Christoph Sanders loves that he gets to find a positive spin on everything when he’s playing the lovable, happy-go-lucky Kyle Anderson on “Last Man Standing.” Having worked on “The Ghost Whisperer” prior to “Last Man Standing,” the change to comedy has been a fun experience. “Being able to go into work every day and just try your hardest to make the person next to you laugh is a pretty great thing to do.” Because he worked in the theater as a child in North Carolina, Sanders transitioned naturally into the more play-like nature of sitcoms. “Tim [Allen] always stresses to do it just like a play on show nights. Sometimes we only do one take for the audience to keep it fresh and moving along. We do everything in order and do very little playbacks so everything is live and you get that energy from the audience.”
Sanders said even the casting process was fairly easy for “Last Man Standing.” Since the role of Kyle was originally going to be recurring, Sanders says, “I was able to sneak my way in much easier than everyone else. Molly Ephraim was in New York and she had to fly out here …I think for a total of six weeks she was living in a hotel and doing all the testing and all this kind of stuff that you normally have to do with a series regular role and so I lucked out.”
Sanders talks to Backstage about transitioning and what advice he has for actors.
Overcome your fears.
Even though Sanders was lucky enough to have a relatively simple audition process for “Last Man Standing,” he admits auditions are terrifying. But a friend gave him some good advice. “He told me that you get the chance to perform and that’s what we’re all out here doing. That’s what we all enjoy doing—performing and entertaining and getting to create a character. So you have the opportunity to do all that and have a captive audience sitting down in front of you that will watch your work. I just try to pass that through my mind every day before I go into an audition.” Sanders also makes sure to audition whenever he can. “It’s something that you constantly practice, just like any other part of acting.”
When preparing to audition, Sanders says sometimes it’s better to leave a little flexibility. “I don’t like to be 100 percent off-book because you always want to be able to make changes in the room, but I think there’s a different amount of memorization that I like to try to do depending on the character; sometimes it’s fun to be able to kind of improv it.”
After moving to L.A. at 18, Sanders didn’t take long to start booking work—which is not typically the case for actors moving to Los Angeles. A manager gave Sanders the advice to get into classes as soon as he moved, and he did. He even continued with classes after he was working regularly on “The Ghost Whisperer.” Constantly performing and surrounding himself with other people working towards the same goals was very beneficial. “You have that support group and you get to constantly be putting up work and keeping it fresh and working on auditions and bouncing off ideas… the thing that helped me most was coming out here and getting right into class and working as hard as I could and at the same time going to any audition that I could possibly get in just to be able to strengthen that muscle.”
Learn from your colleagues.
Working with Tim Allen has taught Sanders more than just comedy. “He’s also such an intelligent businessman,” says Sanders who is also learning from veterans Hector Elizondo and Nancy Travis. “I think the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from being able to work with all three of them is timing. I figured the comedy would be a little bit easier, but it, the nuance and the working in threes and all these different rules that they’ve enlightened me.” Sanders is taking advantage of working with them. “Just being able to watch them and absorb those little tricks, and being able to break down the script in a certain way to highlight the ups and the downs and all this kind of stuff. I can’t imagine a better class than that.”
Keep it fresh.
Sanders is always striving to create something new. “You kind of get locked into doing the same type of thing. The most challenging thing would be to try to find different ways of performing and opening up a new door and trying to keep yourself from getting stuck in a rut if something’s not working or if something is working. Finding a way to change it and grow a little bit more.” When something is working it can be tempting to keep it the same, but Sanders feels it’s important to continue to find new ways to perform.
Never stop working.
Sanders keeps the momentum going in his career by always keeping busy. “I think the best advice is to never stop trying to grow or to stay in a class, stay working on something, because when you kind of stop and you stay still, you kind of lose that. It’s a muscle that you have to keep strong.” Whether it be auditioning, taking classes, or working on your own project staying creative is important. “Even now I still like to try and audition as much as I can and work with friends on ideas and pitching stuff,” he says.