How familiar were you with Ocean City before you were cast as Rodney?
I was really familiar from my youth. I was born in Columbus, OH, and my family used to vacation there. Then, after my parents’ divorce, my dad moved to the Eastern Shore, and I lived with him from the time I was 9 or 10 until I was 11 or 12.
What do you think separated you from the pack during casting?
I grew up on the ocean. It’s really been my calling. So once I went in there, I just rocked casting. I have a lot of energy. It kinda radiates out of my aura, and I felt that they were, like, beach people—more in tune with Mother Earth, you know?
Do you have any actual life guarding experience?
I did some minor pool life guarding when I was in college but it wasn’t really, like, ocean patrol.
Did you actually film in Ocean City?
Yes, but we were on a very tight time schedule so they could only keep me out there for a day or two. But the commercials were so funny and over the top, it was just a real pleasure.
What are some of your favorite things to do in OC?
It’s always Thrasher’s fries. I’m always trying to be healthy—I’m primarily a vegan now—but I really like Thrasher’s fries. And the sunsets are always the most beautiful.
Do you ever get recognized?
Yeah, I love it! My favorite time was when I was walking down the street, and I had just taken off my shirt. I play tennis, and a little child was watching me playing, and, as I’m walking away, this kid goes, ‘Are you him?!’ It took me a second, because I had just played two hours of tennis but I was like, ‘Dying from boredom? Not on my watch!’ [Rodney’s catchphrase]. And he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are!’ He just ran back to his parents. It was so funny.
What is today’s Ocean City like compared to the Ocean City you remember?
It’s amazing how the place improved so much in just a decade. I’m just really proud that if you go to OC you don’t feel like its some old beach town, yet you still get the fact that there’s a large amount of history there.
What is your personal favorite summer vacation memory?
I can remember a time when I was seven years old, and I was sitting on the Ocean City beach, and I was watching the sunrise. I was just so young, and I knew nothing of anything in the world besides the purity of the waters, the sun, the sand, and the love of my parents. I would play in the sand and collect these little shells. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do with all these shells, but I used to want to get them before the other kids could. I’d always run out there first thing in the morning and get as many shells as I could. I’d always have to carry them all the way back to my mom. I’d be like, “Look!” It’s kinda funny.
So, you’re not really a lifeguard, but are you a strong swimmer?
Oh my god, yes. I’ll tell you how strong I am: I always wished there was a little island I could swim to and have my own little island, you know? So I looked back through history and learned that there are man-made islands. Well, I made an island, literally the size of a living room, 15x15, and it sat in the water like a lily pad. I made this down in Wilmington, NC, and my goal was basically to make it like a barge and haul it up and down the coast and put, like, a cool advertisement on it from commercial property. Well, one day, the island broke during a big storm and I just had a premonition that something was in trouble, I get in the car in the middle of a storm and drive down there to find my island getting washed off in the ocean and instead of saying goodbye to it I jumped in, tied a rope to my waist, and swam against the current with a barge attached to me. Even the Coast Guard pulled up beside me and said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
Wow, that’s dangerous, I’m surprised you survived.
I mean worst-case scenario, I let go of the cord, but I have strong survival instincts.