Tampa’s Daniel Roebuck was ready to play Grandpa Munster in ‘The Munsters’

He is the iconic character in the new movie on Netflix.
As a 12-year-old, Daniel Roebuck patterned his circus clown act after Grandpa Munster. Today, he portrays Grandpa Munster in "The Munsters" movie on Netflix.
As a 12-year-old, Daniel Roebuck patterned his circus clown act after Grandpa Munster. Today, he portrays Grandpa Munster in "The Munsters" movie on Netflix. [ Courtesy of Daniel Roebuck ]
Published Oct. 10, 2022|Updated Oct. 10, 2022

TAMPA ― Daniel Roebuck cannot be accused of being typecast.

The actor, who splits time between Los Angeles and Tampa, has a diverse resume that includes spiritual movies like “Getting Grace,” horror flicks such as “Devil’s Rejects” and comedies including “Agent Cody Banks 2.”

He’s even done a musical — “Glee.”

He played Jay Leno in “The Late Shift,” Deputy Marshal Robert Biggs in “The Fugitive” and “U.S. Marshals” and Dr. Leslie Arzt in “Lost.” And he’s voiced video game characters, most recently Greez Dritus for “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” and cartoon characters, such as Malodor in “Transformer: Robots in Disguise.”

But all those parts are sandwiched between the same role.

As a 12-year-old in Pennsylvania, he broke into entertainment by joining The Lions All-Star Circus as a vampire clown patterned after Grandpa Munster.

Today, Roebuck, 59, can be seen portraying Grandpa Munster in Rob Zombie’s “The Munsters,” a cinematic prequel to the 1960s family sitcom that explains how Herman and Lily Munster met and ended up living on Mockingbird Lane. It is now streaming on Netflix.

The Tampa Bay Times spoke with Roebuck about his iconic character.

His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Daniel Roebuck as Grandpa Munster and director Rob Zombie on the set of "The Munsters."
Daniel Roebuck as Grandpa Munster and director Rob Zombie on the set of "The Munsters." [ Courtesy of Daniel Roebuck ]

Is portraying Grandpa Munster your full-circle moment?

Absolutely. My new joke is that Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for preparing for a year to become Abraham Lincoln. Well, I’ve spent most of my life preparing to play Grandpa Munster. The role is a real dream come true.

So, you watched “The Munsters” show as a kid?

Yes, and I still do. I have watched them every single day that I could from the time I discovered them when I was 5. There hasn’t been a month that’s gone by since then that I haven’t watched an episode of “The Munsters.” Sometimes there hasn’t been an hour that’s gone by since I watched “The Munsters.” When I’m busy making films, there’s always time for “The Munsters.”

So then let me put you on the spot. What is your favorite episode?

That’s easy. I love the “Zombo” episode because it was so meta. In the “Zombo” episode, the Munsters essentially told every kid who is watching how they make “The Munsters.” They showed that it was just makeup and fake cobwebs and fake dirt and fake skeletons. I’m such a fan of how they make movies and television shows, and that episode was really my first look at it.

What was your reaction to learning you were cast for the role?

I was driving when I got the news and was so excited that I almost drove into a tree. Here’s the best part. My wife, Tammy, was with me and she was wearing a Lily Munster shirt. We’re not pretenders to “The Munsters” thing. We live this life. You know, some people wear a NASCAR shirt, some people wear a Buccaneers shirt or a Lightning shirt. And Tammy has all of those. But on that day, she was wearing a Lily Munster shirt.

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Was it nerve-racking to be tasked with portraying an iconic character that means so much to so many?

It wasn’t. I played Jay Leno in “The Late Shift” and that was harder because Jay Leno was on TV every day so there was a daily comparison for whether I had the character right. So, playing him was nerve-racking. This was fun.

And I knew Al Lewis, who was the first and best-known actor to play Grandpa Munster. That made it more of an honor. But he wasn’t the only Grandpa Munster. I’m actually the sixth to play the part. It’s prestigious company.

But there has been some backlash. There will always be backlash. There will always be hate. I don’t like to dwell on the negative. I am so proud of this project. I focus on the positive. We climbed to number five on Netflix and Rob Zombie tried for 20 years to get his version of “The Munsters” made and he did it. I’m proud of him.

Tell me about the process of being made up to look like Grandpa Munster.

The makeup took 3 ½ hours.

Oh wow.

I was in my happy place when I was getting made up because it was kind of a lifelong dream for a kid who grew up loving “Universal Monsters” and Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff. They did it. Now I got to do it. That’s amazing, isn’t it?

You are a monster movie aficionado, but you are also a fan of family films to the point that you produce and direct your own. So, for you, is “The Munsters” also a dream project because it combines your two favorite genres?

Absolutely. That is why I have been in such a good mood lately. I’ve been to three monster conventions recently and met families who say they have watched it as a family three times, four times. It’s unbelievable because that is what matters most to me.

I’m so proud of the movie. I’m so proud of the other actors. I’m beyond proud of the director. And I know that this movie will be a Halloween choice for the next 35, 40 years.