Actor David Aranovich (“Get Smart” and “Four Christmases”) plays a Ku Klux Klan leader named Ernest Walters in the upcoming indie thriller “Imperium” starring Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”), Nestor Carbonyl (“The Dark Knight”), and Toni Collette (“Little Miss Sunshine”).
“Imperium” tracks an FBI agent (Radcliffe) who goes undercover to disrupt a local terrorist group’s effort to make a dirty bomb. Directed by Daniel Ragussis, the film is based on the real-life experiences of FBI undercover agent Michael German, who spent years inside militia and neo-Nazi groups in the United States.
Aranovich recently answered a few questions about his role in the film, how self-recorded video auditions have changed the casting game for him and his career trajectory in Hollywood.
Tell us how your acting career has evolved over the years. (You gained national notoriety for playing “Rusty” in those mid-2000s Bud Light commercials, but you’ve since landed several notable supporting roles including your upcoming part in “Imperium” alongside Daniel Radcliffe.)
Well, my acting career thus far has been a bit of a marathon – not a sprint. It started out kinda like I guess many other people – just getting a feel of “the scene”, building up confidence and skill, figuring out how to navigate through the way it really is vs how many say it is, etc. Thanks to my skill in speaking Russian fluently, I was able to get my foot in the door and have a pretty cool part on the hit tv show, JAG. That seemed to be the first sort of breaking point and I started getting a bunch more auditions after that. Guess casting Directors began to trust that I must know what I was doing (at least kind of)! Since then, it’s been kind of a roller coaster – meaning I’d get on a bit of a spree and then get slower for a while. But, overall things have gone steadily well and I feel very fortunate to have gotten to work with the very best in the business (Bradley Cooper, Vince Vaughn, Anne Hathaway, to name a few). Now, it’s definitely much easier to get roles then when I was first starting out. The pendulum has begun to switch where I am getting offers for roles and if not, then being highly considered. Many more people know me and respect my work.
As an actor, have you had to reinvent yourself in order to grow and develop?
That’s a good question. First – my growth. Many actors talk about how difficult things are but interestingly, listening to a lot of interviews of other athletes and successful people, I feel I’ve gotten a lot of perspective of “the Industry”. Most, if not all of these people are really good at what they do. They practice a lot and always seek to improve. A while back I looked in the mirror (ala Michael Jackson) and gotten myself to deal with ways I can really improve and constantly strive to be better and better. I’ve also always been interested in and fairly good at the “business side” and keeping that in mind as well as getting into producing and finances some has helped. In terms of reinventing myself, it’s kind of interesting – I actually have tried to “hold on” to some of my past qualities I had as a person and as an actor, thinking that that would help me. But, then I decided to embrace my higher maturity and confidence that I’ve gotten as a person and it has only helped both my career and improving as an artist! Also, it’s not like I can never play someone who’s immature or silly or what not.
How has video auditioning changed the game for you? (You mentioned carrying a tripod with you on the road to record auditions)
Oh my God. Ya, that’s been wild this past year. This past year I’ve had so many “self tape” auditions!! Turned many a hotel room into a temporary film studio. Lol. While in various hotels filming, while visiting with family and friends, etc. I now always bring my tripod and video camera with me. The challenge has been finding people to read the other characters roles with but luckily, with good friends and bit of ingenuity I’ve always been able to deliver.
Tell us about your research for the role of a Ku Klux Klan leader.
Google. Google. And Google. Seriously though – Google. Well, google, youtube, a great E-Book that Production recommended. That and some great conversations with the director Daniel Ragussis, who was very helpful and clear about that type of non-cliché and “regular” looking character he wanted me to portray…One funny story, when I arrived, I got picked up by this great African-American female driver and as we were driving back to the accommodation, she told me about a real life KKK compound in town. Too good of an opportunity to pass up, so we drove by it, saw the Confederate Flags, and other “signs” and I asked her to drop me off and I was going to go in and do some research. We joked about how she couldn’t go in with me. Then, I decided against it. The director was happy about that.
What was the most challenging thing you faced on the set of Imperium?
The rain. There was one crowd scene (without giving anything away) and it took us a couple days to film. It started raining and was raining on and off for the next couple days. I was wearing a big green Grand Dragon robe, which could easily get ruined, so I always had to hide alongside the help of a couple very nice PA’s that were always on stand by with umbrella’s and towels.
Who has been the most influential person in your acting career? (How and why?)
Both Vince Vaughn and writer/director David Mamet. Mamet was the first famous person I met in LA and was his personal assistant. Getting to work with him was amazing because I got to observe first hand both his work ethic, and his humble down to earth personality and generosity, as well as picking up golden nuggets of wisdom (brilliantly worded of course). Working with Vaughn was the best experience of my life. I just relaxed and had fun. I got to improvise with him and he was extremely, extremely complimentary of me constantly complimenting me and even announcing to the set how I was, “the best part of the scene.” Being a top, top comedic actor is my goal, so getting to work with someone like Vaughn who is at the highest echelon and to get such great feedback was extremely validating and encouraging. Also, he’s another one who is just a great, down to earth person.
What’s next for you?
There are a couple of films that I’m up for that are filming during the same time, so just gonna see which one ends up sounding better. A bit superstitious so don’t like to really mention things until they happen. In the meantime, I’m auditioning a bunch – have been getting a lot of love and interest especially from the East and Southeast lately, so my guess is I’ll be out there really soon! Which is fine – I love traveling (especially if it includes the letters N.Y.C.)
What advice would you give other actors in their pursuit of the work?
If I had to distill things down to the main things, it’s to really decide if and what kind of actor you want to be. And then take as much responsibility as you can for your career (no blaming). And have fun doing it!!!
Fans can reach David on Instagram (www.instagram.com/davidaranovich) or Twitter @ DavidAranovich (https://twitter.com/DavidAranovich)