Marvel Studios’ first television show has come to a close and with it, many questions as to the future of the MCU. How will the newly anointed Scarlet Witch factor into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Where is Vision’s clone going? And with just a week left until Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we thought it best to take one last look at the blockbuster limited series through the lens of a small fan-favorite character, Phil Jones.
You know, the guy that looks like David Schwimmer?
Played with sweet aplomb and winning dorkiness by David Lengel, the character of Phil on WandaVision is a minor one that has captured the hearts of Marvel fans across the globe. From memes to fancams, the actor received waves of unprecedented support from those watching the show every week. A love that was also shared with fellow Westview neighbors Asif Ali (Norm), Emmma Caulfield Ford (Dottie), and David Payton (Herb). We sat down with David Lengel to talk about the show, Phil Jones’ stans, and those aforementioned David Schwimmer comparisons.
First, we want to congratulate you on the show! It’s amazing and the reaction has been crazy online.
David Lengel: It’s been unreal! Especially after sitting on it for so long to wake up on January 15th and just get an explosion on social media of friends and family reaching out. It was just like so exciting. Honestly, I still have to pinch myself.
What’s it been like joining the MCU?
David Lengel: It’s very exciting because as an actor you don’t really get to choose what projects you get hired for. So any job is great news. Like anytime I do an audition and get feedback and not only that, but actually book the job and get hired, it’s like winning a contest. So the fact that I won a contest to be on a show that has so many fans and is so talked about is just so much fun to be a part of. It’s like a dream come true. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of my role on the show. I knew what I did, but I wasn’t expecting a response. That everyone got excited to see Phil, you know, in a way that I haven’t really had before. With other similar-sized parts – just popping in for a scene or two, delivering a one-liner and leaving – I’ve done that before, but this is just hitting differently.
What makes the MCU so unique and appealing to fans I think is the more down-to-earth characters like Phil, who audiences connect with. And with Phil specifically, there’s been all the memes about how he looks like David Schwimmer and if that’s a reference to Friends which is kind of hilarious.
David Lengel: Yeah! It’s a combination of confusion, excitement, and mystery. So people really don’t know. And I think that’s why they’ve been drawn to me, because they don’t know if I’m supposed to look like David Schwimmer on purpose, which is such a ridiculous thing to say, you know? I look how I look and I don’t see it (laughs). I look like me and he looks like himself. I guess we have similar features and hair? But I’ve been hearing it since 1994. When I was a young kids would say, “You look like the guy from Friends with the monkey,” and I’m just like… who is that? And should I be concerned?
No but look, he’s a great-looking dude. It’s an honor to be compared to him. He’s very talented, very funny, and he’s had a great career. So honestly I don’t mind. I appreciate it and if it draws people towards me as like some point of confusion, like “what’s going on with that guy?” That’s fine. I would love to cross paths with him one day and just let him know that he’s been a big part of my life. And I have yet to impact his, although maybe he’s aware of me now, who knows?
It wouldn’t surprise me if that showed up on his radar in some way.
David Lengel: (laughs) “David, have you seen WandaVision yet?”
Has there been a specific era that’s been your favorite to act in?
David Lengel: They’ve all been great. I really liked doing the 70s with the hair and the clothing, the way my mustache kind of found its natural place in time. It really popped in that era. So that was awesome.
I think it was funny because people had already gravitated towards Phil, but your “Oh thank God” line was hilarious and really struck a chord with people.
David Lengel: That was a gift to receive that line. Emma [Caulfield Ford] set me up and it was funny. So thank you!
Backtracking a bit, but are there any MCU projects that you really enjoy or a favorite movie within it?
David Lengel: I liked the first Avengers a lot. I loved seeing them all assemble. I also liked the Spider-Man films, especially when they show that Peter Parker is a Mets fan. I relate to that because I’m from Queens and I’m a mega fan of the New York Mets, so I love seeing all that stuff.
That’s awesome! Did you have a favorite superhero growing up, Marvel or DC?
David Lengel: Well, I liked Spider-Man and I liked Batman, but as far as Marvel and the MCU in general, definitely Spider-Man.
So with the MCU, they’re massive films, usually done in a very specific way as far as VFX and the actual production, but with WandaVision, what was it like as far as filming in front of a live studio audience?
David Lengel: Doing the first episode in front of a live audience, that was a lot like doing a play, like doing theater. So having the audience there, reacting, holding for laughs, and just getting the energy backstage waiting to enter gets you pumped up. Most things don’t film that way, even a lot of sitcoms. The laughter is canned. I’ve had a few shows film in front of a live studio audience, but this was special because it was such a throwback to a different time and a different era of making these TV shows in an authentic way.
WandaVision feels like a real departure for the MCU, as far as changing up the formula on how things look and flow.
David Lengel: Yes! It’s so unique and the show’s taking a lot of risks that I think are paying off and it’s just very exciting to be a part of it.
Had you been watching week to week or had you already seen all of them before?
David Lengel: No, I’ve just seen what’s been released. I stayed up until midnight each week anticipating like, what’s this going to look like? And there I was. Then the next morning, a tweet came out, “Who’s this guy playing the Muppet David Schwimmer?” (laughs) I was like, “Oh okay, well, Twitter has spoken.” All my friends really got a kick out of that. It was hard to sleep the first few nights. Like it was just so exciting and I was so amped up. I’m still riding high and who knows where this will go for me, but I’m just pumped to be here right now.
Is there an upcoming Disney+ show that you’re excited for or interested in?
David Lengel: I know Marvel’s got a lot of stuff coming out, like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, I mean there are so many. Now that I see how awesome their first foray is, I’m definitely interested and will be watching. I also have a couple of Disney things coming out that I’m part of. One of them is for the Disney Channel, on the show Raven’s Home. And then I’m going to be on the boat with The Rock in Jungle Cruise based on the Disneyland ride. That one was supposed to come out last year, but you know, knock on wood it comes out this summer instead.
How did you get interested in acting and when did you get your start?
David Lengel: It’s been a long journey. I studied acting as a child. I went to the high school for performing arts in New York, LaGuardia High School. So I started studying acting around the age of 12 or 13 and it was pretty much a full-on conservatory program. From there, I went to another conservatory program. I went to NYU and studied acting again for another four years. After I finished school, I had an opportunity to come to Los Angeles and I did a showcase program. And it culminated in performing in front of agents, managers, and casting directors.
That really broke my heart because I didn’t get one call. I did that whole thing and after that happened, I did some theater. I promoted myself from the play I was in and I got representation. I got a manager and an agent and then I just started auditioning and slowly but surely started getting work. It’s been a long process. I mean, that was over a decade ago that I started, and for the last 15 years I’ve been popping up here and there, but all roads lead to Marvel right now (laughs).
I’m sure that’s really cathartic in a way. Going from that initial heartbreak to now having people sending you fancams and talking about your character in a Marvel show.
David Lengel: Yeah! That was a long time ago, but it gives you perspective. That it doesn’t happen right away. I mean, even if I did get a call from an agent that day, I had other friends who did and they’re not even acting anymore. So it just shows that not one thing is going to make your life or your career. You just have to kind of keep going and show up the next day and try hard for that next gig. I know it’s very exciting right now, but this will pass and you have to use it to propel you to whatever you’re going to do next.
Of course, this is more than just a regular gig. This is very exciting. And I’m really a part of the show, which I really haven’t been before, you know? I’ve had recurring roles, about five episodes on a Nickelodeon show, a Disney Channel show, and some other sitcoms, but in the grand scheme of those shows, I’m a very small percentage. But this, I’ve been in multiple episodes. So it’s just exciting.
As we come to a close, I’m curious which Marvel or DC character you would most want to play?
David Lengel: Oh, wow. Who would I want to play? I mean, it would be awesome to play someone like The Joker. I don’t know if I would play The Joker, although on the 1960s Batman, he did have a mustache, didn’t he? (laughs) They put makeup over it and it looked terrible. So that would be cool. Something like that or The Riddler, but I don’t know. I don’t know if the superhero or supervillain is for me. I mean, you never know, I’m not gonna rule it out. I’m just so used to playing parts like the janitor. the scientist, the teacher, or the doctor. That’s where I’ve been popping up and that’s where I’m really thriving. But stranger things have happened, right?