Editor’s Note: To remind people to check in on friends and family during social distancing and self-quarantining, Budweiser re-visited its iconic 20-year-old ‘Wassup’ campaign. Using the original cast with re-recorded audio, the spot successfully led viewers to believe that the original cast was hollering at each other during quarantine.
Taking the concept two steps further, the AB InBev brand cast the likes of Club Quarantine DJ D-Nice, Gabrielle Union and her husband Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Candace Parker, Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Emmy Raver-Lampman in two more spots from home.
It goes to show, a great idea is always timely. Escape Pod Executive Creative Director and founder Vinny Warren would certainly agree. After all, the creative with a thick Irish accent was the brains behind the infamous campaign. Come with Vinny as he takes us back to casting in 1999.
In summer of 1999, a producer friend of mine showed me a short film called TRUE that would become the basis for the now iconic Budweiser Wassup! campaign.
So it was a go for potentially appearing in Super Bowl 2000. The big time. I was very excited.
After we’d gotten Charles Stone III to agree to adapt his short film TRUE for Budweiser, we wrote some additional spots that used the phrase in different situations.
One required casting a girlfriend for the DOOKIE character. As well as a caucasian pizza delivery guy. We cast the amazing and legendary Indie actor James Urbaniak (The Venture Brothers, Difficult People) in the role of Pizza Guy. The girlfriend we cast was a Broadway dancer named Dameka.
We also needed a new Dookie. The original Dookie in the short film was a shy animator who didn’t want to appear in the ads.
So we diid some casting in New York where we were shooting.
Also, crucially, at this point Charles did not want to appear in the main role in the commercials as he had done so well in the short film. I forget why we changed that decision. I didn’t want to push him. Even though he was perfect in role. He owned that couch.
That’s why the first piece of video you see was our preferred cast that we presented to the client. Charles wasn’t in it.
The guy playing the main role is an hilarious Puerto Rican guy from Spanish Harlem. His stage name is Puerto Rock. We loved him. Very funny guy. We ended up casting Puerto as the guy at the buzzer in the main spot.
We also tried casting non WASSUP! guys of many hues. Boy that didn’t work!
So we ended up with pals of Charles. An old pal of his from Philly who wasn’t in the short (the big bald guy) was the new Dookie. He was a great addition.
People often commented on the effortless ease that was palpable from the screen between the Wassup! Guys, as they became known. You can’t fake real friendship.
I remember the guys jumping up and down outside the casting office after we the word that the casting was approved by Budweiser.
Paul, the guy in the dungarees and the funky hair, joked “Damn, If I can’t get cast as myself it’s time to pack it in!”
We shot the Wassup! Commercials the next week in Greenwich Village, New York.
I have no idea why I kept this tape. Who keeps casting tapes? Glad I did though.
We are too, Vinny. That’s wassup!
Two-time Emmy nominee, Vinny Warren is founder and Executive Creative Director of Chicago’s The Escape Pod.