Almost a year ago I shot a commercial for CarSense. Now, I’ve shot a lot of commercials before then: Dust-off, Saladworks, Parking Wars, Best Buys, just to name a few. Some of these made the rounds on youtube, and others never saw the light of day (I’m still waiting Parking Wars!) but none of them ever ran on television. CarSense was the exception. It started simple enough. I remember on my birthday last year when my aunt called me to say that she saw me on Fox. I laughed and beamed a little inside. That’s nice I thought. My family finally has an appreciation of what I do, besides being half-naked in blackbox theaters that seat 40 people or being a nonspeaking actor, moving set pieces for musicals.
Since none of the commercials I’d shot before ever aired I figured the spot would run for a few months then go wherever Philly regional commercials go to die, Camden maybe? I had no idea that my little certified preowned car commercial would suddenly launch me into philebrity status. What started with relatives and friends texting me, suddenly turned into an almost daily onslaught of facebook wallposts, getting recognized in the post office, and construction workers high-fiving each other as I walked down the street as they’d scream, “Aren’t you the Carsense guy?”
I’d be lying if I said my ego wasn’t boosted a bit. After three years of working as an actor in Philadelphia I was being recognized not by the theater cognoscenti but by everyday people. When I went to the doctor’s office to have a meeting about my oral surgery, the hygienist proclaimed, “You’re on TV!” and when I told her that I was the guy from the Carsense commercial, she proceeded to bring in the entire office while everyone asked me questions and stood around me while I sat in the chair. I would’ve offered to do a commercial for my periodontist in exchange for the surgery fee, but his no nonsense demeanor dissuaded me against doing so when he ushered the staff out of the room to say plainly, “Ok Michael, now let’s talk about your teeth.”
My favorite story about the Carsense spot though, comes from my improv team member Alan. He told me that he was at his fiancé’s grandmother’s house when the commercial came on. He said that the grandmom said, “Oh, I just love that commercial and I love that guy.” To which Alan said, “Oh yeah, I know him. He’s in my improv group.” The woman continued, “He reminds me so much of my old fiancé. We were supposed to be married, but I called it off. I still think about him sometimes.” The fact that I reminded an old lady of her former fiancé was hilarious. Did she feel pity in breaking my 1940s doppelganger’s heart?
Sure it’s just a car commercial, sure I don’t get a residual check every time it airs (the joys of being a nonunion actor!), but it still makes me smile when I get stopped, recognized, or asked, “don’t I know you from somewhere?” The commercial won’t air forever, but I’m enjoying my minor celebrity status in the meantime.