Jason Marsden: 90’s Sitcoms, Life in Nashville, and the Importance of Staying Goofy

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A glance at Jason Marsden’s social media accounts will quickly give you a sense of this fun-loving actor’s personality. He’s witty, a natural with people, and clearly loves entertaining. And his IMDB is several hundred lines long for a reason — he’s the guy who’s been in everything.

If you grew up in the 90’s, you undoubtedly saw — or heard — Jason Marsden on several of your favorite shows on a regular basis. Between on-camera and voiceover roles playing a slew of memorable characters, at one point in the mid-nineties Marsden was a regular on multiple shows at the same time.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with “Mars” (as he invites fans to call him) and learned more about his long career in the business and his wealth of entertainment trivia.

Originally from Rhode Island, Marsden grew up close to the performing arts as his father, a dancer, was the founder of the State Ballet of Rhode Island. When a teaching position led him to the West Coast, he moved Jason to Fullerton, California.

“People started to notice me out there and would say to my dad, ‘Hey you’ve got a cute kid,’ and one thing led to another,” Marsden shared about how he got his start. “It was kind of right place at the right time.”

After being cast in McDonald’s commercials and early gigs on Webster and General Hospital, Jason’s first prominent voiceover role came in the late eighties when he landed the role of Cavin on the Disney cartoon Adventures of the Gummi Bears. “The other young actor who was supposed to voice Cavin started puberty and his voice changed so he couldn’t keep the part,” Marsden explained of his good fortune.

While still voicing Cavin, Marsden started getting used to working multiple jobs at the same time. His was the excited teen voice we all heard on the Disney Channel announcing the countdown to the premiere of The Mickey Mouse Club. At the same time, he voiced Peter Pan for the series Peter Pan and the Pirates. And while continuing all of these voiceover jobs, Marsden was cast in an on-camera starring role as Eddie Munster in The Munsters Today, an experience that came with great memories of growing up in a different generation of Hollywood.

“I lived across the street from Universal Studios where we filmed The Munsters Today,” Marsden recalled. “I used to ride my bike to the set, and the security was nothing like it is today, so I got to run around and see all the actors from the different shows behind the scenes. And nobody cared. . . it was great!” Watching the filming of Back to the Future 2 and Dick Tracy were among the highlights for Marsden.

Today’s security has made studio work much less like a playground, to say the least. As networks now have strict rules about security as well as fear of leaking spoilers, Marsden has ticked off studio execs more than once for sharing information about his roles on social media.
“Nickelodeon doesn’t let you share anything,” he joked.  “I was recording for The Legend of Korra and I tweeted about being with Jason Isaacs. Within a half hour I heard from my agent that he got an angry phone call from Nickelodeon.”

Marsden was sent to the principal’s office again when he posted a seemingly innocent photo of himself in the Young Justice recording booth. “It was nothing — I mean I didn’t say anything — but in the picture you could see the booth director and somebody recognized him,” Marsden revealed.  “Another call from my agent about complaints,” he laughed.  “I thought all publicity was good publicity, right?!”

Although Marsden got his start in television, he also has some impressive film credits under his belt. In 1992, he made his big-screen debut working alongside Billy Crystal in Mr. Saturday Night. Marsden played young “Buddy,” Crystal’s character as a teen. He recalls the experience of working with Crystal as “amazing” and has proud memories of his own performance.

Following numerous appearances on classic 90’s shows from Blossom to Baywatch, Marsden landed a lead role in a new series Almost Home, opposite Brittany Murphy. The show was short-lived but a great experience for Marsden, and furthered his growing resume.
Soon after, he began his recurring role on Full House as the memorable character Nelson Burkhard, who was DJ’s rich boyfriend.

He remembers his days on Full House fondly. “Everyone was wonderful to me on that show, and Candace [Cameron] and I already knew each marsden-fullhouse_origother,” he explained. “Back in the eighties the teen magazines like Tiger Beat used to treat all of us to these great parties, so Candace and I would see each other there and had become friends before I was on Full House.”

Marsden’s next audition led to what is arguably one of the most interesting pieces of 90’s TV casting trivia.

When Boy Meets World held auditions, Marsden tried out for the legendary part of Eric Matthews.

“It was down to me, Will [Friedle], and Shiloh Strong, who is Rider’s brother,” Marsden divulged. (Have you wrapped your heads around that trio, BMW fans?)

“I gave it to Will, I let him have the part,” he joked. “No, I’m kidding, Will earned that role fair and square.”

Boy Meets World later came knocking with another role for the ever-busy Marsden, playing Eric’s best friend. “Michael Jacobs knew me and wrote the part for me, so he asked me to come in,” he shared. But he had just been cast as a lead on another sitcom — Tom — starring Tom Arnold. Tom was canceled after twelve episodes, however, and Marsden was able to join Boy Meets World.  “I wrapped Tom and the next day I came into Boy Meets World,” Marsden recalled.

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True Boy Meets World fans will remember Jason Marsden as. . . well. . . Jason Marsden. He had a recurring role on the show and may claim the quirky honor of being the only fictional character in TV history to be named after the actor portraying him. (Somebody Google that.) Like most fans, I’ve always wondered how Jason’s character stole his name.
“They were going to use Jason as my character’s first name and then we were about to film a scene where Mr. Feeny had to say the character’s last name, ” Marsden recalled. “The writers said to me, ‘Is it okay if we use your real name,’ and I said, ‘Sure’.”  And in true Mr. Feeny form, he addressed his student as “Mr. Marsden.”

Soon after, Marsden was cast as Rich on Step by Step, the hit show which was part of ABC’s “TGIF” lineup. He recalls his years on the show fondly and particularly has special memories of working with Patrick Duffy.

“When I came onto that show, everyone welcomed me so warmly, ” Marsden shared. And it’s always refreshing to learn when the sitcom marsden-stepbystep_origparents we grew up with live up to our expectations in real life. “Patrick Duffy was outstanding,” Marsden raved. “He directed many of the episodes so I learned a lot from him, and all of his experience as an actor . . . I would hang on his every word.”  The Lamberts’ patriarch was like a real father figure to the kids on set, as Jason recalls. “Patrick did a show in the seventies called Man From Atlantis, and he knew I loved comic books so he would bring me Man From Atlantis comic books that were such classics, ” Marsden shared.

Step by Step brings back great memories for Marsden. “There was a lot of freedom and love on that set,” he shared. And the story was supposed to continue longer than it did. “Rich and Dana were going to get married,” Marsden revealed. “There was even a spinoff in the works about them, but it never happened.”  The show was picked up for another full season but ended prematurely without a real finale. “We don’t always understand why networks do what they do,” Marsden explained. The family sitcom, nonetheless, was a hit among fans for seven strong seasons.

Throughout his busy sitcom schedule, Marsden continued his voiceover work, including starring as Max Goof in A Goofy Movie, one of the sub-buzz-15209-1530217245-1_kindlephoto-8209151voiceover roles for which he is best known. This classic Disney movie, which centers around Goofy and his teenage son Max, is celebrating its 24th anniversary this month, and thanks to its strong following, there has been plenty of love across social media marking the occasion. A Goofy Movie has long been celebrated by its huge fan base as Disney’s first original coming of age animated film which made our favorite classic characters relatable in life and relationships.

If you’re wondering whether Marsden prefers voiceover or on-camera work, he loves them equally. “It’s all acting,” he explained.  “I just love to act.” And although he loves what he does for a living, he humbly brings the profession down to earth. “Not to demystify the world of acting for you, but it’s a lot like being a gambler, ” he continued. “You show up, play your best hand, and sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.”

Something else Marsden loves? Comic cons! He makes several appearances a year at some of the nation’s coolest cons, including his recent trip to Kawaii Kon, which was his first time at a Hawaii convention. “Comic cons are so much fun,” Marsden shared. “I had an acting professor who used to say gigs like this are like going on vacation with a rich uncle,” he joked. And the entertaining exhibits and people are right up his alley. “I love all things pop culture. . . animation, comics, superheroes, Halloween. . .  so cons are awesome for me,” he explained, as he excitedly got ready to meet Back to the Future stars at his next con appearance. “Plus I admit, it’s really validating to meet fans and to know that you’re still appreciated.”

Fans will appreciate learning how genuinely Marsden enjoys attending cons — so much so that he chose one over a recent chance to reprise his role of Nelson Burkhard on Fuller House. “They invited me back to play Nelson, but the filming conflicted with my appearance at Dragon Con in Atlanta,” he explained. “I weighed both options and decided I didn’t want to miss out on Dragon Con.”

The South is now his home, after all. Marsden moved to Nashville from California several years ago after falling in love with the city.
He met his wife, a native of Nashville, while they were both living in California. He visited Nashville with her for the first time in 2002, and was blown away by the artistic community. “There is a lot more here than country music,” he explained. “There’s a huge hip hop and rock scene, comedy, a thriving industry in film and TV . . . and I started visiting more often than I even visited my own family.”

The more time Marsden spent visiting Nashville, the more he was sold. “I’d get back to California reeling from these experiences,” he shared. Marsden spent so much time in Nashville that commuting back to L.A. was becoming harder and harder. “I would actually feel homesick for Tennessee, ” he admitted. “And I’ve never felt that way before about anywhere.” So in 2013, Marsden, his wife, and young son made the move to Nashville permanent. And he’s never looked back.

Nashville makes it work for his work, too. Though he does commute to California when necessary, recording studios like Paragon Studios in Tennessee make it possible for Marsden to continue his voiceover work remotely for many studios. “Warner Brothers and Dreamworks want me to be there in L.A. just for a callback or audition,” Marsden explained. “But Disney will record you anywhere.”

Marsden is just one of the growing number of artists who have found their professional and personal niche in the city which was once only known for country music. And this lively town knows how to have fun. “It’s in the top three bachelorette party destinations on the planet,” Marsden stated with a laugh. You may have seen him on Instagram stories roaming the streets of Nashville like a popular talk show host, effortlessly interacting with fans and passersby as he counted bachelorette parties.

But the eclectic, colorful locals are his favorite thing about Nashville. “When I first moved here, I was invited to a party and I drove 45 minutes into the dark to this barn party where there were dudes with long beards sitting on a porch playing guitars . . . it was like storybook stuff,” he happily recalled. “And I started thinking, “I want more people to see this!”

Marsden began arranging gigs for local indie musicians and performers, not for any commission but for the fun of it. “I don’t consider myself a producer or manager but I do whatever inspires me,” he explained. “The music scene here is insane, and there’s such a commitment to artistry and talent,” he noted.

Right before he turned 40, Marsden was watching a lot of Dean Martin and got into the variety shows of yesteryears. “So for my 40th birthday I decided to throw myself a variety show party,” he shared. He kept guests off their phones and used the entire venue for a 360 degree show filled with Nashville’s hidden talent. Lights would shine on one part of the venue for one act, and then turn off and switch to another location; it was fast-moving, non-stop entertainment and Marsden was the host. The party — and the variety show — were a hit.

Marsden’s variety show spread by word of mouth, and he quickly had four more shows booked at the same venue. The concept became a perfect opportunity for him to showcase the talent of Nashville as he hoped. “I have a background in TV, I know TV, why don’t I try to do ‘Mars TV’ producing shows live,” he wondered.

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And so “Mars Presents” was born. The variety show run by Marsden has its home in Nashville and is filled with a range of local entertainers. It’s currently being developed to be pitched as a television pilot, hoping to bring back the variety show success of shows like Laugh-In, and even You Can’t Do That on Television.

Perhaps therein lies the key to Jason Marsden’s longevity in the business: his appreciation for classic entertainment that has worked for decades. “I love nostalgia,” he told me. He’s the kind of guy who maintains friendships with costars for twenty-five years, geeks out at the prospect of meeting Marty McFly’s mom, and truly values fans who have followed him since adolescence. He’s an old soul with a young-at-heart approach to life. And he’s a good reminder for us all that you’re never too old to stay a little Goofy.

 

You can follow Jason on Twitter and Instagram at @jasonmarsden 
If you’d like to contact him or learn more about Mars Presents, he suggests that Instagram is the best way to reach him. 
Photos courtesy of Jason Marsden. Headshot photography by Cami Liberty.

 

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