The local tour company known for using Savannah’s colorful range of historical characters — from the city’s founder Gen. James Oglethorpe to the infamous central character of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” Jim Williams — to illustrate the city’s often eccentric past has launched a nationwide search for actors to portray Forrest Gump and Paula Deen.
The right people, said the company’s creative director Jeffery Hall, will “eat, breathe, and sleep” either the legendary, fictitious simpleton or the very real superstar chef.
“You can’t be someone that does one or two lines as Forrest or Paula,” Hall said. “We need someone who really embodies these characters. We’re looking for someone who is going to be able to ad lib as their character and who can answer people’s questions about them.”
While Old Savannah employee John Sandifer for several years has portrayed Gump in his signature blue-checked shirt, neatly pressed khakis and red ball cap, the tour company’s demand for the character has grown significantly.
Deen, on the other hand, will be a first-time character the company has hoped to add to its cast for some time.
The real-life Deen, Hall said, gave the company her blessing and may even help pick her impersonator.
“We got the official go ahead, and we’re really excited about that,” Hall said. “I spoke to her personally, and she’s on board with it ... so it is something that has the potential to be really, really fun for whoever we choose for that position.”
Those interested in auditioning for the jobs — typically 20-30 hours per week, year round — have until midnight June 15 to submit a one- to three-minute video portraying either Gump or Deen.
The roles, Hall said, will be important for the company and offer actors the opportunity to perform and interact with thousands of tourists on trolley tours or through personal appearances at sites around town.
Currently, Old Savannah Tours employs 14 actors who combine to play 28 characters. Hall said the addition of two actors, who will likely be asked to portray additional Savannah personalities, is an important part of its growth.
“We have a lot of diverse characters that help bring this city and its past to life,” Hall said. “I’m really proud of that.
“Adding an additional Forrest Gump ... and adding a Paula Deen, someone who has faced some adversity recently but who has done a great deal for this city — those are just another wonderful way for us to bring this city to life for our audience.”