When he first arrived in California, he was on the fast track for comedy after his theater training, but he thwarted it because he was afraid he might be looked at as a clown and not taken seriously. "I kind of deliberately steered away from that. I wanted people to take me seriously, and I kind of wanted to get training the way I had on stage in front of cameras. I said I would do it very mathematically. I'll play a bad buy on every episode of television every week.
That's disposable income and a way to learn and earn at the same time. I have the skills, I can change the way I look – I was a makeup artist in the theater, and I'm a painter in real life – and I wanted to learn immediately in real life the skills of subtle makeup, so I would go into offices sometimes without them ever knowing I was wearing makeup. You know, breaking the capillaries here and there and making my eyes look more sunken to look like a psycho or a drug addict or an alcoholic or whatever it was to look like a bad guy," Xander said.
"They looked at me and they say, on one hand I was being brought in for a lot of young leading men, but then they'd look at my forehead and see I was beginning to have a receding hairline and then look into my eyes and say 'oh, intense eyes for a sweet young thing' it looks like he knows too much to be innocent. And so I could see the writing on the wall, they were going to have a hard time putting me into those roles, like I had planned on stage, the sweet young thing.
And so I started to steer toward these character roles early on and the bad guy roles to get work from a really pragmatic standpoint. I would ask the agents to really scour and send me breakdowns, and I would say I can guarantee them I am that guy when I walk into the room, and I did. And then a lot of the casting directors got these impressions of me from very early on that I was a very intense guy because I could manipulate my energy and my emotion state coming into a room because I heard, and it was true, that people would only believe you could do it if they saw it when you walked into the room." [photo above from Moonlighting, 1986, "Symphony in Knocked Flat]