SCV NEWSMAKER OF THE WEEK:
Alexander Gould
Actor • Voice of Nemo
and Shane Botwin on Showtime's "Weeds"

Interview by Leon Worden
Signal Senior Editor

Sunday, January 21, 2007
(Television interview conducted December 18, 2006)

Signal: The big question: Is Showtime going to pick up "Weeds" for a third season?

Gould: From what we've heard, yes.

Signal: If you were going to describe "Weeds" to somebody who's never seen it, how would you describe it?

Gould: Not a kids' show, definitely. I guess I would say that the dad has died and the mom's selling drugs, and it's kind of the only way for her to get by. But it definitely doesn't show drugs in a good light. It shows pretty much all the bad things that go on when the mom sells drugs.

Signal: And it's shot here in town at Santa Clarita Studios, right?

Gould: Yes, in town.

Signal: And the locations — it looks like our valley because a lot of it is shot in Valencia and Stevenson Ranch and College of the Canyons and places like that. Do you see a lot of similarities between the fictional town of Agrestic and the Santa Clarita Valley?

Gould: Sometimes there (are) people who are kind of the same, but not really. It is, I think, overplayed a lot in "Weeds."

Signal: "Weeds" is sort of taking it to the extreme?

Gould: Sort of, yes. Taking it to the extreme.

Signal: How long have you lived in our area?

Gould: I've lived here for four years.

Signal: And you go to school?

Gould: I'm home-schooled.

Signal: You also attend classes at Congregation Beth Shalom here in Santa Clarita. What do you study there?

Gould: It's Hebrew school. I'm training for my bar mitzvah, which is next year, so I'm kind of just — I've been here for four years, and I think the very year we moved here, we joined the congregation. They're kind of like family, and we're very active in the synagogue, so it's nice to go there.

Signal: Acting is nothing new to you; looking at your credits, you're a veteran actor and you're only 12 years old. When did you start acting?

Gould: When I was 2 years old.

Signal: What was that role?

Gould: I did a couple of commercials, and I did a role on a show called "Bailey Kipper's Point of View." I think that might have been my first one. I was supposed to play the main character in a flashback, when I was 2 years old.

Signal: So somebody was flashing back, and flashing back to you.

Gould: (Yes.)

Signal: Do you remember working when you were 2?

Gould: No, not at all. The earliest memories I have was when I was 5 or maybe 6. I was on the show, "Ally McBeal." That's the earliest memory I have of doing the acting.

Signal: What was the first big thing you can look to and say, "I did that?"

Gould: I think probably "Finding Nemo."

Signal: How did you land the job as the voice of the main character, Nemo?

Gould: It's sort of a long story. I went into the audition ... and I didn't get the job yet. I go through the audition and we don't hear anything, so we're like, "OK, it's just another audition that I didn't get; it's OK." And then a year later — a year later — we got a call saying, "You remember this audition you went out for, ŒFinding Nemo'?" And we're like, "Yeah, we sort of remember that." And they're like, "They want to call you back."
    So we get to the callback; it was soon after 9/11 and we didn't want to go. So we get to the callback anyway, and there's nobody there. The person at the desk says, "Mr. Gould, we've been waiting for you," and so we're like, "OK, this is kind of weird."
    So I went in, and I was in there for over 45 minutes and I came out and then we left, and I didn't hear anything else for (about) three months. Then, three months later, we got a call saying, "He got the job."
    When we went in to start the first day, we thought I had gotten some smaller part; there were some of the smaller friends, like the other kids in the school with Nemo, some of the smaller parts. We weren't sure who I had gotten. Then we finally realized it was Nemo. And it was just really fun.

Signal: How many auditions did you go to where you didn't get a job?

Gould: I've gone to plenty of them. More than I can count, I think.

Signal: Can you do a line from "Finding Nemo" anymore?

Gould: Probably not. I don't think so.

Signal: How old were you when you were taping that?

Gould: When I ended, I was 9. When I started, I was 7.

Signal: Who did you like working with? What were the people like?

Gould: Well, everybody was great, and the director, Andrew Stanton, was an awesome director. When I was working, I actually didn't work with any of the other actors; we did all of it separately, and then they put it together when they made the film. Everybody who worked there was great, and I was able to meet everybody, and they were all really nice.

Signal: You've had experience, both before that and after that, with your face on camera. What do you like better, doing voice or having your face on camera?

Gould: There are pros and cons to both of them. With my face on camera, it's kind of interesting because I get recognized a lot after doing "Weeds." It's more fun, but it's also more work, because you have to get in wardrobe and do the props and you do 50 million different takes on different scenes.
    With the voiceover, you can come in in jeans and a T-shirt and just do the lines and you read them and you can sit down while you're doing it if you want to. Not that you don't sit down ever when you're on camera, but it's just fun. They're both sort of the same, but there are different things to both of them.

Signal: Is there anything that's harder about doing voice? Do you prepare differently?

Gould: Not really, no. I would say the only thing that's kind of hard is that there is nothing really to react off of. But that's where I think Andrew Stanton, the director on "Finding Nemo," did a great job, because he really gave me stuff to react off of, and he helped me along through that a lot. So I think, that would be the only thing that I would say is hard about that, but not too much.

Signal: And then there's all the marketing stuff, like the plush Nemo dolls and that sort of thing. What do you think of that? Do they have your voice in them?

Gould: Yes, some of them do. But it's just crazy, having all the different things. I've gone in many times to voice for different dolls and the video game and everything. It's really neat.

Signal: You have a couple of younger sisters. Do they have Nemo dolls?

Gould: Yes, they do.

Signal: You have a younger sister who acts. What is she doing now?

Gould: She does a lot of commercials. She's not really in the process of doing anything right now, but we're kind of all an acting family, so it's fun.

Signal: Obviously you are different from other kids. As you said, you go out there and people recognize you, especially from "Weeds." What is hard about your life?

Gould: I think just anything a normal kid goes through, except for sometimes I'll be hanging out with my friends or something, and somebody will come up and say, "I love you on the show," and they kind of just give me a look like, "Why do people keep bugging us about this?" But other than that, really, nothing.

Signal: Do you think of yourself as normal?

Gould: Yeah. I really do.

Signal: What do you do when you're not working? What do you do for fun?

Gould: Video games; I go outside, play with my dogs or sometimes ride a bike or go hang out with my friends.

Signal: After Nemo, you did some other voice work.

Gould: I was the voice of Bambi in "Bambi II." I thought it was really neat because we were remaking a classic.

Signal: You had a part in "Curious George," too, right?

Gould: Yeah, a little part.

Signal: Let's go back to "Weeds". The mother, played by Mary-Louise Parker, is widowed, and her business is to sell marijuana. You play Shane Botwin; you have an older brother on the show. What's his name?

Gould: The actor's name is Hunter Parrish, and the character's name is Silas.

Signal: How do you get along with him in real life?

Gould: Great. We have a great relationship. We get together often and we'll have a good time.

Signal: On the show, you've got an uncle whose stage name is Andy Botwin. He sort of fills that father-figure role?

Gould: Sort of, yes. I feel like in the show, after Uncle Andy came, it kind of made Shane not forget about his dad at all, but made him move on and let him have some sort of father figure.

Signal: Your character deals with some really personal and private issues. What is that like?

Gould: You know — it's acting.

Signal: Is there any kind of crossover in your real life? How do you keep those separate?

Gould: It's really easy. I'm on stage and I'm Shane, and then I'm offstage and I'm me.

Signal: So it's not hard at all?

Gould: Not hard. Really.

Signal: What have been some of the biggest challenges on "Weeds" for you personally? What has been hard?

Gould: Not a lot. It's been pretty easy. I think some of the emotional stuff—

Signal: With the character?

Gould: With the character. Some of the more emotional stuff is hard, and I also — I don't like going through hair and makeup every day and having my hair done and my makeup; it just gets annoying. I wish I could just go on stage and do it.

Signal: Do you have any personal opinions about pot?

Gould: Not really. Not right now, no. Not really, no.

Signal: What do you really like about your job?

Gould: Free food.

Signal: Let's hear it for craft services.

Gould: Yeah.

Signal: Is there somebody on "Weeds" whom you admire or emulate? Somebody you want to be like?

Gould: I'm not sure. It's hard to say.

Signal: Do you watch "Weeds"?

Gould: Yeah. I can watch most of it, just not some of the—

Signal: You're not allowed? Or you don't want to?

Gould: I'm not allowed to watch some of the sex scenes and stuff.

Signal: What do you like on television?

Gould: I guess, cartoons. Anything like that. What I watch is sort of limited because of my younger sisters. They can't watch a lot of stuff, so I kind of stick to Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and with them. Sometimes I'll watch "Friends" or something with my mom and dad. I like watching that kind of thing but usually can't because my sisters are watching, and I don't have my own TV or anything.

Signal: If you started acting when you were 2 years old, your career path is pretty well laid out. It might be a silly question, but what do you want to be when you grow up?

Gould: A director, and director of photography.

Signal: Do you have a camera?

Gould: I do. I like following things and I want to be a director.

Signal: What do you shoot for fun?

Gould: Sometimes I do family events, but nothing really. I've been trying to think of a script, but nothing really.

Signal: Are you thinking about going to an art school?

Gould: Yes, I am.

Signal: Do you have one in mind?

Gould: I do. I forget the name of it, though.

Signal: You recently participated in a workshop at the Canyon Theatre Guild. What do they teach there?

Gould: I've never done a play before, so they taught me how to be on stage, and how to work on stage and do that. It was just a great experience, and I did a home-school workshop. All the other kids were home-schooled as well, and I had a great time. The show was called "Aesop's Fallibles." It was a play on Aesop's Fables, and it was kind of mixed up and twisted.

Signal: The other home-schooled kids in the workshop — were they also working actors?

Gould: No. Most of them were just doing (the workshop) for fun.

Signal: How did you find the experience on stage? What's different about stage from what you do?

Gould: Well, first of all, it's really different, because you have a live audience right there and the reactions are right there. You get them instantly. Also, if you mess up, you mess up. You can't do anything about it. You might have to make something out of it or—

Signal: No second take.

Gould: Yeah. Exactly. No second take, and no editing or any of that. So, I thought it was really different. But it was a great experience and it was really fun, and I actually would really like to do it again.

Signal: It might be strange to think that if you've been acting professionally for 10 years, you'd get something out of a local acting workshop. But you feel there is something you got out of it?

Gould: Yes, there is, because before that, I didn't know what to do on stage, or have good stage presence or anything like that. And afterward, I totally know what to do now.

Signal: You feel it's something you can carry forward with you in your work?

Gould: Yes, I do. And I also had a great time. I made lots of friends there, so that was also fun.

Signal: It would be fun to see you on stage at the Canyon Theatre Guild, but they can't use working, card-carrying SAG members. You're in the Screen Actors Guild, right?

Gould: (Yes.)

Signal: What are you gearing up for now?

Gould: Probably the next season of "Weeds."

Signal: Do you remember some of the particular locations that they used around here?

Gould: We were out in Valencia a lot. There's actually a funny story that goes along with this. We used the outdoor of houses down one street (in Stevenson Ranch) for the front of our house, and finally, this street said that they didn't want us there anymore because we were there at least one, sometimes two days a week, and these people had to just sit there in their houses because they couldn't interrupt filming or anything. So finally they said, in the middle of last season, they said, "You can't be here anymore." So we were like, "Well, what do we do? We need the outside of the house."
    So they looked around, and two streets down, they found the exact same house.

Signal: So there's something good to be said for tract homes. Just like in the theme song to "Weeds" ("Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds) — "They're all made out of ticky tacky / and they all look just the same." Is that true or what?

Gould: Yeah.

Signal: What is there about Alexander Gould that people would be surprised to know?

Gould: I work with animals a lot, and I ride horses and I like my dogs. ... I think, also, that I'm just a normal kid. I'm not anything special just because I'm an actor. I'm just normal.

    See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.


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