SU alumnus Sam Lloyd remembered by friends and family
Courtesy of George Miserlis
Syracuse University alumnus and actor Samuel Lloyd Jr. was not Hollywood. His entire life, he despised “phonies,” said former college roommate George Miserlis. But in a career spanning more than three decades, friends and family said Lloyd never changed his personality.
“Hollywood’s a brutal place, and he’s not at all Hollywood,” said Lloyd’s wife, Vanessa Villalovos.
Lloyd made a name for himself in the industry as an established character actor on the small screen in shows such as “Seinfeld” and “The West Wing.” The actor died on April 30 in Los Angeles after being diagnosed with lung cancer 15 months earlier. He was 56 years old.
Lloyd was best known for playing Ted Buckland, a “sad-sack” attorney, on the TV show “Scrubs.” Friends, family and viewers alike remember his slapstick humor and quick wit.
“He was always that guy who would do something goofy,” said Mark Snelson, a friend and former SU classmate of Lloyd’s. “He was never afraid to make a fool of himself.”
Lloyd grew up in Weston, Vermont, with four siblings. As a kid, he wrote and acted in his own Super 8mm movies with his siblings and neighborhood kids. He loved classic horror movies like “Frankenstein,” “Dracula” and “Creature of the Black Lagoon.”
As early as elementary school, Lloyd rode the bus with a ventriloquist dummy. Other kids would make fun of him, but he didn’t care, said his sister Laurel. He was just being himself, and he carried that attitude to SU.
Miserlis recalls meeting Lloyd by chance during a meet-and-greet only a few days into his freshman year at SU. In a sea of about 700 College of Visual and Performing Arts freshmen, the first student Miserlis spoke to was wearing a T-shirt that read “I’m okay, you’re a d*nk.” That student was Lloyd.
“Do you like music? … Do you like theater?” Miserlis remembers the two asked each other as icebreakers.
Lloyd had an affinity for both entertainment outlets. His parents were actors, and his uncle Christopher Lloyd was on the hit TV show “Taxi” at the time and later starred in the “Back to the Future” series. Lloyd also spent summers in his hometown performing at the Weston Playhouse.
In early 1983, Lloyd formed The Butties, a Beatles cover band, with Paul Perry, Rob “Robbo” Morey and another student, Mark Humble. Lloyd played the role of Paul McCartney. The quartet would have gigs booked by Miserlis, their manager at the time, and played in the basement of SU’s Shaw Hall and bars in Syracuse.
As a bass guitarist, the right-handed Lloyd learned to play a Hofner bass left-handed like his idol McCartney. He also sang and played the piano, guitar and drums, Perry said.
“He opened up that whole world to us, and it was wonderful to be a part of that,” Humble said.
Lloyd was also meticulous about getting down every musical nuance of The Beatles’ recordings to replicate in The Butties’ performances, his bandmates said. “Can you hear it? Can you hear it?” he’d say, replaying a section of a song. Even after playing the same songs for decades, he constantly tweaked his bass parts.
“He was always really interested in making sure that we really tried to capture every little nuance,” Morey said. “He was just the glue.”
The group played shows in Weston, Vermont, until 2019. What kept the group together for so long was their sense of humor, Humble said. Lloyd, especially, was always able to light up a room with his humor and improvisational skills.
“The Butties would come into town, and you would see people all over town and ‘Oh, Sam’s back,’ and ‘Oh, The Butties are here,’’’ Morey said. “Because Sam was kind of a local celebrity by then.”
Whether it was roaming Marshall Street with Snelson in Batman and Robin costumes for their University Union Television show “The Dynamic Duo Discover” or singing songs with his a cappella group in an elevator as Ted on “Scrubs,” Lloyd was always able to get a laugh.
In the early ‘90s, Lloyd formed the a cappella group “The Blanks” with Miserlis, Perry and Philip McNiven. Bill Lawrence, the creator of “Scrubs,” loved their performance at a holiday party so much that he cast them on the show as the fictional group The Worthless Peons. They performed throughout the show’s eight seasons.
In 2007, Vanessa Villalovos met Lloyd at another holiday party. The two later married in 2017. Soon after, they had a baby and named him Weston after the town in Vermont that meant so much to them.
In January 2019, Lloyd was diagnosed with lung cancer and began receiving treatment.
Due to a targeted therapy drug, Lloyd continued to live his life normally for 11 months in between hospital visits. He performed with The Butties, appeared in episodes of “Modern Family” and “American Housewife” and sang at his mother’s funeral.
Then, in February 2020, Lloyd went to the emergency room with swelling in his brain. He died on April 30.
“He was very much the guy who was reminding us how lucky we all were to have each other and to be alive,” Snelson said. “And now, of course, I understand him more than ever.”
In their California home, Villalovos and Weston are beginning life without Lloyd. Memories remain of him: coffee mugs, his Hofner bass and a mint condition 2006 White Mini Cooper — the first new car he ever bought. Lloyd always kept things in excellent condition, Villalovos said. She is going to do the same.
On terraced rock walls in the front and back yard, there are cacti and succulents Lloyd tended to since 2005 — his “pride and joy” before his son was born. Lloyd’s mother had a garden back in Weston. When he bought his house, he was able to have his own.
“I don’t have a green thumb,” Villalovos said. “But I’m going to do whatever I can to keep the garden up and to Sam’s standards.”
Published on May 11, 2020 at 5:24 pm