Name your son Auburn, and people will apparently 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 roles 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 that opens Friday.
“But the biggest (role) 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.
“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.
“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.”
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