Some people recognize Todd Stashwick as the actor who played small parts in dozens of popular movies and TV shows, everything from "Heroes" to "You, Me and Dupree."
Others know him as "the guy who interrupts people while they're eating" in the Maxwell House coffee TV commercials.
Starring ... Todd StashwickMovies or TV shows where you might recognize Todd Stashwick:
Ÿ Played Sandy Goldman, the president of NBC, for the Seinfeld reunion shows on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Ÿ Played a security officer in the movie "Along Came Polly"
Ÿ Plays Ash Murphy on "Justified" on FX
Ÿ Played Dale Malloy on "The Riches" on FOX
Ÿ Played Eli on "Heroes" on NBC
Ÿ Played Tony in the movie "You, Me and Dupree"
Around here, people think of Stashwick as the Hanover Park kid who performed Muppet shows out of his family's garage, did fake French accents with his best friend Oliver Oertel while working at the Woodfield movie theaters, and worked his way up the ladder with local improv and sketch comedy groups before eventually making it to Hollywood.
"I'm 43 ... and I still feel like I'm just getting warmed up," Stashwick said during a recent phone interview from his Los Angeles home.
One project now heating up is a sci-fi comedy movie he and Oertel wrote called "Ray Saves the Planet," which they hope to film in the suburbs.
Stashwick didn't want to divulge too many details about the plot but described the movie as "a romantic comedy with alien invasions" that's a mix between "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Shaun of the Dead" ("a very popular film among the geek set," he says).
"If there are any local filmmakers or producers who are interested in making a homegrown project, have them call me," he said.
Oertel, who is still Stashwick's best friend, is also now his writing partner.
"There's been so much bashing of the suburbs in movies. This is a project that celebrates the suburbs," Oertel said. "And I'm hoping we can close off a section of Barrington Road and do a car chase."
Stashwick's certainly paid his dues to get to this point in his career. Growing up in Hanover Park, he remembers wanting to be Bill Murray in "Ghostbusters."
"I was not a sports kid. So in order to get attention from the ladies, I had to be a funny kid," he said.
He started appearing in shows at Hoffman Estates High School, including a "Back to the Future" parody for the annual variety show. The head of the drama program, Kathy Wandro, quickly became a fan and mentor.
"I'm sitting here working as an actor today because of the encouragement I received from Kathy Wandro," Stashwick said, adding that he also had the full support of his parents.
Figuring it best to pursue a serious career, Stashwick enrolled at Loyola University but then dropped out midway through his sophomore year to return to acting and comedy.
"Rejection is the hard part ... but it would have been harder to look in the mirror each day and think, 'I didn't go for it,'" he said.
He did go for it full-force, submerging himself in the world of improv comedy, starting with classes at the Second City troupe in Rolling Meadows, working any odd job they offered, including ticket-taker. While there, he'd study the performers, using what he learned to improve his onstage performances.
"I remember watching a young, upstart actor named Steve Carrell," he said.
Soon he earned a spot at Second City Chicago, where he worked with legends like Del Close and others, eventually moving to New York and then L.A., where his acting career quickly took flight.
Besides acting, Stashwick writes "devil Inside," an online comic book at toddstashwick.com. And he also returns to the suburbs regularly.
"Every time he comes home, the first thing he does is send out an email to his old high school friends that says, 'OK, who wants to get together?'" Oertel said. "He's pretty much the same guy he's always been. He's just more recognizable now."
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people in showbiz. If you know of someone we should profile, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.