From Julias Sark on 'Alias' to his role as Dr. Frankenstein on ABC's 'Once Upon a Time', David Anders has played a multitude of strange, intense characters in a career that spans just over a decade.
David Anders could almost be considered a one man Comic-Con. Fans of cult hits like Heroes, Alias, Vampire Diaries, and 24, know him as the sinister character you love to hate. Currently he can be seen co-starring with John Stamos in the USA network's “Necessary Roughness”, a somewhat lighter turn for the 32 year old actor. This fall, he will return to the role of Dr. Frankenstein on ABC’s fantasy series Once Upon a Time. Despite his success playing dark characters, Anders would like nothing more than to create and star in a sitcom. In a recent phone conversation, he discussed his dark roles, his love of musicals and his successful career that began 11 years ago.
Where are you from originally and what inspired you to become an actor?
I’m from Grants Pass, Oregon. I always enjoyed entertaining folks, cutting up, making jokes. I quit the game of basketball when I was a sophomore in high school and did a play instead. [That’s when] I was bitten by the bug. I did plays in my school and I started doing musicals in the summer. I was happier on the stage than I ever was on the field or courts.
Early in your career you played a young Knute Rockne in Rockne: The Musical. Did you enjoy doing musical theater?
Yeah, I love musicals. That was a fun show. It was written by the guy who did Bat Boy. It had tap dancing and stuff! It premiered in South Bend, Indiana, where Notre Dame is and was well received. And that’s about where it died (laughs).
You’ve been cast as a Britisher multiple times in your acting career. Is the accent something that comes naturally to you or did you have to work hard to perfect it?
Yeah, it comes naturally. I have an ear for accents and dialects, which serves my craft.
You are kind of like a one-man Comic Con in that many of your projects have been cult favorites. Out of those types of roles, Julian Sark from Alias could be the most complex. Is he a favorite of yours?
I love that character. It’s probably my favorite character I’ve done. [And] it was the first character I played [on a TV series]. He was a misunderstood character. For every good spy there has to be a bad spy. I was just talking about it with Erica Messer, the showrunner on Criminal Minds. She wrote a part for me on Criminal Minds and she used to write for Alias. It’s always fun to talk about the old days. I was 21 years old when I started and I’m 32 now. That’s a long, long time ago.
You’ve had recurring roles on Vampire Diaries,Heroes, and 24, among other shows. Which character was the most fun to play?
Other than Sark, that character from Heroes was a lot of fun. When you get to delve into other-worldly worlds, like in Heroes, with the Samurai armor, time traveling and living forever stuff (although they did kill me), that was a lot of fun. The sci-fi world was a fun world to play in.
You played a Patient of the Week on the House episode “Nobody’s Fault”. Your character had the dubious distinction of almost mortally wounding Jesse Spencer’s Dr. Chase. What was it like guest starring on a show that had such a close-knit cast and had been around, at that point, for seven seasons?
It was just a show that was offered to me and I was like, "Sure, I’ll come be your Patient of the Week." Jesse is a buddy of mine so this gave me the opportunity to work with him, finally. It was a treat. We really went after that fight scene where I’m stabbing him. I have the war wounds to show it. I refused pads at first but after the first take I said, “Yeah, I want some pads.” My back was all gashed up. It was a lot of fun. Jesse and I are friends so joining that close-knit cast was not as imposing as it otherwise might have been.
You play Dr. Frankenstein on Once Upon a Time. Did you watch the old movies to get inspiration for your character?
Maybe Young Frankenstein! Whenever I think of Frankenstein I think of Gene Wilder and his brilliant turn in that brilliant movie. So when that part was offered and they said I was going to be Frankenstein, I said, “Sure!” It took us about a year to get into it but we got into it and it’s working out pretty well.
If you could trade places with any character on Once Upon a Time, who would it be?
I’d probably trade places with Colin [O’Donoghue]. Captain Hook’s pretty fun. I don’t know if I could do it any better than he does. He does a great job. It’s a great part that's written really well.
You recently joined the cast of USA's Necessary Roughness as Troy Cutler. Could you discuss your character and what viewers can expect from the show this season?
We’re about halfway through the televised season now. We just wrapped a couple of weeks ago for a ten episode season. Troy’s a shrewd money man agent in this agency called V3, which he runs with John Stamos. Some things are about to hit the fan, so to speak, and Troy might be implicated. It’s a fun show. It’s a lighter show than I usually play [on]. I don’t have a special ring or the Dr. Frankenstein suits. I don’t have super powers. It was fun to play this sports agent, just a regular guy. I still twirl my mustache a bit but not as much.
You’ll be guest starring on a Criminal Minds episode.
Yeah, I’m doing third episode of the season.
Can you talk a bit about your character or is that a secret?
No, not really. I’m really surprised. All the announcements have been coming out over the wire about this character. He’s kind of a cast-off from society. He was raised in boarding homes, while his sister was like the golden child. So he abducts his sister and her boyfriend, and proceeds to perform lobotomies on them. We did the read-through today. It was pretty cringe inducing. It’ll be fun because most of the bad guys I play have an element of class to them, whereas this guy is creepy and dominant in a Kevin Spacey Seven kind of way. I’m looking forward to it.
You tend to go for dark, intense roles. Do you think you would ever like to do a sitcom?
Yes, absolutely. What I wanted to do when I came here to L.A. was to do comedies. I’m developing this comedy with a couple of buddies of mine that I think has a real good shot of [making it]. I’d be the star, producer and writer, clown. When all else fails and they don’t let you do comedy, you write it yourself.