Damon Standifer [Interview]

Today’s awesome interviewee is an actor who has for years now been working diligently at his craft as an actor of the screen and stage. And he is damn great at what he does. And, as per usual with our guests, I have a personal soft spot for his work for probably very specific reasons, but could definitely be shared by many. In the 90’s there was a defining film series that has consistently stuck with me, as well as a television sitcom that remains in my personal Top 5 to this very day. The first would be the Ace Ventura films, and the second would be the Ted Danson vehicle Becker. And as you could probably guess, Damon Standifer was a part of both of them.

Most of you will remember Damon as the hilarious Wachati Chief in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls who respectively spits in the face of Jim Carrey, as a sign of respect of course. I will remember him fondly for his reoccurring role as Mr. Williams on Becker, a show I adored a bit more than most 13-15 years probably should have. But, I was a weird kid. The show also featured one of our first interviewees EVER, going way back, with the great Hattie Winston.  But Damon has been far from absent since these two memorable roles. He has since taken on the role as a stand up comedian as well as an actor. He has appeared on a plethora of today’s finest television programming including roles on some of my own personal favorites such as Shameless, Superstore, Documentary Now, Casual, and just dozens and dozens more over the last couple of decades. He also had a brilliant role in a little known of classic film starring the likes of Jena Malone, Brad Renfro, Clifton Collins Jr., and comedian/documentarian Wayne Federman entitled Confessions of an American Girl, that is an absolute MUST watch.

And what is most important here? Damon Standifer is a hell of a nice guy! He was nice enough to share a few thoughts and words with us digitally, and we are so incredibly proud to have him be a part of the TWS alum. So Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor and a privilege to present to you, Sir Damon Standifer!

When did you know you wanted to make a living as an actor? Was it something you were always passionate about?

I’ve always been passionate about acting. I remember being a child and wanting to produce plays. My mother tells me that when I was a toddler I had figured out that the Super 8 camera made movies so when the camera came on they could never get another candid moment from me because I would always be preforming. However I didn’t decide I wanted to pursue an acting career until I was 15 or 16. I was asked to read a Quaker sermon called “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” in front of my American Literature class. The teacher just wanted me to read the sermon but I decided to create a character. I believe I received a round of applause from the class. I recently reacquainted with my former teacher via Facebook and we both remembered the event.

And when did the stand up comedy begin? What drew you to this world alongside acting?

I did stand up when I was in college and didn’t like it so I quit. With the advent of social media I began to use my status updates as a platform for jokes. I got such good responses and encouragement I decided, a couple of years ago, to start doing comedy again. I do it for fun. Maybe I’ll soon start to pursue it more seriously.

What was your first gig as an actor that you can remember? Was it a pleasurable experience or a nerve-racking one?

My first paying gig was a show called Superior Court. I played a college football player on trial for rape. The victim was played by Paris Vaughan daughter of Sarah Vaughan. The prosecutor was played by Barry Pearl, Doody from the film Grease. Several years later Pearl and I were in the same Theatre Company when, during a casual conversation, we discovered that he was a participant in my first gig. My first commercial was a McDonald’s that appeared to be based on the film Coming To America. And my first speaking role was the Sherman Hemsley /Clifton Davis sit-com Amen. I played the Gang-leader in the episode titled “TV or not TV”.

You’re appearance in the 1996 smash hit of a comedy Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is the type of thing that legends are made of, in my opinion. So, what was it like doing your scenes with Jim Carrey? And how did the whole spitting thing really work? I couldn’t imagine you were actually spitting in an actor’s face…right?

I did actually spit in the actor’s [Jim Carrey] face, at his request. However when we walked out of the hut our faces were smeared with KY jelly. He was quite the perfectionist. Even though he would improvise and critique his own work he was also quite open to direction. In fact he demanded it. Watching him riff made it very difficult to keep a straight face but somehow we managed. Tommy Davidson was also great to work with. The man was a human jukebox. Always kept the cast and crew loose.

I can recall your short but effective stints on one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, Becker. I’ve talked at lengths about my love for this show, and was even fortunate enough to have Hattie Winston on the site. But, what was your experience like the set of Becker. Did your work on this show have any sort of distinction from your other work in television?

Becker was my favorite gig ever. I loved those people. Ted Danson is one of the nicest guys with whom I’ve ever worked, talk about playing against type. Alex Desert is one of the coolest brothers you’ll ever meet. Saverio was a great story teller. Hattie, Shawnee and Terry were all very nice to me. If I ever get a series that would be the type of environment I would love to work in.

What would you consider your dream role? What is the one performance that you have not had the chance to do that would make you the most excited? 

I would love to do a role in which I get to improvise. I got to improvise on Documentary Now, Love and Barbershop, the stuff didn’t get used but it was a lot of fun. I think improvisation gives the performer a chance to reveal something about his character, to find the funny or add to the collaborative process also it allows you to free yourself from the constraints of the script.

What does the future hold for you? Anything coming up soon that our readers should look forward to?

Who knows what the future holds? I’m still grinding away hoping to find that perfect role with a wonderful cast. I’ve recently made appearances on Hulu’s Casual, Netflix’s Love, NBC’s SuperStore and IFC’s Documentary Now.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Whenever I see a friend of mine on the big or small screen it brings a smile to my face.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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