Todd Wilkerson is the type of guy that's everywhere. He's on TV, Radio, YouTube, Instagram, well you get the idea. Enjoy this look into the past, present and future of this creative genius.
You’re a man of many talents with skills in visual and performing arts, which one did you discover first? What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
Well, first of all, thank you. I discovered the visual talent when I was very young. Like most dudes I liked drawing Star Wars characters. I would draw my own to add to the Star Wars universe. I remember definitely improving upon the AT-AT Walker because as we all know there’s some huge design flaws in the Walker. :) The performing talent I didn't start exploring until close to my mid twenties. I just didn't grow up in the kind of environment where I was exposed to the performance world.
As a young kid I remember what I really wanted to be when I grew up was an Actuary. Yeah, I was really into statistics and financial theory…and...no not really. I honestly don’t remember what I wanted to be. By the time I was old enough to think about it all I ever wanted to be was an NBA player, but for some reason my year and a half of playing Division 3 college basketball didn’t lead to being a professional ball player.
Originally you went to Bible college, then art school, then got into acting, tell us about that time in your life when you were trying to figure out what to do.
Yeah, it was a real sexy time in my life:) I would actually use that line when I was single and trying to meet girls, "Hey beautiful my name is Todd. I went to Bible college, then art school, then got into acting, but enough about me. Tell me about you, babe." Surprisingly, it never got me anywhere. Yeah, it still cracks me up that I actually went to Bible college. Ministry was the family business, though, and at the time felt it was expected of me to join it so I went to Bible college. It wasn't until after I graduated that I began going through that self exploration time you typically go through in college where you're exposing yourself to new things and trying on career choices to see which ones fit. I ended up going to art school for a year, but I also began exploring performing as well. It was really drawing/cartooning that lead to acting. In art school I loved creating characters and exploring how to tell a story in a funny way. I enjoyed performing for the same reasons. At the time I really enjoyed the social aspect of performing more than I did sitting alone at my drawing table for 8 hours a day. Making people laugh was always something I loved doing so I headed down the comedic acting path full-time. I immersed myself in improv and sketch comedy while also taking acting classes.
You played the “Burger King” for 6 years, how did you get that gig? What was that like? I assume you couldn’t see anything wearing that plastic head.
Again...another sexy time in my life. My only regret is I was married when I got the King gig. I never got the chance to use my fake royal fame to meet girls, "Hey beautiful. My name is Todd and I'm a Royal. You probably don't recognize me without my robe, gown and white tights, but I'm the Burger King king. You wanna get with me?" :) I got the gig in New York actually. I was auditioning a lot for commercials. There really wasn't much information at the first audition. The way the casting director described the king character made it seem like there would be an outfit/suit and the actors face would be part of it. Much like a Fruit of the Loom guy. I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. Then at the callback when I got into the room to audition I was handed a foam 'Lucy' from Peanuts head to put on and asked to improvise being "regal". I did my best regal improvising and then took the Lucy head off and asked if they needed to see my expressions at all. It was still not explained what this was. They said no it's all about the head (which wasn't finished yet...thus the 'Lucy' stand in). Then it dawned on me that this was a mascot audition essentially. I left the audition a bit surly feeling I had wasted my time. The next day my agent called to say I booked it. I told him what it was and I was a little apprehensive until he mentioned it paid principal rates with residuals on usage, etc. Then I was VERY happy to give them my regal mascot skills. I remember after I shot it, which was just a weird experience, my wife asked how I thought it was going to turn out. I said, "Well, it could be the dumbest thing we've ever seen and we don't ever tell anyone it's me as the king...Or it could be fun, interesting and odd. Either way, we don't ever tell anyone it was me as the king.” The spot was basically a guy wakes up to see the King lying in his bed staring at him and then the king hands him a breakfast sandwich. Initially, it was just supposed to be the one commercial, but the advertisers were getting a lot of press, good and bad, so decided to do just 2 more and that would be it. Cut to 6 years later and over 70 commercials. The first few spots they really played up the creepy mascot angle. It was more of an ironic take on the fast food icon, but then it became your traditional icon and the King was just there in later spots. It was a fun gig, though. While not all that creatively satisfying, I worked my hardest to have fun with it. Other than the commercials I did appearances as well. Again, not the most creatively satisfying, but I got a chance to travel to 7 different countries, throw out first pitches at MLB games, ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was on the Tonight Show a bunch of times...all while wearing tights. I mean who can say that!? Baryshnikov maybe?
And, yes, I COULD see out of the head, but just through the king's mouth.
You’ve done some great work, what has been your favorite acting job so far?
I can't really single one out. My favorite times performing, though, are when it's live. Doing theater, sketch and improv in front of live audiences is performing at it's purest. Improv, when it's clicking, is very satisfying. Letting creativity take over and just happen. Drawing can be very similar. Some of the most fun I have doodling are when it's improvised drawing. Starting with a germ of an idea or thought and just seeing where it takes you.
You seem like you do a lot of things to earn money, what is a typical day/week/month like for you?
Yeah, that's not really by design, but necessity. I’ve mostly made my living as an actor doing commercial work and that industry started changing a few years ago with the rise of digital advertising and non-union commercials. These days one can work just as much as ever, but not get paid as much. Seeing how this was happening and since I have a house, two kids and one wife I decided I needed a job job as well. I work as an account executive (sales) in the merchant service industry setting up businesses with their credit card acceptanzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, fell asleep there:) The job allows me the flexibility to audition and work when I get it. So in any given month I work almost full-time in my big boy job, I audition, I shoot something when it comes up and I take some time to get my own thing going. I have a sketch comedy group called Dad Dudes. We create funny video content from a dad's perspective. We've had a couple of our videos go viral. Our tagline is; "We're dads first...dudes second. Finding humor in kids, careers, and colonoscopies." Along with that I try to find time to draw as I really would like to take the time to create something. I have begun to have just as much of a passion to draw as I do to perform.
How did you start getting back into drawing?
I hadn't drawn on a regular basis for over 20 years. Then I became the middle man in connecting someone with a friend of mine who's a New Yorker cartoonist about doing some commissioned work. My friend wasn’t available to do it so I gave it a shot. To be honest, I didn't know if I could do it, but I took a risk. Turns out I could do it and the client was happy. It was through that experience that I got the drawing bug again.
How has carrying a Sketch Wallet helped with your art goals?
Not having drawn much in the last 20 years I just need regular practice of getting what it’s in my head onto the paper. As you say and a lot of other artists I admire say, you have to be drawing every day. I’m not there yet. I just don’t have the time. However, carrying the sketch wallet has helped tremendously in squeezing in some more time here and there. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. It’s just so convenient to reach into my back pocket to get my sketch wallet and start drawing. I can sketch while waiting for my daughters at dance class or while in the bathroom or while driving or while on my unicycle. Really anywhere. Actually, I’m kidding. I would never draw while on my unicycle. It’s too dangerous. Seriously, it’s really been a good thing for me. Most of my drawings in my sketch wallet are bad, but bad in a good way as I’m working out getting what’s in my head on paper.
Do you have any current or future projects that you’re geeked out about?
Yes! On the acting side, my fellow Dad Dudes and I are potentially shooting a sketch comedy pilot this summer. Also, I just shot an episode of the Jim Gaffigan Show (TV Land) that’ll be out later this summer.
On the drawing side, I’d love to follow through on some children’s book ideas I have. I have some single-panel comic ideas I’d like to flesh out. Overall, on that front I'd really just like continue to find what works for me as far as drawing style, inking, color, etc. It’s been a long time so I’m pretty much a novice on a lot of the technical fronts. Photoshop is not something I’ve played around with much. So there’s a lot of time I’d like to put in to teaching myself some of these things.
I would like to add I have been thoroughly inspired by seeing some of the artists’ work you feature on Sketch Wallet’s instagram.
Please include any links or info for people to contact or follow you.
instagram is @t_wizzle (because Todd Wilkerson was taken)
My actor website is www.toddwilkersononline.com
DadDudes comedy can be found on Youtube = https://www.youtube.com/user/DudeDayFilms
And this might not be the audience for this, but for all you credit card processing needs you can email me at TWilkerson@SignatureCard.com