Have you ever had an aha moment where you just knew you were meant to be an actor? No? Me neither, but thank goodness others have. Being able to become another character that can evoke fright, anger, sadness or laughter on cue and in front of a full crew on camera, takes true talent. Whenever I see a camera pointed at me, I have a tendency to break into impressions. Not sure why, but it always Sean Connery or Clint Eastwood. It lasts about 10 seconds or until the person operating the camera claims the battery is dying. What a relief that there are real actors capable of commanding an audience that keeps them asking for more.
One such amazingly gifted actor and all around nice guy is Dennis Andres. I recently had the tremendous privilege of speaking to him about his career and his role as Ian Matthews on CBC’s Workin’ Moms.
“ I really enjoy your character on Workin’ Moms. The cast is amazing. How did you get the opportunity to play the role of Ian Matthews?”
“I had gone in for an audition and they handed me the sides (miniature script). There was an interesting scene in it, which contained a unique take on man vs woman argument between my character and Jenny (Jessalyn Wanlim), my onscreen wife. After the audition, I received a call from my agent to tell me they had requested a call back. What felt like a lot longer, a couple months later I went in for the second audition. Within those couple months , I’d begun to develop the character of Ian and how he’d be best portrayed. Upon arriving for the call back, Catherine Reitman was there and I began to feel slightly intimidated. Fortunately, she has a way of making people feel comfortable and like an old friend. It took all my jitters away and calmed my nerves. This time around they gave me two scenes. After it was over I felt good about it and Catherine had indicated that she thought it went well. A month later my agent called me into her office to give me the great news. They had decided to book me as Ian. I was over the moon.”
Although Dennis doesn’t have an accent, he was born in Berlin and moved to Ontario when he was 9 years old. He speaks German fluently and found that it helps him get more roles.
“How did you first become interested in acting?”
“I first got interested back in high school. I had suffered a few football injuries and with the advice of the sports medicine doctor I’d decided to hang it up and begin pursuing other career options. I loved excitement and after speaking with a career counselor it was suggested that I might enjoy doing stunt work. I immediately went to speak to the drama teacher about his stunt man aspirations. She told me there was an upcoming play I should audition for. I wasn’t interested but took her advice and ended up landing the lead role. After rehearsals had started, I began immersing myself into every aspect of the process. I was building the sets as well as anything and everything I could get involved with. My teachers were so happy to see my passion come through and would often let me leave class to work on a production. One day my teacher found me a coop at a community theatre in Hamilton. I’d spend all my extra time there learning and absorbing. I was set building, doing the lighting, stage managing, so that one day when I’d be on stage I’d know what was going on behind me. I had my first big audition there and landed a supporting role in a farce. It sealed the deal.”
Dennis has an incredibly close relationship with his agent of seven years and one thing he admires most about his agent is her honesty. He says she really knows how to communicate with him, even if its criticism. He adds that it’s like pure poetry at the end of the day. He also admires the people he works with and is so grateful for the level of unity, positive team attitude and respect they have for each other. It’s part of the reason he loves being in show biz.
“Do you base your character Ian Matthews on anybody in your real life?”
“I actually cherry picked some of the endearing qualities I see in my younger brother and peppered them in with the qualities I feel a father would have. It’s very important to stay on one track to maintain a consistent character. When I first read the sides, I immediately thought of my younger brother and combined it with a loving father.”
“What kind of roles are you drawn to?”
“I enjoy roles that people can relate to. Ones that make them feel impactful and beautiful. When I was in theatre, I had been in a production called Salt Water Moon. It was a love story about a man that had returned home to try and win his sweetheart back after she’d become engaged to another man. After the performance I was approached by an older gentleman who thanked me for giving him something to remember for the rest of his life. The production had given the man something that he’d felt from his past. Moments like that really excite me. That was the moment I knew I wanted to do this for a living.”
Dennis has incredible praise and respect for Catherine Reitman, the creator of Workin’ Moms. He says she is such a hustler and works very hard to keep the show going. He says he has a theory that you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once… then he met Catherine.
“Is there any collaboration between you and Catherine regarding your character?”
“Although there are parameters in place there is still collaboration between us to determine how to best portray certain character plots. It’s such a solid team that it makes my job that much easier and more enjoyable.”
At the end of season one, Ian leaves Jenny. Dennis wasn’t sure what was going to happen with his character but was ecstatic to find out he’d be returning for season two. It will be interesting to see how the dynamic changes.
“You’ve acted in film and TV. Do you have a preference?”
“When doing a film, it can be very difficult to leave a character behind. I immerse myself and develop the character with mannerisms and traits. I become that character on set. I was on a film that took 3 mth’s to shoot. It took me the same amount of time to unlearn some of the characters mannerisms and idiosyncrasies after we wrapped. It can be tough on the body. A TV series is much different, in that you’re developing the character over a period of time. There isn’t the same burden of leaving the character behind. I love the immersive element of film but also the process of developing a character over time on a TV series.”
As a regular character on a popular show, Dennis Andres will sometimes get recognized out in public. He mentions one particular time when he’d gone to an establishment he’d been into many times to grab some lunch. The lady serving him had jokingly mentioned that she’d seen his twin the other night on TV. He had asked her which show. When she said Workin’ Moms, he told her it was him. She didn’t believe him. He says it’s pretty hilarious when he is recognized and is still trying to figure out how to react to it and usually ends up laughing.
“Is there any advice you might be able to offer to other actors wanting to work in the showbiz?”
“Because it’s such a tough industry be sure that your reasons are impermeable. You need to answer the WHY. The heartbreak, the rejection, the highs and lows are so frequent and can be so intense. If your WHY isn’t strong enough, you simply won’t last. My WHY is very strong but I’ve also had my moments of doubt and at times wanted to throw in the towel. It’s full of ups and downs. It’s what you make of it. It’s about patience, your passion and perseverance. Make sure that its so important to you that you’re willing to make sacrifices and that your reasons are impermeable. I remember a conversation I once had with a country singer on a patio. We were sharing a couple beers and the singer was reflecting on something his late mom had said. She had told him that you’re only as good as the team you surround yourself with. I’ve never forgotten that.”
Great advice from a very inspirational and insightful actor.
“Are there any directors or actors you’d love to work with?”
“I would love to work with Denis Villeneuve. I admire his films for the casting, the music and the believability. The way he tells his stories is so impactful. I also think Kathryn Bigelow is an extremely good director. Guy Ritchie, David Fincher, Tarantino, I find them all so talented and incredible storytellers and would love the opportunity to work with any of them.”
It was such a delight speaking with Dennis Andres. I found him extremely personable, humble and candid. Much like talking to a good neighbor. He has all the tools for success and uses them like a master mechanic. I cannot wait to see what his future holds.