Class Act

Bill Wise takes us to summer school

Bill Wise is one of those people you recognize from ... something. He's the Tillamook Cheese guy, the Time Warner Cable guy. You've been comically relieved by his turn as Uncle Steve in Boyhood. If you've seen him out shopping, you may have tried to get a closer look. Wise says, "I have the requisite amount of vanity as everyone else does .... [There are] people of the feminine persuasion, checking you out, and then you realize, 'Oh, she just recognizes me from the commercial.'

"We love that; we love those people."

Although Wise started out in theatre in Alabama, in "a really great space, just a beautiful, beautiful theatre," he moved to Austin in the Nineties and has been working steadily ever since. He says, "There's a real great theatre scene in this town. I know a lot of actors in this town, especially in the independent film community, but my support center: all musicians."

Wise lends his vocal talents to the Gay Sportscasters, a band with his longtime friend and songwriting partner Jeff Smith (of the Hickoids). When he's not onstage or doing voice work, Wise is appearing in films, like Andrew Bujalski's comedy Results. Of that he says, "That was a good day on set. I got to hang out with Cobie Smulders and my buddy Bujalski and a very dour Anthony Michael Hall. It was great. I said, 'I'm Bill.' He said, 'I'm Anthony.' I said, 'I got one day,' and he goes, 'Yeah? I got two.'"

A show-stealer in his smaller roles, Wise leads a talented ensemble in the new comedy web series, Master Class, co-produced by Nick Toti and Justin Wright Neufeld. It was born of a desire to collaborate again with some of the folks from Disenchanted, which, despite winning the New York Television Festival's award for best writing at the Independent Pilot Competition, didn't get past the pilot stage. (Wise and Neufeld were part of the writing team, and Toti a player.) Master Class started small, but grew to become a 10-episode series. Wise emphasizes, "You have to appreciate the folly of what we were doing, and the madness of trying to accomplish it ... If you overthink a lot of these projects, it's like, you're never going to get to be Goliath. You're always just going to be David, and after a while, you gotta get that fuckin' slingshot and that sling together and start throwing fucking rocks."

This is an ambitious and professional group, but Wise confides, "Banding together with them is the most fun I've had in ages. You can tell when you're with a project where you just get those gut laughs. Justin would have to cut for a little bit, we'd be laughing so hard." Their chemistry comes across onscreen, making it a real treat to watch.

Wise plays Tom "Tomcat" Perkins. He's the passionate but slightly inept instructor of a wildly disorganized group of wannabe actors, one of whom, Carson (Peyton Freiman), joins the class in an attempt to overcome a disabling fear of speaking in front of two or more people. Tomcat addresses him, saying, "Are you okay? 'Cause you look like four miles of damp sadness." It'll be interesting to see how this ragtag group of misfits learns from one another, if not from the instructor himself.

Don't slack off this summer: Attend class every Thursday at

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Bill Wise, Master Class, Boyhood, Results, Andrew Bujalski

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