Living the High Life
Podcast: High Life Delivery Man talks about his acting career
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In the course of a normal day, Windell Middlebrooks does not drive around in a Miller High Life delivery truck and confiscate beer from high-priced establishments that "don't deserve to live the High Life."
He's an actor, hired to portray a man who drives around in a Miller High Life delivery truck and confiscates beer from high-priced establishments that "don't deserve to life the High Life."
Middlebrooks, who is on his way to becoming a cult hero thanks to his popular commercial character, won an acting scholarship in college and has worked professionally on stage and in TV sitcoms.
The High Life spots, though, don't feel like acting.
"This campaign is such an honest campaign," Middlebrooks said Tuesday during a publicity blitz that featured stops at the Bucks game, numerous radio stations and Miller corporate headquarters.
"Although this is a certain persona of the working-class man, I don't feel like I'm putting on a persona. This is my uncles, my grandparents. This is my family, who are just simple people and down to earth folk.
"I come from the hard-working people; the common man. It's not about the material things. You can get a quality product not paying a high price. Somewhere, it got lost that in order to get goods, you have to pay a lot for them. I come from 'No, you don't. You deserve the quality product at a reasonable price.'"
At the Bucks game Monday night, Middlebrooks signed autographs, threw T-shirts in the crowd and participated in the human bowling ball contest. As he strolled through Milwaukee, Middlebrooks met several fans, several of whom repeated his tag lines like "Eleven-fifty for a hamburger? Ya'll must be crazy!"
"I haven't received as much love (nationally) as I have in Milwaukee, but people do recognize (me) and know the commercials, so I'm glad that it's a lasting impression on people," Middlebrooks said.
"This is my first time in Milwaukee and y'all have welcomed me with open arms. I've been getting greeted since I stepped off the plane. I was sitting on the plane and I'm getting ready to exit and a guy comes up to me and says 'I love your commercials.' I couldn't even get off the plane.
"I'm glad that that has been sticking with people. We don't have to pay overprices to live the High Life. We're redefining."
Middlebrooks grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and for a husky junior high schooler, that meant one thing: football.
"I played sports when I was in middle school, but I knew that this is not the passion I have," he said. "If you're going to give your best, you've got to love it. I went to a high school, Trimble Tech High School, that had majors. I started out as a business major and hated it. I was sitting in accounting and the teacher wanted me out of the class because I hated going."
Then, the theater called. "I started working the spotlight. Next year, I auditioned for a show and that was it. I went home and told my parents," Middlebrooks said. "They didn't tell me until years later they just said on the bed and said 'Oh, my God. He wants to be an actor.'"
But, the acting gig won him scholarships in college and a master's degree from the University of California-Irvine. Middlebrooks has worked onstage and his agent got him an audition for the High Life role. Needless to say, he didn't have to work hard to get "in character."
"I didn't wear a suit, you know what I mean?," he said. "I didn't think it would work for this. I didn't show up in a shirt and tie.
"Miller has a certain essence that they're looking for and then they'll call around to agents and stuff in L.A. There were hundreds of guys in auditions. What they're doing in auditions is they're trying to pull out of you what they need. It wasn't hard for me. I was channeling my uncles and doing what I needed to do."
Now that he has the part, the uncles and other family members can share in his success.
"The best thing is sitting with my family and something will pop up," he said. "I did an NFL promo and it was when I was at home at Christmas and we're sitting there and, of course, my mom started screaming 'There you are! Look. Look. Look at yourself!'
"I know what I look like, but she gets excited. I've done guest stars and stuff on TV and no one really cared. But my uncles, it was a chain -- a phone chain - when I was the Miller High Life guy. It was like 'You know he's doing Miller High Life now...'
"And they always ask 'So, when is the truck going to pull up and deliver the goods for us because we're your family?'" They keep asking."
Another question that comes up: will there be more commercials?
"We just made three more," Middlebrooks said. "Actually, in these we're taking (the beer) back to places that are living the High Life. We're rewarding them for living the High Life."
This is one of those beer commercials that makes sense. No big breasted women living out men's fantasies for a cheap-o beer. Just regular people doing a (sorta) regular job.
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