BEAVER DAM, Wis. -- The Wisconsin-born actor who portrays Burger King's 'Herb' as a nerd from the Badger state said Wednesday he feels bad about negative reaction to his character.
'I was the one who urged that Herb be identified as being from Wisconsin,' said actor Jon Menick during a break in a welcome-home celebration.
'The promotion people didn't want his home state identified,' Menick said. 'But I thought the character should be someone people could identify with, even if he wore white socks and a baseball cap.'
When he was identified last week in New York, Herb said he was from a fictional South Bexley, Wis., population 45. He said his mother was a housewife and his father operated the only pea viner in town.
'That was for legal reasons. It's OK now to say Herb is from Beaver Dam, or more specifically, South Beaver Dam,' Menick said. Beaver Dam is in north-central Wisconsin and has a population of about 9,000.
Menick, 34, was born in Beaver Dam. His father worked as a county traffic officer. Harold and May Menick now live in Florida.
Cheers and 'Welcome Home Herb' banners greeted him as he rode in a motorcade to the Beaver Dam high school where he was given the keys to the city.
Menick, selected after a long audition process, said Burger King and the ad agency wanted a face that wasn't well known.
'I didn't have to make Wisconsin Herb's state,' he said. 'I did it to share the greatest (acting) break of my life.'
Menick said he wants the popular, naive character to display the moral values and humor he learned growing up in Wisconsin. 'Wisconsin has a great sense of humor,' he said, 'except maybe in January.'
People were too quick to criticize Herb because of his looks before they even knew the character, Menick said.
'Be careful of judging a man by his looks,' he warned. 'When people get to know Herb, they will like him,' Menick said.
After visiting his 94-year-old grandmother at a nursing home, Menick left for Chicago to prepare for a 10-week nationwide promotional contest.