Andrew Bowen plays Divin’ Dave Donahue on “Magic City,” the Miramar Hotel’s poolside performer. At night he gets involved in the shady affairs, as seen when he attacked Janice (Willa Ford) in the shower.
We chatted with Bowen by phone about his work on “Magic City,” his voiceovers in video games, his movie, Rock Jocks with Felicia Day and a little classic television. We also learned that he would have been in What About Bob? if he hadn't been cut out of the film.
CraveOnline: How vital will Diving Dave become to the plot of “Magic City?”
Andrew Bowen: Well, put it this way, Diving Dave’s involvement will be critical to a very big life changing choice one of the main characters in the show is going to have to make. I don’t want to give away what’s coming but his involvement leads to something pretty significant. You have to watch and see how.
CraveOnline: That must be great for you.
Andrew Bowen: Oh, it was fantastic. It was a super role. You work for a number of years and every once in a while you get those diamonds and those great jobs working with top level people. This is definitely one of those. It was an absolute joy to be a part of it.
CraveOnline: Did you have to learn all the performance of the diving board act?
Andrew Bowen: Actually, Mitch had written that into the script that Dave does a Charlie Chaplin bit on the diving board and that was it. So I kind of went to him and said, “Is it okay for me to just come up with something?” He said, “Yeah, go for it.” So that was just me coming up with some of the routine to do. I just needed to show him, I said, “I came up with something.” That was my little creation and they loved it so it was fun.
CraveOnline: Is there more of a whole routine that we didn’t get to see?
Andrew Bowen: Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. Yes, there’s definitely more of a routine. There was quite a bit but it is TV and you have to make sure that everything fits in in a certain amount of time and you just put in what you need. So yeah, I’m sure they had some fun extra stuff to watch in the editing room, that’s for sure.
CraveOnline: You take a nice pratfall. Were you able to do that without hurting yourself?
Andrew Bowen: Oh yeah, absolutely. There’s a little pain involved with physical comedy, but if you know what you’re doing, you can do it with a minimal amount of it. So minor bruises, nothing life changing.
CraveOnline: How do you protect yourself when we can tell you’re not wearing a cup?
Andrew Bowen: Well, you keep your legs together and it’s all an illusion. Put it this way, you’ve got to hope you’ve got a little bit of padding, which I really don’t so yes, my butt bone was quite bruised. But I made sure the jewels were safe.
CraveOnline: Yeah, at least it was just your butt.
Andrew Bowen: Yes, yes, that’s pretty much all it was.
CraveOnline: How nice is it on the set with all those women hanging around in ‘50s bikinis?
Andrew Bowen: Oh yeah, it really sucks. It was just so hard. And you know, they cast such unpretty people on the show, it’s just a bit of a visual workout every day just to be there. [Joking]
CraveOnline: Is that an odd feeling for the set to be full of so much historical detail?
Andrew Bowen: It’s amazing. It’s such a gift too because it puts you right in it. As an actor, you’ve got the green screen or you’re on a soundstage but they went all out on this production. It was there.
Even the wardrobe department, Carol [Ramsay] and the team were just phenomenal. It was around you. You were just immersed in it. Honestly, you’d get there and you’d be like, “Wow, I’m in 1959. This is really cool.” So it just helped me slide into character and get the feel of the period. It was awesome.
CraveOnline: How did you like Miami?
Andrew Bowen: It was very sweaty. And sticky. I loved it. Sweaty and sticky, I would put it that way. It was great. It’s a great city, really good people. Just hot. I mean, I’m good with heat. I live in California so you kind of have to be but we have a dry heat. There, to step outside, there’s really no point even taking a shower because you’re just going to sweat as soon as you walk out of your hotel room.
And the rain is the most bizarre thing in the world. I mean, it’ll be bright sunshine and then two o’clock in the afternoon, oh hey, look, torrential downpour. You think you’ve walked into one of the Matrix movies and then it all ends in a minute and a half. They just come in and out.
CraveOnline: You get to be so goofy when you’re performing on the diving board. How do you like Dave’s dark side?
Andrew Bowen: He definitely has some extremes to his personality. I always saw Dave as a guy who was fearless and almost cocky in the face of imminent danger. I think it was one of the things that kept him moving, one of those things that buzzed for him. So it was great to be able to play all those sides with a character. You don’t get to do that very often. Sinking your teeth in would be an understatement.
CraveOnline: How much were you told when you first got the part?
Andrew Bowen: A pretty significant amount. I wasn’t able to see the last couple of episodes because they weren’t written yet, but I was able to read what was coming up in episodes 1 – 6 which was a really kind of unique surprise. When I booked the job it was a possible recurring so I figured it was maybe an episode or two. Then all of a sudden I got the scripts and it was like whoa, he’s in this thing for a while.
So it was great and also that was one of the nice things that the production did and Mitch in particular, was he wanted me to be able to read everything that was going on so I really understood the world I was going to be stepping into. I would say that “Magic City”’s attention to detail is an understatement.
After hearing stories about the mirkins and trying to find women who had natural breasts or hair, wasn’t Brazillian going own below which is so hard in this day and age. It was in the detail, detail, detail which is one of the reasons this is exceptional television.
CraveOnline: When you do a violent scene like the shower scene, how carefully do you have to coordinate that with your costar?
Andrew Bowen: A lot, a lot. Willa [Ford] and I talked beforehand. There’s a lot of communication and basically just having a lot of talks. We absolutely had to choreograph it extremely carefully because you don’t want somebody to get hurt. Especially me, I’m overly cautious and sensitive when it comes to stuff like that. So we just talked a lot and we went through it and we said, “This is where my hand’s going to be. Put your hand here, maybe you can support this.”
At the same time, there’s a certain element of let us be in it to a degree that’s enough to put us into the scene but without hurting us, which we did. It’s really tough though. It’s interesting, even as an actor, when you have to go there, when you’re actually in that position itself, it’s almost even more of a challenge to stay in character and to stay in it when you’re instinct is to go, “Oh my God.”
It’s just one of those things, also I was lucky enough to be working with an actress who’s talented like Willa is, that was able to be there in it and step in and as well be comfortable with a situation. Ultimately, all that stuff comes down to trust between people. That’s part of our jobs.
CraveOnline: A scene like that makes you uncomfortable as a viewer. Were you gratified with how that scene came off?
Andrew Bowen: Oh, absolutely. It’s hard to watch but I was very happy how it turned out.
CraveOnline: How many more episodes are you in?
Andrew Bowen: I’m not going to tell you, but I’m definitely in more. I can’t give away the dirty secrets but I’ll put it this way, the next episodes, because we only have 8 for the season, the last one is just dropped into high gear and just pedal to the metal.
It’s not letting up at all. To say this show leaves you wanting more would be, again, another understatement. I think this is a show that’s going to be impressing the hell out of people for a long time.
CraveOnline: The next film you’re in is Rock Jocks with Felicia Day. What do you get to play in that?
Andrew Bowen: I play the captain of a crew that is assigned in 12 hour shifts to save the earth from random asteroid attacks. I know that sounds completely and totally bizarre, but it’s the type of job where ultimately you’re saving the world but most of the time it’s incredibly boring and it hasn’t been updated since 1982.
So I play a captain who’s more or less trying to handle the personalities and the shenanigans going on between my team without losing my mind completely. The movie’s very much I would say Kevin Smith’s Clerks meets Men in Black. It’s utterly original, sci-fi geek worthy and speechlessly funny.
CraveOnline: Is it the other end of Asteroids that we don’t see?
Andrew Bowen: Yeah, you could say that. Yes, you could say that. In a very unique way. It’s sort of like we’re the unsung heroes. No one knows about us but if we weren’t there, y’all would be in deep sh**.
CraveOnline: Is it based on the video game?
Andrew Bowen: No, not particularly but there’s definitely some elements of it that I think honor what the video game created.
CraveOnline: Do you have a lot of scenes with Felicia?
Andrew Bowen: Oh yeah, tons. She’s awesome. Total goofball too, I love it.
CraveOnline: What kind of character does she play?
Andrew Bowen: She plays our second in command who is working hard to be pushed into the captain’s position. She’s actually a bit of a cold hearted bitch believe it or not, which I think is one of the things that attracted Felicia to do the part because it’s a huge departure from the kind of characters she’s played before. Yeah, she’s a button pusher and a pain in the ass.
CraveOnline: Was your first job on a “Saved by the Bell” episode?
Andrew Bowen: Well, the first job that actually ended up being seen, yes, was an episode of “Saved by the Bell.” The first movie I ever did was a comedy called What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus that I ended up working on for like five weeks, but my role with a few others ended up being cut because they changed the way they told the story. I ended up in that movie becoming an extra that just wouldn’t go away. “Saved by the Bell” was the first time I actually got to be seen on TV.
CraveOnline: What did you play in your episode?
Andrew Bowen: Oh gosh, it was the senior prom. I was taking Kelly to the prom and Zach found out so he kind of scares me into dropping Kelly so he can take her to prom. It was fun. It was a really good time.
CraveOnline: What was that like to come out of nowhere and be Kelly’s prom date?
Andrew Bowen: I think I’ve said this word again, but it was pretty cool. To be working with Tiffany Amber Thiessen, I was like, “Awwww, she’s hot.” And Elizabeth and everybody else so that was cool. It was a neat job to get. That’s the cool part about my job is I sort of had a chance to dance and play in these incredible rules that I got to experience just as a viewer growing up. I definitely feel like a pretty lucky man.
CraveOnline: How did you get into video game work?
Andrew Bowen: I got into it [by] just luck I guess. That’s how you get into any of this. A lot of auditioning and booking jobs, and that led to more jobs. It’s a whole different sort of muscle you get to use as an actor. You don’t have to worry about how you look. It’s just about how you sound.
To be able to sort of nuance your voice is an incredible amount of fun. The video game stuff is just neat. I have kids that play now and it’s sort of like, with Killzone 3 my kids got a kick out of the fact that they were actually playing me in the game. It’s sort of allowed me also another honor to be a part of that community, the gamers. I consider myself an honorary member of the game geek nerd contingent of the country so it definitely gives me more cred when I show up at Comic Con.
CraveOnline: Do you feel the magnitude when you’re doing The Matrix: Path of Neo or Star Wars: The Old Republic, where it fits in the tradition?
Andrew Bowen: Wow, yes but you don’t think about it while you’re doing it. You have to shut that stuff out. Otherwise you won’t be able to work. So for me, whenever I work it’s about the characters.
Making sure that the character works and that it succeeds for whatever genre the game is in. Afterwards is when you get to sit back and go, “Oh my gosh, that’s cool.” Definitely to have grown up a child of the ‘80s, to know that I’m a part of the Star Wars universe and The Matrix in my own little small way is really cool.
CraveOnline: In The Matrix you played Neo, a character who’d been played before, so how did you approach that?
Andrew Bowen: Oh, just making sure I had my Keanu down as perfectly as I could do it. Just playing and laying it out, making sure it sounded right. It was cool though. I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk out of the session throwing some kicks in the air and being like, “Yeah, whoa!”
CraveOnline: How was your time on “MADtv?”
Andrew Bowen: It was amazing. It was a pretty awesome learning experience. I had never done sketch before. I don't know why, but I’ve always had a knack for dialects and mimicry. It was just something fun I’d do with my friends so when I got the show, I’d never actually done trained sketch or improv so some people go to Groundlings to learn improv.
I did “MADtv” for 22 episodes. It was pretty great and then I was also blessed to be working with an unbelievable cast. It was just so great. A lot of them I’m still friends with now so it was a pretty special way to be introduced in a larger way to my audience.
CraveOnline: What were your favorite characters you got to play on “MAD?”
Andrew Bowen: Well again, I love doing any impersonations. Keanu was a blast. There was a character I did named Toby Braga we came up with who was a dumb college guy who ran this radio show. I loved doing it.
There was one I did with Will Sasso where he was doing Steven Seagal and I was doing Jean-Claude Van Damme in a fake trailer for a film that turned out fantastic. It was one of those really fun ones to shoot because neither of us could get through any takes without laughing out loud. That was fun.
CraveOnline: That sounds amazing. I’ll have to YouTube that sketch.
Andrew Bowen: It’s a funny one. Michael McDonald too was playing his dad. We go to see him and he’s dying in bed, he would just like spittle out of his mouth and on the first take I just lost it. I was like, “Aw, crap” because you can’t give anybody an inch there. Michael gave me this look and I was like oh sh** I am screwed and he just would push it every take. Literally if you watch it, every take I’m not really looking at people in the eyes. I’m just sort of avoiding it all so I can get through the takes without laughing.
CraveOnline: And we still have not seen Van Damme and Seagal in a real movie together.
Andrew Bowen: We still have not. What’s that about? Come on. Expendables 3.
CraveOnline: Was the What About Bob? thing an important education about how film works early in your career?
Andrew Bowen: Oh, it was massive. I was there for so long that I wasn’t necessarily working every day but I would just go down to the set every day and watch. Watching how Bill [Murray] worked and Richard [Dreyfuss] worked was amazing because they’re so completely different styles.
It also was a great education because I would just every day go to a new member of the crew and say, “Hi, I’m Andrew. What do you do?” “Oh, I’m the script supervisor.” “What does the script supervisor do?” By the end of it, I pretty much knew every single job on the crew and set. It was great.
It gave me a technical education that has been a gift from there on out. I could show up on set. When someone set a 35, I knew what kind of lens was on me and who was making sure I had my key lighting. Knowing what everybody’s job was makes you able to do your job better. Whatever makes it easier for them, I’m all for it. Everyone does a lot of hard work.
CraveOnline: That was before DVDs so we didn’t see the deleted scenes.
Andrew Bowen: Exactly. Exactly. Every take Bill would do something a little different. There was a lot of laughing. There were a lot of times where you would be watching and people would just be covering their mouths because you can’t break during a take, or you’d just bolt off the set. You’d be like, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t hold it anymore. I’m just going to lose it.” So it was fun.
CraveOnline: So what was the lost subplot of What About Bob?
Andrew Bowen: Oh, Kathryn Erbe who plays Richard Dreyfus’s daughter in the movie, when Bill comes to town, he helps Ziggy get over his fear of diving. And there was a subplot where Kathryn had this fear of talking to boys and she’d met this guy, George Stark, who was me, and we had this little thing going on but she was afraid to talk to me. So Bill had helped her get over her fear of boys, so that was the subplot that you missed in What About Bob?.