Andy Umberger, BFA in Performance, 1979
Andy was NOT a theatre nerd. He says “I was a pothead and wasn’t applying myself.“ When he was in junior high, he had the choice of taking shop or chorus. He chose chorus, because as he says, “How hard can that be?“ After a year at Tidewater Community College he transferred to VCU Theatre.
Andy recalls playing Romeo to Susan Clark’s Juliet. He had a scene with Dr. James Parker (as Friar Lawrence), where he breaks down. Director Tom Holloway told Andy, “Don’t fight the fear, feel it. Don’t play the sadness, feel it.“ When Andy had difficulty mustering up the tears, he remembered speech teacher Mary Lowery telling him, “it’s not important that you feel or believe. It’s important that the audience does.“ Andy says,“Hopefully, I can bring the real, but this has served me as a good backup.“
While he was at VCU, Andy got his first professional job at the Haymarket Dinner Theatre as “a very young Gaylord“ in Showboat. This led him to other shows in Richmond. “I had friends in New York with survival jobs living in tiny apartments. I thought, ‘Hey, I’m working in theatre and getting paid.‘“ When he decided to move North, he ended up in DC, where he worked regularly and met his wife Teri Bibb.
Ultimately, they moved to New York, where he continued to work, including three Broadway shows, City of Angels, Passion and Company. Meanwhile, Teri played Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and on tour. They moved to LA in 1997, where they still live, and Andy has continued to work steadily since the move.
Early on, Andy played a character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was revisited for several seasons. When show creator Joss Whedon went on to produce two other series, Angel and Firefly, he called Andy back. Since then, he’s had supporting roles in over 15 films and has guest starred on more than 60 TV shows, with recurring roles on 10 series, including Mad Men, Weeds, Boston Legal, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, and ER.
When asked about some of the highlights, Andy says, “It’s too hard to pick one or two, but some of the most magical moments have been on stage.“ Just two years ago, he played “a very old John Adams“ in 1776 with Teri playing Abagail at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. “I played Dickinsen 30 years ago in a production in North Carolina, so to do the show again as an older actor, it all came together and made a wonderful experience. “
As for his future on camera, he muses, “It’s an interesting time because of the social landscape to be more inclusive. A lot of time, white guys are cast as doctors, lawyers and authority figures. Now, Hollywood wants to cast actors of color, especially women, so the white guys are becoming the bad guys.“
Look for Andy’s upcoming roles in this season of Animal Kingdom and Bosch.
Header image (clockwise from top left): Andy as D’Hoffryn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Andy with January Jones on Mad Men; Andy with Dee Slominski in Dial M for Murder; Andy and wife Teri in 1776; Andy and wife Teri Bibb.
Check out Andy’s photos from the 2012 reunion!
Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the July 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.