If you catch yourself doing a double take while watching the premiere of NBC’s “Best Friends Forever” television show on April 4, there is good reason. Playing the role of Joe is a big break for Luka Yovetich, a doctoral student in USC Dornsife’s School of Philosophy who moved to Los Angeles several years ago to jump into the acting scene.
“It has been a surreal experience,” Yovetich said. “It was amazing when my manager called and told me I got the part.”
Yovetich, whose stage name is Luka Jones, plays Joe, a video game designer whose life with his live-in girlfriend, Lennon, is interrupted when her best friend, Jessica, moves back in with them after a divorce. “Best Friends Forever” is written by Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre members Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair and directed by Fred Savage.
“Lennon and Jessica are extremely accomplished comedians and ridiculously fun to work with,” he said. “They allow me to bring a lot of myself to the role so certain ways Joe acts and reacts are very me.”
Yovetich’s thirst for entertaining the masses began after obtaining his bachelor’s in communication studies at the University of Kansas. He decided to head to Los Angeles with intentions of acting and joined iO West and spent summers training with the Atlantic Theater Company in New York and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. In L.A. he also took classes at California State University, Los Angeles and found that he enjoyed philosophy and decided to pursue a master’s degree at the university and later moved on to the philosophy studies Ph.D. program at USC.
By the time he began classes at USC Dornsife, Yovetich had decided to take a break from acting.
“I really needed to step away from performing and focus on academics and philosophy,” said Yoveitch who grew up in Chicago, Ill., and Denver, Colorado. “I’m into the logic of philosophy and the idea that you can identify or create arguments for and against interesting or controversial views.”
But a few years into his studies, the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) opened a L.A. location and the aspiring actor reentered the comedy scene. In 2008, he started doing stand-up comedy on the side at the Hollywood Improv and other venues. By 2009, he was cast on an UCB improv team.
“At USC I was really into writing papers and teaching, but I wanted to balance it out with something different,” he said. “Both philosophy and acting are interesting and intensely fun. Live performances are exhilarating and I believe being a performer also helps me in teaching because it’s sort of like I’m putting on a performance for students.”
In Los Angeles, he went on several auditions landing spots in two commercials and on the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” On Aug. 12, 2012, Yovetich remembered being on the set of the popular show when his manager called with news that he had been cast in “Best Friends Forever.”
Six episodes were shot over the course of the winter in Los Angeles and New York, which required Yovetich to juggle his dissertation research on “Merely Verbal Disputes in Philosophy” with the show. He is also working with his committee, which includes USC Dornsife’s Scott Soames, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and director of the School of Philosophy; Mark Schroeder, professor of philosophy; and James Van Cleve, professor of philosophy in USC Dornsife.
"It's hard to disagree with Luka's sense of humor,” Schroeder said. “But one of the main ideas of his dissertation can be glossed as the view that it is hard to disagree about philosophy, too."
After obtaining his doctorate, Yovetich plans to pursue acting but at some point may use the skills developed at the university to teach philosophy.
“It’s an extremely valuable experience being in the program and interacting with top-notch philosophers,” he said. “I’m incredibly thankful to the philosophy department and USC.”