I remember the anti-drug PSAs I grew up with vividly, thanks to coming of age when the second iteration of the “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” commercial began airing in 1997. It starred Rachael Leigh Cook (chic!), and her fury as she destroyed her kitchen with an egg-spattered frying pan while ranting about heroin truly terrified me. Another PSA that stuck with me was called “Drowning,” from 1995. In it, a girl’s bedroom floods with water. As she futilely tugs at her skylight in an attempt to escape, a voiceover describes how sniffing glue deprives your brain of oxygen. I’m pretty sure she dies in the end. Chilling! Did I need to be watching this stuff in my first decade of life? Absolutely not!
By the time the (in)famous 2007 “Talking Dog” anti-pot PSA hit the air, though, I was a little older — and perhaps less likely to be swayed by PSA scare tactics. Even so, hearing young stoner Lindsay’s dog frankly tell her, “I wish you didn’t smoke weed” really bummed me out. Lindsay looked so ashamed of herself as her goody-two-shoes dog scampered off. I didn’t have a dog, but I definitely felt weird being around my stuffed animals after some of my mid-teen debauchery. Is there anything worse than detecting disappointment in your childhood comfort object’s eyes?
I don’t see so many anti-drug PSAs these days, maybe because I’m no longer in the target demographic but also because I watch fewer commercials in general. But the ones of my youth — including Talking Dog (also called “Dog’s View”) — have been spoofed hundreds of times over. Whenever I see a send-up of these ads, I wonder about the people who acted in them. Not the Rachael Leigh Cooks of the genre, but the actor who played the friend of “girl deflating on a couch,” for instance, and the glue sniffer, and, of course, poor, sad Lindsay, who got so thoroughly shamed by her douchey dog.
It’s hard to find these actors’ names — most aren’t putting these PSA roles on their IMDB pages. But after a thorough search, I did locate Lindsay, aka Brittany Curran. She’s still acting, most recently in the TV shows The Magicians and Chicago Fire. And she was, frankly, thrilled to receive my Instagram DM and tell me all about what it was like to film such a famous and strange anti-weed PSA.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
First things first: She wasn’t being a hypocrite, she really was anti-pot at the time.
Brittany Curran: “I was 17-ish when I made that commercial. At the time, I was auditioning for movies and shows; this was probably around the time I was on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, so I was doing some Disney stuff. And I also was avidly auditioning for commercials because it can be a great form of work for actors. It was just another audition for another commercial that just happened to be an anti-drug campaign.
“I was such a freaking prude when I was a teenager and maybe even early adulthood. And so when I booked the role, I remember thinking, I don't smoke weed. So I'm perfect for this. I wasn't being hypocritical to get the money. I had a friend at the time who also did anti-weed PSA, and he was the biggest pothead. I remember him telling me he had just booked an anti-weed commercial himself — because he knew I had done one — and the very next sentence that came out of his mouth was telling me where he hid his weed. I mean, even at the time, I thought it was one of the funniest things I'd ever heard. But yeah, I was probably one of the only child actors who wasn't doing a PSA ironically.
“I just remember taking it — not seriously like ‘I'm doing the Lord's work here,’ but I remember taking it seriously. Because I was a pretty naive, no-fun teenager. I didn't think it was funny at all. The look that I give at the end — I thought nothing ironic of it whatsoever. It wasn't until years later that I caught on too.”
It wasn’t the only PSA she filmed.
“In fact, it was one of four PSAs I did in the span of two years. I did an anti-smoking campaign — which, I mean, smoking is far more harmful, so that one I don't really have an issue with. And then I did this anti-weed one. And then I did two other ads — drug/weed commercials.
“When I came to the close of my fourth anti-whatever commercial, I was thinking to myself, Oh my God, why do I keep getting cast in these things? [I figured it was] because I looked so innocent. And then as I got older, I was like, You're casting me because I look like the type of gal that needs to have an intervention with her dog.”
She didn’t think about the PSA the first time she smoked pot.
“I really just thought, Wow, this is awesome and fun. I've really been missing out. The first time I smoked weed was with my friend, Josh. I smoked way too much at first and ate a brownie. And I remember telling them a joke, and all of a sudden it was, like, the funniest thing I've ever said in my whole life. And then I realized that it wasn't and I was just high. I got freaked out, and then I got good again and started singing Disney princess songs — and I ate chicken, the best chicken I've ever tasted in my life. And I was like, this is so fun and not scary.
“Same with the first time I drank alcohol. I was almost 23, and I remember specifically thinking to myself, What the heck, this isn't evil or bad or scary at all. I didn't really think about my commercials at first, but I was a little mad about it. Because no one likes to be pushed into a box of fear over something that's not scientifically sound.”
She probably wouldn’t film it again.
“The reason I was so prudish is because I was scared of so many things, and I felt shame around so many things. I personally believe now that marijuana is not one of these things that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. Maybe if it stops you from doing your work, but... It's just this culture of fear for people growing up. You feel ashamed in so many different ways that you don't understand. And so then to have the media coming at you, telling you that you're betraying your dog. I mean, my God.
“It's also lying. Smoking some weed is so non-harmful — drinking alcohol is more harmful. It's lying and creating shame. And then it leads to teenage years like mine, which weren't quite as fun as they could have been because I was scared of things that didn't need to be feared. Or [people could think] well, they were telling me that marijuana was going to make me literally go on an acid trip and that's not even close to the truth — so they must be wrong about everything. And there are certain drugs that... you shouldn't try.
There was a real dog on set.
“I've worked with a lot of dogs, thank God, in my career — what a blessing. There was a dog [on set], that lovely little dog. That part was great. He was a super-well behaved, super well-treated creature. And he sat in his little seat. I was really saying these words to a dog, and looking ashamed at a dog.
“They obviously did the visual effects of his mouth afterwards, and somebody off-screen was delivering the lines to me. I don't remember any details about that — but I do remember that somebody was saying the words to me, not the dog, unfortunately.”
It was an instant hit among her friends.
“I was a senior in high school. At that point I'd done a bunch of movies, and I'd been on a bunch of TV shows, and I just remember friends being like, ‘You did that dog PSA!’ And I was like, ‘That's what they remember?’ I thought it was so surprising and hilarious.
“I was super-amused that they were super-amused, because to me it was just yet another commercial that I had done. And so I was like, ‘Oh, this is fun. Everyone thinks it's really funny, so that's good.’ I like making people laugh.”
She doesn’t get recognized for it as often as you’d think.
“People would randomly bring it up to me or I'd randomly see a comment online... Somebody who watches a show that I'm on now would be like, ‘Oh my God, you're the girl from the dog drug commercial.’ It's kind of been like dribbles of attention throughout the years. The commercial was on the Ellen DeGeneres Show a year or two ago. I don't think I ended up watching it but I thought, Oh that’s fun. All of a sudden, several people — friends of mine and then some fans — posted saying that I was on the Ellen show and I was like, ‘How was I in the Ellen show?’ And then I found out it was the dog thing.
“Honestly, I was so much younger then... And my face isn't so familiar that you'd be like, ‘Oh, of course, that's so-and-so!’ So whenever I see [the PSA] blasted out there again, the actor-side of me is like, “Am I going to get more attention because I was in the dog commercial?” Which is so pathetic to think that and admit that.
“So this is fun, because finally it's on the record that I'm Lindsay, the girl who apparently hallucinates from marijuana!”
She’s really glad it’s a become joke.
“I like the commercial because it's now satirical by accident. But I didn't even know it was, like, a thing. [This week,] I called my brother, and I told him about this interview and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember a lot of my friends in high school talking to me about my sister being on the dog drug commercial.’ My brother would have been a freshman that year.
“We were on FaceTime and he was like, ‘You know what? I don't think I've ever seen it. Let me watch it right now.’ So he pulled up YouTube. And I'm watching his face, and I just see him starting to die laughing. He holds it in so we can hear it and watch it, and when it ends, he looks back at me and he starts cracking up. He said, ‘How did you act serious in that?’ And I was like, ‘I didn't think it was funny at the time!’
“He did a deep dive on it, and he found a spoof of the video on CollegeHumor.com, which was so funny. He found a Joe Rogan interview or something [where he talks about it]. My brother was excited about [that]. But yeah, the Ellen thing is when I kind of realized that people knew about the random commercial I did 15 years ago, and then it wasn't until my brother's deep dive this week that I was like, ‘Oh, it's like a thing that's been spoofed.’ And I love that.
“I'm glad that no one hates me for being the girl who somehow hallucinated from drugs. But I love the whole thing. I mean, I think it's absolutely freaking hilarious and I'm glad that such a fear-mongering time in history can help be brought into the future via humor.”
“I haven't had a commercial section on my resume since probably 2008 or something.”
She doesn’t think it was an effective anti-weed PSA.
“I mean, honestly the commercial now is really an ad campaign to smoke weed. I was like if I could talk to Emmy, my dog, I’d be the biggest pothead in the world! Coolest thing ever.”