Actor On The Rise: Jake McDorman
words by BRAD LIBERTI
photography by AMANDA ELKINS
About two and half years ago, everything changed for Jake McDorman. A native Texan, he’d moved to Hollywood at the ripe old age of 16, but after spending nearly a decade bouncing between big parts in buzzy but canceled network sitcoms (Run Of The House, Quintuplets, Are You There, Chelsea?), small roles on blockbuster primetime procedurals (House M.D., CSI: Miami, Cold Case), and even the occasional feature film spot (Aquamarine, Live Free or Die Hard), the actor found himself at a career crossroads. “I turned 25 and decided that I really wanted to feel much more in control of my work,” he recalls. “I wanted to start going after things that I’d really be excited to be a part of and promote.”
It’s not that he wasn’t proud of his résumé (which also included a four year stint on the beloved former ABC Family dramedy, Greek)… McDorman just knew that professionally, he’d only begun to scratch the surface. “I wanted to feel like I was honoring my artistic integrity and really pushing myself as an actor.” he says, explaining the calculated career redirection that would ultimately facilitate his falling in love with his craft again.
That meant veering towards edgier fare like HBO’s The Newsroom (where he played a GOP Rep) and most recently Showtime’s Shameless (where he had his heart memorably crushed by Emmy Rossum’s Fiona Gallagher last season) after engaging in some decidedly pay cable activities, of course. “When you’re (cast), they tell you, You’re on ‘Shameless’ – there is potential that any character at any given point might have to drop trou,” he recalls in typically animated fashion. “We couldn’t possibly imagine a scenario where this would apply to you, however you’re on the show and we get everybody to sign a release…”
Naturally, such a scenario occured during his very first episode… “I was so excited to be a part of the show that I was like, Oh sure, I am your meat puppet and you can treat me as such! And about a week before shooting I got a voicemail from Mark Mylod, the producer,” – and he slips into a rather effective British accent – “Hello, Jake, this is Mark Mylod, I’m calling to talk about your penis…” McDorman didn’t end up doing full frontal, but the part – nudity and all – afforded quite an unforgettable experience for the actor. “Working with that caliber of people like (Executive Producer) John Wells, Bill Macy, and Emmy, is just incredible. There’s a real sense of family and a high level of respect on that show.”
And fortunately, much of that good juju has followed McDorman to his next project, the upcoming ABC Fall comedy, Manhattan Love Story. “It’s kind of like an homage to every romantic comedy, especially ones that take place in New York,” he reveals about the much-anticipated half hour show, in which he and Analeigh Tipton play a couple navigating new love in the Big Apple, complete with all of the requisite euphoria and uncertainty that accompanies it. Unlike most other rom coms, however, Manhattan Love Story invites the audience to intimately experience the pair’s highs and lows, thanks to some decidedly personal voice-overs via the two actors. A challenge, most definitely, but one McDorman embraced as wholeheartedly as he did bearing his butt on Shameless.
“What’s cool about it is you actually get to act out the subtext of the scene,” he says. “These are your most personal thoughts that don’t have to be held accountable by anybody… Yeah, the audience can hear them, but the characters don’t know that, so this is totally private, horrible — as nerdy, frantic, or sincere as you want it to be.”
It helps that in Tipton he’s found his perfect foil, a leading lady whose apple-cheeked appeal is every bit as undeniable as his own. “It’s not hard to find really charming and enchanting aspects of her,” he admits, revealing that they have become especially close – along with everyone else in the cast – as a result of having to relocate from Los Angeles to NYC to film the comedy. “Everybody is going through this first New York experience together. We all live just a couple blocks away from each other, so it’s been really excellent. When you shoot on location, no matter what you’re doing, you’re still in the same world as the show.”
And if everything goes according to plan, it’s a world that McDorman will continue to inhabit for seasons to come, minus the occasional detour onto the big screen, like in this Christmas’s American Sniper opposite Bradley Cooper, directed by living legend, Clint Eastwood (“Everything you’ve heard about him is true. He’s a machine; he shoots fast, but it’s Clint Eastwood, you don’t show up unprepared.”), or for the upcoming comedies, Me Him Her and See You In Valhalla.
In the meantime, however, you can find the actor adjusting to life in his new city, even using a certain popular online swap and shop site – despite potentially terrifying any Lifetime movie junkie who remembers him as the titular star of the 2011 ripped from the headlines flick, The Craigslist Killer. And just in case you were worried that he’s completely distanced himself from his past, Jake McDorman is happy to share a humorous example of why that’ll never happen.
“I was in the AT&T Store not too long ago, and a little girl came up to me and asked if I was an actor and where she’d seen me. So I awkwardly started listing off my credits and she’s like no, no, no. Finally, I’m like, I don’t know what to tell you, and she walks back over to her mom. Then, about halfway through my transaction at the counter, from across the store, she just screams, Oh my God, you’re a killer! Craigslist Killer! Watch out everyone there’s a killer in here!”
photographer AMANDA ELKINS www.amandaelkins.com
stylist JULIET VO www.julietvo.com
groomer MELISSA DEZARATE at EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS for KEVIN MURPHY HAIRCARE
location and special thanks to CHAD SCHOLLMEYER at HQ AVALON STUDIOS www.hqavalonstudios.com