Nostalgia is my weakness. When I'm content, when I'm stressed, nothing zones me out of my present reality more than looking through childhood photos or scrolling endlessly down pages and pages of 'vintage' toys on eBay. One thing more than anything else though takes me instantly back to my formative years.
In the Magic Book of childhood memories, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is permanently bookmarked. It's an emblem of the 90s, a timeless escape without limits, and for a significant part of my formative years it was the core of my existence.
One can imagine my delight, then, when many of the cast members reunited at Stan Lee's LA Comic Con in 2017, with several other gatherings peppered over the last few years. Most recently, 100 of the cast and crew gathered with Melissa Joan Hart for what to the spectator appeared to be a joyous reunion.
One Sabrina actor attending was Curtis Andersen. Curtis played lovable geek Gordie in nine episodes from 1996 to 1999, after initially appearing as Student #1 in the show's second episode 'Bundt Friday'. I've spoken with Curtis a lot over the years about the show (admittedly more than he would probably care for!), and I decided that now was the perfect time to quiz him about his time on Sabrina, his own personal nostalgia, and where Gordie would be today.
I wasted no time in turning the clock back to 1996.
Amy McLean: Did you have any idea back then how successful Sabrina the Teenage Witch would become?
Curtis Andersen: Not a clue. At the time I was auditioning a lot and it was the second audition I was doing that day and then I had to go back to my college to do a radio show. But I did think it was cool that my audition was with the creator Nell Scovell and executive producer Paula Hart. It was also a short scene so I did the stuff and went home.
AM: What was the audition process like?
CA: It was a little different than normal when I auditioned for the show. It was still pretty early so I actually auditioned directly for Paula Hart and Nell Scovell. It was for 'Bundt Friday' and it was just the bit in the hall where me and the other guy talk about being virgins. Did the bit, said thank you, and got the call! Things worked out. I got invited back for 'Geek Like Me', and that's when Gordie was born!
AM: Were you familiar with the Archie Comics Sabrina stories or the animation series that preceded the Hartbreak production? CA: I was familiar with the old comics and cartoon. I was not aware that there was a movie (with Ryan Reynolds?!). I didn't find out about that one until years later.
[AM: It's a fun movie, basically an extended version of the series pilot. Well worth looking out for!] AM: What's your own acting background before Sabrina?
CA: I was a child actor and did my first show at age five. We moved to California in 1985 and I kept pursuing it. I got my first professional job at eight as the voice of Schroeder for Peanuts cartoons and commercials.
In addition to TV and commercials I did about a decade of amateur musical theater. I've always told stories in some way, shape, or form and so acting came pretty naturally to me. Until Sabrina I was a guest star on a bunch of shows, and after Sabrina that kept up until about 2005 when I switched to producing. I did that for about a decade and decided to get back in front of the camera and every once in a while you can still see me in stuff.
AM: You're often typecast in a certain way (I'm thinking Gordie, Model UN student, the Hyundai advert...). Is this something that, generally speaking, benefits actors? Or is it something that Hollywood would ideally move away from?
CA: I really loved being the guy that made faces and fell down. It was my bread and butter for over two decades, but it does kinda suck when you know you can do more and you just don't get the chance.
Is there a benefit? Sure, for a while I was the guy to call for that, but those times pass as new folks come in doing the same thing. It was definitely a hindrance when I came back to acting after I focused on producing. Casting directors would be glad to see me but weren't seeing me as anything but the "make faces and fall down" guy. I got lucky with a few opportunities, like a film called Squirrel that I did a couple years ago, but the type casting still follows me.
Is it something Hollywood should move away from? In a perfect world, sure, it would be nice for every actor to be considered for every role, but I've been on the casting side and sometimes you just need who you know can give that solid performance without too much searching. I'm still happy to make faces and fall down, but I definitely seek out roles that allow me to stretch.
AM: Certainly we all enjoyed seeing Gordie making faces and falling down! What was your favourite Gordie scene(s), episodes, and/or moments? CA: All of 'Salem the Boy' and the car scene from 'Suspicious Minds'. With that car scene in particular, when we were filming, we had done a couple takes and on the last one the director, Linda Day, let me just go off on a monologue about how Sabrina abandoned me and how upset I was for a good long time. It was a lot of fun and the scene in the final show was made from sections of that take.
[AM: You can see Curtis re-enacting a scene from 'Salem the Boy' in the clip below!]
AM: You worked briefly with Jenna Leigh Green, who played the antagonistic cheerleader Libby Chessler in Sabrina, on the Mountain Dew ad in 2012. Is there anybody else you'd like to work with again from the show at some point?
CA: I really like that whole cast, honestly, which is something you can't always say. I'd love to do something with Nate [Richert] again and something more substantial with Jenna, but I would honestly be thrilled to get a chance to work with Melissa [Joan Hart], Caroline [Rhea], Beth [Broderick], Nick [Bakay], they were all really great. It was a pretty awesome set to work on both cast and crew wise.
AM: Sabrina is actually enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, with 'Sabrina & Salem: Together Again' for Funny Or Die in 2011, the reunion at Stan Lee's LA Comic Con in 2017, then some of the cast coming together to 'react' to the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
More recently we've enjoyed seeing photos from the gathering of over 100 cast and crew for a reunion party, and then there's the imminent inaugural UK appearances of several cast members at Liverpool Comic Con in March.
CA: Yeah, it's pretty great to have all this interest in the show again! The big cast reunion was a particularly good time for me. A lot of those folks I hadn't seen in 20 years, but it was like no time had passed. I'm just really glad that the kids who watched the show back then are sharing it with their children now.
AM: Chilling Adventures has brought the Spellmans back into mainstream conversation recently. Why is the time right for this?
CA: CAoS is a very different show. I think the success of Riverdale really pushed the possibility for this show to exist. That and the very impressive run of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comics books that came out a couple years before the series was greenlit. I don't know that it is necessarily that the world was ready, but Archie as a company was ready and they know they have a solid IP in Sabrina. AM: The character reboot has presented a much darker interpretation of witchcraft. Do you think Gordie would have a place in the Chilling Adventures?
CA: I don't know that there is a place for a 'Gordie' in the new show. Gordie was a foil and magic target. That was usually the comedy relief of the episodes I was on, and it was a comedy show with a weekly lesson. I think CAoS is actually telling a different kind of story about about outsiders and finding yourself. All that being said, if the producers would like to have Principal Gordie in a future season, sign me up! AM: Although Hartbreak no longer own the rights to Sabrina, would you be interested in a reunion episode/feature? CA: That's an easy yes. I've worked on a lot of shows over the years but I think I had the most fun on STTW. It was a really great group of people.
AM: Where would Gordie be today? CA: Clearly Gordie and Libby would be married and Gordie would be the founder of an app that made him a whole bunch of money. But someway, somehow, Sabrina's magic would end up making Gordie fall down or turn him pink or something.
AM: We all love Gordie,but if you could have played any other Sabrina character, who would you have chosen? CA: Easy - Libby Chessler. What a fun character! And I think I could rock that cheerleader uniform. If I'm forced to remain in gender then Salem, but I guess I kinda did get to do that?
AM: If Sabrina the Teenage Witch in its Hartbreak format were to be cast for production today, and you were casting director, who would you think of for Gordie?
CA: Wow, that's a good question and one that I've never considered. Gun to my head? I think a really solid modern Gordie would be Gaten Matarazzo from Stranger Things. He's got that ability to be geeky and have heart.
AM: It's actually arguably thanks to shows like Stranger Things that nostalgia very strong at the moment, with a lot of fashion being inspired by 80s and 90s pop culture such as Clueless, Friends, 90s cartoons, and so on. Why do you think TV nostalgia is so powerful?
CA: Nostalgia is a really powerful force of comfort. It triggers a reaction in the brain that makes you feel better and relieve stress. in these modern times I think we all want to feel less stress and more comfortable.
AM: On the opposite end of the nostalgia timeline, we're in an age where social media and the internet dominates. Do you think social media has changed the way we view television and how we respond to it? Is it a help or a hindrance? CA: Absolutely, but I think that it's a pretty agnostic thing by itself. I think you see the effects most in fandoms. These have always existed, but social media has made being a part of a fandom easier and more immediate.
Social media is also the great equalizer when it comes to everyone having a voice. In the old days if you wanted to comment on a show or movie you had to take the time to write a zine or hang out in the local comic shop and talk to other like minded people. Then came the cons, but there was always some sort of gatekeeper that maintained a direction for the fandom.
Social media eliminates that for the most part allowing people to break off into cliques where the most niche feelings about something can be shared with folks who feel exactly the same way you do. Sure there are the dark sides of that, like The Fandom Menace or Incels Against Captain Marvel, but for the most part social media has made it so that fandoms are an industry driver.
There are literally billions of dollars made and spent based on what people would have thought was too risky, too nerdy or too niche even just 10 years ago. I think for people that want to see their favorite characters on lots of platforms then social media's influence is only a good thing!
AM: Social media is certainly providing a platform for fans to interact with their favourite actors. The question you've probably been asked a million times over: what advice would you give to anybody today wanting to get into acting, regardless of their age or current situation? CA: This is rough. I think that if you're going to try and do this you need to make sure that you're getting into it for the right reasons, because it's a tough job. There lots of rejection. If you're just trying to be rich and famous you're going to burn out pretty quick.
If you're ready to commit then you have to be persistent, consistent, and pleasant. Always keep learning - it's a given that you need to have talent and skill. No one wants to teach you on set, you need to be able to show up and do the job, so come in prepared. I think the most important thing to remember is that it's not easy. If it were easy everyone would do it, it's the best job ever.
AM: You mentioned earlier that you started out as a child actor. Aside from your time performing in your youth, what's YOUR nostalgia? CA: Oh boy, that's a tough one. I work in toys so my brain is always looking at what I liked in my toys as a kid and how we can try and capture that feeling of excitement and imagination - so I'm living in nostalgia. I don't know that I could even identify what my personal nostalgia is anymore.
To explore Curtis's work with toys, you can visit AlterNation.toys!
Let us know what your favourite childhood nostalgia is!
Curtis Andersen was interviewed by Amy McLean for Super Ink Arts