YEM Interview: David Lautman shares how to get started on commercials based on his experience

David Lautman is an actor. David has done alot of commercial acting. He has been in 100+ commercials, and is the new spokesperson in a National Commercial Campaign for CARGURUS. YEM was able to speak with David about his commercial acting, his biggest motivators, and upcoming work he has coming up.

Young Entertainment Mag: How excited are you to be the new spokesperson in a National Commercial Campaign for CARGURUS?

David Lautman: How excited am I? I’m insanely excited! (laughs) Shooting CarGurus has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I can’t go into a ton of detail because of NDA’s but I can say that there were a lot of scripts and technical jargon to memorize and not a lot of time to do it in! Oh and no safety net of a teleprompter to fall back on either. But the essence of the character was and is something that I understand intimately. I was always interested in tech as a kid, I found it fascinating, alluring, I loved exploring, tinkering and trying to figure out how things work. I remember dismantling VCR decks, televisions, radios and computers as a kid – just to see how they work, maybe fix a bug or two and then try and put them back together again. So it was of no surprise when I found myself in the position of helping to explain all manner of technology from electronic devices to applications in simple, easy to digest directions for friends and family. And ultimately that’s who the CarGuru is, he’s a guy that’s trying his best to simplify the overly complex car buying & selling processes to help as many customers as he can.

I think a perfect example of this is a spot called “Home Office”, in which I literally drive into a woman’s living room – played by a wonderful, talented actor and friend of mine Amy Argyle. She asks “How do I know this car is a great deal?” to which I reply “Because CarGurus algorithm analyzes non-uniform data sets cross referenced with API parameters” to which she says “Your funny”. Now we did another take where she instead replies “I speak English!”; and I think that line perfectly sums up the struggle. People want an easy and frictionless experience in an industry that has a tendency of becoming complicated and tricky to manage very quickly. They do not want to decipher a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo, or read a dissertation on computer algorithms. People want an intuitive, clean and simple UI and the CarGuru locks right into that – breaking down how the site works in easy to digest bites, without missing a beat.

YEM: You’ve been in 100+ commercials with more coming; how did you get started in commercials?

David: That’s right! Well my first commercial was for XBOX & Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I played ‘Pete’, a guy attending a Gamer’s Anonymous meeting in the hopes of curing his addiction but instead he inadvertently gets all the other gamers hyped and excited to play the game. (link) Shout out Dustin Blackburn Casting, Mitch Cohen and Trailer Park for casting me in what was my first real commercial, I had only done spec spots before – but that doesn’t really count.

What really started my commercial acting journey was my training in the College theater department, that’s where we worked on classics and contemporary pieces. I had many great coaches, teachers, friends, colleagues and acquaintances along the way that helped guide me, shape my path and I couldn’t have gotten this far without them. A secret I learned very early on is that people are reluctant to help you when you’re a struggling actor without representation; but if you ask for advice – everyone has advice and are generally happy to give you their opinion and sometimes they even end up helping you out anyways!

So out of college, like many actors I had a Theater background but no agent. So I hunkered down and put my nose to the grindstone. There used to be a store in Los Angeles called Samuel French, which has been permanently closed for awhile now. But back then they had what was called “the Agent Book” a pamphlet that I believe was updated monthly and listed all the talent agencies and what type of talent they were currently seeking. So my friends and I would print out stacks of headshots, staple resumes to the back, add cover letters to the front, stick them in envelopes and go around town dropping them off everywhere! agents, casting directors, managers whoever would take them and many would not (laughs). To be perfectly honest I don’t think I ever really heard back from any of these people we dropped off materials too (laughs). Needless to say I started from the very bottom of the barrel with a starter agency, whatever agency would say ‘yes’ I was willing to give them a shot as my representation. As with most things in life, we learn, improve and ‘level up’ so to speak. It took many years of hard work, dedication and commitment to the craft to get my current team and I couldn’t be happier. For those starting out, you need to remember it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon! There are very few overnight successes in this Industry, most are fifteen year overnight successes.

YEM: What’s your favorite thing about commercial acting?

David: I’d say my favorite part is the catering! (laughs) just kidding, although as a self proclaimed foodie I do have to mention that the food is normally phenomenal on commercial sets. But to answer your question, my favorite thing is when you’re performing and you find yourself in ‘the pocket’ you’re just completely locked-into the scene and your scene partner and the world kinda melts away as your focus is just on existing in the reality of the character you’re portraying in these special set of given circumstances. I can almost relate it to surfing when you get barreled or tubed, it’s a very raw and surreal experience that most surfers, me included – characterize as “becoming one with the board and wave”. I know a super weird analogy, I apologize (laughs) but I think on some level it tracks, maybe. (laughs)

YEM: You’ve also co-starred in a few TV shows; what were those experiences like?

David: Sometimes I feel like I run out of words and find myself using the same phrases to describe my feelings about the experiences. Because each and every one of them has genuinely been an absolute blast to film. And I always go in feeling incredibly humbled, honored and grateful at the opportunity. Every role gives me, my friends, family and team so much joy and excitement.

With that said they’ve ALL been extremely different! (laughs) And the acting styles and tones have varied tremendously. For example you can’t perform on a drama the same way you would on a sitcom or soap. But the basics are still there, you need to hit your marks, know your lines, framing, character and make strong choices on the material.

So far one of my favorite TV shows to film was an episode of ‘Hunters’ on Amazon Prime. The show stars Al Pacino and Logan Lerman as the leaders of a diverse band of Nazi hunters in 1977 New York City. Growing up, my dad used to tell us countless stories of how his older brother and parents meracioulsly escaped death and survived the holocaust. In fact my dad was born in a displaced persons camp at the end of the holocaust in Germany.

So needless to say I grew up watching countless movies, shows and documentaries about it with my family. In fact my father used to volunteer at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and recruited my brother and I to help put Holocaust survivors on film for the Museum. So having the opportunity to play a man fighting for his life to save other Jews in the Holocaust was a big deal for me on a very personal level. In some ways I wished I could have really been there to fight for my people like my character ‘Abraham’, but in other ways I’m glad I didn’t have to live through the unfathomable horrors of those days.

With that said, I have quite a few experiences from that set that I will never forget, that have been burned into my memory. The first one is from my first day on set as I drove onto the lot and was waiting to be cleared by the security checkpoint when a group of extras dressed as SS Nazi soldiers for the show walked past and before I could even register what was happening I was overcome with a sense of fear, terror and hate. The next was when I walked onto our set piece for the first time and came face to face with a framed photograph of Adolf Hitler hung above a fireplace in what looked like an ordinary 1943 era home in Germany. This was a face I had only seen in books, movies, documentaries and media but had never seen in person, casually framed above someone’s fireplace. The juxtaposition was absolutely haunting and horrifying to see. I truly felt transported to 1943 Nazi Germany, like I was abruptly swept up and dropped off into a Nazi family’s home, who could arrive at any second and call the Einsatzgruppen, it was spine-chilling. Now the rest of the experiences we had on set I can’t talk about as it would give away the plot of the episode. In fact I may have said too much already as it hasn’t aired yet but keep your ears peeled for Season 2 Episode 7.

YEM: Do you still participate in theater or plan to again?

David: Absolutely there is NOTHING like performing to a live audience. To date performing to a packed house and hearing hundreds of people having a visceral reaction to your performance in real-time is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had as a performer. I did about a hundred performances of a show called ‘Pulp Shakespeare’ which was Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ as if told by William Shakespeare. There were certain moments of the show that without fail, every single night produced uproarious laughter and truthfully it was exhilarating (laughs).

It is so weird to say this out loud but “I used to have” an improv comedy team that did live shows regularly all over Los Angeles; from small indie/underground shows, comedy festivals to a mainstage slot at iO West in Hollywood. We were rehearsing and performing together for almost a decade before we took a ‘hiatus’ due to the COVID shutdowns and the uncertainty of how it would affect the comedy scene. We truthfully thought nothing would stop us from our weekly rehearsals and doing shows, none of us could have predicted a pandemic would be the thing to shut us down. But I’m hopeful we’ll resurrect the team soon, one of my buddies Juanito Velasco who is an amazing improviser and teacher actually just reached out to me about doing a reunion show – so we’ll see. So hopefully by the time this article comes out we’ll be back on stage and performing as a team again – as long as COVID is okay with it (laughs).

YEM: Do you have a preference when it comes to TV/commercials/ or theater?

David: That’s an interesting question, because the acting styles between those platforms are huge. Truthfully I really, really enjoy commercials, I actually used to have a production company with my brother Shimmy in which the two of us made commercials. Now my brother is an extraordinarily talented event photographer/cinematographer with an ‘all-star’ team of pros beside him, but years ago we were making cable television commercials for local businesses and then started getting work for more globally recognized brands like; Nestlé, IAMS, Barbie and BetterHelp. So while I have a soft spot for commercials, I always love exploring and getting to play in Television, Film and Theater.

YEM: What has it been like being on ‘ANGELYNE’ opposite Emmy Rossum?

David: First off Emmy Rossum is COMPLETELY unrecognizable underneath her costume, makeup, hair, and prosthetics. In between takes she mostly remained in character so to be quite honest I don’t think I ever got to meet the real Emmy! (laughs) But I did have fun hanging out with ANGELYNE for a day and she didn’t even charge me, which the real one probably would have.

You know, growing up in Los Angeles, I used to see Angelyne drive around in her little pink corvette all the time. I really didn’t know what to make of her, she’s an anomaly and I’ve brushed shoulders with her many times. But never did I think I’d act in a Peacock/NBCUniversal mini-series about her or get to audition to play her dad. Which for the record is not the role I booked.

YEM: What have you learned from TV acting?

David: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from Acting in TV is to hurry up and wait and be cool about it! (laughs). With that said, I’ve had both experiences – sometimes it’s a quick day. I just shot an episode on a show (which I can’t announce just yet) but I was filmed and wrapped within 2-3 hours of my calltime, and it would have been even faster had they not broken for lunch right after blocking the scene. And then I’ve had others where I was literally waiting in my trailer ALL DAY, getting excited and ready for my scene only to be wrapped without shooting a thing.

YEM: What or who are some of your biggest motivators?

David: Ok so my manager and another buddy of ours who’s nicknamed Movie Mike go every weekend to the movies. He got the nickname since he’s a legit cinefile and writer/filmmaker in his own right – with an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, directors, actors, etc. So the three of us watch triple features almost every single weekend and I gotta be honest there’s something really magical about going to the theater and watching a brand new release on a 65+ foot silver screen with popcorn, extra butter of course and a room full of strangers. That… honestly does it for me, (laughs) it’s a great reminder and kick in the pants of why I got into the entertainment industry. To be up on that big screen doing what I love to do!

I also should mention that seeing the masters put on beautiful, nuanced and layered performances is another source of intense motivation and inspiration. I grew up idolizing dramatic Actors like Marlon Brando, Humphrey Boggart, James Dean, Anthony Hopkins, Denzel Washington, Michael Kaine, Joaquin Phoenix, Gary Oldman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe and many more. Then you’ve got brilliant comedic Actors like Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jim Carey, Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy, Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and so many others there’s just too many to name (laughs). Google best actors of all time – I probably like all of them.

YEM: You credit your father, Ben, for getting you into acting. What does that mean to you and your dad? Have you worked with him during your career or what are some things he taught you?

David: That’s right my Dad is the consummate showman, growing up whenever we had guests or friends over he would always entertain and be the star of the show. His stories always gripped his audience and he knew how to use his voice, body and facial expressions to take people on a journey. I’ve luckily had the opportunity to see him perform many times over the years. I grew up hearing stories of what it was like living in New York, auditioning, hustling, trying to get representation, make connections and look for work as an aspiring Actor and ultimately star in ‘HAIR’ and a few other musicals on Broadway in the late 70’s. So he was always very supportive of my interest in the Arts while also encouraging me to decide for myself if it’s something I really wanted to devote my life to as he knew first hand – that for the vast majority of Actors it’s an unstable, volatile industry that’s hard to make a living in.

But I’ve been sticking with it, there’s something raw, powerful, even mystical in some ways about storytelling that has allured me from the getgo. Since the dawn of mankind we’ve been storytellers, painting scenes on cave walls and telling stories over fires. And I’m humbled to play a part in keeping that age honored tradition alive. There’s nothing more gratifying than hearing that a story I helped told, made someone’s day or had some kind of positive impact in their life. That’s the goal, entertain the world, put a smile on their face and hopefully make the world a more fun and happy place to live – even if it’s only a fraction of a percent better, I’m good.

But back to my dad for a second, there’s nobody who gets more joy out of seeing me succeed than my parents. My Dad truly understands how big of a win each Acting job is for an actor and truly celebrates each victory with glee. Both his sons, my brother and I have followed in his footsteps and he couldn’t be prouder. The other footstep being event photo/videography, which my brother does and my dad used to do years ago. The story goes that my parents hired a videographer for their own wedding who turned out to be completely inept. So my dad vowed nobody should ever have to have such a lousy wedding video as the one that was given to him – so he started his own company, worked incredibly hard and became one of the leading event videographers in Los Angeles.

As far as working with my Dad, we’ve been blessed to do a good amount of stuff together but truthfully not enough! (laughs). We’ve acted together in sketch comedy videos, short films, commercials, even scenes for our reels and each other’s auditions. But I would definitely like to do some more, in fact he’s shooting a spec pilot next month and if scheduling permits there might be a role being written for me to join him in a few scenes – so we’ll see! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it works out.

I’ve learned a lot from my Dad when it comes to acting, in fact he still coaches me to this day, especially if the scene calls for me to speak in Yiddish as he’s fluent. Actually speaking of Yiddish, when I auditioned for ANGELYNE a few of the scenes I put on tape were completely in Yiddish and my Dad was instrumental in helping me with that.

Furthermore, when I booked HUNTERS on Amazon (starring Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Josh Radnor, etc.) that was another audition where not only was he my reader but my coach and he had great suggestions that I implemented into the read. In fact my Dad actually helped dialect coach one of the other Actors when during conversation I had casually mentioned that my dad was fluent. Now with all that said about coaching, it’s probably worth mentioning that we don’t always see eye to eye on these things (laughs) in fact sometimes it seems like we disagree more often than we agree! (laughs). But ultimately after explaining ourselves and stating our case we do end up understanding each other and coming to an agreement. But sometimes it can get tumultuous, I guess we’re both passionate and strong minded guys (laughs).

YEM: What exciting work do you have coming up?

David: Well at the time of this interview I’m booked to shoot an AT&T commercial next week in Nashville, TN. I’m also ‘on avail’ to shoot another commercial and an ADR session for a third. ‘On avail’ means that it’s between you and another actor, they will generally have a 1st choice and a backup for every role and place actors ‘on avail’ until they get approvals from the agency and or the client to book. ‘ADR’ stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement, which means that there was some kind of issue with the live sound recording on set and they want me to come in and re-record my dialogue in a quiet and controlled studio environment. The way it works is the audio engineer will playback a looped scene so I can then dub over a new audio track over the old one and if done perfectly the lips will match and nobody will be the wiser. It can actually be kinda tricky to nail because it’s not just lip synching, it’s matching the same intonation, volume, emotion, energy, etc. – it’s definitely easier said than done.

YEM: What’s one of your favorite memories from the work you’ve done?

David: Gosh there are so many, in fact each and every project I’ve done has its own favorite moments. Sometimes it’s something big like the loud uproarious applause and cheers following a pitch-perfect closing night performance. Other times it’s something small like simply arriving early before anyone else and soaking in an empty theater or stage in silence; it’s almost meditative. But perhaps equally exciting is becoming friends with incredibly talented performers, artisans, filmmakers and brushing shoulders with high profile or well established artists. When I shot a commercial for Hefty, I had the pleasure of working with John Cena, we had so much fun playing off each other and I remember being super impressed with his comedic abilities. We were encouraged to improvise by Director Matt Piedmont, writer of over 100 episodes of SNL. It was definitely a career highlight improvising with John Cena in the scene and I remember quite a few times after they yelled cut the entire crew cracked up laughing.

YEM: Do you want to stick with the kind of acting you do now or continue branching out to more roles like movies etc.?

David: I’d say a little bit of both. So I definitely am really enjoying the work I’ve been blessed with. But yes, bigger roles in Movies and TV is totally the goal. There’s actually a movie I shot at the end of 2020 that isn’t yet listed on my IMDb, that I am incredibly proud of. It’s called ‘Deer Camp ‘86’ an irreverent and hilarious supernatural thriller about a vengeful ancient spirit chasing down a group of guys on a hunting trip gone wrong. I had the privilege and time of my life playing one of the leads. We shot during COVID in Ludington, MI and I could not have asked for a more fulfilling, educational, adventurous and rewarding experience. We had an amazing cast and crew filled with truly incredibly talented and sweet folks and I am so looking forward to sharing this film with the world. I played a character named ‘Egbert’ who is a well intentioned quirky young man who is coerced by his friends to join them on a hunting trip. The problem is Egbert doesn’t enjoy nature or the outdoors and is much more comfortable sipping bottled water in an office cubicle. Anyhow we had several screenings of the film in Michigan, Florida and Los Angeles and audiences had a blast. Besides being a super entertaining film it has a social message that doesn’t come across didactic or preachy. So even though it’s not out yet I do have some Movie roles that I’m incredibly proud of.

I also recently got to work with Journeyman Actor Roy B. Fegan who’s been working steadily since the early 80’s and his son Roshon Fegan, star of Disney Channel’s ‘Shake It Up’. We shot a really interesting sitcom pilot that I think has a ton of potential and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Watch David Lautman in this CarGurus commercial!