One stand-in I really admire is Rob Tode.  I met Rob in holding for a television show a couple years ago and we really hit it off.  He’s quite a funny guy, a family man, and a person who has a tremendous amount of stories from his life.

His stand-in work has also been pretty adventuresome.  Rob agreed to an interview with Stand-In Central, and it follows below.  I hope you enjoy.

– The Editor


Rob Tode

SIC: What’s your name and what do you do?

RT: Hi, my name is Rob Tode, and… I am an alcoholic.  Wait… no… I meant to say that I am an actor-slash-stand-in.

SIC: Ha!  Who are some of the actors for whom you’ve stood in?

RT: I’ve stood in for a variety of actors from Mike Lombardi on Rescue Me, Penn Badgley on Gossip Girl, and Mather Zickel on Bronx Is Burning, to Jesse Bradford on Outlaw, John Pankow in Morning Glory, Jeff Gordon of NASCAR for March of Dimes commercials, and recently Ben Stiller in Tower Heist. And on the ridiculous end of the spectrum, I’ve even stood in for Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly and Keenan Thompson of Saturday Night Live!

SIC: From what I’ve heard, you’ve had some pretty thrilling experiences standing in.  What’s this about standing in in a scene with 50 Cent?

RT: Well, I was standing in for an actor–Jeremy White  in the film Twelve, directed by Joel Schumacher. We were filming a scene in a Harlem apartment building in which Jeremy’s character “Charlie” pulls a gun on another character–“Lionel,” played by 50 Cent. Well, Lionel grabs the gun and shoots Charlie with it, then rummages through his pockets and takes a few items.

They only had one chance to rehearse the scene with both actors before Jeremy had to go get into costume, makeup, and special-effects blood, etc.  50 Cent was ready to go pretty quickly, however, and asked the director for some more rehearsal time. So Joel Schumacher asked me to step in and rehearse the whole sequence with him.

50 Cent said hello, and Joel told him, “This is Rob, and he will rehearse the scene with you.” 50 said, “How ya doin’, Rob?”  To which I replied, “Great.  So should I call you ‘Mr. Cent’ … or … ?” He laughed and said, “Naw, man, just call me Curtis.”  So we rehearsed the scene a few times with just Joel Schumacher watching, then for the crew. Basically: me pulling the gun–him taking it, shooting me–I fall to the ground–he rummages through my pockets.

Afterwards, Curtis thanked me, and I immediately sent a text to a bunch of my friends with the following message: “Just got shot and mugged by 50 Cent!”

SIC: I remember getting that text!  What other exciting experiences have you had standing in?

RT: On the upcoming movie Tower Heist, directed by Brett Ratner, I was standing in for Ben Stiller and had many interesting experiences. For instance, we were filming on location at a bar in Queens (Neir’s Tavern, also famously used in the movie Goodfellas) in the end of January when that blizzard hit. 19 inches of snow fell that night, and we filmed right through it, with the crew constantly shoveling snow away from the front door to keep it out of the shot!

We finally stopped at 3am (as the snow was also ending) and the production ended up putting me up at the Marriott near Silvercup Studios East in Queens. It was surreal filming with this weather just outside the door, and with Ben Stiller, Tea Leoni, and Brett Ratner there! It got even stranger when two surprise guests showed up in the middle of it: Producer Brian Grazer, and Radioman!

SIC: Hey, I was there that night, too, and I remember seeing Radioman bicycling in in the horrible weather!

RT: Yep.  I also rehearsed many scenes with the actors on Tower Heist, but one stands out in my memory. I stood in for Ben on a rehearsal with actors Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, and Casey Affleck–on the top of an elevator, in an elevator shaft, with a Red Ferrari dangling end up between us all, on top of the elevator. Now, I can’t give away anything from the script, but let me just say, it also involved catching a dog!

Rob Tode as Ben Stiller's hand-double for the film Tower Heist

I was also used as Ben Stiller’s photo double-slash-hand double. So when you see a shot of just Ben’s hands in the movie, there is a good chance you are looking at my hands. I call them “My million dollar hands … for a bargain price!”

SIC: So you’ve stood in for Ben Stiller.  Do you have any pointers for other stand-ins who luck out getting to stand in for a famous actor?

RT: Hahaha… You used the “luck” word.  Well, yes, I suppose there is a definite element of luck involved … but certainly not blind luck. I have found that the more famous actors can be quite particular about who their stand-ins are.

And there seems to be a hierarchy involved in stand-in work. First they want to know if you have ever done it. That seems to be for the smaller day-player actors. Then, for the semi-famous actors, they want to know “how much” experience you have, and possibly a list of people or shows you’ve done it on. Then the A- and B-listers or regular recurring performers: They want to do an interview and screen test. And finally, the big ones, the famous stars: They can sometimes already have a regular stand-in that always works for them, or they require some vetting to get you on board.

For Ben Stiller, it was an initial call four months prior to the filming to be submitted. They wanted a résumé and a list of other “famous” people I had stood in for. I suppose it was “lucky” that I am nearly the exact same sizes as Ben. But even for the first week or two, I was getting booked day by day, and probably could have been replaced at any time.

So I think if you do end up working your way up the chain and getting the opportunity to stand in for someone famous, you should always, always, always “keep it professional” on set, especially during the first few weeks. No one wants the star to be upset, so there are a lot of eyes and ears on set checking your every move. If you just do what you are there to do, and do it well, you will have a better chance of getting booked again.

SIC: You’ve also stood in on a project for Nickelodeon.  How was standing in on that project different from standing in on film or other television projects?

RT: Yes, it was for the Nickleodeon Upfronts. That is a live theatrical presentation for sponsors and studio heads, etc., including the CEO and president of MTV Networks. It’s basically a season preview, with many of the stars of their shows onstage pitching their programs. Closer to a theatre production than anything else, mainly due to the blocking and the fact that it is at Lincoln Center.

I was lucky enough to get a call to come and stand in for the rehearsals for this showcase event. The rehearsals were part theatre, part multimedia, part concert (live performances), and part television. There were only two stand-ins, and we were lavaliermiked so we could perform the hourlong show in realtime for the execs by reading all the dialogue off of teleprompters like an award show, with mad doubling and tripling to cover everyone who came onstage and either talked or sang or performed.

Since we would be occupied with reading teleprompters, we had to pretty much memorize the entrances and blocking for the entire show. Lots of fun.  But difficult, too, as the script changed every 30 minutes, and most of the time we wouldn’t get to read over the changes before seeing them on the teleprompter. And it seemed as if they were giving us blocking changes every time we walked off stage.

Over those two days,  I stood in for Miranda Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor, Jason Biggs, MTV president Cyma  Zarghami, half of the cast of the Nickelodeon show Victorious, Olympic gold medalist Chris Paul, Keenan Thompson, and many others. Definitely not your average stand-in gig.

SIC: Sounds like an acting challenge.  How have your experiences as a stand-in helped you as an actor?  Has it led to any roles yet?

RT: I think that any time you get the chance to read through scenes and rehearse with accomplished actors and directors on the set of a TV show or multimillion-dollar film production, you definitely come away with practical knowledge and experience that can help you as an actor.  So, in short, yes.

As for it leading to roles, I think you have to go into these jobs only thinking about the work, and what you can learn from the experience. But, yes, the four years I have been standing in has landed me featured parts and Under-Fives on several TV shows and pilots. I also landed an agent this year as a direct result of standing in.

SIC: Sometimes your commutes to sets are very long given where you live.  How do you plan all of the different stand-in jobs considering your commute?

RT: Well, we live an hour outside of the city in New Jersey. And my wife Laura is also an actor, so we tend to play everything by ear.

If only one of us books a job on any particular day, we take the train to the city. If both of us are working, we carpool to save train fare–there are some cheap parking garages in NYC if you take the time to look for them in advance. And once in a while, if only one of us is working at one of the studios that have free parking (like Steiner Studios in Brooklyn) and the other one doesn’t need the car, we have the option of driving.

SIC: In addition to a lovely wife, you also have a son.  Given the demands of stand-in work, how do you balance your family commitments?

RT: Well, our son Sammy is almost 11 now, so we just leave out some Pop-Tarts and a couple of bowls of water, and he is usually okay… Well, so far, anyway…

I’m totally kidding. We have a good network of family and friends who help out when we need it. And if me or my wife books a long-term gig, then one of us just takes a break till the job stabilizes or finishes. We are good at taking turns.

SIC: In your opinion, what qualities make for a great stand-in?

RT: Listening, paying attention to details, and being omnipresent are, in my opinion, the three most important qualities of a stand-in.

The number-one problem I hear about from production people when it comes to stand-ins: They are never there when you need them. Don’t make production have to hunt you down on set or in the studio. As a stand-in, you are there to make the rest of the production run smoother, by taking the place of the actor while the crew fixes technical issues. But then again, you don’t want to be hanging around or in the way, either.

I take my job very seriously, and I try to be a little ahead of the game. My goal is to be “invisibly present.” I literally blend into the scenery and crew, until I see my actor walk away or until they call for second team. Usually my ability to be “invisibly present” results in my being where I am needed, before, or only seconds after I am called for. I have been complimented and thanked many times for this on different productions.

SIC: What is your advice for someone wanting to work as a stand-in?

RT:  I suppose brush up on the wealth of information you find on Stand-In Central, and get registered with all the background casting directors in town. Also, observe what other stand-ins do whenever you are on set. Learn from their mistakes, because there are plenty of bad stand-ins out there … and if you are approximately the same height, skin color, and gender, their next job could be yours.

SIC: Anything else?

RT: I just want to thank you for this opportunity to let me ramble on ….

SIC: Ha!  No sweat, Rob!

Rob Tode lives in New Jersey.  His website is