Sam White is not a forgettable guy: Gray hair, stocky build, exceedingly friendly, with a decent-sized chunk of performing ham. He's been plying the theater trade in Madison for the last couple of decades, appearing both on and behind the stage with just about every company in town.
Despite that, White says he has enjoyed relative anonymity in the community - until recently, when the website Hulu debuted its first original scripted series, Battleground.
Filmed in Madison, the show centers on a senatorial candidate's campaign team. White is featured in a major supporting role, playing George, who is husband to the candidate (Meighan Gerachis) and, oftentimes, antagonist to Tak (Jay Hayden), the campaign manager who's the main character.
Making the series was, says White, an incredible challenge, and a lot of fun. "I had to relearn how to act on camera again," reports the Edgewood College graduate and Army and National Guard veteran.
White's résumé includes plenty of commercial work and a few feature films (he appeared in the 2012 Wisconsin Film Festival entry Into the Wake), but before landing the Battleground role, he'd been doing mostly stage work for years. Whereas theater requires a great deal of projection and exaggeration, acting for film or TV is, White explains, a much more subtle art.
Series director and executive producer J.D. Walsh, a West High graduate, worked hard to get things just right. "He really coached the scenes a lot," says White. "He kept saying, 'Okay, that's good Sam, let's dial it back - let's say that was at a five, let's go to zero.'"
White praises the cast and crew, noting their professionalism - and their ability to crank out an entire season in just eight weeks. The season finale goes live on Hulu May 8.
One of White's favorite things about the shoot was seeing out-of-town actors and crew fall in love with the city. The show filmed at familiar locations - Mickie's Dairy Bar, Electric Earth Café, the Overture Center, up and down State Street - and Battleground people explored Madison during downtime, frequenting places like the Weary Traveler and the High Noon Saloon. They even ventured all the way out to Wisconsin Dells.
"The atmosphere was amazing," White says of working on the set. "Everybody had different personalities, of course, but they were really open and fun. I could tell just by the energy and the feeling that it was gonna be a cool thing. Because everybody was really focused on their work, yet loose and having fun. As the token local guy, they were all very open to me."
White hadto relearn how to act for the camera.