Last week, Washington Capitals PA announcer Wes Johnson traded his mic in for a role in the sitcom pilot Bennie’s Gym. 86-year-old Ed Asner, who has won more Emmy Awards than any other male actor (seven, including five for the role of Lou Grant), was also in the cast and plays the owner. The filming took place in Columbia, Maryland, near route 175.
During the day, Johnson, who has been with the Capitals for nearly two decades, is a talented voiceover artist and actor. Johnson has had roles in Veep (emmy-award winning HBO comedy), John Waters’ “A Dirty Shame,” and “Head of State” with Chris Rock. He’s also recently filmed a national TV commercial for VISA with Ray Lewis and has done voices for popular video games such as Fallout 3 & 4, Elder Scrolls (Sherogorath ftw), Skyrim, Oblivion, and Star Trek.
“It was an amazing week,” Johnson said. “To work with such an incredibly talented cast was a dream come true. I’m so happy Kimberly Skyrme Casting let me into the high security building dressed as I was for the audition which was in a bathrobe, crocs, and socks and a pair of holey sweatpants. Seriously, security almost didn’t let me in.”
According to The Baltimore Sun, Columbia was chosen because Director Michael Skinnner has a production company in Washington DC and believes the talent level in this area is deep.
“We are thrilled that Bennie’s Gym can be the beginning of shooting all kinds of narrative work simply because this is where the talent is located,” Skinner said to The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik. “Maryland has only been used as a film location when people want to feature the nation’s capital or drug dealers in Baltimore – we want to do more. From gaffers and grips, to on camera talent and even full post, this area has world class talent.”
Johnson was taken aback to share a space with the legendary Ed Asner.
“It was a real honor to work with him,” Johnson said. “I’ve admired his work for years, and it was a real treat to watch him in person.”
Joe Estevez — the younger brother of actor Martin Sheen and the uncle of Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen — was also on the cast.
“I made a lot of new friends, and had many cool chats with Joe,” Johnson said. “This is the kind of thing you pay years of dues for. I can’t wait for everyone to see it and laugh as much as we did making it. It was a joy.”
Next week, Johnson will be attending Awesome Con, which is being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from June 3 to June 5. And his schedule is busy. Beyond signing autographs at his booth, Johnson will be doing a Q&A panel where he talks about the video games he’s contributed on Friday from 4 to 5pm. On Saturday, he’ll be moderating panels for Charles Martinet (voice of Mario) and artist Skottie Young. Finally, on Sunday, he’ll be MC’ing a costume contest.
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