A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.
If you have been listening to Night Vale Radio, you understand the lights above Arby’s, you can tell people why they should never go into the Dog Park, you understand that wheat and wheat-by-products are not to be trusted, and you definitely understand that angels do not exist.
However if you are not: You can (and should, for your own sanity) tune in and listen to Cecil every month on the 1st and 15th. Follow the Welcome to Night Vale podcast on iTunes, or if you prefer, listen to the episodes here, here, or here.
It’s alright if you’re confused at first, we all were. It becomes clear enough though as you listen on, while Cecil tells you all about sandstorms, Desert Bluffs, Carlos and his perfect hair…We don’t ever really talk about Steve Carlsberg, though.
You should be aware that alligators can kill your children.
Welcome to Night Vale is easily one of my favourite pod casts to pop up in quite a few years, and a quick glance around the internet will go to show that I am definitely not alone. Between the glowing cloud that rains animals, the faceless old woman who lives in your home, and Hiram McDaniels who is literally a five headed dragon, who cares…Night Vale Radio has a charm that is undeniable and wonderful.
I personally have always been an avid fan of radio programs, and still enjoy listening to things like The Shadow, The Twilight Zone, etc. There’s a fantastic bit of imagination that comes with radio (and reading books) that is different than watching TV or movies. You get to imagine everything, and whatever it is you picture…You aren’t wrong. One of the best parts about WTNV is that there is so much left to your own personal perceptions, and it is encouraged.
There is so much about Night Vale that will simultaneously lift up your spirits, terrify you, and make you question your own existence. Kind of like how StrexCorp is so…
Station Management has informed me that this next paragraph has been deleted for the betterment of the station. Thank you for your cooperation.
…What was I saying? That StrexCorp Synernists Inc. are amazing and everyone should believe in a Smiling God? Yes, that must be it. How silly of me! To sum this all up in a slightly less confusing statement…
You might scared, intrigued, and confused. You may not come out of it the same, but in the end…Isn’t that all life is? Void and turquoise…
Goodnight, dear readers.
(As a side note: Welcome to Night Vale is currently touring Canada and the US! Tickets are sold out for a lot of venues, but if you want to see Cecil and the crew live, do so! A few friends of mine went to see it live and since they’ve gotten back they just keep repeating the word Strex over and over. Strex…Strex…Strex…)
SyFy is bring the curtain on WAREHOUSE 13 with a last run of six original episodes that begin next Monday (April 14th) on the network. Stars Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly, along with show runner Jack Kenny, talk about how it feels to say goodbye in such a short window. Plus 2014 has not been a banner year for comic sales and even the zombies could’t keep stores alive in March.
“It started when someone from Indiana was bartending at my place,” says Kirah Haubrich, recalling a fateful night before the 2011 Mardi Gras season. “We asked about his first Mardi Gras, and he says ‘I thought it was really weird, but I didn’t see a lot of cosplay.’ It’s because we all have costumes and no one thinks about that in particular. But if we had a scene, I said it’d be called Chewbacchus. Immediately, I turned to Ballard. And after the night I said Chewbacchus to him, three weeks later the Bar2 was being built.”
All it took was one seasonal play on words, and suddenly Haubrich and her friend Ryan Ballard became the unexpected founders of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, Mardi Gras’ only official Sci-Fi and Fantasy themed organization. Together with friend and fellow “overlord” Brett Powers (think of them as organizational leaders, but ones who can trade Close Encounters quotes), the trio first unveiled Chewbacchus to the world in 2011. With 400 members marching in that inaugural parade, clearly they had tapped into something.
In an electrifying return to his signature role, Vin Diesel heads up an internationally acclaimed cast that includes Karl Urban (Star Trek franchise), Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), Jordi Mollà (Columbiana), WWE superstar Dave Bautista (upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy), Noah Danby (“Defiance”), Danny Blanco Hall (Immortals), Bokeem Woodbine (Total Recall), Matt Nable (Killer Elite), Raoul Trujillo (Apocalypto), Conrad Pla (Immortals), Neil Napier (White House Down), Nolan Gerard Funk (Aliens in America) and two-time Grammy Award nominee Keri Lynn Hilson.
Debuting an Unrated Director’s Cut with even more intense, heart-pounding sequences not shown in theaters and an alternate ending, the Blu-ray Combo Pack includes bonus features that reveal the behind-the-scenes secrets of the heart-stopping thriller’s incredible cast, uniquely talented crew and cutthroat characters.
The Riddick Unrated Director’s Cut Blu-ray Combo Pack also includes a Digital HD Copy of the film available on UltraViolet. UltraVioletis the revolutionary new way for consumers to collect movies and TV shows in the cloud to instantly stream and download to tablets, smartphones, computers, and TVs. Consumers can now truly enjoy Riddick anytime, anywhere.
We shine the spotlight on the Sci-Fi Queen of Riddick
For many sci-fi fans, Katee Sackhoff is a household name of this exciting genre, but you don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to know this woman is a force to watch.
The all-new thriller finds the title character trapped on a sun-scorched planet and pursued by ruthless bounty hunters eager to collect the reward for Riddick’s capture—dead or alive. Savage alien creatures, expansive desert landscapes, monster storms, jet hogs and an arsenal of futuristic weaponry make this the most exhilarating episode to date in writer and director David Twohy’s breathtaking series of futuristic blockbusters.
In celebration of the Blu-ray release of Riddick, we shine the spotlight on some of our favorite roles from Katee Sackhoff.
While her name might be pronounced ‘doll’, she’s anything but sweet in this role. Sackhoff has said Dahl is probably the strongest character she’s ever played.
1) Capt. Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace– Battlestar Galactica
Before playing the role of a sniper in Riddick, fans most enjoyed Katee’s work as Capt. Starbuck in the SyFy network series Battlestar Galactica. For four seasons, she played Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace, a pilot and warrior.
2) Herself- The Big Bang Theory
This may be her best role of all, a cameo in Howard’s fantasy. Katee guest stars on two episodes helping our nerdy hero muster up courage to propose to his girlfriend, Bernadette. Bernadette said no to the proposal but what better wingwoman is there for any sci-fi nerd than Katee.
3) Detective Sara Essen & Bo-Katana – Batman: Year One & Star Wars: The Clone Wars
As if there is more reason to note that she’s a standout, she also lends her voice to the live animation classics like Batman, and Star Wars, opposite the Breaking Bad mastermind, Bryan Cranston.
Our friends at Universal Home Entertainment have given us two copies of the Combo Pack. For your chance of winning a Riddick Unrated Director’s Cut Blu-ray Combo Pack, simply answer the following question:
The name of the first film in the Riddick franchise is _______.
The Chronicles of Riddick
Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, January 14. The judgment of ComicMix will be final. Open only to readers in the United States and Canada.
When I watched the recent season finale of Homeland, I was left speechless. If you’re not caught up on this Showtime thriller about the CIA and terrorism, don’t worry; I won’t give anything away. Confining myself to spoiler-free praise, I’ll just say it struck me as pitch perfect and was satisfying to a degree that television shows achieve rarely, if ever. I loved it so much, in fact, that as the credits rolled I found myself hoping the show would get canceled before any more episodes air.
It’s almost impossible for a TV show to stay great from pilot to series finale. I know, I know, Breaking Bad proved it can be done, but Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is the exception that underscores the rule. There are just too many things to ruin great shows, and an executive hitting the cancellation button even isn’t first on the list. Simply being left on the air too long is more than enough to take the wind out of the sails of something once lovable, whether it’s because the show starts stretching into weird new territory like on Fringe, or because intended end points keep being passed by in the hopes of squeezing out another lucrative ratings year, like with Dexter. And of course there’s the plot and punchline recycling that can occur when a show’s left lingering, making episode formulas uncomfortably obvious (*cough cough* Simpsons).
Outside circumstances rearing their heads can be damaging too. With many shows, a featured actor leaving would minimally rock the boat, and some end up capsizing altogether rather than recovering. Just hearing that Topher Grace was leaving That ’70s Show was enough to make me tune out, and leave me completely unsurprised when I heard the first Eric Foreman-less season was also the show’s last. The 2007 Writer’s Guild strike took down its fair share of TV, from amazing shows immediately unable to sustain themselves through it like The Riches, to shows that pushed through but hobbled on forever changed, like Heroes.
But while there have been plenty of shows that have gone downhill in front of my eyes, there are of course many others cancelled before their time. If you’ve never seen the 2008 BBC show Survivors, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an amazing yet little known sci-fi drama that follows a small group of people who lived through a widespread virus wiping out most of the population, and it’s the best treatment I’ve ever seen of the “band of survivors must start anew” premise. The caveat that comes along with this recommendation is the fact that the second season finale ends on a cliffhanger so amazing that I was literally yelling at my television when I realized the show hadn’t been renewed for a third series. Then again, maybe letting sleeping dogs lie is best; Arrested Development‘s fourth season didn’t live up to the first three by even the most generous standards.
Yet even on the rare occasion that a show manages to go out gracefully under the pall of cancellation, I still can’t help being sad for it. The writers for the criminally under-appreciated Terriers knew there was a strong possibility they’d never see a second season, and deftly handled their finale in such a way that viewers could interpret the episode as teeing up another major story arc if renewal did come through, or as a beautiful farewell if the hammer fell, which it sadly did. Going out so skillfully even though they hadn’t gotten their narrative due was impressive, but oxymoronically reinforced that they should’ve been given another season to find a bigger audience.
So if it’s so hard for shows on TV to stay great and for great shows to stay on TV, why do I want one of my favorites off the air? Because, intentionally or not, the writers served up a season finale to Homeland this year that put the perfect cap on the show. Yes, there are some signs about what season four will entail, and yes, the writers of this particular show have proven time and again that they’re capable of taking the story and characters into increasingly compelling territory even when it seems they’ve already struck a narrative critical mass. But the way this finale wrapped up a major story arc (again, no spoilers!) left me with the rarest of my potential reactions to a TV show: content. I could walk away from these characters now and be happy to leave them because I know they’re all right where they should be.
Of course, I realize I could preserve this feeling of contentment by choosing not to watch the fourth season of Homeland when it debuts. But I’d be lying to myself if I pretended to have the willpower for that. I mean, did you see how amazing the third season finale was?!
Yeah. I know. I’m last on the bandwagon, yet again. But that’s OK, kiddos. I found Nirvana well after Kurt Cobain passed away. As many of you would also note, I found Star Trek: The Original Series just a little over a year ago. Funny enough, that was one of my most popular columns. For all the nerd-rage that exists when we poke and prod one another about our loves, we’re also the first sub-culture to embrace noobies with the unbridled passion of 1000 angry Daleks. That’s joyful rage though, so it’s all good. A bit over a week ago, I became of a fan of Doctor Who. Whovians, take me into your bosom. Move the celery stalk first.
A bit of backstory to begin. Unshaven cohort Kyle Gnepper has long been an outskirt Who-fan. Unshaven cohort Matt Wright also partook of the good Doctor upon subscribing to Netflix. My own timey-wifey has been a fan for quite some time as well. Heh. As we are all apt to do when everyone we know is in to something, we feel the latent pressure to join in the rapture. So, on occasion, I tried. And tried. And tried again.
Each time, the same feeling would pass over me. I’d glare at a Dalek, or a Cyberman, or whatever the thing-of-the-week was, and I’d scoff. Even ladled with every well-budgeted CGI and modeling trick, the episodes reeked to me of technical limitations. Much as I’d railed against Trek, I couldn’t find the suspension of disbelief due to the constraints of a TV budget. And much like Trek, what was really missing was my understanding and appreciation for characterization.
If you’ll allow me one more deviation off the pathway before I gush over “The Day of the Doctor” special… it’s the aforementioned note of characterization that I need to extrapolate on. Take Firefly. There, Fox supplied Joss Whedon with a budget that made his sci-fi romp visually appealing at the get-go. Without the stigma of eww, this looks like it cost pennies to make, I was quicker to give the show a try (still way late and well after the show was DOA). As much as I wanted to hate the show, like so many before me, I was enchanted by the roguish charms of Captain Mal. I bought into the character, and quickly thereafter, I bought into the show. The same could be said for my finding love in other series like House, Modern Family, and more recently Hannibal (which I can’t wait to return). The common factor here is simple: my adoration is bestowed to shows (and comics, movies, et al) that give us strong characterization.
Now, onto Who. As I’d said briefly above, I’d given myself several chances to fall in love. Each time, I was met with an odd fellow who dazzled my friends, but confounded me. His mannerisms, his oddness, his aloofness irritated me. And when I’d make an attempt to find the hook of The Doctor, I’d be met with either terse explanations (“It’s just how he is, in this incarnation…”) or lengthy diatribes that attempted to cram decades of knowledge into a tight ten-minute lecture. In both events, I simply didn’t get it. Much with Trek, it would take me having to clear my head of preconceived opinions and walk into things blindly.
After dinner with my parents, my wife, son and I retired to the casa del pescador. I’d noted that somewhere around the 8:30 hour the living room TV was still blaring. You see, that is typically night-night time round these parts. But there, wide awake, sat my young scion and my lovely lady partaking of the Doctor. Figuring it would be best for me not to attempt to daddy-lecture my own wife as to the importance of adhering to a strict schedule, I opted instead for what all us white people do when we want to make a point, but fear confrontation: I sat in the same room silent, in hopes that waves of passive-aggression would communicate my feelings.
What? (See what I did there, Michael Davis?)
And so, I sat for the better part of an hour, watching “The Day of the Doctor.” With three Doctors sharing screen space, I was curious. David Tennant with his sand shoes, Matt Smith with his fussy hands, and John Hurt with his John Hurtiness. They occupied the same space, playing iterations of the same character. Different lives, but ultimately the same consciousness. And between them, a history, a future, and a mantra I had not heard until then.
“Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in.” And there it was. Just as I’d found my love of Trek via Kirk’s labido and Bones’ testicular fortitude. Just as I’d found my love of House via his unseen pain and self-doubt (and because it’s fun to watch him be a jerk). Here was The Doctor, making the hard choices, living and reliving moments in his lifetime, and decidedly declaring a purpose. This was to me the same as the oath of a Green Lantern, or Truth-Justice-and-the-American-Way.
When I’d posted on Facebook that I’d found a love for the character and now decided to jump in with the new season to come… I was pelted with more comments than I’d seen in the last year. Seems the whole world had become Whovian without me, but were quick to open their Tardi (Tardidisisisisis?) to me with open arms and weee-oooo-weee-oooo’ing sonic screwdrivers. For the record, I liked Tennant just a bit more than Smith (sorry, that Fez ain’t cool, no matter what he says), and Hurt more than either of them (“Why are you pointing those things? What are you going to do, assemble them a bookshelf?”). Doctor Who is about a hero who fights the good fight for all the universe, through all times. That I can certainly get behind. And now? I look forward to the future… the past… and all the timey-wimey in between.
I’ve seen fandom do beautiful things. In point of fact, I can see because fandom (and some great friends) did a beautiful thing. And as we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to revisit the story of something I’m thankful for every day.
You see, I have a degenerative, incurable eye disease called keratoconus. It’s relatively rare, and the causes of it are still not known for sure. In brief, keratoconus causes a thinning, malformation, and scarring of the corneas, leading to not only the typical bad vision one might correct with glasses or contacts, but also wacky fun stuff like “monocular polyopia,” other streaking and flaring around light sources, and sensitivity to light. Due to the way keratoconus distorts the cornea, once it reaches a certain point vision is not correctable with glasses or soft contact lenses. Hard (rigid gas permeable) lenses are required to, essentially, provide the proper shape for the corneas.
For some people, the disease will plateau and they may not reach that point. Or they may reach that point and live with hard lenses. For others, like myself, the disease keeps going. It is at that time that options narrow dramatically.
In 2010, my quality of vision and ability to wear hard contact lenses with any degree of comfort had lessened (imagine weirdly blurred vision and sudden, random stabbing eye pains every day and you’ll have my daily life), to the point where my specialist and I were seriously discussing the possibility of corneal transplants.
As you can imagine, I was dreading the possible need for a transplant. The recovery time is over a year, results are not guaranteed, and there’s a 20% chance of rejection, along with risks of detachment, displacement, and infection. So imagine my excitement when my dad found another option.
Remember how I said the disease is incurable? It is. However, my dad had learned of an experimental procedure called corneal collagen cross-linking, which had been in trials for about two years in the United States – 12 years in other countries – at the time. This procedure is much less invasive that a transplant, with a shorter and less difficult recovery time, as well as being less risky. And while it doesn’t fix your vision, if successful it can halt the corneal degeneration, and, in some cases, improve eyesight slightly through rebuilding the bonds between the layers of the cornea.
We looked into it further, and were happy to learn that I was a candidate for the clinical trial. However, the big downside to this procedure was that, due to it still being in the trial stages (only about 300 people had been treated in the U.S. by 2010), my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I would have to pay all$8,000 of the cost of the procedure; not to mention the costs of the medications, lost income from missed work during the recovery periods, and special scleral contact lenses that I now wear (which are, incidentally, what they use in special effects for things like whited-out or black eyes). And the plain fact of the matter was that I did not have the money for the procedure.
Although I had been living with the diagnosis of the disease for several years at that time, I rarely mentioned it. However, this difficulty was so distressing that I wrote about it in my online journal. And then, wonderful things began to happen. The first was that several friends in the broader LiveJournal community of which I am a part through my various fandom interests, including those I knew in person and those I only knew online, asked if they could contribute funds for the surgery.
Although I was touched by the generosity, I was raised to believe I should make my own way in the world, and didn’t know that I could be comfortable accepting the offer. So I called up my wonderful friend Cleolinda to talk it over. As we talked, she wisely pointed out to me that this was an unusual medical situation, and that, basically, yes, if nice friends wanted to help, I should let them. After I agreed with her point, she then surprised me by posting about my situation on her journal, and asking if people might want to help me.
Cue wonderful thing number two. Immediately, people began to donate; and after Cleo posted, Heather, an online friend of Cleo’s who I did not know but have since become good friends with, understood my discomfort with just accepting straight funds and suggested a fandom auction on LiveJournal – in which people could donate fandom or handmade items, and others could bid, and the resulting funds would go towards the surgery, with the donators of funds getting some return value for their contribution. She offered to run the whole thing, and did so with great efficiency, jumping right in to get the ball rolling on setting upa community and spreading the word with Cleolinda.
The auction ran for a little over three months, and was a great success. Many cool items were offered and purchased, many kind good wishes came my way (which meant a lot to me as well!), and by the end of the auction, fandom, consisting of some people I knew but many I didn’t, had raised the entire $8,000. Add to that a few other generous donations from friends who had learned of the online fundraising secondhand (as I still hadn’t really felt comfortable mentioning it outside of the online forum), and my recovery and medication expenses were covered as well. I could hardly believe it, but there it was. This tremendous burden lifted from my life by the kindness of a community.
Seeing fandom come together to help me like that was, and to this day is, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. I can’t even begin to describe how much it means to me that both friends and total strangers banded together to make it possible for me to see.
I can, however, describe the results (and if you are really interested in the blow-by-blow saga of both surgeries and the results, start from the bottom of this and scroll up. Although Cleolinda’s recap of my first surgery is way more amusing than mine). Although of course the procedure was no picnic and the recovery time was over six months, by the end not only had the deterioration been halted (presumably for good), but vision in my right eye, which was 20/400 uncorrected, had been vastly improved, and vision in my left had improved slightly as well.
On top of this, after the procedure I was fitted for special scleral lenses, sometimes prescribed for cases of advanced or very irregular keratoconus. They are the most wonderful thing imaginable for a keratoconus patient like me. Yes, they are a real annoyance to get in and out, but with them, I am able to see better than I had for about six years prior to the surgery; and there is no pain. So although I still live with the disease (and its quirks, which still include occasional and unpredictable vision problems), this procedure vastly improved my quality of life; and it was all thanks to a group of people who were brought together primarily by their enjoyment of various sci-fi, fantasy, comics, or other genre fandoms, and by the online fandom community that resulted from that enjoyment.
Yes, fandom can be, and in this instance certainly was, a beautiful thing. Not only is my daily life improved thanks to fandom, but my fandom life is as well. As Marvel artist Reilly Brown pointed out when he generously donated a gorgeous Deadpool sketch to the auction, a comics fan no longer being able to see comics would be very sad. Now, not only can I continue to read comics, but I can also continue to pursue favorite hobbies like making tiny clay sculptures. And for those blessings and so many more, I am so, so thankful.
It’s been just over three years since my cross-linking procedures, and even if I don’t say it every day, I am constantly grateful for the help and kindness of those who contributed to those procedures; and I want each of you to know that through your caring, you touched a life forever. And I want everyone else who reads this to know what a great thing happened thanks to a bunch of awesome nerds and geeks and fans and friends caring enough about another one of their community to give something of themselves. I hope one day to be able to pay that forward in some manner. But until that time comes – a Happy Thanksgiving to all, and an eternal thank you to everyone who gave me such an amazing gift to be thankful for.
And until next time, Servo Lectio!
Editor’s Note: Due to other commitments, Emily will be shifting to a monthly posting schedule through May of 2014. So look for her column on a monthly basis, starting in December. Emily will be back to her weekly posting schedule after May of next year. And we can hardly wait to have her back fulltime.
Almost Human,J. H. Wyman’s new science fiction crime drama which is being produced by J.J. Abrams, premiered in two parts on Sunday and Monday on FOX. The series centers around the Los Angeles Police Department, where a detective who dislikes robots is partnered with an android capable of human emotion – a very I, Robot-esque premise with the potential to result in an interesting dynamic.
I can’t speak about the premiere, not having seen it as yet. But I did sit down and discuss the show with Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, Lili Taylor, and Naren Shankar while in San Diego this summer. Read on to see what they had to say about the pilot and the upcoming season!
Karl Urban (John Kennex)
What drew you to this project, and what are your thoughts on the concept and the character?
What drew me was primarily the script. I read the script and I was drawn to the character of John Kennex – a character who’s been in a coma for two years; who wakes up to find that he has a completely robotic leg, that he is responsible for a massive loss of life within his team, and is pushed into the front line of trying to protect and serve humanity. I found that infinitely interesting. A character who is searching for himself, and finds answers in the most unlikely source, which is his synthetic partner. He’s a character who has an aversion to technology and he’s partnered up with a robot, and ironically, the robot is almost more human than humans.
Character and story aside, it was the opportunity to work with Joel Wyman, who I’m a huge fan of. I loved Fringe. It was a really smart show. It wasn’t a stereotypical dumbed-down show. So I knew going into this that the stories were going to be smart; that we’re not going to talk down to an audience. And then obviously, it was my continuing relationship with J.J. Abrams, who really drew me into the project. I wasn’t looking to do television; but once I started looking at all of the elements involved, I thought, “How can I turn this down? This could be really, really cool.”
How has the experience been different, between movies and TV?
So far, the process is fundamentally the same; and if you’ve seen the pilot, you only have to look at that to be blown away by the production elements involved. It looks and feels like a movie, and I feel that it’s going to be really fun to explore the narrative of a character over a season, instead of just two hours, where things are condensed. So I’m excited; I’m looking forward to it.
What do you hope that John learns from Dorian over the course of the show?
It’s my hope that Dorian kind of puts John in touch with himself, with his humanity. In the best world, they learn from each other; because in a way, they’re both searching for what it is to be human. John does not remember vast tracts of his life. He is a character who has a lot of pain; of bitterness; of anger; of torment; of guilt; of frustration – all these emotions, this baggage that he has; and I think consequently, he’s quite closed off. And I think that Michael Ealy’s character, Dorian, is a wonderful mechanism for opening him up a bit, softening him up a bit over time. At the point where we discover John in this pilot – John’s not John yet. He’s just coming off a really heavy deal. I’m really thrilled and excited to see where we go from here.
Doing a movie, you know the whole story going into it. What do you think about doing a TV show, where you might not know where things are going?
I think it’s exciting. It’s just like life – we don’t know what’s just around the corner. And I certainly am aware of the through line for my character for the first season, and that’s enough for me. I just want to concentrate on making the best show we can, and delivering really interesting, compelling characters who are accessible and identifiable; and dealing with stories that we can all related to and empathize with, showcased against the canvas of this slightly futuristic world. And to me, that’s interesting – the technology that is in Almost Human, it’s coming. It’s down the pike. We’re putting stuff into the show that has been fully researched, and this technology is just around the corner. I don’t think of the show as a science fiction show. It’s a slightly futuristic show. It’d be like, “we’re a cop show in the early nineties that has characters walking around with cell phones.” You know? “That’s never gonna happen!” And here we are.
What appealed to you about the show, and what are your feelings about your character?
First and foremost, obviously the pedigree of the producers is there. These guys know how to drive a ship. My first meeting with Joel was three hours long; and I went from feeling like, “Eh, I’m not sure about this,” to “Dude, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. Okay!” So the fact that he’s driving the ship makes me confident that the story is going to go in the right direction and it has the potential to last.
The way the material was written was very interesting to me, because despite all the cool stuff, and the technology, and the idea that this guy is a synthetic; there’s so many little things that I find interesting and relatable to what it is we’re going through now. There’s discrimination; there’s political correctness: “Don’t call me a fucking robot!” You can’t say that to Dorian. It’s offensive. And the idea that a robot, a machine could be offended? I’m like, “Okay, you gotta wrap your head around this for a second.” This is something where we’re not there yet right now; but because the show is set in the near future, it’s right around the corner.
Someone asked me, “Have you ever been interested in the future like this?” I was like, “No. Never been interested in the future.” Not that I didn’t care about my future – it’s just that I never really thought about the future, like where we’re going to be. But this show has made me think, “Well, my kids will be living in a world that could be similar to this.” My son could potentially be partnered with a Dorian, if he becomes a cop – you don’t know. So it’s one of those things where it provokes so much thought and intrigue that instantly, it’s like, “This is the project you sign on to.”
As an actor, how do you balance trying to show the emotions but also be a “machine”?
It is by far the most difficult role to try and play human / machine, machine / human. Which one is he in this scene, and which one is he in that scene? And Joel and Brad Anderson, our director on the pilot, have been very helpful in helping me find those fine lines. I based Dorian on three particular characters in movie history: Jason Bourne, Robert Patrick’s Terminator, and Starman, from the Jeff Bridges movie. Doing that has helped me gauge how far I can go in this particular moment, or how small I can be in this; and it’s been incredible. I look forward to where he’s going to be in other episodes, and the levels that I can play with this guy.
In the pilot, it looks like there’s a skosh of humor between John and Dorian. Is that going to continue?
I think the humor plays nicely in the show, without being forced. You read the script, and you might go, “heh,” and that’s your reaction; and I think that’s enough. It never feels sitcom-y or like it’s a setup. It’s more…usually the humor is inadvertent or it’s just the irony of the moment. Especially from John’s perspective, it’s like, “Wow. Really?” Like, “You’re offended that I called you a robot?” Detective Paul, played by Michael Irby, he constantly refers to me as “Bot.” And that is, to Dorian, the equivalent of certain terms that we don’t say anymore in this day and age. So it’s like, “Sigh.” He has to kind of check himself before responding to that. But the humor itself, I think we have a nice blend of that right now. I think it’s honest; it’s truthful. And there is truth in jest. I think that is what we’re playing with right now.
What do you think that Dorian will learn from John over the course of the series, and John learn from Dorian?
I think John will grow. I’m hoping that Dorian’s hunger for humanity will cause John to understand that he’s blessed, and that what he has is special. And what I hope Dorian understands is that everything human is not good, and sometimes being able to do what he’s able to do…because it’s so “natural,” being programmed in him, to be able to figure out the pixels in this particular canvas, he doesn’t appreciate that. I’m hoping he learns to appreciate some of that, and I think, based on what I’ve read so far, that’s going to come; especially in the relationship between him and Rudy, played by Mackenzie. Their relationship is going to grow. We’re going to understand those two a little bit more.
In the pilot, your character said “I want to be a cop.” For an android to want something that we’d think of as distinctly human is interesting territory. Can you talk about exploring the humanity through the eyes of this non-human, and how he might be in pursuit of a more recognized state of humanity? Is that something you try to bring into the character?
By all means. I’d like to describe him as a reflection of the humanity that we all take for granted, daily. There are people in this world who don’t understand the preciousness of what it is to have a child, and they walk away or run from that responsibility. And that lack of humanity is something that Dorian cannot fathom; because he wants it so bad. I like to consider him as very observant. Not so much intuitive, but observant of human behavior, and so if he sees you make a sad face, he wants to know, “Okay, what does that sadness feel like?” Because he really wants to feel it.
And ultimately, where he’s going to go remains to be seen. But I feel like his desire to embrace humanity sets him apart from other machines that we’ve seen in the past, and I think it gives a hopeful tone to the show. Oftentimes in futuristic or sci-fi shows, you see that man and machine don’t co-exist. I think what we’re trying to say is that these two, hopefully, can co-exist and create a model for the masses of society to understand that man and machine can work together. You know, Dorian would love it if there were more Dorians out there! But he is coming out of being decommissioned, and that’s a hard thing for him to swallow.
That’s interesting, too. The newer models of the robot partners are less appealing and more robotic. I hope they look at Dorian and say, “We need to get back to this model.”
That’d be cool, wouldn’t it? It’s interesting, because those guys, the MX43s, they look like superheroes. They’re all like, 6’4”…and Dorian looks at them and he goes, “Ooh, intimidating.” He’s such a smart-ass! Because he knows, at the end of the day, “They are machines, and they can’t do what I can do. And they can’t think like I can think, and they will never be able to feel like I can feel.” He has a certain amount of pride in that, and at the same time, I think what John has to learn is, Dorian can be more helpful than hurtful. Because he’s not an MX43. And that’s a slow grind for him. So we’ll see how it goes.
Minka Kelly(Valerie Stahl)
What drew you to the show?
When they present a show to you that’s produced and created by Joel Wyman and J.J. Abrams, you know it’s going to be something pretty cool; and not only does it look cool, it’s a beautiful subject matter. The way that they explore the direction we’re going technology-wise – it’s growing so fast and I think the fear is that we’re going to lose touch with each other and the ability to connect, on a human emotional level; and I’m afraid of losing that.
I feel like we’re already sort of in a place where kids aren’t being taught how to write in cursive anymore, and they’re not learning how to write a letter and put a stamp on it and mail it, because they just text, or email, and this show really explores the risk of that. I love that my character really fights and believes in not losing touch with humanity, and not losing that human emotional contact and connection, and so that’s what drew me to the story and to the character; because I feel like that’s a really real subject and issue that we’re facing.
Will we get to learn more about your character as the season goes on; and what can you tell us about her background?
You’re going to learn a lot about my character throughout the season. There’s so much about her; there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. It’s going to be a really fun character to play, and definitely the most challenging I’ve ever played, with what they’re telling me they’re going to do. There are a lot of different sides to her, that you’ll see, which is as much as I can say. She’s not an android; but there are some really fun aspects to her that will be revealed; and you’ll know why she’s there, why she does what she does and why she fights for what she fights for, and as far as Detective Kennex goes, she just looks up to him in such a big way, because he really also believes in those same things – humanity, and his morals and beliefs, she has in common with him. So a lot of that will be revealed.
It seems like they’re setting up an interesting relationship dynamic between your character and Karl’s. Can you go into a little bit more detail about that? Are we going to see some romance, or…
I think when you’re working with these guys, nothing is off the table; you can’t say never to anything. Right now, as it is, there’s no romance that we know of. I’ve asked Joel that same thing. Right now it really is an admiration. She just looks up to him. He’s a hero of hers, and so she’s just very excited to meet him, and work alongside him; and maybe one day be as great as he is at what she does.
Are you enjoying the sci-fi aspect of it? That whole “creating whole new worlds” thing?
Sure; it’s so funny because working on the show, being there on the day, shooting these scenes, it doesn’t feel like a sci-fi show, because we are also telling a beautiful story, and we’re all connecting on a human level; so then when I see the show, I’m reminded it’s a sci-fi show, and the world that they’ve created is so cool and exciting. I think that you can’t really put this show in a box. It’s not just sci-fi; it’s not just procedural. There’s also a lot of humanity that we’re exploring. I’m attracted to that aspect of it.
It sounds like there are a lot of serious themes; is it fun on the set? Are there going to be fun parts to the show as well? What is the overall tone?
I think there’s a little bit of everything. Even in the pilot, you see Michael Ealy and Karl Urban, they’re great together, and I think there’s a lot of humor involved. I mean, even the scene with him in the car; that was my favorite part, I love that. And I think if you don’t have that, you’re in trouble, because it can’t just always be so serious. I don’t think that’s why you tune in. You want to laugh, and you want to feel all kinds of things. And I think this show really does cover all of that. There’s something for everyone there.
How much ahead of time do you like to know about where your character is going?
I used to think I didn’t want to know ahead of time, but in this case, I’m really glad that I know, because it’s even gotten me more fired up. When Joel told me where we were going and what we were doing, it just got me really excited to go to work; and I just feel so lucky that I’m a part of a team that has such great imagination. So I’m excited to see how far they go with what they’ve said they’re doing. We’ll see!
Lili Taylor (Maldonado)
What drew you to the show?
I think Joel and J.J., their imaginations are pretty great, and that’s exciting to me. And one other thing was, my character was originally a man, and they were open to making it a woman; and I thought that said a lot about, again, their imagination and flexibility.
Was the material appealing to you?
Yes; I’ve always wanted to play a cop! But so what, you know – I can do that in an acting class or something. I don’t have to bother everyone else with my little dream. But what interests me is, I loved Children of Men; and I thought that template was just perfect. And I know that’s what they’re talking about here; and find that this show wrestles with some interesting questions. We know this is a really wild time to be living in, just crossroad-wise, and this show might get into some of that stuff that we’re wrestling with.
If it was originally a man, how did you end up with the part?
I have to verify this…I think my manager suggested it, and they were open to it. And that just is fantastic.
The role that was being written – did they change much when they made it a female part, or did they keep the character much the same?
Sort of the same, but obviously because I am who I am, it’s changing a bit. But what I like is that whoever she’s become, she still has a real strong feminine side. Because sometimes women in those positions of power, they just, like: they have balls. It’s like, “Are you a woman?” Where’s the femininity? So she’s able to be a boss and still know that she can do it without suppressing that. Like what Helen Mirren was doing in Prime Suspect; and I love that template also. And I’ve talked to them about that, and they’re open to that kind of thing as well.
Talking about the dynamic between your character and John – they seem to have kind of a close relationship, but yet it’s not necessarily a good relationship at all times…
To me, they almost seem more like sister and brother in a way, than like, mom, or boss/employee. And I think they have a bond because they experienced a tragedy together, and that’s an interesting place to start from. But she is still his boss…so it’s like, older sister.
What can you tell us about your storyline?
I know that they’re going to be talking to us about it. Joel was saying that he was sort of more secretive on Fringe, and that he’s doing it different now. Because it just does work better, when you have open lines of communication; everybody sort of wins.
How much ahead of time do you like to know where your characters are going?
I like to know, because it’s a house of cards. I’ve gotten used to not knowing, and I’ll accept that; but if I had known certain things that a character did in episode 11, in episode 3, or earlier, I might have created some different choices. Like if all of a sudden you find out your character is a psychopath, in episode 13, but you didn’t have any glimmers of that happening, that’s hard.
You mentioned that the show is going to be touching on some interesting questions. Can you elaborate?
Well, climate change, some of the neuroscience stuff, the Google Glass – I mean, that’s sort of on a lower level, but that can open doors to the ethical dilemmas. Even bringing an extinct species back, like recreating the dodo. On so many levels, I feel like we’re just in a can of worms. Like you do one thing, like bring back an extinct species, and all of a sudden another species gets threatened. Just all sorts of wild questions are being raised.
What backstory do you know?
I don’t know any. I know there was a bad raid two years ago, and we lost a lot of officers.
It sounds like the show is exploring humanity and what it means to be human. If you could set it up so that your character got to make one comment on what it means to be human, what do you think that would be?
To be human? I think it’s to fall down and get back up; and then fall down and get back up. And on and on and on.
Naren Shankar (former executive producer and co-showrunner)
Note: On September 9, 2013, it was announced that Shankar, who joined the series after the production of the pilot, would depart the series due to creative differences. However, I think he said some really interesting things about the show, many of which will presumably still hold true, so I’m including his interview. Also, won’t it be interesting to see in what ways they take a different direction after the change in personnel?
How did you get involved in the project, and why did it appeal to you?
I was on CSI for many years. I ran the show with Carol Mendelsohn for about eight years. I came off it, and I was looking for a way to get back to my roots; because my first shows were all science fiction. That was a huge chunk of my career and the stuff that I love. I was on Star Trek, and The Outer Limits, and Farscape; and after eight years of dealing with dismembered corpses and real-time drama, it wears you down a little bit. And I saw the pilot, and it really was a great combination, and perfect for me. Because it was futurism, and it was a police procedural. It had great relationships in it. Very much in keeping with NYPD Blue; I mean, these were all shows that I loved. And then I met with Joel and we hit it off really, really well. So it was a great match and I’m delighted to be here.
It sounds like you’ll be able to blend a bit of your current procedural background with your sci-fi background…
Yeah, and also, I used to be an engineer. So, there really isn’t a show on television right now that really deals with futurism. And I think it’s kind of amazing; it’s actually hard to pull off. Because what we really want to do, in the absolute best version of this show, is give people a little glimpse of what’s coming down the road.
We really are trying hard to maintain relatability to the present. Because you want to see a little bit of the seeds of present day technology, extrapolated thirty, thirty-five years in the future. Because it’s very easy to create a world that is unrecognizable to people, and that world, we can’t really attach to. And then you just go, “Ehh, it’s just stuff.” I think it also narrows the appeal of the program pretty substantially. Whereas, if people can actually relate to it, understand that this is the world that might be coming, it gives them a totally different way to attach to the program. And if they can see that it’s not about futuristic crime-solving, it’s about people in the future dealing with the future, they can relate to that. That’s, I think, a really important distinction; and I think that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
So as the show goes on, are you going to continue keeping an eye on cutting-edge science and incorporating that? Can you give us an example of something that’s on the cusp right now, that you might have brought into the show?
Absolutely we are. And for an example, people right now are worried about location tracking, and privacy. Episode two deals with these issues, but extrapolated into the future. Taking that notion and doing some pretty nasty things with it. We’re going to try to do that as much as possible; and yeah, you have to keep up with it, because things change so incredibly fast. It’s actually super-difficult to come up with.
Can you talk about the episode structures? Is it going to be similar to a police procedural, or more with long-term serial arcs throughout the season?
We’ve talked a lot about that. With Fringe, it was super mythologized, and tightly, tightly serialized. CSI was literally at the opposite end of that spectrum. We’re trying to work for a combination of those things. But I think the best example that we can give you – and we’ve had many discussions about it – NYPD Blue had really interesting and compelling cases and criminals, but the mythology of the show was really the mythology of the characters’ lives. That’s what the serialization came from. It was really the continuing character arcs. Was Sipowicz going to fall off the wagon; or he’s having prostate cancer; and how is his partner dealing with his girlfriend who’s in the precinct. .. It was maybe a little soapier than what we’re going for; but I think we are trying hard to focus the mythology on the continuing aspects of the characters in the show. There are going to be some very lightly serialized arcs; but the idea is to give people a great case every week, with people who are continuing to develop in terms of their relationships, and their relationship to the world.
I understand you want to be cutting edge, but being a sci-fi show, and given your background on Star Trek and all, what about opportunities to sort of comment on where we are now?
You’re hitting the core of it – we want to comment on things as they are now, or where we feel things might go. With Star Trek, we were so remote in terms of where we were relative to the present day. Star Trek was positing a future where people had evolved past their baser instincts and were actually not quite as barbaric or as violent, and everybody had plenty, because you had a replicator. And that is not the future that we’re talking about.
We’re talking about a future where technology has done a lot of good and a lot of ill. If you’re talking about the broader message of the show, in a way it’s like, you’ve got a synthetic who’s kind of human, and a human who has synthetic parts. And n the long arc of the show, we’re talking about, where is humanity going? Are those two things coming together? Because a lot of people believe that they are; I’m actually one of them. But that means things can go really good, or things can go really bad. But maybe that’s the only chance for survival of the species, is some combination of technology and biology. And I think in a larger sense, that is what the show is dealing with.
How far in advance have you mapped out ideas for the future of the series?
We’ve mapped out quite a bit. We’ve laid out character arcs for the first thirteen episodes for all of our guys. We kind of dug into the backstories of all of our characters very well. We’ve got some very interesting stuff coming up; and it’s dealing with, like, you know everybody in the world who’s a regular in the show has a very particular relationship with technology. And you’re going to see that as the show goes on. And we have tons of ideas for cases. It’s a great combination. I think you’re really going to like how the John and Dorian relationship evolves; and there’s going to be some interesting codependence as the show continues. We’ve been busy.
Have you mapped out any general ideas for where you’ll go past the first thirteen?
Definitely. But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, and we do want to keep ourselves open to possibilities. If people get hyper-dogmatic about where their shows are, it kind of hurts them. Because then you start writing towards results as opposed to keeping yourself open to unexpected things that you never anticipated. I think when you have a cast of the quality that we have on this program, that’s going to happen. Because in the pilot, just watching, for example, Mackenzie Crook – Rudy, the lab technician – when he plugs Dorian in, he’s nervous. He seems like he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Well, when I saw that, I was like, “You know, what if?” What is the reason underlying that nervousness? And that led to some very interesting discussions. I think that kind of thing is essential. You can lay out big arcs, but you have to stay open to the possibilities. Because magical things can happen.
Looking at the Dorian character, have you come up with any parameters as to how human-like he can be or become? Are there certain aspects you would never cross?
It’s an incredibly tricky performance. Michael did an amazing job in the pilot; but when you think about it, he’s a guy, playing a robot, playing sort of a human. I kind of liken it to Robert Downey’s performance in Tropic Thunder – an American playing an Australian playing a black man. It’s like, “Whaaat?” But you see the layers of the performance; and when you talk to Michael, he’s always thinking that. So it’s really fascinating.
And when we’re talking about Dorian the character, and writing him, we’re going through the same process on the writing side. You go, “He’s got to be precise, because he’s a cop, and he’s gotta talk like a cop; but he shouldn’t talk too much like a cop, because he’s going to be kind of, like, not human…but not completely; but he’s got to be a little bit of a robot.” So the answer is: we’re finding it. And it’s really, really tricky. But I think at this point, we’ve decided he must have been programmed by a hipster; because he says things like “hey, man,” and I think it episode two we threw in a, “That’s cool.” So we’ll see what happens.
How much of that is led by Michael’s performance?
That was exactly led by Michael’s performance. I don’t know if Joel wrote “hey, man” into the script; or Michael said that and Joel put it into the script; but that is really where that was coming from. I think it was actually J.J. [Abrams]’ note, that was like, “That’s cool.” And we were like, “Yeah, that’s a great line!”
At the end of the pilot, you get the sense that they’ve resolved a lot of their issues. I would imagine that dynamic won’t be static, though?
Here’s the thing; I think that when people come up with shows that are like, “Two people that hate each other but must work together!” it becomes the most false kind of drama; because in reality, that gets resolved almost instantaneously. Because the audience, when they like the characters, they like to see them together, and then all the conflict feels very forced. The issues with John and Dorian is not so much that they are completely resolved; because John has feelings about technology; he just comes to the decision that, “Hey, I can work with this.” And he’s not a guy who doesn’t use computers. John isn’t a Luddite. He understands the world, and what tools are.
But what’s going to happen as the show goes on is, these guys are going to help each other. Dorian needs John because he wants to be a cop. Keeping John on a healthy path to healing himself, sort of dealing with the ambush and all the guys that he lost, and sort of re-integrating with the world is good for Dorian as well. And what we are going to see, as we get into more of Dorian’s backstory – and I’m not going to tell you exactly where that’s going, obviously, because Bad Robot would kill me! But what you’re going to see is, their “conflict” is going to be in terms of that codependency. So we’re not going to have ridiculous arguments: “I hate you!” “You’re not a human!” That’s kind of bogus and it goes away fast.
You were saying you’ve got these great cases lined up. Are some of those to do with the idea of technology as it is in their world? Will we see it on the police side and then in some of the cases?
Absolutely. I think you’re probably going to see more of it on the crime side. It’s like whenever bad guys have a new tool, they’re incredibly innovative in how they use it. It’s like the porn industry. Porn always leads technology. You have to remember, dystopian futures are easier to imagine, because people have an innate fear of technology. What we’re trying to do is dystopian in some respects, but also – I’ll use the word “utopian” only as its opposite. We’re trying to be optimistic about where technology can go as well. We don’t want to create a world where everything is bleak and terrible and awful because of technology. Joel doesn’t feel that’s realistic; I don’t either. It has absolutely got dangers inherent to it; but in many ways it also represents the only thing that people can do to fix things and make things better; and it’s both of those things. So the show has to express that, and we’re trying to.
Well there you go, folks! It all sounds fascinating to me! So check out Almost Human if you haven’t already.
New York City, NY – Tuesday, October 1st — The Orchard, in association with Mako Pictures and Fabrication Films are pleased to announce the release of PARADOX ALICE, one of this year’s most highly anticipated independent science fiction films. A cornerstone in the new paradigm of lost-in-space sci-fi movies like Clooney and Bullock’s Gravity, PARADOX ALICE sets off from Europa in an epic outer space odyssey. The adventure takes place in 2040 and stars Amy Lindsay (Star Trek: Voyager), Jeneta St. Clair (The Appearing), Ethan Sharrett (Homecoming), and Stewart W. Calhoun (The Eves).
A group of astronauts have been sent on a dangerous mission to retrieve water from Europa, one of the several moons orbiting the planet Jupiter. After narrowly escaping the moon to head back home, the team discovers that a nuclear war has left earth uninhabitable. While the remaining male astronauts come to grips over their losses, one of the crew members spontaneously transforms into a woman (in a scene that is as shocking as 1979’s ALIEN). Each character tries to uncover the mystery of this horrific event. Was it an act of God, or a biological reaction for keeping the human race alive? As the men vie for the last female in existence, they begin to turn on one another. All of the questions come to a head in a shocking finale.
The Orchard will be releasing PARADOX ALICE for sale and for rental in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand across all major online video services including iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, X-box, Playstation, and Vudu as well as through Cable VOD on October 15, 2013 with a DVD release to follow.