American actor Sean Whalen (who refers to himself as “that guy”) is instantly recognizable and for good reason, he’s been in over a hundred projects ranging from the first “Got Milk?” commercial, Batman Returns, Men in Black, Twister, Lost, Hatchet 3, Halloween 2, Waterworld, Suicide Kings, Never Been Kissed, Charlie’s Angels, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and my personal favorite Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs! Today we have the absolute pleasure of speaking with Mr. Whalen about his remarkable career as a part of BLANKMANinc’s Wicked Awesome Halloween Hubub!
BLANKMANinc: How did you first get into acting?
Sean Whalen: I remember in kindergarten, we had a circus in our kindergarten class and I pretended that I was the strong man lifting up huge weights, which are actually two circles on the end of a stick. The class loved it and I thought, “Wow, this is really fun”. In fifth grade I remember starring in and directing a version of Rumpelstiltskin. I remember sliding out onto the stage when I was finished to get the applause and I got a huge standing ovation and I thought “ok, this is pretty cool”. I loved getting the attention, plus I was the youngest of four kids so anything to get attention was cool.
BMi: You studied in the Groundlings Theater, correct?
SW: Yes, I did.
BMi: What was your time like there?
SW: It was great. It was a long time ago. Lisa Kudrow and I did the Sunday show together. A lot of people were there. I went through the program really quickly in two years. It’s very hard to do that these days. It takes like six or seven years to even get through the program these days. Everyone was super supportive, really nice, really supportive. Now that it’s become kind of a hotbed for Saturday Night Live, it’s definitely become more competitive, it’s more business in terms of the people, not the teachers or the school but the students. They’re really competing. We were all just fans of each other; we just loved to watch each other’s stuff. We would always finish our skits first so we could change for our next skit so we could run around back stage and watch the other people perform because we just loved everybody’s stuff. It was just a nurturing, fun, awesome place. I loved it.
SW: That was my first movie. It was fantastic! I had an acting coach at the time and she coached me through and really helped me understand that Roach was not just a crazy little cackling boy but a real person that was kind of heroic in his own way, brave in his own way and very childlike in his own way. He still held onto his childhood even though these horrible things had happened to him and Wes really wanted to nurture that from an acting point of view. He really wanted to make all the actors and all the situations real even though it was a crazy situation. I mean, acting’s definition is acting truthfully under an imaginary circumstance and that’s really what he strove for. He kept the set very casual, very casual and really safe for us to really get into character. I remember my death scene he gave me time to go prepare for that emotionally. He wasn’t just about shooting it and having it be finished, he wanted good quality acting going on at the same time even though it was horror.
BMi: I can imagine it was kind of challenging having to act without your tongue.
SW: Yeah, I had to wear a prosthetic tongue. I put that in the rest of the shoot just so I would never talk again. One time they were shooting at me and I said “Oh crap!” and Wes pulled me over and said “You can’t do that” and I said “What did I do?” and he said “You can’t talk” so I requested that that tongue be put in my mouth the whole time. The prosthetic tongue really impeded my talking so I could basically live a full experience without worrying about it. I could try and talk but it wouldn’t make any sense because my tongue was cut out. That was the solution. It was too hard to fake like I didn’t have a tongue. It was easier to just make my tongue hard to talk with.
BMi: Speaking of hard to talk, you were in the very first “Got Milk?” commercial that is the only reason I know who shot Alexander Hamilton to this day, did you have any idea that that campaign and commercial would become so successful?
SW: No, I had no idea. I really didn’t. In fact, when I saw it I thought “Oh this is nice, this is kind of funny” and then within a week after it first going on the air I couldn’t walk down the street without people yelling “Aaron Burr” or “Got Milk?” it was crazy.