By Jaimz Dillman
Reading through Tony Robinette’s resume makes you wonder if he has a chance to breathe through the many commercials, tv shows, and movies he’s filmed since moving to LA. Born in Pensacola, Florida Tony was a Navy brat bouncing back and forth between South Carolina and the Sunshine State.
His family settled in Orlando when Robinette was 5. He says, “I grew up taking classes for modeling and acting through school. Nothing big or crazy though.”
In high school he landed a job with Disney in characters and puppeteering then got the opportunity to go on the road as a comic actor with Disney LIVE.
Working the theme park grind and dinner theater circuit back home had Robinette looking towards bigger ponds to grow his career. “I felt like I hit a glass ceiling in Orlando, I didn’t want to climb back down the mountain.” Even being able to land commercials and a role in the Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers didn’t feel like enough.
A move to LA 2 days after his 30th birthday proved to be fortunate as bookings started almost immediately. One of Robinette’s first roles was on the hit How I Met Your Mother. “Everyone was super nice and Neil Patrick Harris was wonderful.” He says. An appearance on Masters of Sex followed. Robinette recalls,“I remember walking out of that as one of the most uncomfortable auditions I ever had. But I guess I did something right.”
Funny enough, Disney and Nickelodeon spots followed and, ironically, a show set in Orlando called Fresh Off the Boat. On WTF Baron Davis, Robinette said, “it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done cause it was loose and improv-based.”
Listing off his following credits is a definite who’s who in the industry such as Speechless with Minnie Driver, a fun film back in Orlando with Wallace Shawn called Robo Dog, This Is Us, and an upcoming role in the reboot of 80’s classic Night Court.
When casting for the Dahmer miniseries from Netflix came around, Robinette didn’t even know the details of the project. “I had no idea what it was. They were being very secretive and I only had two lines at the audition.” He later found out he was part of the 3rd round of looking for the right person to play Donald Brandehoft and it’s uncanny how much he resembles the real-life person he portrays.
“This was the first time I played a real person. I would say about 90% of my career is comedy. So I studied a video of him and got to know his mannerisms.”
They filmed his courtroom scene for 2 days and shot his part at 3 am. Getting the serious tone and realism of the situation was tantamount to the production. Robinette said, “if you go back and watch the victim impact speeches, they’re word for word.”
After filming wrapped, the background actors clapped for the performers, Robinette said that’s never happened before. “My scene was with Evan Peters and, to me, he was very method - which he’s know for-sitting as Dahmer the entire time. He hardly looked at me and when he did, it was very cold.”
In the surge of true crime stories and the public’s fascination with hearing all the details involved in cases, Robinette said, “I think this is an important story as it’s coming from the victim’s perspective- including his (Dahmer’s) parents, who were also victims.”
Looking to what’s coming next he says he’d love to work with Ryan Murphy again citing Pose as one of his favorite shows along with Halston and Fued, the last being “one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen”
Influences from silent film actors such as Chaplin and Buster Keaton have become a little obsession for the actor who boasts a treasured collection of autographs. And director Sean Baker of the Florida Project and Tangerine is someone Robinette would love to work with. “I just think he’s brilliant.”
Writing shows is also on the lists for possible future Fringe festivals. He says, “I have projects coming out on Paramount Plus, NBC, and HBO Max and I’m looking forward to traveling more now that COVID has passed.”
No matter the success in Hollywood, Robinette is thankful for all the love from friends on this recent #1 movie on Netflix. “The wave of love from Orlando has been so strong. I miss that.” With representation in LA, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and New Mexico- it doesn’t look like that wave will have any reason to slow down anytime soon.