, I'll do it," but in my mind, I'm thinking, "They're not going to want me on Showtime. I haven't acted much--no one knows my name." So I just blew it off.

Finally I looked at the audition material and thought it was funny. So we set up in my living room ... We had just moved into the place and boxes were everywhere. I had [laughs] one daughter who held the camera; she's nine years old. My wife was off-camera; she read the other person's parts. And my other daughter, who was four at the time, was walking in and out of the scene--I couldn't get her to get out.

What was the scene?
I was [laughs] in my underwear getting berated by my wife for not having a job. We finished; I put my clothes on [laughs] and uploaded the audition to YouTube and sent it over to them. Two weeks later, we were having dinner with some friends in our new apartment and a guy calls and says, "You've just been cast as a lead on a new Showtime miniseries." Four days later, I was on a plane. I had a 400-page script to memorize.

What's different about working in TV as compared to theater?
The hardest part was having so little time to prepare. I had never done TV before and I had no idea about the process--I mean, I knew nothing [laughs] and I was the only guy there that hadn't done TV. I had this sort of starring role and I just got thrown in. It moved really, really fast. There were no rehearsals. You had one or two takes at the most and then they moved on to the next scene. And when you see it on the screen, it's done. You can't do it again like you can in theater.

The other thing that's really different--at least in this process that I was in--was that when you're doing something on TV, It's more about the character and trying to get the essence of it right. If you went off-script, it was OK if the scene was good. Whereas in the play, you have to honor the playwright--the playwright is the king in theater and every word has to be just right.

What's your own favorite reality show?
I have to confess to you I honestly have probably watched maybe 90 seconds of reality television. I mean, I'm aware that Bruce Jenner is married to some Kardashian person and that people follow them very closely. It's just not my cup of tea. I do watch "Breaking Bad" online, but that's pretty much it.
Julia Borcherts is a RedEye special contributor.

American Storm
7:30 p.m. Friday through Dec. 16 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $15-$25; 773-404-7336; theatreseven.org

Reality Show
10:30 p.m. CT Thursdays through Dec. 20 on Showtime

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