Ben Napier has opened his Scotsman Co. Woodshop to share the love of woodworking with people from all walks of life, learn about their passions, and build something impactful for the Laurel community together.
In this episode of Ben's Workshop, Ben invites a close friend, his self-proclaimed "L.A. twin" and This Is Us star, Chris Sullivan, to cut up in the shop to create something beautiful. While most people know Chris as a 2x Emmy nominee, his most admirable trait is his love for building community. That's why Chris and Ben are on a mission to create Ben's biggest build to date— a Table for All.
Ben said, "Chris and I both love community,and we want to build something that will bring the people of Laurel together. These days, we need community more than ever. Here in the South, anyone can tell you there is no better place to gather than around the dinner table."
Chris showed up with a "Scotsman" utility kilt in hand, and the work began. They sketched the table to be a 26ft table with a trailer hook-up that makes it easily accessible and transportable for community events around Laurel.
Ben and Chris prepped the Spanish cedar to be the tabletop because Spanish cedar holds up well against moisture. Then they planned to use oak to be the skirt or "kilt" of the table.
Ben explains, "Normally, Spanish Cedar is reserved for humidors. It's what lines the inside of the box, and this particular wood species helps regulate the moisture; it's an incredible wood species. Since this table will be outside, it will stand up to the humidity a little bit better than most. If we used treated pine, this table would be rotten in five years."
While they began working on the table, Chris shared how he got his start in show business.
He says, "I've been acting since high school, but I was also playing tennis. I ended up getting a scholarship to play at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. Tennis had me up at five o'clock in the morning, and theater had me up until 11 o'clock midnight. After doing that for an entire year, I couldn't do it anymore; I had to pick one. So it was acting, where my heart was. It's ironic because the profession that I chose is a team sport. The Theatre world is a tight community; it's a group of people coming together to share emotion, vulnerabilities and tell a story. Then tennis is an individual sport that requires a lot of mental stability. So the mental stability that I lacked in my tennis game was quite the asset for my acting."
Chris continues, "My first big break was a show called Defending the Caveman that was a Broadway one-man show that was touring the country. I did 36 states, three countries, and about 1000 performances. It was hard. It took me six months to memorize it, but once I got that first laugh, I was hooked, man."
Ben and Chris venture into working with another type of material, metal. The metal would soon become the base of the table, making it mobile. Ben soon brought up Chris's most notable role— one that most everyone in the western part of the world would recognize.
Chris said, "My voiceover career was pretty well established before, but then GEICO came around, and we did the camel commercial. That's the interesting part of all my work; more people have seen that commercial than any other commercial. It voted the number one GEICO commercial of all time."
Ben and Chris finish up the Table For All, load it up, and transport it to the Laurel Mercantile Front Yard, where the community can enjoy a sweet treat on July 4th weekend.
It's a spectacle to see a 26ft table moving down the streets of Downtown Laurel, but it's also unexpected to see Chris and Ben riding along in a truck and pulling it behind them.
Chris says, "My most important role has been This Is Us. It's mirrored my life in eerie ways with my struggles with anxiety and depression. When Toby and Kate had a child, it lined up when Rachel and I had a child. I've learned a lot about relationships from being a part of the show and turning towards each other even when things are difficult, whether through death, tragedy, change, addiction, depression, or anxiety. The show has been a real blessing because it taught me how to deal with a lot of those things."
Upon its arrival to the Mercantile Front Yard, crowds begin swarming around the two. There's something about a large table (and Ben and Chris's friendship) that makes people want to join in. Ben shared, "We've all been through a lot, and I don't think that we will ever take for granted how special it is to have a community to be able to talk and laugh with, and that's why Chris and I wanted to build this table a table big enough for everyone. People will have a reason to come together and gather, and you know what? Now they have a place they can do it."
Be sure to stop by the Scotsman General Store and Woodshop to watch Ben's Workshop in real life. Be sure to catch the new episode on HGTV or Discovery+ today!