The Republican attack ad that sought out the “ 'hicky' blue collar look” for actors to play “real” West Virginians has placed a spotlight on a common practice the campaign advertising world – or, at least, what had been common practice before this story emerged.
One of the actors in that ad, Damian Muziani , told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today that the attention on his role in the ad has been good for his own business. But he expressed fear that politicians will shy away from using professional actors in future campaign commercials.
“I can't speak for all actors, but I seem to be the focal point for this hot button topic of theatrical politics. So on behalf of all actors, ‘Don't tase me, bro,’ ” Muziani told us.
“You're still looking at an item -- you're looking at a product that a candidate is trying to sell. So when you go to a drug store and buy a birthday card for your mom, your mom's not going to look at that card and say, 'Oh, I love the author of this card so much.' no. She's going to say, 'My son loves me.'”
“And that's what actors are supposed to do,” Muziani continued. “[Gov. Joe] Manchin put out a commercial, saying 'they hired Philadelphia actors to pretend to be West Virginians.' So I guess Joe Manchin would rather have real West Virginian actors ripping him on camera. Is that any better?”
Muziani told us that his outfit for the ad that wound up running – it’s since been pulled – weren’t his own clothes:
“I think the shirt was another actor’s that brought that along. It's not mine,” he said. “Not my choice for wardrobe. Not something you'll see me in out on the street. I kind of look like an overweight Grinch who stole Christmas in that ad. As far as a hick -- I can't comment. I don’t know what a hick is, really.”
Muziani also backed up the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s assertion that they had nothing to do with the criteria for finding actors for the spot. The language asking for a “hicky” look was only in the “booking sheet,” Muziani said, which was produced by an outside talent agency that was not directly hired by national Republicans.
“You have to be careful with the terminology because there's a casting call and then there's what's known as a booking sheet,” he said. “A casting call is, ‘We're looking for a certain type or we're looking for this.’ And that casting call did not have the word ‘hick’ or ‘hicky’ in it. If I remember correctly, they were looking for people who represent an area of the country in, say, Pittsburgh, Ohio, West Virginia area. But it was very vague.”
“The word 'hick' or 'hicky' showed up on what's known as a booking sheet, which is only put out after the actor is cast. So these three good buddies you see in the commercial already had the job, were already on board with their roles before getting this word 'hicky' on their booking sheet.”
Muziani didn’t share his own political views, but he did express sympathy for President Obama’s current predicament.
“On a broader scope, my opinion is I don't know if the condition of the country is such that Barack Obama would be able to fix so many things in such a short period of time. So on one hand it's easy to say, you know, I'm kind of disappointed half-way into the term. On the other hand, I have to think, I don't know who would've done better. I don't know where we would've been with someone else. I know things were bad and they're still really bad.”
“That's why getting work is very, very important for everyone – and, of course, the actor,” Muziani added.
Watch the full interview with Damian Muziani HERE.
We also checked in with ABC’s political director, Amy Walter, about the still-expanding House playing field – not good news for Democrats with three weeks to go before the midterm elections.
Watch that segment of “Top Line” HERE.