Acting Couple Moves From L.A. to La Grange
Maureen Muldoon, Will Schaub finding new careers in suburbs.
The faces of Maureen Muldoon and Will Schaub may look familiar to many, but passers-by may have to scratch their heads about where they saw the acting couple who live in La Grange.
Maureen has been in 20 television and film roles but, for a while, she was best recognized as Lisa in a Miller Beer commercial. Will has 36 credits but had been a familiar face in NBC situation comedies in the 1990s and 2000s.
“People say, 'You look familiar.’ We made a living without any degree of fame,” Maureen said during an April 11 interview with the couple at Now Serving Café on Hillgrove Avenue. After doing a commercial for Miller Beer, she would be called in restaurants by the character’s name.
Added Will, “I never got to the point where I was recognized with any regularity.” But in the fall of 2010, the film, “17 Again,” in which he plays a referee, premiered on cable television. His students at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield, where he currently teaches reading and creative writing, recognized him.
Which leads to students asking why he is teaching and not acting in Los Angeles, where they, “think actors are walking the streets,” Maureen said. Actors did live on their street in Studio City in central L.A. - Ed Asner, Ed Begley Jr. and George Wendt.
One of her last roles was as a murder victim, covered in blood, in “Dexter” in 2006. “I said ‘I’m done.’”
Both would take an acting job if offered, but they are happy doing what they are doing now. Will is teaching middle school students, and next year will instruct them on film and television production and journalism. Maureen has been writing and producing theater pieces, and teaching acting in Oakbrook Terrace. They would like to open an acting studio together.
Will’s life started in the Midwest and Maureen’s on the East Coast before each independently moved to Los Angeles, met, went on their ways, reunited, married and eventually moved to La Grange.
Will grew up in Decatur, “which brought us back to Illinois.” His parents were journalists, working for the Shaw Newspapers. At age 11, his parents moved to Iowa, where his father bought a newspaper in Boone. His mother worked part-time and wrote a column.
He attended Brown University in Providence, R.I., working on an international relations degree and afterward a master’s degree in journalism. He hoped to work as a foreign correspondent.
In his senior year, he was asked by another student to be in his student film.
“It was terrible. I was terrible, but I really liked it,” Will said.
While attending Brown, he saw someone he knew as an extra on the “L.A. Law” television show and said, ”It just blew my mind.”
He went to Los Angeles, came back to school and eventually returned to California.
“ I didn’t leave L.A. for 20 years.”
Maureen grew up in New Jersey and got into community theatre at 16 or 17. She did theater, independent films and commercials in New York City. At age 20, she got an agent, who eventually sent her to L.A. for the TV pilot season. “I recognized there was a lot more work,” she said of showing up in L.A.
Maureen went back to New York for a year and then moved to L.A. One of her first roles on television was in “Prophet of Evil: The Ervil LeBaron Story” in 1993 with Brian Dennehy. “It was great working with him.”
The couple met at a theatre in Santa Monica in 1991, Will said. “I noticed her right away when I walked into the theatre for the first time.”
Maureen was married to someone else and had a son, who now is attending Cal State University in Northridge. “Years went by, she wasn’t married anymore. We started dating,” Will said. They married in the fall of 1996. They have two daughters and one son together. One daughter will start at Lyons Township High School next fall; the other two children are in grade school.
Will did extra work and got exposed to professional sets. He said, “There’s a magic to being on live sets; it never gets stale to me. It’s kind of cool when it all comes together. It sucked me in.’’ He studied acting, found a modeling agency, started shooting commercials and joined the Screen Actors Guild.
His first role was in the “Quantum Leap’’ television show in 1992. “I just started building a resume. I had a blank slate.” He said it took a long time to get things to jell, but he was able to support himself, Maureen; and eventually their family. “We had a good life.”
He said he is best known for comedic acting and sitcoms. “I became fairly well-known to people at NBC.” He did a pilot, “Stuck in the Middle with You,” with Annie Potts in 2003. It looked like it would be picked up as a regular show, but it was not. In 2006, he did the pilot and several episodes of “The Jake Effect” with Jason Batemen, Nikki Cox and Greg Grunberg. But a new president came in at NBC and the show was never promoted, he said.
Will also worked on ”Las Vegas “ with James Caan, “Desperate Housewives” with Felicity Huffman and “8 Simple Rules” with James Garner. He called working with all three, “a little daunting, a little intimidating. I had to be sure I brought my ‘A’ game. There was a little bit of uneasiness working with someone you esteem highly.”
He continued to get opportunities, but, “after a certain number of years, you’re not the hot guy, the ‘it’ guy, the ‘it’ girl. I continued to work.’’
Maureen’s credits include “C.S.I.”; “NYPD Blue”; “Tour of Duty” and “Herman’s Head,” which featured Hank Azaria and Yeardley Smith, better known for providing voices to characters on “The Simpsons.” She said Azaria is, “fantastic.” Smith, whom she has worked with several times, “has a great reputation. She’s a great person to work with.”
“I made most of my money doing commercials,” she said. This included promoting Kmart; Chevy; Miller Beer; AT&T with Dennis Miller; and Direct TV with Tom Arnold and Paula Poundstone. “It was a real fun way of making a living.”
The couple has worked together on three professional pieces: “The Setting Sun,” written and produced by Will and winner of “a bunch of awards”; “The Mojo Café,” a short film; and a recent local promotional piece. “We work together well,” Maureen said. They each did the “E.R.” and “C.S.I.” television shows but not in the same episode.
Maureen had written a play called, “Booby Trap,” she produced at the Apollo Theatre in Chicago. She came to Elmhurst College about 2-1/2 years ago to produce the show as a benefit against breast cancer.
“That’s when I said to Will, ‘We should move here.’ He said “yes.’” They looked at Elmhurst, Villa Park and other suburbs, and were surprised when everyone they asked in those towns recommended they live there. Will said, “Everyone thought where they lived was the best place.”
They stayed at the Under the Ginkgo Tree bed-and -breakfast in Oak Park where they were advised to, “go to La Grange.” The couple came during an arts walk and said, “We saw they like the arts.”
They went back home and sold their home fairly quickly to actor Joseph Mazzello, who was a child actor in the original “Jurassic Park” movie in 1993, and in April 2010, bought their home, which they continue to renovate.
Growing up in the Midwest and East Coast, both are accustomed to snowy and cold winters but, “after 20 years in L.A., it was an adjustment,” Will said. “I don’t mind the winters. There’s a magic to early winter (and the first snow).”
The three youngest children were accustomed to running around barefoot and year-round swimming in L.A. But, “they were thrilled with their first winter (in Chicago)” Maureen said. Will said, “I feel they have adapted well. The schools are great; it’s a great community.”
Both praised the Chicago museums and restaurants, and Brookfield Zoo. Maureen said, “I think Chicago is a great city.”
Added Will, “People are so friendly here. We’re pretty used to Midwestern hospitality. That’s a nice place to call home.”
Will is looking forward next year at S.E. Gross to teaching film and television production, a class he acknowledges is very uncommon for a middle school. “I’m very grateful I have the support of my administration.”
His teaching will include scripting, short films and possibly music videos. “My curriculum will be very rudimentary. I think it’s exciting.” He sought advice from Bill Allan, LTTV adviser at Lyons Township High School, and will meet later this semester with counterparts at Riverside-Brookfield High School, to which his school feeds. “I am excited to incorporate my professional experience into teaching.’
Will said, “I’m a full-time teacher; that’s where I see my future.” But if an acting job dropped in for him, “it would be a kick to do it.”
Maureen is youth director of her church in Chicago and teaches acting. “I really enjoy it. It’s cool to give back. It’s great to give them real acting tools.”
She still has an agent and occasionally shoots commercials in L.A., but, “I really enjoy the writing much better.” She really enjoys having her work produced. “If the right part came in film or theatre, I’d do it.”
Will said, “We never really crossed into celebrity status. We were wondering where the next job is. We had a good ride.”
“After 20 years, I wasn’t having the influence I hoped for when I got into the business. It never stopped being fun,” he said, adding maybe teaching is why he is on the planet, “to guide the next generations to their dreams.”
Added Maureen, “It can be exciting, rewarding.”