Casting is one of the most important aspects of pulling a film together. Even more so with a film like The Specimen where we follow a single character into an embarrassingly intimate situation. Let’s face it, it’s a film about a man masturbating in a public bathroom. Even though he has a noble reason, for the film to succeed the audience must sympathize with our character’s plight. Plus, our hero George, is in practically every shot of the film, so not only does he need to be like-able, but he must also be interesting to watch, believable, and ultimately funny, without trying to be funny. An actor mugging his way through this would make The Specimen just another forgettable bathroom humor movie, and we’re striving for more than that. Don’t get me wrong, we want to laugh when he makes that “oh face” 1 but it also has to feel real.
With this story unfolding in a public restroom, there’s also not a lot of dialog (men don’t typically strike up a conversation with the guy in the stall next to them), so I knew I needed a physically expressive actor. As I was writing the screenplay and refining it, I started thinking of actors I know who might be a good fit for the role. I had initially been thinking of mainly improv actors I know, who I thought could amp up the comedic possibilities, when my wife suggested our friend and actor Brian Pope.
As soon as she said it, it simply clicked. Brian has an incredibly expressive face, and an interesting look. He’s a fantastic actor, with wonderfully real comic timing. The perfect “Oh” face.
I rewrote the script with Brian in mind, and the project went from an idea kicking around in my head to my next project. After some discussion about the film, Brian generously accepted the role, and we’ve had a great collaboration ever since with his ideas directly influencing the screenplay. And his “Oh face” is hysterical.