Have you seen the new Comedy Central show, Detroiters? It centers on Sam and Tim (Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson), two best friends who run a second rate ad agency together in Detroit. They’re not great at their job, but they’ve got a lot of heart, and one ironclad bromance happening. Their team is rounded out by rather artistic employee Tommy Pencils, played by Detroit actor Andre Belue. Andre talks about playing Tommy, his experience as a plus size male model, and how real life Detroiters are responding to the show.
In addition to acting, you also model. How did that come about? The International Fuller Woman Expo is a big event that takes place each year, and they had seen me out and about, and noticed that I dressed kind of nice. They asked me if I wanted to model in the male part of the Expo, and I said of course. It went really well, and I’ve done shows with them for three years now.
Had modeling ever been a goal for you? No. I love fashion and modeling, but I never thought it would be for me until I did it. I fell in love with it instantly. Modeling is something I want to do more of.
Tell us about your character on Detroiters, Tommy Pencils. Tommy Pencils is an assistant to Lea (Lailani Ledesma) on the show. He’s there to help out on commercial shoots, and he’s a really strange and funny guy.
How did you get involved with the show? I’ve been an extra in movies and TV shows, like The 5 Year Engagement and Detroit 187. I got a call to be an extra in the Detroiters pilot. After the pilot, I was called back and asked to be part of the show as a recurring cast member, which was something I jumped at.
Are you based in Detroit? I am.
Nice! I live in Portland, and we’ve got Portlandia. I’ve seen the pride people take in having a show based in their city. Are you seeing that with Detroiters? Everyone here is so proud of the show, and they love seeing brands like Better Made Popcorn, Chrysler, Ford, lots of things that are Detroit themed are in the show, and people love it.
It’s great to get to see a city that isn’t New York or L.A. represented on a show in a fun and more positive way. I’ve had so many people come up to me and thank us for showing Detroit in a different light. It’s fun for people to see local celebrities like newscaster Mort Crim or other actors who are actually from the city show up in episodes.
Detroit seems to be in the middle of a resurgence right now. Last year, we talked to designer Aki Choklat about how the fashion scene is growing there. Is that what you’re seeing? It’s definitely a new vibe here in Detroit. There’s a revitalization happening, and I think part of it is that the city has been down for so long, and people from other places are seeing opportunities here. They’re buying up properties that have been ignored and redoing them, adding businesses where there weren’t any before. It’s making the city come alive again.
I like how you captured my little corncob mouth and my raccoon mask and my gray, gray skin. A whole goblin face.
There’s this endearing quality to Detroiters that stands out to me. Tim and Sam are best friends, and you see this sweetness in how they interact with each other and everyone else. The scene in which your character paints the mural on the side of the van is a great example. It’s mural is slightly hideous, but Tim can tell that Tommy really tried. “I like how you captured my little corncob mouth and my raccoon mask and my gray, gray skin. A whole goblin face.” That endearing quality is intentional. The core of the story is about these two friends, how close they are, and how they interact with the world. It’s special to see this chemistry they have with each other, and you can’t help but laugh at the things they do.
You’re an actor who happens to be a bigger guy. Have you gotten any feedback, positive or negative, about that since starting the show? It’s been a great experience. People tell me how good it is to see a guy my size on the screen. It really humbles me that something like that inspires people. Your size shouldn’t hold you back from going after your dreams, and if I can show that to people, then that makes me happy.
Are you done filming Detroiters for the season? We’re done for this season, and it sounds like season two will be coming really soon.
Catch Detroiters Tuesdays at 10:30 / 9:30c on Comedy Central, or online here.