EVANSVILLE — In a way, McManus Woodend had the best of both worlds.
When he became the “caveman” in GEICO Insurance commercials, he was instantly recognizable. When he took off his prosthetic makeup, he was virtually incognito.
In fact, some of his friends didn’t think he was really GEICO’s “caveman”. Saying something like that suited his sense of humor, they reasoned. Then he showed them visual evidence.
Woodend has appeared in six feature films, but is best known for his “caveman” role. He is now in his first semester as an English professor at Indiana Southern University.
GEICO’s Caveman Had To Withstand Blizzard And Avalanche During Filming
He won the role by beating out around 1,000 other actors who auditioned. Woodend was working at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida as a film industry liaison when he landed the role of “man cave” and traveled to Homer, Alaska for a shooting in March 2009.
Commercials were shot with a crew in Homer, Alaska as part of a campaign with the Discovery Channel and its popular show “The Deadliest Catch”. However, a week-long shoot seemed to last two months – it had to withstand a blizzard and an avalanche.
Woodend moved to Chicago for a few years but was almost never in the Windy City as he traveled everywhere. He said the facial prostate’s transformation from “normal me” to “super ego me” took three and a half hours to remove. When he was in costume, it looked like he could get away with anything.
“Then I was like everyone else and it was for the best,” Woodend said.
His very first public appearance as GEICO’s “Caveman” was at the DC Food and Wine Festival and perhaps his most memorable. He had a great chat with American chef, cookbook author and TV personality Paula Deen.
Putting on a Southern accent mimicking Deen, Woodend said she told him, “You are so lucky. You can wear makeup and everyone loves you. You can do things and have fun. But then you take your makeup off.
She looked at him with her “cheeky blue eyes” and said, “I can’t take my makeup off.”
McManus Woodend had a 10-year run as a GEICO caveman
Woodend’s 10-year run as a GEICO “Caveman” ended at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
His last trip took him to the USI. He and his wife, Kelli Lynn, a playwright, lived in Sarasota, Florida. Originally from Henderson, Kentucky, Kelli Lynn wanted to be closer to her family. They have a young son.
“Here we can see the family every weekend or every other weekend, especially for her, and that’s fine with me,” he said.
Woodend came honestly into the teaching profession – both of his parents were teachers for 30-40 years. Although there is a performative aspect to the teaching, it does not pontificate on stage from a large lecture hall. His classes range from 20 to 22 students, just the way he likes it.
“It’s definitely in my blood,” said Woodend, working on her doctorate in musical and visual thinking and literacy. “I have many friends in the teaching profession.”
Woodend learns from David Lynch
Woodend earned his undergraduate degree in the aforementioned Full Sail University’s Film and Entertainment Production program. He graduated in film from the David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts, part of Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa.
Living with his wife in Brooklyn, Woodend jumped at the chance to go to school in Lynch, Iowa: from skyscrapers to cornstalks.
“In southeast Iowa, there was a lot of corn and not a lot of people,” he said. “It was a culture shock, but I took it well. I started to focus on my career in film school.”
Meeting Lynch via a Skype call, Woodend then became part of a group of 20 students who were invited to his studio in Los Angeles.
“He has such an iconic character,” Woodend said. “He sat down and answered questions thoughtfully. Talking to him was pretty amazing. He was approachable and engaging with the world. At the same time, he has a streak, a bit of a bad boy in him, in a good way, of course.”
One of Woodend’s childhood heroes, Lynch co-created and directed the TV show “Twin Peaks”, which became cult in the early 1990s. He also directed films such as “Blue Velvet”, “Wild at Heart”, “Mulholland Drive”, “Lost Highway” and many more.
Despite his parents’ objections, Woodend was bound and determined to watch the original “Twin Peaks.” So he got creative, using bunny ears to tune his three-inch black-and-white Sony Watchman for the show. He put the covers over his head in bed, so his parents theoretically wouldn’t know what he was doing.
Woodend has always had the acting bug. Living in Mount Clemens, Michigan, at the age of 10, he tried out in a Nickelodeon talent search, but was not selected. He was not discouraged.
Already involved in community theater for young people, Woodend “just wanted to hang out and have fun and be a kid” when auditioning for Nickelodeon. His family moved around a lot when he was young.
“I spent most of my life as a Florida boy, but not as a Florida man,” he said.
At just 42, Woodend considers himself semi-retired from acting. But he was just approached to attend the Raptor Con Pop Culture and Geek Convention on December 10 and 11 at the National Guard Armory, where photos would be taken and he would sign autographs.
“I probably will,” Woodend said.
Contact Gordon Engelhardt by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @EngGordon