Jonas Morganstein (Art, Film/Video 94) recently had the opportunity to work again with one of his childhood heroes: Michael Knight from Knight Rider, also known as fellow CalArtian David Hasselhoff aka “The Hoff.” (They had previously worked on “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout.“)
The two were on set for an infomercial parody for Pluto TV, which starred Hasselhoff (Theater 73) with Morganstein directing. In the spot, Hasselhoff performs nine different characters who try to entice viewers to the offer of free TV.
Morganstein recalls in a recent email interview that at one point during filming, Hasselhoff is clad in a hip retro ModCloth dress, wearing a wig of long curly blond locks with pink died tips and matching makeup as they are trying to figure out ways that the actor should walk and talk as this character. The director remembers Hasselhoff asking, “What on Earth am I doing?” And Morganstein’s reply? “Well, it was your idea, David.”
The original concept called for eight other actors to play various roles with Hasselhoff playing the host. But Hasselhoff had another idea: He’d take on all the roles. Morganstein’s team and the team at Pluto TV discussed the pivot and just went with the “bonkers” scenario. (Since the spot was filmed in late fall, the fewer actors would also help with COVID-19 social distancing protocols.)
“David playing all the roles added another layer to everything,” Morganstein writes in an email. “It made this spot extra bonkers and and who doesn’t need a little more ‘bonkers’ in their life?”
In between rehearsals and filming, the two CalArtians were able to reminisce about their times on campus — especially Halloween. “Yeah, we talked about the Halloween parties, and it confirmed that all the stories I heard as a student were true: That the 70s parties surpassed the 90s incarnation in terms of general epic mayhem. We both agreed on the superlative nature of our respective Halloween parties as among the best ever, although in this era of social distancing just about any party sounds epic right now,” Morganstein said.
“It helped to think back to those liberating moments and remember what it’s like to be less precious and be willing to play out of your zone.”
Morganstein says that it was an inspiration to see Hasselhoff choose a creatively risky path in taking on all the characters. “It’s easy to just do what everyone expects, what the audience expects, what our peers in the production trenches expect. Sure, sometimes ‘expected’ is a perfectly wonderful way to go, but kudos to David Hasselhoff to remind us there’s also that path less travelled.”