It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our pop culture past.
This time out we’re chatting with Trevor Lissauer, an actor best known to pop culture aficionados as Miles Goodman from the television series “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Zack from “The Skateboard Kid.” When not acting, Lissauer is letting his freak zebra fly as one half of the synth-pop duo Animal Cloud, whose debut full-length album “Beautiful Sky” is available now.
We sat down with Lissauer to discuss his time on “Sabrina,” how Animal Cloud pulls of their live show, and the possibility of winning 20 Oscars in the span of two years.
TrunkSpace: You starred on “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” in the early 2000s. Although in the grand scheme of things that wasn’t that long ago, the industry itself has changed leaps and bounds since. From an acting perspective, where have you seen the biggest change?
Lissauer: After “Sabrina” there was a writer’s strike a few years later and the only thing I noticed was… there seemed to be a lot more opportunities for actors who weren’t necessarily really well known to be in television. And then because the movie productions stopped, because of the writer’s strike… and I’m not blaming anything, I’m just saying that this is what I noticed is that, the film actors decided to start working in television when it wasn’t the norm at the time. So instead of holding an audition to find, like, “Hey, the actor for the new pilot no one has heard of, we’re just going to give it to somebody famous.” So then they started flooding all of the pilots with all of these known actors, so then there were less auditions for actors who weren’t as known as them. And now it has just become the norm, but from what I remember, and I could be totally wrong, but I feel like it’s where it all started.
TrunkSpace: It certainly gives the studios and networks a chance to better hedge their financial bets by having known commodities in their projects.
Lissauer: Exactly. It’s a smart move. I would have done that too. It’s the smart move. I don’t have a problem with any of it. In the 90s, I remember in one pilot season auditioning nonstop… so many freaking pilot auditions. And then after the writer’s strike, it was less and less. It’s just such a random occurrence, auditions. You never know.
TrunkSpace: “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” used the classic sitcom formula, which is one that isn’t as common these days.
Lissauer: They still have that type of sitcomy thing on Nickelodeon and Disney. I did a “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” last year. I played some aggravated hockey player guy. But, that was total “Sabrina” because there was no audience, but I think they have a laugh track. You rehearse the first two days and then you start filming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That’s what we did on “Sabrina.” No audience. You have a table read on Monday, then we start rehearsing and you hang out in your trailer when you’re not rehearsing or doing whatever else you want. Tuesday you do it one more time and then you have a run-through for the network execs at the end of the day on Tuesday. And then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday… you just show up on the days that you film. It’s a great job. Couldn’t ask for a better job in terms of a weekly paycheck. It was fun.
TrunkSpace: And when you were on the show, it was airing on The WB. The network itself was still sort of in the infancy stages at that time and finding an audience… certainly not where it is today.
Lissauer: Yeah. I didn’t think a whole lot about that kind of stuff at the time. I was just like, “Oh, I’m on a show. Hey look… I’m on TV! It’s Friday night and there I am.” I didn’t even watch every episode because I would go out and do things on Friday night, but when I was home, before I would go out I’d go, “Oh, there it is.” It’s kind of cool to see that.
TrunkSpace: Your character Miles never really had any arc resolution. He was sort of just written out, correct?
Lissauer: I think he went of to Rabbinical school at the end.
No, I’m kidding. Miles was Jewish and I was raised Jewish, so it wasn’t that far off. I’m not a religious person, but that’s just the home I was raised in. But yeah, he was just gone. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: What do you think happened to his character?
Lissauer: Hopefully he did not grow up to be an accountant like his dad because he hated that job in one episode… the idea of that. I don’t know where Miles would be. He had a lot of phobias, that’s for sure. I think he would be good if he went off to work for some paranormal investigation group. I think that would have made him extremely happy.
TrunkSpace: Maybe he went on to do his own “Ghost Hunters” TV show?
Lissauer: Ghost hunters who also investigate the JFK cover-up. I think he would be in heaven. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: A lot of times actors will say that appearing on an established show, particularly sitcoms, can be both a blessing and a curse. Was “Sabrina” that kind of experience for you?
Lissauer: Oh, it was a curse like no other. (Laughter) No. Not at all! It was a job. I don’t think about that stuff. I think people might limit me or put me in a box… I don’t know about it if that’s the case and I don’t care if they do because I usually end up getting all the jobs that I’m meant to get. Maybe it’s an airy-fairy way of looking at it, but I don’t have much control over it, so I just take what comes my way. I guess I audition for characters sometimes that are similar. Maybe they’ve seen me and they’re like, “He plays a neurotic intense guy,” but I’ve played a lot of different types of characters. Like the character on “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn,” which I think I’m going to be nominated for a Golden Globe for. I’m kidding. That was a really mean jerk hockey player. I mean, I don’t know… why did I get that part? I don’t know. It’s nothing like I am in real life.
TrunkSpace: Your band Animal Cloud recently released a new album. Is the band your main focus or do you try to keep an even balance between music and acting?
Lissauer: Well, it’s kind of whatever is in front of me. If I have an audition, I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got to work on my audition.” The way we make music… it’s not like this thing that takes up so much of our time. That album, we put it out on Valentine’s Day this year, and we’ve been working on it for two years because we were originally only going to do seven songs and then it turned into 12. The way we write, he’ll (Keith Tenenbaum) send me some music and I’ll put vocals to it and send it back to him. Or I’ll send him some vocals or a very simple melody, like just on a piano, and then he sends me back that melody completely orchestrated and then I redo all my vocals. So, we don’t always have to be together and drive back and forth and do stuff. It’s all digital now. For recording, we just record.
My main focus would be acting because that’s what I’ve been doing for so long. Music is a little more difficult. We’ve had songs on “Nip/Tuck,” “Party of Five,” “Felicity,” and a lot of independent films. That’s just like a little bit of money here and there, but we basically do the music for fun. But, if it turned into something, then yeah, that would be great.
TrunkSpace: You guys take your music to the stage and play out live, which must not be easy to pull off?
Lissauer: We definitely play live and that’s where the whole thing with the animal masks and the little jumpsuits… or not our “little” jumpsuits… our JUMPSUITS came from. The first time we ever played it was just jeans and T-shirts and a little party for fun. And then we went, “If we’re going to play out, how are we going to do this?” So, when we play live, we also have backing tracks. So Keith will have his drum kit and then his keyboard to the left of him and his laptop and everything is run into the house speakers. He’s got backing tracks, he has to wear headphones to hear his metronome playing so that he plays to the time and we all keep in time together, and then he plays keys and drums at the same time while the backing tracks are going. And then I’m playing keys or guitar or just singing and then I have a computer voice that speaks to the audience between each song. It says something funny and it always ends with, “We like you.” Like one of the ridiculous things that I might say is, “Did you know it would take 30 servings of foods high in fiber to match the fiber content of just one Animal Cloud band. We like you.” So, as we’re getting ready for the next song, we’re making them laugh.
TrunkSpace: What were your goals with the album itself?
Lissauer: We just made the album just to do it. We have two EPs that came out earlier on iTunes. We got to work with this guy Brad Smith. He was the bass player and main songwriter of the band Blind Melon and he wrote their big hit “No Rain,” so that was pretty cool. He’s a friend of ours now through almost two years of recordings, so that was fun.
TrunkSpace: What a great songwriting springboard to have someone in the room who wrote a song that has had such a lasting impact on pop culture.
Lissauer: It’s always an interesting feeling to even think about it even today right now. It’s that same thing for acting. When I moved out here when I was 18, my very first acting job was a HIGHLY-PRAISED film called “The Skateboard Kid.” That’s a joke, by the way. You should go to YouTube and you should watch the trailer because it’s hysterical. The skateboard is the voice of Dom DeLuise. Tim Busfield played my father and I grew up knowing Tim because he played Poindexter in “Revenge of the Nerds” and I was like, “This guy’s playing my dad now!” I used to watch him on “Trapper John M.D.” But that’s been my whole career… working with people that I grew up watching. It’s always interesting. When I moved out here, my life became very interesting… the nondescript word for, I don’t know what.
TrunkSpace: So what’s the ultimate goal as you look towards the future? What would you like to be talking about if we sat down again in two years?
Lissauer: I won 20 Oscars. 20 Oscars and no less. I’ll be a failure if it’s 19! (Laughter) The goal is to always be happy with whatever I’m doing and feel fulfilled with however big or small the job is or the experience I’m having. That’s my daily goal. I try not to think so much, but, if I had my druthers two years from now, I’ll have a steady gig on a TV show that I myself would enjoy watching and working with some good people. And if I was able to do some films of the same caliber, that would be fantastic.
What are we in right now? April 2017? So by April 2019… I’m on a show, got some movies going on, some cool stuff has happened with the product that Animal Cloud put out, and I got a nice gal at my side. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: And don’t forget the 20 Oscars.
Lissauer: And 20 Oscars! All for Production Design. (Laughter)
Purchase Animal Cloud’s “Beautiful Sky” here.
Learn more about Lissauer and Animal Cloud here.
The latest music video from Animal Cloud.
And because Lissauer dared us to watch it, here’s The Skateboard Kid trailer!