Much of the chatter surrounding this year’s slate of Super Bowl commercials has involved their supposedly political bent, with pro-immigration messages and a spirit of inclusivity clashing against the xenophobic mood emanating from the White House.
Budweiser may have made the biggest splash with its minute-long spot, which depicts a young Adolphus Busch’s journey across the Atlantic and his unpleasant reception in the U.S.—the man who tells Busch, “You’re not wanted here,” is missing a “Make America Great Again” hat, but he’s a familiar type. After enduring a character-building trial by literal fire, the German traveler finds a warmer welcome in St. Louis, where he and another immigrant, Eberhard Anheuser, join forces to forge an American company.
It’s a fairly traditional immigrant success story, a realization of the American dream, and it may only feel controversial because of the present political climate. It should also be noted that its primary goal is to sell beer, not to make a political statement. Brand-building is not dissent. The ad, with its focus on Budweiser’s scrappy entrepreneurial beginning, is more concerned with endearing itself to “craft beer-loving millennials,” as AdWeek puts it, than it is with opposing the president’s executive order on immigration.
It’s an effective ad on all those fronts, thanks in part to its lead performance by Dallas native and 2008 J.J. Pearce grad Sam Schweikert, who lends Busch a stoic determination in his quest to brew beer in a new country. Schweikert didn’t respond to messages we left him, so we don’t know how the 26-year-old actor feels about starring in one of the Super Bowl’s most talked about commercials. (Spokespeople for Budweiser, for their part, have denied that there’s anything political about the ad. Trump supporters buy beer, too.)
Regardless, Schweikert’s great in the commercial, which apparently entailed an exhausting production. He’s had small parts and worked as a production assistant on films like 22 Jump Street, and we’ve been trying to find him in videos of this 2008 production of Miss Saigon at J.J. Pearce. After getting some shine on a Super Bowl-sized stage, we’d expect to see more of Schweikert in the future.