DOVER — Add another credit to the long list of acting jobs for Dover’s Wayne Lopez.
The Caesar Rodney High class of 1980 member was featured last week on the CBS comedy, “The Neighborhood.”
In the Monday episode, “Welcome to the Knockout,” Dave, played by Max Greenfield, nears his 40th birthday, and his neighbor, Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer), offers to coach his friend for an amateur boxing tournament.
While Dave first thinks he is fighting Javier, played by Mr. Lopez, he actually tangles with Javier’s son, nicknamed “Little Satan,” played by Ryan Klarenbach. It turns out Javier is his son’s trainer and coaches him through the big fight.
“It was a lot of fun. It’s always good, especially if they’re running for a couple years. They are in their third season, so it’s a well-oiled machine. It was a great cast and a great crew. They make you feel right at home, which is important,” said Mr. Lopez from his home in California last week.
For Mr. Lopez, who has been acting in California for 20 years, it was the 71st screen credit added to his page on the Internet Movie Database. In recent years, he has been featured on such shows as “Shameless,” “This Is Us” and “NCIS.”
A veteran of the Hollywood scene, the actor said he got the part on “The Neighborhood” through the new normal since the pandemic hit — Zoom auditions.
“You have to tape yourself and send them to casting, and then, they get back in touch with you. And if they want to see something else, they’ll bring you in for a callback. They’ll schedule it, and a lot of times, we’ll do something like Zooming it live with the casting director,” Mr. Lopez said.
“We’ve got like a little pop-up studio at the house. There have been times where I’m taping an audition, and my wife and kid are sitting there at the table eating dinner just off-screen where they can’t be seen.”
Mr. Lopez said he thinks that’s the way it will work for the foreseeable future.
“It’s here to stay I think. We started to go back to in-person auditions for a little while, but now that the virus has flared back up, we’re back to the Zoom,” he said. “You can’t blame them. Everyone wants to stay safe.”
For an actor like himself, who never knows where his next job is coming from, Zoom auditions have become a “necessary evil.”
“You have to learn to embrace it because this is what I have to do to get my next job, and I better embrace it. I better love it. And I’d better master it. And it’s interesting. When you’re in the room, people are there. They’re right across from you, and you kind of feel what’s going on in the room. You can feel the energy that’s in there. And when you’re in the zone and you’re doing your performance, you can feel it,” said Mr. Lopez, who supplements his income by working in the security department at Warner Bros. Studios.
“Now, we put this thing on camera, and you’re doing it yourself. So now, I have to be the light man. I have to set my stage. And I’ve got to be my own director, my own soundman, my own hair, my own makeup and wardrobe and make this look as professional as possible. So it’s raised the stakes now, where the casting people and producers, they’re expecting to see a really good, polished product when you send an audition.”
He said that, while filming “The Neighborhood” over six days in early December, protocols were tight.
“Usually, you go and get fitted for wardrobe about a week or so before you shoot, and we even had to go and get tested before that,” he said.
“Once I was on set, I had to get tested every day. Every morning, you had to get a COVID test. You keep your mask on before you shoot your scenes and put it right on afterward, and everyone keeps their distance. If anybody has any symptoms, they stay home. Everyone’s playing it safe. It’s a very, very delicate time, especially when you’re talking about a business that really, in this community here in Los Angeles, really thrives on the entertainment industry.”
He said an outbreak of the virus can have far-reaching effects.
“It’s not just the actors and the cameraman and the electrician. It trickles all the way down to the caterers and trickles down to the dry cleaners and the people that clean up. It’s very delicate. There’s a lot of money involved when everything has to shut down,” Mr. Lopez said.
Normally, shows such as “The Neighborhood” shoot before a live audience in one evening, but because of the pandemic, there was no audience during the December taping. It was filmed over two days because of an intricate boxing scene in which Mr. Lopez was involved.
“Even though it didn’t seem like it was that long in the finished product, it took a long time to film getting the right angles. You don’t want anybody getting hurt, so you got to make it look good. You got to make the punches look convincing and then work in the cameras. So it was all a big dance,” he said.
Mr. Lopez has acted in guest spots on other sitcoms, such as “Rules of Engagement” and “How I Met Your Mother.” But he said it’s a new experience every time.
“It doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, but I’m always the new kid on the block. And a lot of times, people go out of their way to make you feel welcome. And depending on what’s going on, sometimes you could be working on a show where they plan on blowing some things up that day. So your crew is in a different state of mind. They’re thinking about safety. They’re thinking about their work. Everybody has a job to do, and everyone’s thinking about what they’ve got to do that day. So you don’t take it personal. Everyone’s there to do a job,” he said.
For “The Neighborhood,” Mr. Lopez had the added bonus of being prominently featured in the commercials for last week’s episode, as he was shown sitting on his character’s son’s back as he was doing push-ups in the boxing ring.
“I didn’t expect that. That was unusual — for me anyway,” he said.
The episode turned out be one of “The Neighborhood’s” higher-rated of the season.
Mr. Lopez said he has nothing lined up for his next role, but he auditions anywhere from two to six times a week for various characters — all the while hoping for that big, life-changing part.
“It’s a journey. It’s a marathon. But I’ve been blessed to build up a body of work, and certainly, it helps having a good resume. I’ve built relationships with other actors but also with directors and writers and producers. It’s not a coincidence sometimes. I’ve had the same casting directors cast me in a lot of stuff. I’ve worked with the producer John Wells (of ‘ER’ and ‘Shameless’) on a lot of his shows. A lot of times that’s what decisions are made on,” he said.