Alan TUDYK applied a lot of sunblock for his latest film, the raucous British black comedy "Death at a Funeral," which opens Friday.
"I'm fair," says the affable redhead. "And places of me were exposed to the sun that hadn't seen the sun in I don't know how long."
Tudyk is a familiar face to sci-fi fans for his role as Hoban "Wash" Washburne on the cult TV series "Firefly" and subsequent feature version, "Serenity," as well as for his roles as Steve the Pirate in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" and as Katherine Heigl's character's boss in "Knocked Up." He also stars in the upcoming remake of the Elmore Leonard western "3:10 to Yuma."
The 36-year-old Texas native, who now calls Venice home, also has performed in New York in such plays as the Tony Award-winning musical "Spamalot" and in the recent revival of Craig Lucas' "Prelude to a Kiss." But Tudyk literally has his most screen exposure in "Death at a Funeral": Tudyk spends about 90% of his screen time totally naked.
Over coffee and a fruit bowl at a Ven- ice eatery, Tudyk explains that he never really got used to being naked day in and day out on the set, though he had appeared in the full Monty onstage twice during his career.
He had never dropped trou on the big screen, but one of his "Funeral" costars, Rupert Graves, was no stranger to baring it all for the cinema. "He said, 'Don't worry about it, Alan. The first 10 minutes you are very uncomfortable, and then after that it's like, 'Why isn't everybody naked? It's the most natural thing."
Tudyk's feelings went the opposite direction. "The first 10 minutes I was like, 'This is kind of exhilarating.' And then after 10 minutes it was like, 'I'm going to stay this way?' "
Recollecting the old British farces of the 1960s like "The Wrong Box," the R-rated "Death at a Funeral" revolves around the final rites of the patriarch of a most dysfunctional family. From delivering the wrong body to the house to discovering the dead man had a male lover (Peter Dinklage), everything and anything goes awry during the ceremony.
Tudyk plays Simon, a buttoned-down solicitor, who is engaged to the grieving family's first cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan). Simon is a nervous wreck about attending the rites because he wants to make a good impression on Martha's sternly disapproving father (Peter Egan).
Because Simon is so nervous, Martha gives him what she thinks is a Valium. But it's really a powerful hallucinogen that her chemistry student brother (Kris Marshall) has made. So by the time Simon and Martha arrive at the funeral, he's so relaxed that he takes off all of his clothes and trips the light fantastic.
The film's director, Frank Oz, wanted Tudyk and Donovan to know the relationship between their characters inside and out before filming began. "That was one of the main concerns of Frank," he explains. "We don't really get to know who these two are because we are together and then I'm high. There's never a moment where you just see the two of us just calmly, who we are in a relationship."
So Oz decided to have the actors do an improv in public as Simon and Daisy. "He made up a scenario where he was friends of my family and also the older cousin of Daisy's character. He was excited the two of us had come together and were going to get married. He was in London for a day and we were going to meet him for a cup of coffee."
So Tudyk and Donovan dressed as their characters and met Oz at a Starbucks in London. "He asked us questions about how we met," recalls Tudyk. "He would tell us embarrassing stories about us as children. It was completely freeing and laid the groundwork for us."
Tudyk says that, back on the set, he learned quickly that actresses doing nude scenes are treated much different than male actors.
"When you are shooting a movie or TV or anything with nudity and it's a woman who is nude, which has been mainly my experience, there is a closed set and if you look twice [at the actress] everybody is on you. There is a lot of shame to go around if you are really interested in seeing something. But when it's a guy, I swear it's like there are so many people on the set!"