David discusses what it's like being a television math hero
Twenty-eight year old David Krumholtz first caught the eye of many viewers in 1994 when he played the head elf Bernard in the film The Santa Clause. These days he plays math genius Charlie Eppes in the popular TV series Numb3rs. I caught up with David at a recent party and asked him about his own math abilities. He said when he was a student he got "straight zeroes, if there is such a thing. I mean I got zeroes on tests. I would stay up all night long and study all night long, come in [to] high school and think 'I've got it,' and literally get zeroes, and sit there and be stunned and think 'Why did this happen? I studied all night.' It was terribly embarrassing." He grinned and said, "Everything else was fine. Math was a real problem." How ironic that he is playing a math geek. "I didn't think I'd get the part, and when I got it it was like it came back to bite me in the butt in the most wonderful way."
Krumholtz is a soft-spoken man with a lot of charisma. While he doesn't have the "hot" look of a traditional leading man, he is cute and charming, and his smile is infectious.
"I really was that kid in the back of the classroom going 'we'll never use this in real life and why are we learning this?'" He chuckled and said, "I tried to petition in school to make Algebra an optional class like art or gym. If you didn't want to take art you could take algebra. I mean I really hated it. Now it's just kind of wonderful. I'm a math hero somehow. It's odd that it worked out that way." In this instance art did not imitate life!
David is happy that he gets to supply input into the show, which oftentimes actors do not get to do. "It's truly a collaborative effort. If there's something in the script that I don't think how [Charlie] would be or what he would do, they're more than gracious with me in terms of my notes. And every once in awhile if I find something mathematical in something that I'm doing and I say 'hey we can do an episode about this,' they're really open to it. In fact I've pitched a couple ideas already that I'm interested in actually writing, and they really want me to write them." With a laugh he admitted, "In fact the two executive producers of my show bought me a computer last year. I had no computer and then I pitched them this story idea and they bought me one. They said 'write it.' Hopefully I can put it together. I've never really written one."
The effect his character and the show has on young people provides him with a sense of pride. "It's incredible. It's the best part of the job," he said. "I met an eight-year-old at Disneyland last year who told me he hates math but he loves Numb3rs. I wasn't sure if that's a good thing but that's a good start," he admitted with a big smile.
"We have a program that we're doing. It's very unique to our show. The company Texas Instruments, last year took a great interest in our show and they desperately wanted us to join forces with them. We did, and what they're doing is online they're selling programs to teachers all over the country. The programs are under a banner called 'We all use math everyday,' which is kind of the unofficial slogan of our show. And what it is is basically a team of mathematicians and math teachers, and every week they watch the show and they put together worksheets based on the math that they see in the show," he explained with great excitement. "But not only is it one worksheet for one grade. It's six worksheets based on each episode for six different grades - for grades six through 12. If you are a teacher who orders this, your 6th grade or 7th grade or 8th grade up to 12th grade class, is receiving specific worksheets based on the specific math that we've done in the show. Now, we're not including DVDs with the program," he added. "Our show sometimes gets a little too violent. So what we encourage math teachers to do is to go home and tape the math segments of the show. 25,000 teachers have ordered this. It's being used in 25,000 classes." This program instills an appreciation for math in students, and ties it into the TV show, which kids of all ages can relate to.
"So not only are we on television, but we're in schools and the program has done really well. It's a pretty powerful thing. I don't think any of us could have anticipated that we would have had that far reaching effect."
Besides working on the TV series, David is also involved in film projects. He currently has several projects in various stages of production.
Numb3rs airs on CBS Friday nights at 10 et/pt
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