We Talked to the Dad from that Iconic Blockbuster Video Commercial and He Takes Us Behind the Scenes! [INTERVIEW]
By Josh Schafer and Ted Gilbert
There may be no other commercial that's as synonymous with the video store era, or that made such an impression on the masses that saw it as this classic Blockbuster TV spot.
There was just so much going on. From the self-raising walls and the tapes that magically fill the shelves, to the customer who seems to drop in from the sky - the whole thing was sure to fill the average viewer with wonder and make them ask out loud: How did they do that!
We were lucky enough to speak with Bill D. Russell, the actor who played the dad at the center of this iconic advertisement, for a peek behind the scenes of its production.
Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us! We’re super excited to learn more about this iconic commercial you were part of. Can you tell us how you became involved with the production? What were your responsibilities on this project?
My only part of the process was playing the dad in the commercial. Blockbuster Video's advertising company at the time was located in Kansas City. So they hired a Kansas City production company called third guy productions to set everything up.
The process of the pop up / slide in effect is pretty magical. How did you manage to have things slide into place, and have the titles pop up on the shelf, etc. And the shelves that seem to grow from the ground - how were these effects created?
The store for the commercial was made of a basic wooden construction, like a box van with the sides all folding down. When the walls come up in the commercial, it’s stage hands pulling ropes to get them in place, which of course meant they all had to pull in synchronicity, which didn’t always happen.
Can you tell us about the guy in the right hand portion of the screen that comes down from the sky? He integrates so seamlessly into the rest of the scene, was this effect complicated to create?
The guy who floats down to the counter was a professional stunt man attached to some sort of rig that he stepped away from. Nothing was done with any computer generated effects.
The internet cites this commercial as being released in 1992. Is that correct? When and where did you shoot this commercial?
1992 is correct. I was the only actor they brought in from Chicago. The rest of the talent was local. I can’t imagine there weren’t a lot of guys my age and type in Kansas City but sometimes it’s a status thing for them to be able to say oh, we brought in a comic actor from Chicago for this bit.
How long did the whole process to create the commercial take?
The process took a lot longer than they expected. If memory serves correctly, we spent three days on the set doing absolutely nothing while they tried to coordinate the special effects to work properly.
What were your feelings and thoughts creating the commercial? Thoughts about it now?
It was very exciting for me at the time because it was my first big commercial. I was happy it was for a brand that was well-known, but nobody expected this to be a commercial that would just linger on in cultural awareness for decades.
What are you doing now? Has creating this iconic Blockbuster Video commercial impacted your career in any way?
Yes, I’m happy to see it still having a life of its own even though of course I don’t make any money often. Lol. In itself no it hasn’t really impacted my career. Just a nice little piece of trivia.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I still do commercials, but my focus is primarily on film. Two movies I’m in recently started streaming on Tubi and another on Amazon Prime. One of them is Puppet Master: Doktor Death…