SALT LAKE CITY — Scott Weinger was a teenager when he met Robin Williams.
Weinger was Aladdin to Williams’ Genie in the 1992 Disney animated film, and even then, as a high schooler, the young voice actor could sense Williams’ wild energy was one of a kind. In fact, for Weinger, it was dizzying.
“I got to be in the little sound studio with him and watch him do his performance. I'll never forget it,” he told the Deseret News. “There wasn’t a single take we did that was ever the same. … I guess (during) one of his takes, I was worn down by his imagination, … and he was so funny, that I literally fell down.”
But Weinger had fallen for Williams well before “Aladdin.” He was a big “Mork and Mindy” fan growing up, and then there was the floor-to-ceiling “Dead Poets Society” poster in his bedroom. Williams’ role as an unorthodox English teacher at a New England boarding school would end up influencing Weinger in more ways than one.
“My favorite movie was ‘Dead Poets Society,’ and my dream was to go to one of those New England colleges where the leaves change and you’re reading great literature all night long and you’re wearing a pea coat,” Weinger said.
Which is why the actor, who also played Steve Hale (D.J. Tanner’s boyfriend) on the TV series “Full House,” traded in his script for textbooks and entered the Ivy League doors of Harvard, where he majored in English and minored in French literature.
“I had this fantasy of what it was going to be like, and it pretty much matched the fantasy,” he said. “(But) it was hard to say goodbye, to leave show business for a while. Some people I talked to said, ‘I’m so proud of you. … Get out of here. We’ll all still be here when you get back.' And then some people said, ‘Are you nuts? You’re starring on a hit TV show!’”
After Harvard — and completing a thesis about writer Ernest Hemingway’s life in Paris — Weinger was able to reenter the Hollywood scene. But with the exception of the “Full House” reboot, “Fuller House,” he’s largely stayed out of acting to instead focus on TV writing and producing. But thanks to events like Utah’s upcoming FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, which runs April 19-20 at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Weinger, 43, is able to celebrate the two acting roles that have outlived his days as a starstruck teenager working with Williams.
‘I didn’t see this coming’
Salt Lake’s FanX is Weinger’s second fan convention; his first was just last year at Alamo City Comic Con. But it only took one event of seeing fans and their children donning elaborate Jasmine and Aladdin costumes to convince him that the Disney movie is just as popular today as it was when it premiered 26 years ago.
At the fan events, he appears alongside Linda Larkin, the voice of Jasmine, but Weinger said he ends up signing as many pictures of him with “Full House” star Candace Cameron Bure (who played D.J. Tanner) as he does pictures of him with the Princess Jasmine. But in his mind it’s a fitting pairing, as it was his “Full House” co-star that a 17-year-old Weinger treated to a sushi dinner and brought as his date to the “Aladdin” premiere in November 1992.
“It's really strange that not one but two things from the ‘90s and from my childhood are still a big part of my life decades later,” he said. “I didn’t see this coming.”
There’s no way Weinger, who was only 15 when he had his first audition for “Aladdin,” could’ve seen it coming.
“One day after work my mom said, ‘Oh, you’ve got an audition today for some cartoon,’” Weinger recalled. “Because we didn’t appreciate how important it was and what a big deal it was, it’s a miracle to me that I didn't say after work, ‘You know Mom, I’m tired, let’s just skip this one.’”
And now, almost 30 years later, that “cartoon” is not only popular but is even getting new life with the Disney live-action film that comes out May 24. Although Weinger has a special love for the late comedian Williams and his “defining performance” as the “Aladdin” Genie, he believes Will Smith is up to the task and, in general, has high hopes for the film, which he plans on watching with his 9-year-old son.
Weinger also plans on returning to the Netflix series “Fuller House” in the next month or so, when filming begins for the fifth and final season. Thanks to the reboot, he hopes Steve and D.J. can finally get their happy ending, since his choice to attend Harvard threw a wrench in the original “Full House” plotline and led to the couple breaking up.
“Everybody’s happy to get to do another (season),” said Weinger. “I think we’re sad (because) it’s such a fun gig and we all like working with each other so much that we would’ve done 10 seasons, but this is how it was decided. Putting my writer hat on, it’s great to know that it’s the end because the writers can write to the finale.”
Weinger said he also doesn’t know how Lori Loughlin’s role as Aunt Becky will play out in this final season, as Loughlin has recently come under fire for her part in the college admissions scandal. But the actor has a hard time believing the writers would have Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse divorce, as Screenrant reported as an April Fool’s joke.
“I have no idea what the plan is,” he said. “Even the announcements that Lori wasn’t going to be a part of the show, I haven’t heard any of that from the horse’s mouth.”
“Fuller House” and the buzz surrounding the live-action “Aladdin” film have recently brought more attention to Weinger's landmark roles from the '90s, but thanks to the fans he meets at events like Salt Lake's FanX, Weinger knows his part in '90s pop culture will never really go away.
“I started both of those projects when I was a teenager, and I’m a dad myself now and it blows my mind what a big role both of those things (still) play,” he said. “This is part of the culture now.”
If you go …
What: FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Spring 2019
When: Friday, April 19, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, April 20, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Salt Lake Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple
How much: $40-$200