If you recognize that tall guy with blonde hair working in a local supermarket, you’re probably looking at actor John Anderson.
The double-takes are not uncommon.
You walk into the produce department at a local supermarket and are startled by the tall blonde man with the receding hairline. Who is he? Where do I know him from?
Maybe later it connects. He was one of the guys menacing the teenagers on Stranger Things. Or a scientist in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Or the “Stamp Guy in Manhunt: Unabomber.
All of the above. He’s John Anderson, actor. He has more than 20 credits on his IMDb (Internet Movie Database) listing. Some of his other roles have been in Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, The Leisure Seeker and Ozark, the TV series.
And yes, he does work in a supermarket’s produce department—with a very accommodating management.
“They all know what I’m doing. They think it’s kind of cute,” he says.
Some who have picked up on his identity come in and ask if he’s working that day or when he will be working again. The managers tend to be discreet and perhaps a bit protective. After all, he has a job to do in the store.
“I come in, and they’ll say, ‘John, your fan base was in here looking for you today.’”
A graduate of Thompson High School, Anderson at age 41 is a latecomer to a film career. What opened the door for him was his biggest role to date – one of the 10 Ravagers in Guardians of the Galaxy II.
“I was on Facebook at 2 a.m. one night. I saw this notice that they were seeking tall, skinny, ugly guys with crooked teeth, who were not claustrophobic and not allergic to latex. I said, ‘That’s me! I’m tall and skinny and ugly and have crooked teeth.’”
He sent off a resume, but didn’t hear anything. About a month later, he got a call from a casting director, asking him to come to the Atlanta Convention Center.
“I didn’t want to be late, so I got up about 4 in the morning and drove over. When I got to the Center there were about 25 of us there. By 10 a.m. there were 4,500 people for essentially 12 parts,” he said, adding that the skinny ones had a better shot at making the cut.
“They don’t want big muscle guys because in the costume they can look cartoonish. They can layer up a skinny guy,” he says.
A month later, in December 2015, still not knowing what the film would be, he was among about 200 men called back for a one-week acting school. From that group would come 10 speaking parts and 10 core background parts as Ravagers in Guardians of the Galaxy II.
He may not have had lines, but he had to be made up to look fierce, and the makeup application took time.
“In the beginning (it took) around four hours, but by the end of the shoot just under three. About an hour and some change to remove it each day,” he says.
That gig opened the door for numerous small roles in other movies and television shows. It’s a competitive field, and he learned one thing right away.
“The lady who hired me said, ‘Keep going. Don’t take anything personally. You’ve got to have that look they are looking for at that moment. Doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you,’” he recalls.
A military brat, Anderson moved around quite a bit. Then, his dad, who was working for IBM, go transferred to Alabama. Anderson spent his senior year at Thompson High School. Did his 6-8 physique make him a natural athlete?
“No. I never played basketball in my life. Colleges were hounding me. I said, ‘I don’t know how to play basketball.’ They said, ‘We’ll teach you.’ But I was very introverted and antisocial.”
He could not totally escape from sports, though.
“The jocks and other kids gathered around me, the new kid. They said, ‘Who are you, Alabama or Auburn?” I didn’t know what they were talking about. They said you had to be Alabama or Auburn, so I picked the red team,” he says.
He did become an Alabama football fan. He watches Crimson Tide football with friends on Saturday. Otherwise, it’s movies and Star Trek.
“I watch Star Trek every day. I know all of the lines. I like the Next Generation better than the original,” he says.
Anderson says he grew up as a total fanboy, loving the movies and all things Spiderman. When he was about 4 he and his brother had their picture taken with a guy in Spiderman costume. His biggest thrill so far is being in Spiderman: The Homecoming. There I was on the set with (actor) Tom Holland. I was having a conversation with Spiderman!” he says.
When he told his mother she said, “Who would have seen this coming 35 years ago?”
“I love the movies,” Anderson says. “I’m always throwing out lines to see who catches the references. My favorite movie is Blues Brothers. I would love to play Elwood. There is more music in that movie than there is in a lot of musicals.”
Although GOTG II was his big break, Anderson started out cosplay (costume role playing). He did birthday parties and other events dressed up as characters such as Batman and the Joker.
He promotes his career by appearing at two or three science fiction or comic cons every month. Selling autographed photos helps pay the bills and meeting fans adds to name recognition.
“What’s important today is not where did you go to school? It’s how many social media followers do you have?” he says.
Anderson’s career got a potentially huge boost recently when he received his Screen Actors Guild card. That offers opportunities for a lot more auditions, particularly speaking roles.
“I can become a speaking Ravager. This is like the second phase of my career,” he says.