Will Forte

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Will Forte
Will Forte April 2015.jpg
Forte at WonderCon 2015
Born Orville Willis Forte IV
(1970-06-17) June 17, 1970 (age 45)
Alameda County, California, United States
Residence Santa Monica, California
Other names Orville Forte
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Actor, comedian, writer, producer, voice actor
Years active 1997–present
Partner(s) January Jones (2015–present)

Orville Willis Forte IV (born June 17, 1970), known professionally as Will Forte, is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer and voice actor. He is best known for his work in television as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and as the creator and star of the sitcom The Last Man on Earth. After obtaining a history degree at the University of California, Los Angeles and becoming a financial broker, Forte changed his career path to comedy and began taking classes with the improvisational comedy group the Groundlings in Los Angeles.

He soon found he favored writing best, and he worked as a writer and producer on That '70s Show before he auditioned for Saturday Night Live (SNL). He joined in 2002, spending eight years as a cast member on the show. He was well known for his more offbeat sketches. His most famous role on the show led to a feature film adaption, MacGruber (2010), that preceded his departure from the program. Forte took various roles in comedy films before his turn to drama in the film Nebraska (2013), which attracted critical acclaim. In 2015, Forte created and stars in his own television sitcom The Last Man on Earth, which premiered on Fox and is nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.

Early life[edit]

The sun and clouds above Moraga, California in 2014.
Forte grew up in Moraga, California, above, before moving to nearby Lafayette in his teens

Orville Willis Forte IV was born in Alameda County, California, to Patricia C. (née Stivers), an artist and former schoolteacher, and Orville Willis Forte III, a financial broker.[1][2] He was raised in Moraga, California, before moving to Lafayette, California. He went by Billy in his early years until he was teased at school for it also being a girl's name, at which point he decided he would from there on be known as Will.[3]

Forte has described himself as a "really happy kid," whose parents were "wonderful" and created a "very loving environment."[4] He was interested in comedy from a young age, growing up idolizing comedians Peter Sellers, David Letterman, Steve Martin, and the sketch-comedy television series Saturday Night Live.[5] He often pranked his parents,[5] and would record himself performing imaginary radio shows. He did aim to be a comedian, however, and he initially wanted to become a football player.[4]

Forte was a "a laid-back teen with a lot of friends," and a member of the varsity football and swim teams at Acalanes High School, from which he graduated in 1988. He was voted "Best Personality" by his graduating class, and served as class president.[3][6] He had no ambitions for a television or film career, though his mother noticed a "creative streak" in him. Following high school, he attended the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and completed a degree in history.[7] Planning to follow his father, he became a financial broker at Smith Barney Shearson in Beverly Hills, but felt "miserable" during his time there.[3] He started writing while he was at Shearson, and he co-wrote a feature-length script.[4] On the subject of writing, Forte remarked, "I discovered that I loved it more than anything I had ever done in my life."[3] He had been encouraged to attempt comedy during his years at university, and he decided to change his career to become a writer-performer.[8]

Career[edit]

Early career (1997–2001)[edit]

A comedy club on a street in Los Angeles, California.
Forte was a performer with the Groundlings, where he was discovered for SNL

He began taking classes at the Groundlings in Los Angeles, an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe and school, while tutoring children to make ends meet. Forte's first successful foray into comedy was 101 Things to Definitely Not Do If You Want to Get a Chick, a comic book he produced that details incompetent men.[5] The comics landed him his first professional job writing for The Jenny McCarthy Show, a short-lived variety show starring Jenny McCarthy. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to submit a packet to the Late Show with David Letterman and was told Letterman responded favorably to the cartoons.[5] After only nine months at Letterman, he was "let go" from the job. He has recalled his stint on the program as unpleasant, noting that he did not have enough experience in writing.[9] "What an honor to work at that show but I don't think I was fully mentally prepared. [...] I always wonder what it would be like if I’d had a couple more years of experience before going there."[10]

He returned to Los Angeles, where he began performing with the Groundlings' Main Company, alongside comedians such as Maya Rudolph, Cheryl Hines, and Jim Rash.[4] He tried stand-up comedy three times, mostly at open mic nights, but quit when he was voted into the Main Company.[4] He joined the writing teams of two unsuccessful sitcoms, including The Army Show and Action. Eventually, Forte got jobs writing for 3rd Rock from the Sun and That '70s Show, two successful programs. He loved writing but had mostly given up on acting, aside from his performances with the Groundlings.[4] While performing with the troupe in 2001, he was spotted by Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live (SNL). Forte felt his confidence was higher than usual, as That '70s Show had been picked up for two more years.[4] He was invited to audition for SNL, which he regarded as unexpected.[9]

At his audition for SNL, he performed multiple original characters, including Tim Calhoun, a speed reader, a prison guard, in addition to impressions of singer Michael McDonald and actor Martin Sheen.[4] His final character was an older piece from his days with the Groundlings, in which he portrays a gold-painted street performer who performs fellatio to pay for his face paint, which devolves into a song needlessly uttering the words "cock" and "face paint" dozens of times.[9] He felt his time to shine as a performer was already over, as he was in his thirties when he auditioned.[3] To his surprise, he was offered a chance to be on the show, but declined, opting instead for the financial stability of his work at That '70s Show.[11] He felt working for SNL could not live up to the idealized version he had dreamed of, but he later realized he would be making a mistake.[12][10]

Saturday Night Live years (2002–10)[edit]

"I've always liked weirder stuff. My main thing on SNL was that I was never gonna change my sensibility to get on TV—I was just gonna write what I liked writing and hopefully have a hit on that show somewhere."

—Forte on his tenure at SNL[10]

Following the departure of cast member Will Ferrell the following spring, Forte joined the cast of SNL, premiering at the beginning of the show's twenty-eighth season in the fall. He was promoted to repertory player after his first year.[8] His early years on the program were characterized by stage fright and an inability to properly interpret sketches that he did not write himself.[12] He had to "re-learn" performing after years as a writer, and later felt his natural tendency to "overthink" things improved his performance.[10] He was particularly uncomfortable portraying President George W. Bush, as he felt he was not the best impressionist and it paled in comparison to Ferrell's impersonation of Bush.[13] His only role was often Bush, leaving him no chance for more "absurd" pieces he favored. He was nearly fired from the program following his third season (2004–05), but after two three-week extensions to decide his fate, he was brought back.[12] Forte estimated it took five seasons for him to feel fully comfortable performing on the show.[14]

Forte's humor at SNL has been described as bizarre,[9] and he became known for many "10-to-1" sketches: pieces deemed too odd that air at the bottom of the show, preceding its conclusion.[12] Among these were a sketch titled "Potato Chip," in which Forte plays an NASA recruiter that warns a candidate (Jason Sudeikis) not to touch a bowl of potato chips on his desk,[15] or his turn as Jeff Montgomery, a sex offender posing as one for Halloween.[9] He was also well known for his character Tim Calhoun, a politician, and the Falconer. Forte's favorite sketch on the show was one in which he played a motivational coach alongside football star Peyton Manning.[8] He also co-starred with Andy Samberg in the first SNL Digital Short, "Lettuce". He often spent long hours crafting his sketches for the program, passing deadlines, but his pieces were often greeted warmly at table reads.[11][12] During his time at the show, he costarred in and wrote the 2007 film The Brothers Solomon. The film was originally a pilot for Carsey-Werner, and its creation was an extension of his agreement to terminate his contract to appear on SNL.[16]

A man with a long mullet is speaking in a control room.
Forte as MacGruber, his most famous SNL character that was later adopted into a feature-length film

Forte's best-known character on SNL was MacGruber, a special operations agent who is tasked in each episode with deactivating a ticking bomb but becomes distracted by personal issues. The sketches were based on the television series MacGyver. It was created by writer Jorma Taccone, who pitched the idea relentlessly to Forte.[17] He was initially reluctant to commit to the sketch, deeming it too dumb, but accepted after persuasion from Taccone.[18] The first sketch aired in January 2007, and led to multiple more segments in the following years. In 2009, the sketches were spun off into a series of commercials sponsored by Pepsi premiering during Super Bowl XLIII that featured the actor behind MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson, as MacGruber's father. The advertisements led the character and sketches to receive a wider level of popularity.[18] Following the success of the advertisements, creator Lorne Michaels approached Forte, Taccone, and writer John Solomon with the idea to produce a MacGruber film.[19]

Regarding his experiences on SNL, Forte has remarked:

Post-SNL, MacGruber and film roles (2011–14)[edit]

Forte at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival

MacGruber was shot on a tight schedule of 28 days in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the summer of 2009.[18][20] It was written while simultaneously producing the weekly episode of SNL, and the show's production process left the trio deprived of sleep.[21] Forte was positive regarding the film, noting, "What you see with this movie is exactly what we wanted to do. It’s the three of us having a bunch of fun writing it, then having fun making it with a bunch of our friends—old friends and new friends. I think that fun comes across when you watch it. It’s rare that you get that kind of creative freedom."[17] The film, released in May 2010, received mixed reviews.[22] It fared worse at the box office, where it failed to recoup its budget and was pulled from theaters after its third week.[23] Forte found the failure tolerable, commenting, "When you make something that you’re really proud of and it doesn’t do well, you can live with it."[12] The film has since seen more positive reception, and has been dubbed a cult classic.[24][25]

Forte decided to leave SNL shortly before the beginning of the show's thirty-sixth season in 2010. He felt it the "right time to go," considering his eight-year tenure there, his expansion into film with MacGruber, and his age. In addition, his sister had just had kids and he wanted to move to the West Coast to be closer to them.[8] He soon regretted the decision, calling the following year an "emotionally trying period," as he felt "devastated" that he would no longer be on the program.[5] He assumed his shot at a film career was ruined,[12] and he imagined that if acting did not work out, he would return to writing primarily.[5] Following this, he entered what he has called a "lost period,"[9] taking small supporting roles in comedies such as Rock of Ages, That's My Boy, and The Watch, all of which were not successful. The only commercially successful film he worked on was Grown Ups 2, where he made a cameo as a male cheerleader. He also took a role as Paul L'Astname, the cross-dressing boyfriend of Jenna Maroney on the critically acclaimed sitcom 30 Rock.

Forte took his first dramatic role for the 2013 film Run & Jump. Director Steph Green offered him the part, and Forte imagined it a "fun thing to try," though he noted that she had more confidence in him than he had himself.[8] Following this, he sent an audition tape to director Alexander Payne for a role in his next film, Nebraska.[8] He equated his casting in the film to his fear of joining SNL a decade prior, noting that he was "terrified" to begin working on it.[9] He felt uneasy initially, but followed costar Bruce Dern's acting advice to "look for the truth" in each scene—in other words, "In every scene, you're just trying to play it as honestly and as real as you can."[10]

Recent work and The Last Man on Earth (2015–present)[edit]

Forte began work on The Last Man on Earth, a sitcom, with longtime collaborators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in 2013. Though it was the duo's idea, Forte attached himself to the concept, crafting a treatment over a weekend. The series was pitched around Hollywood to positive responses, and was picked up in 2014 by Fox.[26] Forte serves as the series' co-creator, a writer, the lead role, and showrunner for its' first season. He felt odd being in charge of its writing team (composed of longtime friends), and awkward at delegating tasks, so much so that he would end up doing the work himself.[10] Being a showrunner "truly was an amount of work I never knew existed," he said, which involved him working a "minimum of 12 hours" daily.[27] The series premiered in 2015 to positive responses,[28] and was renewed for a second season.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Forte is a supporter of the camp Wampler's Kids and recorded a promotional piece at SNL with Will Ferrell. Forte was a childhood friend of founder Steven Wampler[30] and previously the national spokesman for SciEyes, a non-profit organization created to support research, training and public education in stem cell biology and to further the field by recognizing and supporting its potential for creating new therapies for the treatment of blinding and debilitating eye diseases.[31] He was a primary donor towards the establishment of a research fellowship for third-year medical students at Duke Medical Center.[32] He serves on the Board of Directors of the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness.[33]

Forte is especially close with his family. His mother has visited every film set he's worked on and made an appearance on the Mother's Day episode of SNL in which he sang a song to her on Weekend Update. Forte officiated his sister Michelle's wedding and filmed the birth of his niece and nephew.[34] During a conversation with Scott Aukerman on the podcast, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Forte discussed his parents' divorce and the family's decision to have Christmas together after his father’s second divorce. During the same interview, Forte joked about his Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies with a story of listening to only one song in his office at SNL for an entire year because he wanted to challenge himself.[35] During an interview with Larry King, Forte discussed his OCD as a challenge he had to overcome but not one he wished he did not have, as it is a part of his personality.[36][37] In a feature on him and his new Fox series in February 2015, the writer of the article said that Forte mentioned OCD often but it wasn't clear if he'd ever been formally diagnosed, though Forte related how he and a former girlfriend had gone through an OCD questionnaire and it concluded that Forte "should immediately talk to someone about this". The article also noted that the 44-year-old Forte had never been married but did not cite recent news reports that he had begun dating January Jones, his co-star from The Last Man on Earth. [38]

Forte currently resides in Santa Monica, California. He purchased his home just two weeks before joining SNL and being forced to move to New York City; "It was not the greatest timing," he later said.[1]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2004 Around the World in 80 Days Young Bobby
2006 Beerfest Otto
2007 The Brothers Solomon Dean Solomon Also writer
2008 Baby Mama Scott
Extreme Movie Writer
2009 The Slammin' Salmon Horace the Lone Diner Cameo
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Subject #72
Fanboys THX Security Guard #4
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Joe Towne Voice
2010 MacGruber MacGruber Also writer
2011 A Good Old Fashioned Orgy Glenn
2012 Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie Allen Bishopman
Rock of Ages Mitch Miley
That's My Boy Phil
The Watch Sergeant Bressman
2013 Grown Ups 2 Male Cheerleader Uncredited
Run & Jump Ted
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 Chester V Voice
Life of Crime Marshall Taylor
Nebraska David Grant
2014 The Lego Movie Abraham Lincoln Voice
She's Funny That Way Joshua Fleet
2015 Don Verdean Pastor Fontaine
Staten Island Summer
The Ridiculous Six Will Patch
2016 Keanu

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1997 The Jenny McCarthy Show Writer
1997–2001 Late Show with David Letterman Snow Shovel Murder Victim Uncredited
Episode: "Robert Pastorelli/Craig Kilborn/Live"; also writer
1998 The Army Show Writer
1999–2000 Action
1999–2001 3rd Rock from the Sun
2000 God, the Devil, and Bob
2001–2003 That '70s Show
2002–2003 Clone High Abe Lincoln (voice) 13 episodes
2002–2010 Saturday Night Live Various 157 episodes; also writer
2006 Campus Ladies Stuart 2 episodes
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Alien (voice) Episode: "Antenna"
2007 Flight of the Conchords Ben Episode: "The Actor"
Tim and Eric Nite Live! Emanuel Melly Episode #1.5
2007–2010 Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Will Grello / Pall Willeaux / J.J. Pepper / Dr. Reid Tamaranda 6 episodes
2007–2012 30 Rock Thomas / Paul 13 episodes
2008–2010 How I Met Your Mother Randy Wharmpess 2 episodes
2008 Young Person's Guide to History Comte de Buffon (Frenchman) Episode #1.1
2009 Sit Down, Shut Up Stuart Proszakian (voice) 13 episodes
2009–2013 The Cleveland Show Principal Wally Farquhare / Various voices 22 episodes
2009–2015 American Dad! Various voices 6 episodes
2010 The Life and Times of Tim Chipper (voice) Episode: "Unjustly Neglected Drama"
WWE Raw MacGruber 1 episode
Funny or Die Presents Cast (Scott & Behr) / Sleeping Celebrity 2 episodes
Squidbillies Tom Treebow Episode: "Lean Green Touchdown Makifying Machine"
2010–2013 Conan Ted Turner 14 episodes
2011 Parks and Recreation Kelly Larson Episode: "Time Capsule"
Allen Gregory Ian / Stuart Rossmyre / Sid Lampis (voices) 7 episodes
The League Chuck Episode: "The Out of Towner"
2011–2012 Up All Night Reed 3 episodes
2012–2013 Comedy Bang! Bang! Chet Barnsider / Felix Dewhurst 2 episodes
2012–present Gravity Falls Tyler the Cute Biker (voice) 10 episodes
2012–2014 Lab Rats Eddy / Viral Eddy (Teddy)/ Cheddy (voices) 19 episodes
2013 Drunk History Edwin Booth Episode: "Washington D.C."
Bob's Burgers Kurt / Mr. Grant (voices) 2 episodes
2013–2014 Kroll Show Various roles
2014 The Awesomes Malocchio Jr. (voice) 9 episodes
The Simpsons King Toot (voice) Episode: "Covercraft"
2015–present The Last Man on Earth Phil Miller 13 episodes; also creator, writer, executive producer
2015 7 Days in Hell Sandy Pickard Television Film

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice Role
2009 Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned Martin Serious

Awards and nominations[edit]

WonNational Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – American Comedy Award for Supporting Comedy Actor - Film
NominatedIndependent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
NominatedSt. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor

NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

PendingCritics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series
PendingPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
PendingPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Julie Miller (April 2015). "By His Own Admission, Will Forte is “A Little O.C.D.” About His Shampoo Routine". Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ Ancestry.com. California Birth Index, 1905–1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005
  3. ^ a b c d e Peter Crooks (March 19, 2010). "Will Power". Diablo. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Maron, Marc (Interviewer); Forte, Will (Interviewee) (January 9, 2014). Episode 460 - Will Forte (Podcast). Archived from the original (mp3) on January 11, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Jada Yuan (May 5, 2015). "25 Things You Learn About Will Forte From Hanging Out With Him". Vulture (New York). Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ The Mortified Session, TV interview, Sundance Channel
  7. ^ "Alumni". Lambda Chi Alpha at UCLA. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Marlow Stern (April 25, 2013). "Will Forte: From ‘SNL’ to Star of ‘Run and Jump’ and ‘Nebraska’". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Mike Ryan (December 5, 2013). "With 'Nebraska,' Will Forte Leaves MacGruber Behind". Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "How Being Terrified Helped Last Man on Earth Will Forte Kill on SNL, Sitcoms, and Filmsauthor=Joe Berkowitz". Fast Company. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Jada Yuan (May 1, 2015). "Will Forte on Last Man on Earth’s Second Season, Tabloid Fame, and His Fun Kind of OCD". Vulture (New York). Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Steven Hyden (February 27, 2015). "Will Forte Can’t Stop (and He Hopes That Doesn’t Bother Anyone)". Grantland.com. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  13. ^ Sean O'Neal (May 21, 2010). "Will Forte - Interview". The A.V. Club (The Onion). Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Shales & Miller 2002, pp. 576-577.
  15. ^ Ken Tucker (December 8, 2009). "'Saturday Night Live' recap: Blake Lively plus the oddest, best-acted sketch of the season?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  16. ^ "The Brothers Solomon - Production Notes". CinemaReview.com. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  17. ^ a b Sean O'Neal (May 21, 2010). "Will Forte – Interview". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c Chuck Barney (May 19, 2010). "'SNL'/ 'MacGruber' star Will Forte is a soldier of fortune". PopMatters. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ Katey Rich (May 19, 2010). "Interview: MacGruber's Will Forte And Jorma Taccone". CinemaBlend. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  20. ^ Edward Douglas (May 19, 2010). "Exclusive: Will Forte and Jorma Taccone on MacGruber!". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  21. ^ Steven James Snyder (May 21, 2010). "Only 6 Questions Left MacGruber! The Will Forte Interview". Time. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  22. ^ MacGruber at Rotten Tomatoes
  23. ^ "10 Biggest Box Office Flops of 2010 (So Far)". Parade. July 19, 2010. 
  24. ^ Charlie Schmidlin (September 21, 2012). "'MacGruber' Director Jorma Taccone To Helm New Line Action-Comedy 'Spy Guys'". IndieWire. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  25. ^ Tony Maglio (February 27, 2015). "Will Forte Says ‘MacGruber 2′ Is ‘Priority No. 1′ Behind New Fox Show ‘Last Man on Earth’". Yahoo!. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  26. ^ Murphy, Mekado (March 1, 2015). "Phil Lord and Chris Miller on Maintaining Mystery in 'The Last Man on Earth'". The New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  27. ^ Corban Goble (March 2, 2015). "Will Forte on His Unusual New Sitcom, The Last Man on Earth". Vulture (New York). Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  28. ^ "The Last Man on Earth Reviews". Metacritic (CBS Interactive). Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  29. ^ Ausiello, Michael (April 8, 2015). "Last Man on Earth Scores Super-Quick Season 2 Renewal at Fox". TVLine. Retrieved April 8, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Will Forte Promotes Wampler Kids". YouTube. May 28, 2009. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  31. ^ "Researcher Uses Stem Cells on Eye Disease". Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  32. ^ "SNL Comedian Launches Stem Cell Research Fellowship at Duke Medical Center". Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  33. ^ Rosen, Jeremy (March 13, 2008). "NPACH Staff And Board Of Directors". NPACH.org. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  34. ^ Crooks, Peter (April 2010). "Will Power (page 1 of 3)". Diablo Magazine. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  35. ^ "Jing It Or Ding It!, episode #153 of Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast". earwolf.com. April 12, 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  36. ^ "Will Forte". Larry King Now. Season 1. Episode 7. July 26, 2012. Hulu. 
  37. ^ Ryan, Mike (2011-05-25). "Life After MacGruber and SNL: Catching up with Will Forte". Movieline. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Will Forte Can’t Stop (and He Hopes That Doesn’t Bother Anyone)". Grantland. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-11. 
Bibliography

External links[edit]