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Ackermaniacs Unite! Cleveland’s Ed Ackerman is Building a ‘Capital’ Acting Career

Cleveland actor Ed Ackerman
Cleveland's Ed Ackerman as one of the famous
(or infamous?) Capital One Visigoths.
Even though Cleveland native Ed Ackerman is building a successful Hollywood career, there’s a pretty good chance his name isn’t ringing any bells. That’s okay. Because as soon as I tell you he’s one of three recurring Viking characters from Capital One’s popular television campaign, you’ll immediately think, “Oh, yea, that guy!”

“My face may have arrived in your mailbox promoting Capital One, or popped up on an internet banner, inevitably annoying you and temporarily distracting you from finding out your sports teams score,” jokes Ackerman.

Then, as you learn more about Ackerman’s growing filmography, you’ll start seeing him pop up everywhere (like in Bones or Vegas or Last Man Standing). You’ll know that, sooner or later, he’ll catch fire, either in a feature film or a TV series, and you’ll be able to say, “Oh, yea, I was a fan of his before everyone became Ackermaniacs.”

If you already feel a little bit behind, no worries. We’ve got the 411 on Ackerman and how he went from local wedding deejay to Cabaret Dada regular to Capital One Visigoth alongside Alec Baldwin.

Midwest Movie Maker: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you pass your summer days?  

Ed Ackerman
Ed sporting his Cleveland colors.
Ed Ackerman (EA): I grew up in Columbia Station, Ohio, a small rural township about 40 minutes outside of Cleveland.  I grew up as, and continue to be, a huge Cleveland sports fan. Love the Browns, Indians, and Cavs. And I've been through all of the heart break we're all familiar with.  

I enjoyed playing football in high school, being a bit of a country boy, hunting waterfowl during the fall and winter months in Northeast Ohio, and making people laugh. Either with me, or at me. I probably craved too much attention as a kid.  

Midwest Movie Maker: Where'd you go to school, what did you study, what were some of your first jobs out of school?  

EA: I graduated high school in 1995 and enrolled at The University of Akron. In high school I wanted to become a radio deejay. In my second semester at Akron, I joined the WZIP-FM radio station.  It was a great experience. I take pride in being a WZIP alumni.

In college, I worked at BW3s as a doorman, as well as owned and operated my own deejay service. I deejayed school dances, weddings, and parties while in college and even for a bit after I graduated.  I found out how horrible on-air personalities were paid, so after I graduated, I started taking stand up comedy and improv comedy classes, sold cell phones for Verizon, and worked as a laborer, installing sprinkler systems.  

Midwest Movie Maker: When did the acting bug bite? What made you decide that you wanted to do this for a living?  

EA: I was essentially doing comedy on the radio while at WZIP-FM.  Doing different bits in between the music, voicing celebrity impersonations and writing jokes for entertainment news bits.  

After graduating from The University of Akron in 2000, friends of mine encouraged me to start doing stand up comedy. Get away from the radio microphone and go live in front of people.  I think at that time, even though people joked about having the face for radio, I knew I wanted to be in front of the camera, to be seen by even more people.  

I also started taking improvisational comedy classes at Cabaret Dada (now Something Dada), Cleveland's longest running improvisational comedy theater. In 2001, I became a cast member and did improv comedy shows every weekend on West 6th St.  Shortly thereafter, I got an agent and booked my first regional commercial for Safe Auto Insurance. I was hooked.  

Midwest Movie Maker: What were some of your first roles?  

EA: I arrived in Los Angeles in 2003 and after four months I – finally – found a talent agency that would represent me.  I was auditioning for commercials, television, and film roles.  

I booked the role of a singing and dancing neighbor in a DirecTV commercial for NFL Sunday Ticket. It featured Peyton Manning, Barry Sanders, and Dick Butkus.  

A month or so later, I booked a national commercial for Nokia cell phones. I essentially made up the commercial spot at my audition. I talked about missing home and having The Dukes of Hazard theme song as my cell phone ringtone, and how that ringtone reminded me of simpler times of my childhood.   I started singing along to my ringtone and Nokia decided to turn it into a 30 second commercial spot.  

Ackerman in 'The Red House.'
Around the same time, I booked a co-star role on the WB show Charmed, getting attacked by little red demon fairies and being saved by Kaley Cuoco's character. And then a role in a feature film playing a creepy registered sex offender, named Louis Kessler, in the dark crime thriller The Flock, opposite Richard Gere and Claire Danes. 

Midwest Movie Maker: What was your big break?   

EA: (Laughing) I'm still waiting for it.

Midwest Movie Maker: What would we recognize you in today? 

EA: I have friends who periodically reach out and tell me they've seen me in something or other. Usually small film or TV roles they didn't know about.  

For the last five years, I've been recurring as one of the Capital One Visigoths in the Capital One credit card and bank commercials.  My face may have arrived in your mailbox promoting Capital One, or popped up on an internet banner, inevitably annoying you and temporarily distracting you from finding out your sports teams score.

Midwest Movie Maker: When did you decide to head west - and what made you decide to head west rather than stay in the Midwest?   

EA: Shortly after I booked and shot that commercial spot for Safe Auto Insurance.  

I realized if I could book a commercial back east, then I should be able to book one out west. And more importantly, I'd have more opportunity in Los Angeles than in Cleveland.  

Leaving all my friends and family, I packed up my Ford Explorer (which I still own) in September 2003 and made the drive to L.A. I don't regret it, but I miss home.  It was one of the hardest decisions I made at that time.  I knew Los Angeles is where I needed to be, but I'm such a fan of Northeast Ohio. I still am. 

I see my comedy friends in Cleveland writing and producing their own things, and I get a little jealous that I can't partake in the fun they're having back home. My good buddy Mike Polk Jr is a perfect example of a multitalented individual who was able to have large success and not have to leave town to do so.  

Mike has made a big name for himself in the Cleveland comedy scene, and on a national level as well.  I'm extremely proud of him, and so impressed.  I brag about him constantly to friends in Los Angeles.  

Alec Baldwin and Ed Ackerman
Held aloft by Alec Baldwin.
Midwest Movie Maker: You've come back to the Midwest professionally, lately to spend a day or two on the set of Jenny's Wedding. Any other trips?  

EA: I came into town for a couple days in early November to work a day on the film Jenny's Wedding as a fireman/co-worker to Tom Wilkinson and Sam McMurray's characters in the film.  

Cleveland casting director Marcy Ronen was on top of all that. She emailed me, and asked if I'd be interested, thinking I'd be right for the role of this firefighter. I told her, any chance I get to come back and film in my hometown, absolutely.  

I put my audition on tape and sent it in. Got booked a couple days later.  

It was an awesome experience.  Tom, being an Academy Award nominated actor, and Sam, a long time character actor, both of those guys were real easy going, fun, and awesome to be around and work with.  

I also got to work with Bill Watterson, another Cleveland born actor, who now lives in Los Angeles. Bill and I became friends fast and have even gotten together since filming, to watch a Browns game together here in Los Angeles.  

Movie Maker: What advice would you give to someone starting out as a film actor. How do they land that big break?  

EA: It's hard to answer that. There is no rhyme or reason why some make it and others don't.  You not only need to be talented, but also lucky. It's a constant hustle. Every day.  

Every day you're working from square one. You keep at it, keep getting rejected, and hopefully you're what the director is looking for at some point and you book a job.  If you're really lucky, you piggy back one job into another job.

You take classes, workshops, and work on your own projects in your spare time to feel and stay relevant, but you have to be willing to put up with the constant rejection on a daily basis, and keep coming back for more.  

If you're serious about being an actor, you're going to need a part time job to pay the bills, but still have the availability and time to audition for projects. It's a delicate balancing act. It can be both rewarding and, more so, frustrating, and you really need to be in the right frame of mind to take on a profession like this. Never knowing when your next paycheck is coming.  

I second guess myself everyday. But I also know what I'm capable of. It makes me work even harder.

Midwest Movie Maker: What do you miss about the Midwest - and what would bring you back?  

EA: I recently got married this past September to my beautiful, smart, quirky, and hilarious wife, who I met here in L.A. at a friend’s barbeque a couple years back.  

She's a designer, artist and toy maker who was born in Cleveland and grew up in St. Louis. I think raising a family or retiring from acting, would bring me back to Northeast Ohio at some point.  
I would love for my future kids to have the Midwest upbringing I had.  We're good people, from the Midwest.  We're hard working.  There's four distinct seasons. I live in Los Angeles, but I still consider NEO, home.  

Midwest Movie Maker:  Final thoughts?  

EA: Lots of them, but we'd have to sit down at length over a couple of Great Lakes beers, a Panini's sandwich, and chat about the Cleveland Browns quarterback options in the 2014 draft.

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