Oren Skoog — a rising actor, Evanston/Skokie native and likely a familiar face — has come a long way. He’s acted in nearly 40 commercials for Comcast, AT&T, Old Navy and many other big names. He’s got an upcoming guest spot on Fox’s Bones, and he has established himself as a presence in Hollywood both commercially and on the big screen.
Transylmania is, as Skoog puts it, a “vampire action-comedy,” Heavy on humor with some light drama and action mixed in, the movie spotlights a group of college kids who, as a last resort, join the worst study abroad program they can find: a stay at Razvan University, a dreary, centuries-old castle rumored to be haunted.
The kids, much to their surprise, soon find themselves tangling with vampires returning after a 500-year sabbatical, looking to reclaim the castle as their own. Skoog, however, has the privilege of playing both sides in the film, acting as both Radu, a vampire leader, and Rusty, a “frat guy” who bears a strange resemblance to the vampire lord.
Skoog took a few minutes with North by Northwestern to discuss the film, swordplay, his commercial work and acting in general.
You’re coming from, quite literally, the same place as many of our acting students. How did you get into acting in the first place and how did you start landing roles coming out of college?
When I was growing up, I was just into sports. I just loved sports and played baseball, and I got to college, and was doing marine biology, and was studying three hours a night, and getting B-‘s in my chemistry classes, and I had an arts requirement, so I figured there would be a lot more chicks in a theatre class than in a music appreciation class or whatever, so I took it.
I got really lucky, and I had a great professor, who encouraged me to try things and really got me into acting, and he told me that I could take Theater as a major, and I finally did it and loved it and had absolutely an amazing time at UCSD. Then I graduated and I got down to L.A. and had a lot of trouble finding a theatrical agent, but had no problems finding a commercial agent, so I auditioned for a lot of commercials and did a lot of those, and kind of just got booking.
How did you land this role, that is, the one in Transylmania?
Actually, I’ve done a lot of projects [Dorm Daze 2, for example] with the Hillenbrands [the directors of Transylmania], and I was gonna go back to the Midwest, to this amazing little cabin on the lake, in Michigan, and just canoe in this big river out there, with some friends—one of them went to Northwestern, actually.
Anyway, I liked it so much there that I was gonna try to stay there for a few weeks extra, and then I got this part for this movie, and I read the part for about an hour with the Hillenbrands [who were in the area] I thought there was this real connection with these guys, and with the character, and apparently there was, because my agent called me right after and said, “You have to start in, like, 3 days, so I did, and that was kind of it.
Do you have a favorite part you’ve played?
The AT&T commercial was probably my favorite. It was good because I got to draw from all this experience, just spending all this time in Eastern Europe [for Transylmania, which was filmed in Romania] not knowing where I’m going or knowing anyone. That’s what it was about, just being stuck somewhere, like, in some other country, and not knowing what was going on. That one was really great—really fun bit.
What sets this movie apart from other comedies like, say, Euro Trip or the Harold and Kumar series?
It’s gotta be the action-y part. Those [other movies] are just kind of straight-up college comedies, you know, and I don’t think this is just a straight-up college comedy; it’s really just a vampire-action comedy that happens to have college kids in it. And these kids get into this castle because they can’t get into any other study-abroad programs, so they get to the castle and run into hunchbacks and vampires come back to try to reclaim it. There’s actually a lot of drama worked in there, too.
I played two parts in this one, which were very different, because, you know, Rusty the frat guy is running around chasing tail, but Radu [the vampire] is completely different, he’s this vampire who’s been gone for 500 years and he’s coming back to reclaim his castle. The last 30 minutes have a tremendous amount of action, too. I had to learn like three weeks worth of swordplay. So I got there and they handed me a sword that weighed like 30 pounds, and since it was Romania, it wasn’t like a stage sword, they hand me a real sword. So I was waving that around for about a week while we were shooting the action scenes, which was fun, but kind of taxing.