Readers, you know who Wayne Wilderson is. Maybe you don’t know his name, but you know his face. It’s the only part of his body you could see during his stint as the “Purple Grape” in Fruit of the Loom commercials. He was also in Washington Mutual Bank’s ads. Now his face is all over commercials for Chevrolet.
I have not been able to catch up with him when the Breck and Boston College grad comes to Minneapolis to see his parents, Frank and Ida-Lorraine Wilderson; both are psychologists, and his dad is a former veep at the U.
So we did this Q&A via e-mail. Based on how funny his answers are, I don’t know if this interview could have been better if done in person. The humor is uniquely Wayne’s.
Q You moved to L.A. with no intention of becoming a TV commercial icon, right?
A I did, but the Doughboy had already been cast.
Q You’ve achieved “That Guy” status in the commercial world. It’s a compliment and an insult. People know your face, but they don’t know your name. How do you feel about being “That Guy”?
A I LOVE being “That Guy!” “That Guy” bought me a house.
Q With “That Guy” status comes confusion in people’s minds about where they know you from. How do you handle the awkward Did-we-go-to-high-school-together inquiries?
A I usually say, “You don’t remember me, but we have a child together.”
Q Are the commercials as funny in their final versions as when you were shooting them?
A Sometimes. We usually have a great time with improv. Lots of the funny goes to the editors, also.
Q What kinds of fun stuff have you done that’s been left out of commercials?
A Got covered in saliva by a hound dog.
Q Can you be seen driving a car that is not a Chevrolet?
A I don’t understand the phrase “not a Chevrolet.”
Q How many Chevrolets do you own?
A All of them. Except the first. That’s in a museum somewhere.
Q I would love that Camaro if it got better mileage. Are you more a Camaro person or a Cruze guy (I rented one of those recently and was mighty impressed)?
A I drive my Cruze to my Camaro and then drive my Camaro to my girlfriend’s house.
Q At what age did you learn to spell Chevrolet?
A I could spell Chevrolet before I knew what a “v” was. So 2.
Q What’s the disguise you wear when you don’t want to be recognized?
A The blind guy from “Becker.” (Sorry, Alex [Désert.])
Q Have you ever been recognized traveling outside the USA?
A My girlfriend, Minnesota’s own Bonni Allen (everybody go see “Disenchanted” at the Ritz), and I recently returned from Europe. Many people recognized me. Many African-American people recognized me.
Q There’s something on YouTube that suggests you were not the original purple grape in those Fruit of the Loom commercials.
A Straight outta Denzel, yo!
Q What brand and style of underwear do you wear?
A Fruit Of The Loom! Or sometimes just fruit.
Q Do you have any celebrities who’ve become friends (and not in the way Kim Kardashian manipulatively tried to call Katie Couric a friend)?
A Abe Vigoda does my gardening.
Q Run into many Minnesotans out there?
A Yes! They’re everywhere. A bunch of us get together on Sundays to watch the Vikes. Skol!!
Q Did you find the old style of tags in underwear itchy?
A That’s why I’d always cut them off. I’ve woven two very ugly cat quilts. The quilts are ugly. Not the cats.
Q What’s the funniest comment that’s been made by some guy who’s seen you in a men’s room?
A “You gonna finish that?” I called security.
Q Am I ever going to see you when you come to Minneapolis?
A Hells to the yeah!
Interviews are edited. Contact C.J. at firstname.lastname@example.org and see her on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”