When the three founders of Blue Man Group were getting started more than 30 years ago, they kind of figured they would be the only Blue Men ever.
Penn & Teller are irreplaceable; Penn can’t do the show without Teller, and vice versa. The original Blue Men — Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton — thought they were the same way.
Then Stanton got hurt before a show in 1991.
In true “the show must go on” spirit, a band member stepped in to fill the role that night.
After that happened, Wink, Goldman and Stanton realized their act could expand. And a Racine native was at the center of that.
“Phil getting hurt, it opened up doors for them in their mind. They were like, ‘Hey, we don’t have to do this nine times a week,’” said Andrew Elvis Miller, who went by the name Andy Miller while growing up in Racine. “They realized they could ‘make’ Blue Men.”
Talking on the phone from his home in Los Angeles in December, Miller talked about how he became the fourth Blue Man ever, and the first outside of the original trio.
After graduating from St. Catherine’s High School and receiving formal acting training at London’s National Theatre, he said he “took Frank Sinatra’s advice” and moved to New York City. “I figured, if I could make it there, I could make it anywhere.”
“My future was wide open,” Miller said of the slow start to his theatrical career in the early 1990s. “I was doing a lot of downtown theater and auditioning with no results. ... I was bartending, catering, waiting tables: all the things actors do.”
After befriending a couple of guys in their band, he got to know the Blue Men, which started as a performance art group in 1987.
“I got myself into the room,” he said.
But then came months of auditions and watching the show every night.
“They saw everyone who was in town. ... It was literally hundreds and hundreds of people,” Miller recalled.
His final audition was to perform half the show in front of the crew as an audience.
“It was the hardest thing I’d ever done,” he said. “I had never played PVC pipes before. ... It was so radical.”
To Miller’s surprise, he was hired and was soon doing eight shows a week, helping establish Blue Man groups outside of New York. There are ongoing troupes in Orlando, Las Vegas, Boston, Berlin and Chicago.
A few years passed, and Miller decided he wanted to get back into traditional acting — no more blue face paint.
‘I just keep plugging away’
He’s spent most of the last three decades building a bicoastal career. He has homes in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, making travel from coast to coast easier. He still stops in Wisconsin every so often; his family still lives here.
Miller fashions himself as “one of the lucky ones” and “a blue-collar actor, a working man’s actor.”
“Nothing that makes me super famous, but makes ends meet,” he said.
Some of his earliest roles included fulfilling television tropes, like playing an uncredited druggie on “The Sopranos” and filling the now-cliché role of “guy walking home from work who happens across a crime scene” in a 2001 episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
From there, he’s landed bigger roles. He’s played a:
Cannibal on “Dexter” in 2013.
Designer’s assistant on a 2007 episode of “Ugly Betty.”
Kidnapping victim on “Hawaii Five-0” in 2012.
Kidnapper across a three-episode plotline on “One Tree Hill” in 2012.
Drug trafficker on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in 2012.
Detective on “Weeds” in 2011.
Border patrol agent in Jennifer Aniston’s “Cake” in 2014.
Flirty musician on three episodes of Amazon Prime’s “Mozart in the Jungle” in 2016.
Private investigator in two episodes of “Pretty Little Liars” in 2013.
Stalker-paparazzi-videographer in the final season of “Castle” in 2016.
He also appeared in “NCIS: Los Angeles” in 2011.
One of the challenges of Miller’s occupation is that every job has “an expiration date.”
“You know you’re working on those days (you’re hired for), and you’re out of work right after that,” he said. “My day-to-day is preparing for auditions.
“As an actor, you’re always looking for work. ... I just keep plugging away.”
Miller still likes that life, even as a father with two daughters. After falling in love with cinema and acting — an addiction he blames on seeing “Star Wars” as a young Sacred Heart Elementary School (now John Paul II Academy) student in 1977 — he has come to the realization that “I die if I don’t create.”
Music video director
One of his proudest moments came courtesy of singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson.
Miller said he has long loved Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” music video from 1988, and had an idea to update it with a challenge to gender norms, featuring male models in makeup instead of the exclusively female supermodels featured in Palmer’s video.
Michaelson liked the idea, and the video idea was paired with her 2014 song “Girls Chase Boys.” The video ended up being picked up by VH1, included in Rolling Stone’s “20 most awesome music videos of 2014,” and the song became one of Michaelson’s biggest hits, going platinum (2 million units sold) in the U.S.