Depending on your level of insomnia (or the size of your bong collection), you may or may not be aware of the Trivago Guy, the slightly creased, sad-eyed star of a series of ads for the Germany-based booking site.
In the commercials, which began airing last year, Trivago Guy explains how the site can help you “find the ideal hotel for the best price,” though he’s far from your average spokesperson. From his overall lack of grooming – mussed hair, slight scruff and a wrinkled wardrobe that looks like the director surprised him on laundry day (why is he not wearing a belt?) – to the bags beneath his eyes, which suggest that he’s seen some shit, TG is the rare pitchman capable of haunting your dreams while simultaneously enflaming your loins.
In short, there’s just something odd about him, so it should come as no surprise that in recent months, Trivago Guy has become a sensation, the subject of think pieces about gender equality and brand identity, odes to his “compelling mix of sexy/creepy” and requests to “pound my boygina mercylessly [sic].”
There is the requisite fake Twitter account, a series of memes that hint at a darkness within and perhaps even a fan fiction site. Forget that Dos Equis dude, Trivago Guy is the Most Interesting Man in the World.
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Yet, while his star continues to rise, Trivago Guy – whose real name is Tim Williams – has remained a mystery. Thanks to his Facebook page and a personal site (which is mostly in German), we know he’s both an actor and a musician. But to find out more, it turns out all you’ve got to do is ask.
“I was born in Houston and we spent a lot of time between there and New York, as my dad was the head golf pro at a private country club,” Williams tells Rolling Stone. “My parents eventually divorced when I was 13 and mom, sis and I headed back to Houston. In high school I got into acting. I walked into the drama class one day after school and asked the teacher if she could make me an actor.”
Around the time he discovered acting, Williams was also becoming obsessed with rock music – Kiss lit his fire first, then his sister loaned him records by Pink Floyd, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin – and though he played in a few bands, he’d eventually move to New York and pursue roles on “off-off Broadway” plays and TV shows.
“My first TV role was on The Cosby Show, I played an 18-year-old who gets a 17-year-old pregnant and has to learn a portion of life from Dr. Huxtable,” Williams says. “We shot it and I watched the episode and that portion was cut! I think maybe the material was a little too strong for TV at the time, but I got to work with the man I always knew as Fat Albert!”
More roles – on shows like Law & Order and The Sopranos followed – and eventually, Williams got the lead in a German film and decided to stay in the country (“I met a German girl,” he explains). Soon after, he was cast as an American rock star on the long-running soap opera Guten Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten, and then, Trivago came calling.
“They contacted me to do a voiceover for the American market, and eventually they asked if I would do a spot for them. That’s what you see now in the one-minute commercial,” he says. “They wanted someone real, approachable and genuine. I just did it over and over until they had what they needed.”
Williams says he had no idea the commercial would become so popular, and, with his status in Germany set thanks to his soap-opera role, he decided to return to music. He made an EP called Temporary Man – “It’s a mix of some bluesy rock with a Nineties feel and a ballad thrown in for the ladies,” is how he describes it – and grew out an appropriately rocking goatee.
But then, something weird started to happen. People began to recognize him as the Trivago Guy.
“I’ve read a few things out there and I laugh my ass off. It’s so funny that people reach out in any way, shape or form,” he says. “I mean, come on, people you don’t know asking you for an autograph? It’s a great feeling. And as they walk away, I say ‘Hotel? Trivago.'”
Williams hopes his newfound fame will allow him to return to the states to play a few shows, though he’s got no firm plans at the moment. Instead, he has his hands full responding to questions about his Trivago ads. Like, for starters, no, he’s not sure why he’s not wearing a belt either.
“The company always chooses what they feel is best and let me tell you, that process was painstaking. There were so many different combos; this shirt, those pants, no belt,” he says. “But in the end, the client has the last say and they wanted a relaxed, casual approach. Those are not my clothes.”