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Actor gets exposure he never dreamed of

Daisy Donovan and Alan Tudyk play an engaged couple in 'Death at a Funeral.' Daisy Donovan and Alan Tudyk play an engaged couple in "Death at a Funeral." (KEITH HAMSHERE)

HOLLYWOOD -- Alan Tudyk applied a lot of sunblock for his latest film, the raucous British black comedy "Death at a Funeral," which opened yesterday.

"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 boss in the film "Knocked Up." He also stars in the upcoming remake of the western "3:10 to Yuma."

The 36-year-old Texas native, who now lives in Venice on the west side of Los Angeles, also has performed in New York in the Tony Award-winning musical "Spamalot" and in the recent revival of Craig Lucas's "Prelude to a Kiss." But Tudyk has his most screen exposure in "Death at a Funeral": He spends about 90 percent of his screen time totally naked.

Over coffee and a fruit bowl at a Venice restaurant, Tudyk explains that he never really got used to being naked day in and day out on the set, though he had done so onstage twice during his career.

He had never done a nude scene 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," "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, 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 disapproving father.

Because Simon is so nervous, Martha gives him what she thinks is a Valium, but is really a powerful hallucinogen. By the time Simon and Martha arrive at the funeral, he's so relaxed that he takes off all of his clothes.

The film's director, Frank Oz, wanted Tudyk and Donovan to know the relationship between their characters inside and out before filming began. So Oz decided to have the actors do an improv in public as Simon and Martha. 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!"