Actor Don Jeanes Helps the Budweiser Clydesdales Find a Lost Puppy and Third Hit Super Bowl Commercial

They called him “the man who won the Super Bowl” last year. And, in a way, he did. He’s the guy who caught one of those “Hail Mary” field-long passes of casting call luck.

But he did it without ever stepping inside the stadium, touching a football or drinking any Gatorade. It is true, though, that his teammates were a bunch of really big guys, except for his co-star; he was one of those little runts that no one else wanted.

He did it all in a jean jacket and ball cap and with a slightly confused look on his face. He looked like his life was slightly out of control and his teammates were somehow calling the plays. 

Fear not, Don Jeanes, that is how we horseowners feel every day.

Don Jeanes is the actor who plays the keeper of the Clydesdales in Budweiser’s soon-to-be trilogy of narrative Super Bowl commercials. He “won” the 2014 Super Bowl by starring in the game’s most successful multi-million dollar commercial. And that’s quite a win.

Americans can’t get enough of “Puppy Love”, which lived on long after the game. Earlier this month, YouTube announced that it was #7 in views for all of YouTube in 2014, with over 54 million clicks. That’s a lot of cute puppies on instant replay.

The series began in 2013, with “Brotherhood”, a bro love saga of a man and his (really big) horse reunited in one of the greatest and happiest reunions seen on television in years. It was Admeter’s Super Bowl “Commercial of the Year”; that horse hug was felt and returned, by 100 million people watching the game around the world. 

Can he do it again? Budweiser has lined up the same team for another shot at the top ad title this year. It will be the team’s third in a row. We’ve been told that the puppy is back. Or is he? The title of the commercial is “Lost Dog” and the first promotional image released by Budweiser shows Don nailing a “lost dog” notice to a telephone pole.

What’s the first thing you notice about this photo, besides the flyer? I noticed that the cuffs of the actor’s jacket are frayed, just like they’d be in real life. So I asked him about that jacket.

It’s two weeks until the Super Bowl, and life is pretty normal for Don Jeanes, who spoke to me today from his home in California. But that’s about to change. In the days before the Super Bowl, people will be just as interested in the ads as in the football teams who will play in the game. You’ll see Don on television interviews once the ad is released.

While the ad was filmed months ago, the secrecy surrounding it has meant that virtually no one knows–or will tell–what happens in the new ad. That includes Don, who wasn’t about to tell me the plot. “I can share a soundbite with you , and that’s it,” he insisted. 

Did I hear a drumroll on the phone line? He took a breath and let it out. “And here it is: The Budweiser Clydesdales help the puppy in the spot learn the meaning of true friendship.”

Gee, thanks. How will that sound on Twitter?

So, I didn’t learn the plot, but details flowed about Don’s time on the set with the dogs and horses. He had the utmost respect for the Clydesdales, noting that he didn’t have any scars from his time with them because they were so well-trained and the set was so carefully managed for safety of cast and crew.

Presumably, no puppies were crushed between giant hooves.

Don grew up around the Quarter horses on his grandfather’s cattle ranch in Texas, and his affection for the horses is real. One of the tests for getting the part in the first place involved the “callback” casting step, where he was asked to walk an Irish Draught around a barn on a leadline. He must have done something right.

Heaven knows, he wasn’t dressed for the part. Don said he showed up dressed as he would to work with horses in Texas. “They said I was too cowboy,” he recalls. But he still earned the role.

How did they do the wardrobe, I inquired, thinking of all my friends in equestrian merchandising who would love to have their clothes on the Budweiser farm manager in a Super Bowl ad. “The fittings took hours,” he recalled. Most of his wardrobe consists of pretty de riguer outdoorsy clothes that could be straight from the pages of L.L. Bean. His jean jacket sports no obvious logo. It’s not exactly a Ralph Lauren look. And then there’s the issue of his scruffy beard.

Looking at the photo of Don nailing the “Lost Dog” flyer on a telephone pole, I noticed that the cuffs on the barn jacket were frayed. Did the wardrobe people go shopping at a vintage boutique to find a worn-in jacket?

Don laughed at my mention of that jacket. “Funny you should mention it. At the last minute, they switched it. And it belonged to a guy on the crew. I just put it on and they did the shot.”

No wonder it looked authentic!

When the subject turned to dogs, The Jurga Report got the scoop of the entire interview. Those cute puppies from “Puppy Love” weren’t golden retrievers, as everyone assumed. They were Yellow Labs. And this year’s puppies are also Labs.

Don said that the puppies this year are more “beige” than golden (you can compare them in the photos in this story), and that the one puppy starring in the ad is played by six or seven lively puppies. “They have a very short attention span,” he remarked. “And each of them is really good at just one thing. One is good at sitting, one is good at sniffing the horses. And so on.”

Actor Don Jeanes and one of his 2014 Yellow Labrador Retriever co-stars.

In case you think that Don spent day after day playing with puppies on the set while waiting for his calls, think again. Cast and crew weren’t allowed to interact with the puppies; they pay attention to their trainers, not strangers. “But then, on the last day, they let us roll around with them. It was great!” he recalled.

It might surprise people to know that, in spite of his ads’ success on the Super Bowl broadcasts the past two years, he has never attended a Super Bowl, and doesn’t have any plans to go this year, either. He watched “Brotherhood”, his first ad, at home with two friends. He said he was filled with dread and I laughed when I remembered. 

“It was the Beyoncé year,” he moaned. “I kept saying, ‘Where is it, where is it?’ and then it was halftime, and it still hadn’t been on and Beyoncé made the whole stadium go dark.” I remembered the bizarre power outage that seemed to last forever. Luckily, the commercial wasn’t scheduled for halftime. 

For “Puppy Love”, Don was at home in Texas, visiting an uncle in a hospital ICU. He arranged to watch the game with his family at his brother’s house. And this year? “Party at my house!” he chimed. Guests at Don’s Super Bowl party will include his roommate’s rescued pit bull; Don says he loves living with a dog, but the actor lifestyle makes owning one difficult.

For all of the success the ads have had, Don Jeanes is still going to casting calls and auditions, like all the other actors in Hollywood. Unlike them, he has a superstar commercial in his resume. He’s also been in films–he played Neil Armstrong in Transformers 3–and on television, noting that he usually plays “police or military guys” and has had roles on CSI New York and Criminal Minds.

“Probably most people know my face from my “I Am Metro” spot for Metro PCS than anything,” he speculated, referring to a 15-second spot for the cellular carrier.

Never underestimate the power of a positive message on your demo reel, Don advises. While others play nothing but villains or victims, he plays the lucky man who lives with the animals, and who never has to apologize for having feelings for them, or for giving them a hug.

Maybe people don’t recognize him at the supermarket, but Don Jeanes knows his work with the Budweiser Clydesdales has mattered. “If you can affect people in a positive way, it’s a great reward,” he said.

So even if it is the fuzzy golden face of the puppy you remember from “Puppy Love” and the white blazed face of the newborn foal you remember from “Brotherhood”, Don Jeanes is the strong thread weaving through the background, humanizing the soft, emotional story that tugs at our heartstrings. 

He portrays us. Trust me, we’re in good hands.

• • • • •

To learn more:

Fran Jurga speculates on what it means that the Budweiser Clydesdales have “gone to the dogs” again for the 2015 Super Bowl on The Hoof Blog.

What happened in November 2014when rumors hit the press–and were reported as fact–that Budweiser had dropped the Clydesdales from the Super Bowl lineup? Fran Jurga was one of the first to report the facts.

Budweiser Clydesdale commercial star newborn foal grows up (The Jurga Report)

Super Bowl Star Baby Clydesdale Has a Hashtag But Not a Name (The Jurga Report)

Follow Fran Jurga on Twitter or “like” The Jurga Report Facebook page to keep up with the news on the Budweiser Clydesdales Super Bowl commercial (and other animal-related commercials on the Super Bowl)

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