From ANGEL to CHUCK to FIREFLY, Adam Baldwin has given us some great roles but none are more exciting than his latest on the new TNT Drama, THE LAST SHIP. Adam talks about that and, of course, FIREFLY plus uber busy TV host Brooke Burns has a new passion, designing cool cars. She takes us on a backstage tour of her new TruTV show MOTOR CITY MASTERS.
I’ve always been a fan of musicals and have seen a fair few on Broadway – from the musical that was an actual yearly field trip for eight graders in my New Jersey school, Cats, to that great production of Les Miserables with the rotating stage. I’ve also been a fan of the TV show Chuck from its debut all the way through the final season. So when Zachary Levi mentioned during the Nerd HQ panel I attended at SDCCthat he was going to be starring in a musical on Broadway, First Date, I knew I had to see it.
Fortunately, the New York Comic Con was already on my calendar, so before the con I went to see First Date – and boy, am I glad I did! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard throughout a live show in… well, maybe ever. And yet there was also substance and seriousness to the plot and characterization that balanced out the humor, a perfect blend of entertainment and wry and wise observations about life, human nature, and the modern dating world.
The premise of the show is pretty simple – it’s about a blind first date, and all of the things that might go wrong or right in that situation. But it’s not just about the couple on the blind date, Aaron and Casey. As the website says, during the date “Casey and Aaron’s inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents, who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines.” Is that as awesome and hilarious as it sounds? Yes, yes it is; and the cast portraying those characters, from Zac Levi and Krysta Rodriguez as the main couple, to the other five actors who are often playing more than one character, is stellar, and gave an energetic and engaging performance.
The main couple are a hoot to watch, being quirky and many-faceted all on their own; but the supporting cast is what really allows this musical to explore so many perspectives. From the “perfect” older sister who has the married life that Casey says she wants, to Aaron’s manipulative ex, to Casey’s flamboyant best friend who is also her designated “bail out call” person for if the date isn’t going well. The other characters in the main couple’s life do a great job embodying the pressures and influences people can experience while they’re out dating and trying to find “The One.” And while the premise is simple, the territory explored by the plot is broad, and ranges over everything from potential religious differences to how our online footprint might affect us in real life.
Broad as it may be, though, the plot flows easily and the production is well-designed and choreographed. Overall, the musical is clever, witty, and frequently hilarious. It’s insightful and endearing; if you’ve ever been a single person trying to do the dating thing, it’s also very easy to identify with… and maybe even learn from. The only other thing I can say about it is: Go see it! You won’t regret it.
You also won’t regret reading on, because after seeing First Date, I was fortunate to also be able to talk to Zac Levi about it and the rest of his career at The Nerd Machine booth at NYCC. Here’s the interview!
• • • • •
Let’s first talk about the Broadway musical you’re currently starring in, First Date, because I just saw it, and I loved it – especially the song about the ex; you knocked that out of the park.
Thank you! Yeah, that’s a fun song.
So how did you get involved in that production, and can you talk about your previous stage experience?
Well, I grew up doing a lot of theater when I was a kid. The last show I did was about twelve years ago; and I always dreamt about doing Broadway one day. Fortunately, I’ve been really blessed, and I’ve been able to do film and television for the last dozen years; but I was just kind of waiting for the right opportunity, and then this show came along and I just felt like, “you know, this could be really fun.” It’s an hour and a half, no intermission, it’s a comedy, there are only seven people in the cast – it’s lean and mean and I thought “I think people might really enjoy this.” And people have, and so it’s been great.
Great; and I know it’s running now. For people who want to see it, how long will it run?
Well, the idea is for the show to run indefinitely. My contract for the show is up the first week of January. There’s a possibility that I could extend, but I don’t know that for sure – it just depends on what work looks like at that time. So I would say that if you really want to see me in the show, you should come before the beginning of January. But I would tell anybody – you never know with Broadway stuff, the show could close so fast. So if you want to come see the show, come see the show now!
Yes! It looked like you were having a lot of fun in the show, and I know you’ve done TV, movies, voice acting and stage. Do you have any thoughts about those different experiences?
They’re all very different. I don’t know that I like any one more than the others. They all have their unique set of challenges and fun that can be had.
Did you come to the stage first?
Yes; I mean, as a kid, that’s what you do. There are not a lot of kids doing, like, community voiceover work. You have community theater and school theater. So stage was definitely where I started.
What was your first ever role?
Of an actual production? I think it was Sonny, one of the T-Birds in Grease. I think I was about eleven.
That’s pretty cool! So I have to ask, with First Date – do you identify with the musical at all? Because I was watching it and thinking, “I’ve so been there.” Or, “My friend has been there.”
Sure, yeah. I think that’s part of the reason why I wanted to do it, and why I think a lot of people enjoy it, is because it’s very relatable. So definitely I do. In fact, in some ways I almost didn’t do the show, because I felt like the character was so similar to Chuck, and I was like, “I’ve already played that character” but then I thought, “Well, yeah, but it’s just a fun way to do it – on stage, with some music.”
I was actually thinking that – it’s a little bit like Chuck, but I think you brought enough to the character that they had written that it wasn’t Chuck – it was Aaron.
Right, it’s not – it was similar, but they’re not the same.
Well I really enjoyed it! Now, I know that you are in Thor: The Dark World, which is coming out really soon, and I’m super excited. Every time I see the trailer on TV I clap. So tell us about being Fandral the Dashing.
Well, Fandral is this Errol Flynn-Lothario type who’s a ladies man, but also arguably the best swordsman in Asgard – or the Nine Realms, I think he would argue. And I mean, the movie is really still Thor and Jane; it’s their movie.
How much do we get of you and the other Warriors Three and Sif?
I really don’t know, because you never know how much of what you shot ends up in it; but I hope there are at least a few cool moments where people go, “Yeah! That kicked ass!” That’s all I’m hoping.
You were originally cast in that and then you were replaced by Josh Dallas due to your schedule; and now you’ve replaced him due to his schedule.
Yeah, it was very, very strange how that all worked. We’ve definitely joked about it – I’ve met Josh before, and he’s just a sweetheart of a guy and super talented, and it was very funny how all of that ended up panning out. But I was grateful that ultimately – after having completely let go of the job, because I thought “this is never happening” – then it came back around. That was kind of like, “Wow, this is very strange.”
Totally. Now I know you’re a comics fan; are you a fan of Thor comics? Had you read about your character before the movie role?
I was definitely familiar with Fandral to an extent, but I really got to know him actually when the first movie came around and I was getting cast; and then a little bit more for this one. But honestly, there’s not that much to find in the comics. The Warriors Three are definitely within Thor mythology, but there’s not that much.
Yes – they help with things but aren’t really the focus.
Yes; but in some ways that’s kind of fun, because it allows you to put your own mark on something, where fanboys and fangirls aren’t like, “Waitaminute! That’s not Fandral!”
Definitely! Do you think it’s still true to the character that you’ve seen in the comics?
I think so. It’s funny, Thor was never really my steez, necessarily. Like, I had Thor comics, and particularly with the Avengers.
I have to admit, I’m the same way. I love the movie, but Thor was always the guy I was sort of reading about on the side, because he was on the periphery of a story or part of a team.
Yeah, and I don’t know, for me – because everybody’s got their flavor of what entices them the most in the comic world –I really liked the mutant world probably the most.
Yeah! The X-Men and all that.
And X-Factor, and X-Force.
And actually, on that note, my favorite character is Deadpool; and I heard you mention that he’s your favorite character.
He’s my favorite villain, yeah.
Well he’s not always a villain! He did save the world…
Well – when I grew up reading him, in the beginning, he was a villain, through and through.
Yeah, in the beginning he was. So do you have a favorite writer or storyline or anything?
Oh, gosh! I don’t know that I could speak to that. I’m mostly nerdy about video games and technology…
What are you playing right now, video game-wise?
I’m actually not really playing anything right now. I left my Xbox back in L.A., because I really wanted to focus on doing the play, and I knew that the new Xbox was coming out in November, so I was like, “I’m just going to wait for that.” And then I’ll probably get lost in Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’ll be lost in that for months and months and months and months.
I bet. So we talked a bit about your voiceover work. You were one of the leads in Tangled. What was your experience like, doing that? Was that your first real big voiceover work?
Oh, yeah! Pretty much my first and only voiceover work. It was amazing. Ever since I was a little kid, I was a giant Disney fan, so to be able to get to do a Disney animated musical – what I’d dreamt about doing my whole life – was like, “Wow, this is really happening.” And singing Alan Menken’s music and everything.
Do you want to do more voiceover?
Oh, totally; I’d love to.
And some of the voice acting greats were in Tangled – like Frank Welker… did you get to work directly with Frank, or John DiMaggio, or some of the other career voice actors?
No; in fact, I didn’t get to work with any of them! I didn’t even get to work with Mandy (Moore). The only time Mandy and I ever worked together is when we recorded the song. But all of the dialogue is all recorded totally separately.
Let’s talk about The Nerd Machine, now, because we’re standing here in your awesome place with phone chargers and photo ops and everything–
In mah booth!
Yeah! Now when did you start The Nerd Machine?
The Nerd Machine started… I think maybe it was 2011. We started the company about a year before we had the first actual Nerd HQ. We launched with just one t-shirt. With just the classic “NERD.” And the idea was just, “I wanted to make a Nike for nerds.” Because there are so many different nerd-doms, right? And if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you can get a Doctor Who shirt. And if you’re a Star Wars fan, you can get a Star Wars shirt; and that’s great. But I really wanted to have one brand that unified all of them, so no matter what you’re nerdy about, you can just represent it very simply, very clearly: “I’m a nerd; that’s what I’m about.” So that’s what we’ve built on through the years, and our branding is simple, and it’s straight. It’s like “We’re a brand for you.”
Yes – so I have to ask, why “nerd” and not “geek”?
A couple of reasons. One, phonetically I like how nerd sounds more than I like geek. Geek is a little too hard consonant. And there was just a lot of wordplay that I was thinking about, like “Nerd is the word” and all that kind of stuff. But honestly, one of the biggest was, the first shirt that I had ever thought of was the original NERD shirt; and the reason why it works so well is because it’s the Nintendo sort of font… so it’s funny, the reason why you end up deciding what something is going to ultimately be. And the other reason, too, was that I felt like “geek” was being used a lot online with Geekology and Geek Chic, and all that, and I wanted to get away from that and do my own thing. By the way – I was totally unaware of Nerdist at the time! I knew Chris (Hardwick), but I wasn’t even thinking about it.
Well, and his brand has gotten exponentially bigger since then.
Oh, yeah. He’s a friggin’ empire!
Yeah. Now, The Nerd Machine benefits Operation Smile, which I think is great. What drew you to that particular charity?
I really think God kind of spoke to me. I was trying to find a charity that I could be an ambassador for. You know, as a celebrity, you do a lot of non-profit stuff, and you’re always asked, “What’s your charity of choice?” and I never really had one. So I was about to do another singing engagement/charity benefit thing, and I was like, “What could be a cool charity to benefit?” and I was praying about it, and thinking about it, and then in one week I saw about five commercials and five billboards. And I was like, “Oh – I believe this is what I’m supposed to cling to.”
That’s great. So tell me, what is the future of The Nerd Machine? I know that it’s gotten a little bigger since 2011, and I like the fact that it’s still being kept to a smaller scale.
Yeah, we’re always going to maintain the intimacy of our activations. The company will continue to grow, and we’ll continue to do more things, but the idea is to always keep those events as things that are special.
Are you planning to do what you did at San Diego at one of the future New York cons?
Yeah, in fact the original idea was that we were going to do a Nerd HQ out here in New York. It’s difficult. San Diego Comic Con brings every star in the world. And so it’s easy then to be like, “Hey, would you mind popping by for an hour and doing a panel?” NYCC is getting there. NYCC has a lot of talent now, and is growing more and more every year… But it doesn’t quite have the same; so in order for us to get the sponsorship money to put on our own little con like that – you really need to be able to bring the talent. So maybe in the future.
Great! Well I look forward to that future, and thank you so much for your time.
Hope you all enjoyed the interview! And if you’re a New Yorker or heading to New York City sometime soon, don’t forget to get tickets to First Date. Trust me, you’ll love it.
I think tomorrow I’ll call up Merriam-Webster and suggest a new word for their dictionary. That word? Geeklitism. (Not to be confused with Geekleetist, which posts fun stuff).
It should be in the dictionary, because it certainly is a thing that exists. But how would I suggest they define it? Damned if I know, although I guess the short version could be: “claiming you’re a ‘real geek’ and other people aren’t; claiming you’re the superior geek.” But really, the various aspects of both this attitude and of being a “geek” generally are so broad that I’m not sure they can be encompassed in a dictionary definition.
The reason for this, and the funny thing about “being a geek,” is that it’s a different experience for everyone. For instance, I’ve been a geek probably all of my life; but I don’t know that I ever really knew it until adulthood, when, thanks to the increased ease of finding like-minded people via the internet, it suddenly turned out it wasn’t such a bad thing to be. As far as I recall, no one called me a geek growing up. I had no idea I was part of this mysterious group of people called “geeks.”
“What??” I can hear a geeklitist out there crying out in triumph. “No one called you a geek? That must mean that you didn’t get bullied by the “cool kids” in school! Haha! You can’t understand the suffering and hardships that I went through in my formative years because of my love of stories about hobbits! You are not a real geek like me!” (This is the kind of thing geeklitists say, don’t you know. Sometimes they also add, “And all the girls made fun of me!! I’ve never gotten over that! My life was so hard!”)
But that’s not really what I said, is it? Of course I got picked on. Most kids do. For instance, when I was in first grade and all the cool kids in my new school had moved on to jeans or whatever was in fashion, my mom, bless her, still dressed me in cutesy pastel sweatsuits with big decorative (but pointless) buttons and bows on them. It follows that one of my first memories of my new school is three girls in my class making fun of my clothes on the playground – at which point I probably said something mean.
I was a well-read little child, who could creatively insult other children with words that none of us really knew the meaning of; but they sounded like insults, so it all worked out. For example, at some point in my primary school years, one of the biggest insults I remember using was, “You’re corroded!” (Which makes no sense under the real definition but sounds like maybe you have a gross skin condition?) My favorite of the weird words I personally transmogrified into an insult when young was “You’re a transubstantiationalist!” No one else had any idea what it meant, but I managed to convince the kids I was using it on that it was a really horrible thing to be. Mwahaha. But I digress. Anyway, at that point, we all got in a fight. Like a physical fight, of the kicking and punching and hair and decorative bow-pulling variety. Yowch.
“Whatever!” the geeklitist is saying. “That’s not what I meant. That’s just fashion. You were only a geek if you were ostracized because of your offbeat hobbies and/or love of genre fiction as a child! That’s what makes you a real geek like me.” Well, yes. I was that, too. I used to sit by myself at lunch and read giant books that were too “old” for me, like Clan of the Cave Bear and The Mists of Avalon, propped up in front of me as I ate with painful slowness (something else for which I was occasionally teased, but which turns out to be the healthy way to eat. Take that!). I’d walk down the school halls reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet or maybe The Deed of Paksenarrion without looking up (during which I developed a great sixth sense for not running into people while looking down, which is very handy these days when texting while walking to work).
I was definitely called weird, and often, annoying (because I used big words and talked a lot) more times than I can count. I engaged in some geek activities that probably would have been thought cool by at least the little boys in my class, like watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men cartoons, but I never realized that, because at that point in my life, boys had cooties. (Of course.) I’m not saying I didn’t have friends; I did, and they were a lot of fun. But I also got made fun of; and as far as I knew, most of my friends were not actually interested in The Lord of the Rings or Batman: The Animated Series. I don’t even know that I ever thought to ask most of them.(Or if I did, and received blank stares, I probably never brought it up again. This is why I’d never make a good Whedonvangelist, another word I’ve decided should be in the dictionary.)
Those were the sorts of things I often enjoyed alone, and didn’t really talk about that much, and that was fine. I knew (from others telling me, repeatedly) that I was a weird child, and I guess I just kind of assumed that was how life was and would continue to be for me – having some interests that nobody around me shared. Of course, that feeling of being alone in one’s interests is often cited as part of the experience of geekdom; and of course, in truth, lots of other people also had those interests; I just hadn’t discovered them yet. But I guess that’s all part of being a geek.
“Ahaha!” an entirely different brand of geeklitist is chortling. “But none of that matters! That’s just kid stuff! You’re not a real geek like me unless you can list, right this minute, in reverse alphabetical order, every superhero who turned out to be a Skrull during Secret Invasion! And until you can name at least three obscure continuity errors in [my favorite comics character’s] ongoing storyline! And unless you can tell me your three favorite fighting tactics for the video game character whose costume you are now wearing!” But, second brand of geeklitist…the water is wide, and the world is large, and I might like a different character than you do, or I might focus on something for different reasons than you do. Are you saying your viewpoint and favorite genre things and factoids are inherently better and geekier than mine, and are the only things that can bestow upon all of us admission into the uber-exclusive society of geekdom, just because they are yours? …Well, yes, yes you are, and that’s pretty self-centered. We can all be geeks in our own ways, with our own specific areas of interest and knowledge. Right?
“No no,” chides another, lone geeklitist, standing apart with one brow raised and pointing a finger at each of us in turn. “You will never, ever be a real geek, because you didn’t watch Firefly until it came out on DVD! You only like the newest Doctor Who! You never participated in the drive to keep Chuck on the air via purchasing mounds of Subway sandwiches. You’ll never be a real geek, not any of you, because (cue dramatic music and Iwo Jima flag-raising reenactment) I was here first, and I claim this geekdom in the name of Geekmoria! It’s mine, all miiiiine!!!!!”
…What? No, really, what? That’s just asinine.
“Well…maybe,” says the lone geeklitist doubtfully. “But I was here first.”
How do you know, lone geeklitist? Did you turn on your TV to a new show before anyone else in the entire world? Acquire an ARC of the first book in a now-beloved series? Hold in your excited hands the very first copy of the very first appearance of a comic book character? And even if you did…why does that give you any more claim to an appreciation of it than anyone else? Why does timing somehow make you more passionate about your geekdom than all the other geeks?
So, any other geeklitists out there want to make a stand about how they’re the real geeks? I just ask because I don’t like to exclude people, although I realize the irony of saying that to you, geeklitists.
I’m hearing a lot of silence out there. Guess I’ll just wrap this u–what? I’m sorry? What did you say?
A chorus of low, angry, guttural voices rises from the deep to repeat itself, as one last group of geeklitists has its say:
Last week, I wrote about the awesome folks of Warehouse 13, whom I was lucky enough to meet after attending their panel at Dragon*Con. But they weren’t the only fantastic people at the con, oh no. In fact, Dragon*Con is always so packed with amazing guests that I never get to see or meet all of them, and am left lamenting the fact that I missed Dean Cain’s panel or never got to say hi to Jewel Staite or Sean Maher in the Walk of Fame, despite running around from hotel to hotel like a hyperactive kid in a candy store. But I did get to see and meet a lot of cool folks, and that’s what I’m here to share, so here we go!
The first event I got to was a fantastic Lord of the Rings panel, featuring Billy Boyd (Pippin), Craig Parker (Haldir), and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli). It was a blast. The first thing I have to say about it is very shallow but true: these guys have the most delightful accents! I think I could listen to Scottish, Kiwi, and Welsh actors answer questions all day. And oh, yeah, the questions themselves were pretty good too. I think my favorite bit was when Craig invited a fairly young boy named Orion who was slightly hyperventilating up onto the stage to ask his question (it’s cute when a kid’s that nervous. Adults…well, not so much). I heard through the grapevine later that this happenstance made the kid a minor celebrity at other panels, where people started looking for Orion. To which I say – only at Dragon*Con. I love that about Dragon*Con. My second favorite bit was hearing about how Billy used to read books while working at a bookbinder’s – by tearing out the pages he was finished with and tossing them away. Being an extreme book lover, I’d call that sacrilege, but…well, it does sound kind of fun. And then of course, John predicted that The Hobbit will be a game-changer and that we’re all in for a treat, so: yay!
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of asking Craig and John a couple of quick questions (missed Billy, sadly. Maybe next year?). Craig is delightfully easygoing, and John is effortlessly charming and has that amazing presence that I associate with really good stage actors. And even though he had a plane to catch, he still took the time to sit down for a few and give me his full attention, which speaks to the sort of person he is. Here’s what they had to say:
What would you like to say about current or future projects?
“Actually, I’m a total bum at the moment, because I’m in the process of moving to the States, so everything’s just… everywhere, and I’m not working on anything at the moment.” (Hopefully it won’t be that way for long. I’m sure we’d all love to see him in something again soon).
What’s your favorite part of Dragon*Con?
“I don’t know whether it’s the visuals…the overstimulation of seeing something incredible everywhere you look; or talking with all of the passionate people. It’s an incredibly engaging weekend.”
What would you like to say about current or future projects?
“Projects are falling by the wayside all the time – you know, there were two pictures I really wanted to do recently, but they didn’t work out. But now I’m doing Golden Boots, which is a movie about a little boy who wants to play soccer, and that takes place in Detroit, Michigan. I’m also working on Behind the Mask, which takes place in the pre-continental U.S.; and I’ll be the villain. It has a bit of swash; a bit of buckle; a bit of murder…and unfortunately the bad guys don’t win. I’m going to be in the new Pinocchio, which is a mixture of animation and drama – and I’ll be playing the bad guy. And I’m hoping that Flying Tigers will be shot in China early next year.”
What’s your favorite part of Dragon*Con?
”Obviously the people – it’s the chance an actor gets to meet the people who’ve been keeping him employed for the past forty years. You get to talk to them, and know who they are. I cannot tell you how valuable that is. When you work in theater the audience is right there, telling you “You’re good; you’re bad; you stink.” In film, you can lose sight of your audience; and then you can lose sight of yourself and your own true proportion.”
Words of wisdom indeed. Next up we attended the Buffy & Angel Q&A, featuring J. August Richards (Gunn), Juliet Landau (Drusilla), and James Marsters (Spike). James Marsters challenged everyone to embarrass him (they tried but failed); J. August Richards shared his opinion of Gunn’s story arc from street-savvy vampire hunter to lawyer and back (he was happy with the lawyer arc, and with Gunn going back to his roots when the story needed it); and Juliet Landau spoke about her voice work as the Little Sisters in Bioshock (and how she landed the role thanks to her acting as Drusilla).
The panel was a ton of fun, and I got to check in with J. August Richards afterwards. When asked what he’d like to say about current or future projects, Jay told me that he has something he’s really excited about, but he can’t talk about it just yet. Therefore – check back here on ComicMix in a week or two, when I’ll be interviewing J. August Richards about his newest, as-yet-unannounced project! Yay!
When asked his favorite part of Dragon*Con, Jay replied:
“The people! What I love about Dragon*Con is that it’s one of the rare instances where you get to be around fifty thousand people who are completely non-judgmental.”
Word. At the Buffy panel, Juliet Landau mentioned a documentary she’d made that was airing Saturday, Take Flight: Gary Oldman Directs Chutzpah, and my friend and I love Gary Oldman, so we checked that out as well. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it turned out to be one of the surprise best parts of the weekend. The film is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Gary Oldman’s artistic process as he creates a music video for a Jewish rap group (yes, that really is a thing!), and it is fantastic. I was either smiling or laughing for pretty much the whole thing, because the rappers are funny, and Gary Oldman in creative mode is a thing of joy and awesomeness, and Juliet & co. did an amazing job showing all of that. Juliet also did an excellent job in selecting the classical music that accompanies some parts of the film and really highlights the beauty of the more peaceful scenes.
When asked about what she’d learned in making the film, she replied, “Every set you’re on, you learn. One of the things about Gary on set – and all the best directors I’ve worked with, like Tim Burton and Joss Whedon, are like this – is that he is very focused on the work, but also on having fun. Everybody’s focused, but there really is a joy to be making stuff – that’s really palpable with Gary.” And it really is.
I got to chat with the extremely nice Juliet after the film, and she shared that the documentary is available for purchase on her website. I definitely recommend it, but fair warning: the song being filmed is pretty catchy, so if you watch it, I guarantee you’ll be singing, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send your best guy right over,” for at least half a day afterwards! Juliet also mentioned that her upcoming projects include The Bronx Bull (Raging Bull II), and Where the Road Runs Out. And her favorite part of Dragon*Con? “Meeting all the people!”
Also included in our mad convention dash was the Big Damn Heroes panel, with Adam Baldwin (Jayne), Jewel Staite (Kaylee), and Sean Maher (Simon) of Firefly and Serenity. Those three are like a comedy show once they get going. Highlights of the panel included Nathan Fillion making cameos on all of their cell phones (taking over the panel even when he’s not on the panel, as Adam said!) to check in repeatedly on, basically, how pretty Jewel was looking that day (it really was a hilarious gag, and she really is very pretty); an audience member contributing Firefly bourbon for them to drink; and Adam Baldwin being temporarily embarrassed to share with the crowd (he got over it).
Speaking of Adam, I also went to a Chuck panel where he talked about his role as John Casey; and even when he’s the only one on stage, he’s a riot. Adam answered questions such as whether Casey was really in the Navy or the Marines, and then ribbed fans for being that into the details of the show, noting that “It’s not real!” However, he clearly appreciates the fans who care enough about his characters (notably Jayne) to dress the part, and was particularly kind to a thirteen-year-old fan who was a bit nervous in asking her question. As I said, I sadly missed chatting with Sean and Jewel, but I did get to talk with the quick-witted Adam after the panels.
Adam reports that his newest project is the opening episode of Law & Order: SVU. “I’m joining the cast as a ‘replacement’ for the captain, Cragen, who…got himself in a little bit of hot water last season. So that has kept me a little busy.” As for his favorite part of Dragon*Con? “The people – lovely people who are very kind, and good old Southern hospitality. And the food’s great…you know, wine, women, good food! And the panels …and the utilikilts (pointing). There’s one right behind you.”
And so there was.
Meeting Adam was a lovely experience; and another highlight of the weekend was Jane Espenson’s panel. Jane is like the writer equivalent of actor Mark Sheppard, in that she has written for basically every awesome genre show I’ve ever seen. She’s also delightful to listen to. Her panel focused in a large part on her newest project, Husbands, a web series which can be seen online at lovehusbands.com. We watched an episode, and it’s very funny; and certainly a spin on the newlywed premise that we haven’t quite seen before, being about two gay men who have gotten married in haste and are now dealing with the consequences. She also encouraged people to check out Once Upon A Time over on ABC if they haven’t yet, and answered questions about the writing process, mentioning that she’d like to turn her blog musings into a book someday (yes please, Jane!). Writing tips she shared included her own approach to beginning to write for an established character by asking “what one incident is going to most poke at the character’s emotional core? Getting inside that is one of the best ways to train yourself to be a good writer.” As for her favorite part of Dragon*Con: “Meeting beautiful amazing people in costumes!”
Speaking of people who’ve worked on everything cool ever, I also got to talk with Rob Paulsen, voice actor for a million billion zillion of the toon characters we all know and love, including Yakko Warner, Pinky, and more from Animaniacs. He couldn’t possibly have known that’s one of my favorite cartoon shows ever, but that didn’t stop him from saying, “Hellooooooo, nurses!” as I and my two gal pals walked up to say hi, and, “You all make me want to say, ‘Narf!’” which got the conversation off to a fun start. Rob shared that since he was Raphael on the original Teenage MutantNinja Turtles, he’s pretty excited to be Donatello now on the new one. “And Sean Astin is Raphael, Jason Biggs is Leonardo, and Greg Cipes is Michelangelo, so that’s great.” He also suggested we check out his podcast, Talking Toons, which can be found on iTunes or RobPaulsenLive.com; and now that I know about it, I certainly will! As for his favorite part of Dragon*Con:
Rob: “The pretty chicks!”
Me: “He says, looking at us…”Rob: “Absolutely! I’m not the blind Turtle!”
Walking around the Walk of Fame, I got to chat with several other actors and actresses, including Lee Arenberg, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame (“’Ello, poppet!”) who was enjoying meeting all the fans, and can currently be seen as Grumpy in Once Upon a Time. He also mentioned that he’ll be in the new season of Californication. Last of all I sawMira Furlan, who told me that she’s going to be in a new film starring Penelope Cruz that’s called Twice Born. She then opined that DragonCon was “fantastic – mad and fantastic,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Well! That’s the news for this week, but there’s even more to come, as I also got to attend the Battlestar Galactica panel and chat with those actors while at Dragon*Con and have more to say about that; we’ve got an exclusive chat with J. August Richards in the offing; and I’ve just gotten back from the fantastic Baltimore Comic Con.
So check back for more excitement next week, and until then, Servo Lectio!
Growing up in the 1960s, I first heard “Shazam” from the lips of Gomer Pyle, USMC and only later learned it had something to do with a defunct character, Captain Marvel. When I then saw ads in the comics for a Saturday morning series called Shazzan, I was confused, thinking it was somehow connected. Nope, the CBS series created by the great Alex Toth and produced by Hanna-Barbera and had the following narration:
“Inside a cave off the coast of Maine, Chuck (Jerry Dexter) and Nancy (Janet Waldo) find a mysterious chest containing the halves of a strange ring. When joined, the ring forms the word “Shazzan!” and with this magical command, they are transported back to the fabled land of the Arabian Nights. Here they meet their Genie, Shazzan (Barney Phillips). Shazzan presents them with Kaboobie (Don Messick), a magical flying camel. Shazzan will serve them whenever they call, but he cannot return them home until they deliver the ring to its rightful owner. And thus begins their incredible journey.”
Adding an extra “ho” to the Jolly Green Giant’s “ho ho ho”, the 60-foot tall Shazzan was a jovial genie, calling the kids “little masters” and never tired at saving them with regularity. The series ran from September 9, 1967 and ended on Saturday, September 6, 1969 and featured two escapades per thirty minutes and achieved just enough popularity to be repeated as part of countless series in the 1970s and 1980s before finding a home on cable. The complete 36 episode series has been collected for the first time thanks to the tireless folk at Warner Archive.
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING pulled in a 25 million dollar box office and we sit down with Kate Beckinsale who says she was more than glad to return too her role in the franchise, plus we begin our farewell to the NBC series CHUCK, as Ryan McPartlin and Yvonne Strahovski talk about wrapping it all up.
In the wake of his success with Captain America: The First Avenger, there’s little surprise that Marvel’s owner, Disney, is releasing the Blu-ray edition of director Joe Johnston’s earlier comics adaptation, [[[The Rocketeer]]], on December 13. The underrated film was released 20 years ago and was a faithful adaptation of Dave Stevens’s homage to the serial heroes of the 1930s.
Starring Billy Campbell (The OC, Enough), the movie also featured early work from Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond, The Dilemma) and also starred Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart), and Timothy Dalton (The Tourist, Chuck). The movie was written by the team of Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, who went from this to adapting The Flash for CBS.
The press release from Disney says the film has been given state-of-the-art digital restoration and enhanced high definition sound. Unfortunately, the lack of bonus features in the announcement is cause for concern.
For those unfamiliar with the concept (shame on you), here’s the official synopsis: The discovery of a top-secret jetpack hurls test pilot Cliff Secord into a daring adventure of mystery, suspense, and intrigue! Cliff encounters an assortment of ruthless villains, led by a Hollywood screen star who is a secret Nazi spy. With the help of his actress girlfriend, the young pilot battles enormous odds to defeat his foes who are anxious to use the device in an evil plan to rule the world. The dangerous mission transforms the ordinary young man into an extraordinary hero.