David Moreland was born outside Albany in 1961. He always knew he wanted to be an actor and went to New York City right out of high school. There he was scared to death and went to University of Michigan in an attempt to find a more marketable profession (he was a History major). He failed, and decided to pursue acting professionally. He got a job with a Pennsylvania theater rep company called the Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble, where he worked for 11 years. He then moved to L.A. and worked as a character actor for six years, appearing in The Practice, Rude Awakening, One Hour Photo, Legally Blonde, Donnie Darko, and many other series and films. He recently brought his family back East and now resides in Ithaca.
daze: Is there a certain actor or director who really exemplifies good acting for you? Anyone who influenced your style?
David Moreland: Among actors of course Meryl Streep is just amazing. John Malcovitch, Steve Buscemi. And there are the actors who tickle me: John Laroqutte I love watching. Paul Newman is so effortless. When Olivier was alive just — that versatility.
daze: That’s really interesting, because you’re mentioning a lot of different styles. Do you think that because you’re a character actor you get more freedom to play around with different styles and methods?
DM: Onstage I certainly did, because on stage I did everything imaginable. I played women and every ethnicity. That was because there were very few actors and we were all stretched. In Hollywood it was a very different story. In Hollywood you are typecast. Casting directors and directors just instinctively pick up on a tiny little slice of the spectrum of things you might be able to do, and that’s what you do. And for me, it was the Republican from Hell, the normal but slightly uptight lawyer, administrator, someone in a position of authority. Always very uptight. Always abrasive. And always wrong. My character is always wrong. If you’re arguing a case or if you have romantic interests you’re always wrong. It’s always the good looking star of the series who’s right. In L.A., I didn’t have a terrific range of character’s. You find that little slice of a person and you just try to find as much variety and humor and complexity within that slice.
daze: I was wondering what it’s like being on the set of a TV series or a movie. We’ve all seen interviews with the stars, but what’s it like being a guest star or a supporting player on a set? What do you do with your time when you’re not on camera?
DM:People are very nice. It’s generally a very nice, warm, supporting atmosphere. Being a character actor like me, when you might work three days on a sitcom here, a week on a drama there, it’s a little like being the photo copy repair guy, who comes into an office full of people who have known each other for years. And you’re this person who comes in and you’re treated very nicely but you’re a short term visitor. You’re there to do your job and shake hands or say I know your friend who. But it’s not a place where you build long term relationships the way you would doing stage work. A stage is always a very democratic environment because you’re all working together for weeks and weeks. You get to know people in a way you generally don’t in TV and film. But it’s fun. It’s a new challenge for a stage actor because it draws on your skills but in a new way. And it’s a lot of fun hanging out with people of your own station. Some of my favorite time on the set was spent hanging out with other people who were only there for a few days. And there you do make some friendships which carry on after the show.
daze: It sounds like you miss doing stage work and being in rep.
DM: Yeah I do. But I’m so fortunate. There are so many actors who go to L.A. and work but end up where they don’t particularly like. But I was so lucky- The Practice and Seinfeld and Friends and the movies, and there was little that I did that I wouldn’t have watched on TV.
daze: Is that a good litmus test?
DM: Is was for me, but it’s not for everyone. I was very lucky. If it was something I loved, I tended to book it eventually, if not on the first audition than on the second an the projects I didn’t care for weren’t the ones I worked on.
daze: I know you played recurring characters on The Practice, and Becker-
DM: Well yeah, I was also on the Showtime series Rude Awakening for 12 episodes. It was a great show with Sheryl Fenn and Lynn Redgrave. I’m sorry, you were leading to a question.
daze: I was, but now I have another one. Did you ever look up and go ‘oh my God, I’m working with Lynn Redgrave?’
DM: She was so nice. Just an extraordinary actress but unpretentious as a person could be. And you could chat with her about your cat or her goats (which she raised and loved talking about). Very approachable. Yes, a part of you is going ‘oh my God I’m working with Lynn Redgrave or Drew Barrymore or Robin Williams and you’re just beside yourself. But then you work past it, because it’s a rare actor who regardless of state, doesn’t love being around other actors.
daze: I saw that you’ve played one historical character — Roy Cohn on the X-Files. Did you approach that role differently than others? Did you do research?
DM: There’s a great video store in north Hollywood called Eddie Brant’s, where I went and got some documentaries of the McCarthy era and got to see some of Roy Cohn. Of course I’d known about him — I studied American history at U Mich. So I knew about him and I’d seen Angels in America. But that was played quite differently than they wanted me to play him for X-Files. The actor who played him was a very big ball of energy and as I was directed, a very small frightening, contained, controlled man. So I did some prep, but not before I auditioned. I was cast and I was so flattered because they knew I didn’t look like Roy Cohn. And the X-Files would always hire the best actor. They’ll also bring back actors to play different characters.
daze: Of the movies you’ve been in, what was your best experience?
DM: Donnie Darko was wonderful. Everyone who’d read the script was so excited about it. And the director, Richard Kelly, was 24 years-old. He was so capable and the screenplay was so funny and spooky and smart. It kept me working for a couple weeks and I got to pal around with people. Just by virtue of working on a project longer, it always becomes more fun, because you have time to get to know people.
daze: Are you living in Ithaca now permanently? What are you doing right now?
DM: I’m not working on stage right now. One of the reasons we chose Ithaca is because it has so many things you normally don’t find outside of a large city. I am teaching, offering a class in late March targeted to theater students at Cornell and IC. It’s called Marketing and Auditioning Skills for the TV and Film Actor. I did coaching in L.A. And I always heard, in college I got wonderful training in craft, but not in the business of how to be an actor. Especially about la. Often young actors don’t have any training in the marketing you have to do. The competition is so fierce. Even as someone who’s making a comfortable middle class living off of it, I was always having to be aware of how I had to promote myself.
Archived article by Erica Stein