Actor Andrew Searles talks creating a character in film Sharkboy

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Actor Andrew Searles

Andrew Searles is funny, there is no doubt about it. The actor and stand-up comedian knows how to deliver a line and leave audiences in stiches. He is known across his home country of Canada for his comedic talents, and whether on stage or screen, he captivates audiences.

When working on the film Sharkboy, Searles’ natural comedic talents shine through. He plays Sundown, a character who was created after the film was written, specifically for him. The role required a lot of improvising, and natural comedic talents. Luckily, that is Searles’ specialty.

“I really had fun and enjoyed playing the character of Sundown. The character was not originally part of the script, but the director liked me so much that he wrote me into the script as one of the gang members. I was instructed, because I originally didn’t have any written lines, to improvise and go along with the scene. As a result, I would often repeat the last word said by anyone in the scene, for comedic effect,” said Searles.

Sharkboy tells the story of Francis, a half-man, half-shark, and the events surrounding his arrival at a new high school. The “Sharkboy” has a difficult time adapting to the high school, as he is bullied by Scott and his gang. Scott’s girlfriend is caught by the eye of Sharkboy, but not before Scott catches him staring, which leads to a violent altercation for Sharkboy. When Scott challenges Sharkboy to a wrestling match during their gym class, Sharkboy eats Scott, and immediately becomes not only the new leader of the gang, but the coolest kid in school. Now Sharkboy is styling and winning awards and the hearts of his fellow students, along with the heart of the newly single, Scott’s ex-girlfriend. The film is based on the myth that the band Led Zeppelin once defiled a groupie with a shark.

“From the breakdown of the film, it seemed like a type of awkward, twisted comedy, and I was eager to sign on and be a part of this, especially when they explained what the “Sharkboy” character was. I think the title alone was enough to sell me on this,” said Searles.

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Still from Sharkboy

Sundown is one of the gang members lead by the antagonist Scott. He is in almost every scene, and turns into one of Sharkboys friends. Part of what makes the character so funny is his look, which was entirely created by Searles. Sundown looks like a member of an ‘80s gang, donning a high-top, California State Trooper-style reflective sunglasses, and a box of toothpicks. Searles was inspired by the iconic character of Mr. Bean, where Rowan Atkinson created a classic icon who did not speak, but was incredibly funny.

“I felt with such a unique looking character such as mine, the less he said on screen, the more of an impact he would have, and based on the reactions of people who have seen the movie, with my characters unique look, I felt I accomplished just that. I’m very proud of myself to this day for portraying a comedic character that said so little but stood out on screen,” said Searles. “I liked the fact that I was given free will with the character. I was able to make it my own and craft it exactly how I want to do it. In most cases, an actor is given a breakdown or guidelines of what the character is, but in my case there were no restrictions or guidelines, so it felt great to really create something on my own.”

Pat Kiley, the director of the film, loved Searles’ look for the character, and he effectively named the character “Sundown” after the striking similarity to the Top Gun character of the same name.

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Still from Sharkboy.

“Andrew created his own retro style for the character and we loved his angle and his approach to the character as it fit perfectly with the story. I loved how even though his character had few to no lines in a scene, his character spoke volumes on the screen while saying so little. He ended up becoming one of the crew’s favorite characters because of his hilarious look and demeanor whenever he was on screen. Even at the film premiere, the audiences loved him too. Andrew not only brought life to a character, but he did it with so little and he brought out so much out of it. I look forward to working with him again one day. He did spectacular job and I wish him all the best in his career. He is definitely an incredible actor whose character began with nothing and made it huge and a fan favorite on screen,” said Kiley.

Creating a character for the film, which would be a challenge for many of the most seasoned actors, was a breeze for Searles. His experience in improvising and stand-up comedy made it easy to think on the spot.

“I would watch and listen attentively to the other characters lines. After a run-through and rehearsal, I would decide what I would say and when to say it, to keep the rhythm and pacing of the scene. After figuring out what I would say before the cameras started rolling, I would let the other actors know that I would be saying something at a certain point in the dialogue when nobody would say anything. Therefore, we all knew when I would come in and say my line, without stepping on another characters line,” said Searles.

Sharkboy premiered at the 2004 ‘Comedia Festival’ gala as part of the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. The film was also screened at the Austin Film Festival.

You can watch Searles as the audience favorite Sundown in Sharkboy on FunnyorDie here.

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