Two years ago, Chris Witaske took a chance.
After working at comedy venues such as Second City for a number of years, he decided to pack up his life in St. Charles and move to Los Angeles.
His risk was worth the reward. Witaske was cast in the Netflix original series “Love,” which was released Feb. 19 and is directed by the highly-recognized Judd Apatow.
Witaske, 32, also hosts his own monthly live interview show called “So You Do Comedy?” at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. However, his primary focus over the last year has been on “Love.”
After going through three separate auditions for the show – and waiting to hear back – Witaske was finally given a part in the series. He appears in several episodes during the first season and plays the best friend of a main character, Gus. Easily enough, his character was given the name Chris.
Throughout his years in comedy – from seeing his first show at Second City when he was 13 years old, graduating from St. Charles High School and eventually moving to Hollywood – this is the moment Witaske has dreamed about.
He caught up with Kane County Chronicle reporter Chris Casey to talk about “Love” and what it means for him to have that opportunity.
Chris Casey: Talk about the risk it took to just pack up your life and move to Los Angeles.
Chris Witaske: It was definitely taking a big chance. I mean, I had an agent and manager, but nothing else planned, really. It really was just a big leap of faith and pretty much starting my life all over again. No one in Hollywood knows what Second City is or anything like that, so it was a big risk.
Casey: How did you get the opportunity to be cast in “Love”?
Witaske: So, I got called and was told I had an audition for the show. I went in, auditioned, but didn’t hear anything back for two weeks, so I figured I didn’t get it. I got a call for a different part, went in and – same thing – didn’t hear anything for a couple weeks. Finally got a call for a third part, waited and waited and thought maybe this just isn’t meant to be. Finally, they told me, “Chris, you’re not right for any of the parts, so we’re just going to write a part for you.” It was kind of cool that they wanted me on the show and made me a character.
Casey: Judd Apatow directs this show. That’s a pretty big deal, huh?
Witaske: It really doesn’t get any bigger than that. It was intimidating at first, for sure. The first table read we had, where the whole cast is sitting at a table, Judd walks in and could have sat anywhere and sits directly across from me. That was my first big, crazy moment. But it turns out, he’s a really cool, down-to-earth guy who is a big fan of comedy. One thing he allowed us to do is improvise. I feel like working at Second City and various places, that’s one of my biggest skills. Yeah, we read off the script, but we got to improvise certain situations, which was awesome.
Casey: What is the show about?
Witaske: The show is an honest look at modern love. It follows the two main characters, Gus and Mickey, and plays out really slow. It’s meant to show what an actual relationship looks like from start to finish. The main characters don’t even meet until the end of the first episode. But it pretty much follows them in a relationship, how it builds and what not. I play Gus’ best friend.
Casey: From where you were living in St. Charles to where you are now, what does it mean to you?
Witaske: Well, St. Charles means a lot to me. My parents, Ray and Peggy, both still live in St. Charles, and I can honestly say I’m really proud to be from there. I just am very thankful because I really felt supported, as far as getting into this career. I had great teachers and a great community of support, and it means so much. I may live in L.A., but Illinois is definitely where my roots are.
What: “Love,” a Netflix original series starring Chris Witaske, formerly of St. Charles
Rating: TV-MA (adult language and situations)