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Headshots and Headaches: Actor Auburn Brit Whittle can’t get gigs using his first name

Auburn Brit Whittle performing in Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters." A lifelong Auburn fan, Whittle says he had to drop his first name in order to be taken seriously as an actor.

Name your son Crimson, Tyde, or Bear and people will automatically think he’s a redneck.

Name your son Auburn, and people will automatically think he’s putting on airs, at least if he’s an actor.

“I actually tried to go by Auburn as an actor but nobody believed that was my name,” laughs lifelong Auburn fan Auburn Brit Whittle. “They thought I’d made up some pretentious stage name.  I was like, no, that really is my real name.”

Whittle’s father Dale, who graduated from Auburn in 1966, named his son Auburn in honor of his alma mater; Whittle, who goes by his middle name, was accepted to Auburn, but never attended.

“I couldn’t afford to go because they jacked up out of state tuition fees, but I was such an avid follower of Auburn football from the days of Joe Cribbs and James Brooks, from Barfield into Pat Dye, Lionel ‘Little Train’ James, Randy Campbell running the wishbone,” he says. “My wall was just covered in Auburn stuff.”

Whittle’s brother Whit graduated from Auburn in 1989; his nephew Joshua is currently attending Auburn on a Presidential Scholarship.

Whittle grew up in Brunswick, Georgia surrounded by Georgia and Georgia Tech fans who never failed to notice his first name.

“I kind of compare it to the song ‘Boy Named Sue,’” he says. “I went by my middle name, but I still got teased a lot.”

Things didn’t change much when he got into show business.

Currently living in New York, the 41-year-old actor regularly lands bit rolls on television shows like “Mercy” and “Blue Bloods,” and in feature films; he can be seen in the “The Adjustment Bureau,” a science fiction thriller starring Matt Damon which opens Friday.

“But the biggest (roll) so far,” Whittle says, “has been the ‘30 Rock’ thing.”

Whittle played “Man #1” on the “30 Rock: Season 3” episode “Retreat to Move Forward,” asking Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon to do another Jack Donaghy impression as she tries to cover for Jack’s hot mic-in-a-bathroom moment during a corporate synergy-building seminar.

Whittle played "Man #1" in a 2006 episode of NBC's "30 Rock."

“That was kind of a seminal moment in my career because after that, I started getting booked on soaps (“One Life to Live,” “All My Children”) without even auditioning,” Whittle says. “They would just book me.”

But would they have booked Auburn Whittle?

“When I first became an actor, I was in Atlanta and doing commercial work and theater,” he says. “I needed to make some headshots and I did it as Auburn Whittle. If you join the union and someone already has your name, your SOL.”

Along these lines, Whittle deemed Auburn — which is generally used as a girl’s name (when it’s used at all) — a safer bet than Brit.

Brit couldn't find his Auburn sweatshirt for this picture, but his girlfriend managed to find a street named Auburn... a pretentious, pretentious street.

“I thought I’d get everybody to know me as Auburn Whittle, but it just wouldn’t work,” he laughs. “I’d hand someone a headshot and they’d be like, ‘what the hell is that?’ And I was like, ‘that’s my name.’ I’d have to pull out my driver’s license to prove it.”

Whittle’s only credit as Auburn Whittle is for a play he wrote, “The Legend of Eustice Ray Jackson.”

Life as Britt, he says, is so much simpler. But he’s not afraid to go full-name when he needs to.

“Strangely, I run into a lot of Alabama fans (as an actor),” he says. “I have to throw down the gauntlet every now and then.”

Keep Reading:

* Awesome old video shows Auburn (and Chewacla) of yesteryear
* Harvey Updyke in high school
* Could Bieber Fever save the Toomer’s Oaks?
* Toomer’s Corner after Punt, Bama, Punt
* Bo and Me
* Actor’s memoir sheds light on integration of Auburn football
* Bear Bryant’s lost year at Auburn

* The Secret History of Pat Dye Field
* Erin Andrews at Toomer’s Corner
* In the time of “Got 13″ she was a Tiger
* The Auburn player who played for Bama… and Busey

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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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