Interview with Actor David Amito of ‘Who is Mr. Tom?’


Who Is Mr. Tom? has gained quite a bit of a following as of late. It originally started with viral marketing–they were even contacted by SyFy’s show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files in regards to a few of their videos. From there it exploded onto the scene and has gained a flock of dedicated fans. I’ve included the first video in the series at the bottom of the page.

Recently, we interviewed the creative mind behind the Who is Mr. Tom? webseries–director/writer Michael Laicini.

Today, we have Mr. Tom himself, David Amito:

Mr. Tom has become quite a success, was it weird seeing people dress up as you, and send fan art with your face on it?
It was wonderful to see such an amazing response to the character! I was so happy that people were so engaged with the story we were telling that they felt inspired to make their own art.
But most of the time I don’t think I saw myself in their work–I think many of the drawings reflected how the artist related to Mr.Tom, with his playfulness and his pain–and that was a weird experience, but in the best way, because it felt like people really resonated with what Mike and I were going for with the character; that lost boy aspect of Mr.Tom.

As a makeup artist, I know that the prosthetics applied to your face are probably uncomfortable, especially for a character that needs to emote so much. How long does it take to apply, and who applies it?
The piece we eventually went with was designed by the very talented Monik Walmsley based on Mike’s specifics. It takes about 2 hours to apply and would usually fill me with anxiety because I’d know that I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink or speak for the rest of the shoot day. The hardest part was actually not speaking because Mike and I have such a collaborative relationship. On our previous projects, Detective Mark Waters and Beware Pickpocket, we’d be constantly coming up with ideas on the spot. This was a lot more difficult with Mr.Tom because I could never verbalize my thoughts. So I’d have to write out notes, or when there wasn’t time I would try to mime out what I wanted to say. And ironically Mike was the worst and trying to guess what I was saying!… I’d be gesturing some idea about the scene and he’d come up with the craziest interpretation, like “You want a sandwich” or sometimes we would both just have to accept that some ideas just weren’t going to come out. It was hilarious and endlessly frustrating! But it was a really great way to get into the character and to relate to Tom and the frustrations that he has to deal with everyday. My body language I think naturally got more expressive just to make myself understood. By the end of the shoot Mike would also have time to adjust and totally understand ‘Mr.Tom speak’ and we’d have a good laugh about how weird shooting this is! It even inspired us to make an episode in which The Filmmaker constantly misunderstands Tom.

How difficult is it to act with a limited range of facial expressions?
By virtue of Tom’s facial abnormality, he himself is forced to communicate through his body and his eyes–so it was really fascinating to explore communicating as Tom does. But Mike also had a vision with Mr.Tom, to essentially create a modern day silent film character. And because everyone knows Tom can’t speak his thoughts or share his emotions, they are forced to lean-in and really listen in order to figure him out. So it really doesn’t take much. A simple glance or small movement would be enough for people to get it–because they are watching more sensitively.

You co-write the series with creator Michael Laicini, does playing Mr. Tom give you a different perspective while writing for the character?
For sure! Before we released, we generated buzz for the series by shooting a lot of “caught-on-camera” sightings of Mr.Tom in New York and Toronto. I would walk down the streets in full Mr.Tom face at night while a hidden camera was following behind… and the different reactions people gave me was incredible! Some people deliberately ignored me, some couldn’t help their extreme adverse reaction, some deliberately stared at me and some angels would smile–it was fascinating, but a painful experience, to know a day in the life of Mr.Tom. Later when we were adding episodes, this experience was one of the reasons we wrote and shot the mall episode- to capture all the different reactions that people have to someone who is very physically different to the norm. It has also greatly aided our work on the feature film script, which we are putting the finishing touches on now.

Thank you so much for your cooperation, David!

And thank you again Shelby for taking such an interest and championing Mr.Tom as you are doing!