Imagine having footage of your first time spent with your significant other (not Snaps and Instagram posts, but actual footage) that was filmed with a crew and broadcast on television. Andrew J. West doesn’t have to imagine; that’s his reality. It’s also West’s reality starring as Cinderella’s Prince Henry on ABC’s Once Upon a Time after a stint chowing down on some flesh on The Walking Dead.
It may seem as if Andrew J. West is living in an alternate reality than most of the rest of us, but he’s really just leaning into the mystery of life. That mystery which can be as simple as exploring L.A.’s many restaurants with his wife or it could be a little more bizarre, like the time West got into a car only to realize that it was the Batmobile.
Lensed by Shanna Fisher
Written by Jason Bowers
Despite living alongside us in this very real world, West’s fans sometimes have other plans for his fictional characters. They use their very vivid imaginations to combine the heightened escapism of two of his best known roles (think cannibals running amok in Storybrooke). We’re hoping at least one super fan has also envisioned the combined worlds of some of West’s other roles from Nip/Tuck, Greek, and Hot in Cleveland.
Let’s take a tour through the mystery, philosophically speaking (West has degrees in Philosophy and Anthropology), as Andrew J. West tells us about his clothes hanging technique, his onetime goatee, and the role he didn’t know (until this interview) that he lost to Daniel Radcliffe.
You’re now fully engaged on Once Upon a Time as a series regular in season 7. Was there any kind of hazing done to you and the other new cast members?
No, but I just asked one of my more senior-ranked cast mates if they hazed us and I just forgot, and he said no, but that he now has some good ideas. So thanks for that. I blame you.
On Once Upon a Time, you’re playing the adult version of Henry (aka Cinderella’s Prince), a character fans have been watching for years as a kid played by Jared S. Gilmore. How did you prepare to play a character that fans know well and have seen grow up while still making it your own?
Preparing for this character was all about familiarizing myself with the show and with the relationships that directly impacted and influenced Henry. Watching the way Henry interacted with his two mothers, Emma and Regina, his grandparents, and all the other characters that were close to him was hugely helpful. I didn’t want to rely on mimicry; I wanted to understand the character well enough so that I could make confident choices about who this person became as an adult, and I was able to do that because I had an enormous backstory and foundation that had already been built up for six years.
The “real-world” version of Henry is an Uber driver. Since almost everyone has a good ride-share story, what’s yours?
I always had stranger experiences, or at least stranger conversations with drivers when I was in taxis, back in that bygone era. Ride-share came along and things got a little more predictable and tamer in my experience. Although I did once get into an Uber that was decked out to look like the Batmobile. That was an interesting ride.
You play Cinderella’s Prince and we at Ferrvor take fashion very seriously, so we have an incredibly important question: What is Andrew West’s shoe game like?
Shoes are maybe the most important item of clothing because if you’re wearing an uncomfortable pair it can really ruin your day. My day-to-day casual picks range from Nike skating or running shoes to sneakers from All Saints. I also really like boots and a good monk dress shoe. My wife always finds the best shoes for me. She found a pair of beat-up work boots at the Fairfax flea market that I’ve had for 8 years and I’ll probably never retire.
You’re married to Amber Stevens West, who you met when you were hired to play her love interest for 2 episodes on Greek, and ended up sticking around for the rest of the season. Did you two hit it off right away, or did that happen after you had been working together for awhile?
It was an immediate thing. It certainly was for me. We were introduced at the table read for my first episode and she took my breath away. We spent 14 hours together during our first day of work and we filmed all of my scenes for my first episode. It’s really fun to look back at that episode because it’s sort of like a little video diary of our first day hanging out. One of the best days of my life.
Amber’s starring in the show Ghosted which shoots in L.A., and you’re shooting Once Upon a Time in Vancouver. What’s a typical date night like since you only get to see each other every few weeks?
We love to eat and we love to find new restaurants, and in LA there is an inexhaustible supply of places to go. We’ll scour the internet and Los Angeles Magazine to find something that will provide a little culinary adventure and we go check it out. And then we’ll roam around whatever neighborhood we end up in, whether it’s Highland Park, or all the way out to the beach or wherever, and find a nice place for a drink or music. The city is always changing and it’s fun to see that.
Before you landed the role on Once Upon a Time, you had a pretty big breakthrough role on The Walking Dead as the sadistic cannibal Gareth. Which show’s fans are more extreme in their fan theories about where storylines are headed?
Both shows have extremely passionate fans, but in terms of storyline theories, my favorites are the crossover theories that I get on social media. “After falling victim to a curse, Henry Mills creates a cannibalistic society within a magical realm populated by zombies.” Stuff like that.
You had to pass on playing Gareth again in a Walking Dead spoof for Robot Chicken because you don’t sing, and Daniel Radcliffe ended up playing the part. How do you plan to get revenge on him?
What??? This is the first I’m hearing of this! I had no idea this existed! Wow. I would have loved to have been a part of something like that, but it is true that I’m a terrible singer. If I could exact any kind of revenge, it would be on my inept vocal chords. But that’s so cool that Daniel Radcliffe did it! Man, I gotta watch this thing now…
You graduated college with degrees in Philosophy and Anthropology. How do those areas of studies affect your current job as an actor (be it on screen or off)?
Those areas of study are useful for anyone no matter what you do for a living. Anthropology helps us understand where we came from – how it happened that we came to exist. Philosophy goes a little deeper and begins to ask, “Why? What does it mean that we came to exist? What can it mean?.” And I think that the point is ultimately not necessarily to find those answers, but to be more comfortable with the mystery of it all. When you start to become more comfortable with the big mysteries, its easier to find comfort and serenity in other aspects of your life, including your work. There is a lot of mystery wrapped up in human interaction, and the longer that I work as an actor, the more I realize that acting is, at its core, is about submitting to that mystery and exploring where it leads.
When you attended Indiana University, you were drawn to acting partly because you helped your roommate write and star in short films, correct? Do you have any projects in your future as a writer?
That is correct, but the answer to the second question is no. I discovered over time that I do not have the temperament or skill set to write at a high level. I will leave that to the professionals. Although if I did ever dabble in writing again, I think it would be some sort of long form fiction as opposed to something for the screen.
You’re also in the movie Middle Man that’s out right now on Netflix/iTunes/Amazon/Google/Vudu/Xfinity/Sony/Xbox. It’s been getting great reviews but the consensus seems to be that the story isn’t super easy to summarize when trying to convince someone to see it. Care to give it a crack and tell us about the film?
It’s about an aspiring stand-up comic (brilliantly played by Jim O’Heir) who hits the road to Vegas to audition for a variety show. On the way, he picks up a drifter (me) who involves him in a crime spree, and also forces him to practice his comedy routine at open-mics. The comic’s routine morphs into a meditation on murder because he’s so traumatized that he can’t talk about anything else. Everyone thinks it’s a shtick, and strangely enough, he becomes a hit.
Hmmm, that wasn’t a very short summary, was it?
The film is super funny and dark, and it’s an examination of the price that someone will pay for fame and glory. And I have a big ugly homegrown goatee in it.
You were recently profiled in The Hollywood Reporter, and the writer (Jean Bentley) noted both in the piece and on Twitter that everyone she asked to comment about you could not stop raving. What’s one nice thing people say about you that you don’t believe is true?
That I fold my costumes at work at the end of the night for the wardrobe department. (See next question)
Your wife Amber said you’re so polite and professional that you fold your costume in your trailer at the end of the day so crew members aren’t stuck doing it. What’s your fold technique? Did you have a previous life in clothing retail?
I don’t actually fold the costumes because I don’t think the wardrobe department would appreciate that anyway since everything gets hung, but I do make sure to neatly hang everything for them at the end of the night.
In terms of clothing-hanging technique, my wife imparted upon me the importance of color coordination. I never gave such a technique much thought in the past, but now I am a firm believer.
And finally, what’s your definition of the word “gentleman?”
You don’t seem to hear that term all that much these days. So much more often you just hear so and so is a ‘nice’ guy, or a ‘cool’ guy. ‘Gentleman’ seems to reach toward a higher level of experience and wisdom. Which I think manifests ultimately in empathy. For me, I think the quintessential gentleman of our time is Barack Obama.