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Q&A: Andrew Hawtrey

Allstate's "Bergwood" discusses his new-found celebrity

Posted: Wednesday May 28, 2008 2:12PM; Updated: Wednesday May 28, 2008 2:22PM
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Andrew Hawtrey (a.k.a. -- Bergwood) spends some quality time with a member of Texas A&M security.
Andrew Hawtrey (a.k.a. -- Bergwood) spends some quality time with a member of Texas A&M security.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Hawtrey
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You know Andrew Hawtrey as the star of Allstate's successful ad campaign and the hilarious clips found at Bergwood.net. Born and raised across the street from Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, Andrew is a die-hard college football fan (when he's not playing a clumsy insurance liability on television). Bergwood sat down with SIOC's Ty Hildenbrandt to discuss everything from the audition process to uncoordinated actors in sports movies to working with "Drew" from Office Space.

SIOC: Andrew, in the Allstate commercials, your "Bergwood" character has an odd affliction for Florida State's legendary coach Bobby Bowden. In one particular ad, your character decides to abandon his car and touch a man he thinks is Coach Bowden. We all know the misfortune that ensues -- your door gets smashed off and it's not really Bowden -- but it hints at a very real emotion that college football fans experience: the impulse to engage in something remotely supportive but totally unreasonable in their team's honor. So I'll ask the obvious: If you're stopping your real life car in traffic to touch a college football icon, who is it?

Andrew Hawtrey: Hayden Fry! And let me tell you why. He is the man that brought winning to Iowa after 19 straight years of losing seasons. Three Big Ten titles, three Rose Bowl appearances and 14 bowl games. And let's not forget painting the visiting team locker rooms pink because it's a calming color and his use of plays he called "exotics". (When you say "exotics" you must use a Texas accent to get the full effect.) He is in the College Football Hall of Fame and while at SMU he was the first coach to integrate the Southeast Conference. I almost forgot about all the current and past head coaches that coach Fry had as assistant coaches or players. Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Mike Stoops (Arizona), Bill Snyder (Kansas State), Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), Dan McCarney (Iowa State), Chuck Long (San Diego State), Jim Leavitt (South Florida) and Bo Pelini (Nebraska). I would be honored to touch all of them, and if I get my chance I will!

Coach Hayden Fry is my college football God and I bow at his alter. I would be breathless if I were even able to get close enough to touch him. I am so jazzed right now talking about coach Fry so much I'm going to go kick some field goals and imagine myself being Rob Houghtlin winning the 1985 Michigan game with two seconds left on the clock.

SIOC: Be honest. With your character's propensity to drive into stationary objects, have any West Virginians inquired about you crashing your jalopy into Rich Rodriguez's living room?

AH: No, not yet. Since Rich has made his way to the Big Ten, I'm sure fans from ten new schools will want any car to go through his living room.

SIOC: Talk a bit about this role of Bergwood. What's the process for getting selected to be in a national commercial spot? At what point do you know the message has caught on? And perhaps most importantly, what's it like working with "Drew" from Office Space?

AH: (Please humor me and read this answer out loud as if you were John Clesse wearing an ascot and holding a pipe.)

Like most auditions, they begin with my agent's assistant ringing me up on my mobile phone with all the important audition information. Being an actor, I write everything down wearing scantly more than some drooping boxers and a pair of flip-flops. Next, I arrive at the casting office, and after I sign in and read the copy (lines), I spend a few minutes alone in the water closet staring into the mirror, slapping my face and chanting the phrase "time to take off your lady knickers and earn your man trousers." Then, I perform my audition with breathtaking sex appeal because that is how this bad ass rolls. Finally, sometimes I'll receive a "callback" and will audition this time for the director, producers, casting director, copy writers and ad agency producers. I will be asked to perform the audition any number of times, in any number of ways, and with any number of other actors. The director with "thank me" for coming in, and I will return to my home, strip to my under garments and wait for a call, which most of the time never comes.

As for the Allstate commercials, Bergwood.net and knowing the effect of the campaign, I use a simple scale. I count the number of times someone yells in my direction "HEY, LOOK, IT'S BOBBY BOWDEN!" At this time, I have run out of fingers and toes, ten-fold. As for working with Greg Pitts ("Drew" from Office Space) I would have to say it's like heaven. I have a crazy man crush on that beautiful blond bloke. Our workdays are filled with frivolous absurdity. He is the "ying" to my "yang."

(You may now speak with you normal accent. Unless you are Clesse and then you can remain totally freaking awesome.)

SIOC: Well, you mentioned the field goal kicking, and of course, your "Bergwood" character is said to be a 33-year old kicker-in-training. I'll shoot you straight: I've seen your performance online and you're no Nate Kaeding. However, it does look authentically terrible, and I think that's something worth noting. As an American male with a penchant for sports movies, I feel there is nothing more bothersome than actors who are cast as athletes but do not look the part. (Chelcie Ross's portrayal of Eddie Harris from Major League comes to mind) In a wild world with wicked special effects and computers that can create full-length 3-D movies, how has Hollywood not yet eliminated this problem?

AH: The simple answer is that athletes aren't actors, and actors aren't athletes. The good news for me is that no special effects exist that can help athletes act. You failed to bring up the exceptions to the rule: Kevin Costner and Jamie Foxx. Costner in both Bull Durham and Tin Cup, and Foxx in Any Given Sunday shows us that a few actors are very good athletes.

You are right. I am no Nate Kaeding, and I am by no stretch a Costner or Foxx. But I do Iike to think of myself as a surprisingly athletic actor who is good at looking bad. More than likely, I am kidding myself. I am thrilled that you think of "Bergwood" as "authentically terrible" because I have to say that during the shooting of Bergwood.net, I was asked by the director to start missing field goal attempts due to my "authentically deft" kicking. Granted , the kicks were from about 12-and-a-half yards away. When I try from 25 yards, my deftness disappears.

SIOC: Obviously, your job as an actor is to sell the part you're playing, and you certainly do a good job of that with "Bergwood." You mention your natural deftness in the kicking game, and combined with your character's crush on Coach Bowden, there's a bit of irony there. The logical next question would have to be: Has Bowden recruited you for any potentially clutch kicking situations that may lie down the road against Miami? You know, they've had a small problem with that in the past. I'm guessing you have all four years of eligibility left -- heck, did you know you can get paid on the side and still play for a USC sports team? Might wanna look into that if you're any good...

AH: I think no matter how painful it is for coach Bowden to live with the legacy of "Wide Right" it would be better than the horror of what I would certainly bring: wide short! As for getting paid playing at USC, I'll just say this: I don't want to touch that with at ten foot pole made out of money.

SIOC: Given the fact that 99.9999% of us will never achieve your level of prestige, tell me what it's like to be the celebrity of a prominent national commercial. Are any velvet ropes insurmountable for the star behind "Bergwood"?

AH: I truly do not feel like the words "prestige" and "celebrity" quite fit my life given the fact that 99.9999% of time, I'm waiting in line behind "velvet ropes" with everyone else. However, I was fortunate to go to the Allstate Sugar Bowl and BCS National Championship game this past year in New Orleans. While there, amidst all of the Georgia, Hawaii, Ohio State and LSU fans, I did get an idea of what a true celebrity's life might be like. I met hundreds of people and smiled for many pictures with people I just met. But for the most part, outside of college football fans, people look at me and see a strange looking guy with a weird beard.

SIOC: You've obviously got some affiliation with Allstate, so I'd imagine you'd be a great person to ask. I've long believed that Dennis Haysbert (formerly President David Palmer on 24) could run for actual office, merely on his fictional credentials, and potentially win an election. Please tell me there have been internal discussions about this, and if not, what can you do to make it happen? There is still time!

AH: Really?

SIOC: As an actor who's been in a popular commercial, how does your career progress from here? Hollywood, to us outsiders, seems like a proving ground in which successful roles lead to more successful roles unless, of course, you're Paris Hilton and can circumvent the entire process. How does playing a character like "Bergwood" position you for future employment?

AH: Television and film work are always my goal. Bergwood.net and it's webisodes are great for seeing more character development that you can't get in 30 seconds. I am very proud of what has been done there. I look forward to the future and enjoy working toward my goals and I hope this all helps me get there.

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