Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski have never been hesitated to go down the belly of the beast and see true horror for the sake of their horror/true crime podcast The Last Podcast on the Left. From serial killers to 9/11 conspiracies to the search for the Archons, the semi-hostile world-creating rulers and lowest derivations of the Godhead.
For reasons that will make sense in the reading of this wildly and unapologetically bizarre book, being aware that these two podcasters possess a wealth of knowledge which knows no bounds is reason enough to get excited for their new DC Horror comic Soul Plumber.
Soul Plumber defies classification as it’s about religious scams, digitized exorcisms, and blind devotion to the point of gratuitous sinning. It follows a man called Edgar Wiggins, a devout Christian desperate to find his divine purpose. He finds it in the form of a machine that exorcises demons by creating a small portal that reaches into a person’s soul to cleanse it. Wiggins sees this and all becomes clear.
Park, Zebrowski, and Ben Kissel, along with John McCreaand PJ Holden on art, have crafted a deliciously sinister and darkly comedic story that finds its strengths in pushing buttons that only bring discomfort. Their will is strong and the comic’s first issue is indicative of the lengths they’ll go to poke fun at the things we shy away from.
Zebrowski and Parks corresponded via email with Graphic Policy to talk all things Soul Plumber, especially on the things that lurk behind reality that we should be aware of to better understand the Easter eggs strewn around the series. It follows below.
RICARDO SERRANO: Often when I get my hands on a new horror comic, the influences are very obvious. In your face, even. It’s something along the lines of EC Comics Horror or Tales from the Crypt. Soul Plumber is something different and I think it will haunt me for the rest of my days. How did you land on the concept behind the book?
Henry Zebrowski and Marcus Parks: We were approached by the Vatican with some very private information. Actually that is not the truth. We were all inspired/traumatized by our various religious upbringings. We wrote a story that weaved our backgrounds into our present love for sci-fi horror.
SERRANO: Anyone who’s ever heard your horror podcast The Last Podcast on the Left knows that all the madness you guys bring to the show is backed up by an encyclopedic knowledge of all things horror, but also that you each have unique takes on it. Taking all this into consideration, how was the writing process?
Zebrowski/Parks: Our experience writing our book (Last Book On The Left) gave us an inkling of what kind of discipline it takes to sit down and put letters on paper. Then the wonderful guiding hands at DC gave us examples of comic book scripts so we could have an idea on how this type of script structure works. Marcus and Henry break down the outline of each issue together, then write scenes individually and swap back and forth to make sure we have bits of our DNA all over the comic, yum. Long story short, we had fun with it.
SERRANO: You have some heavy hitters on art for this book in John McCrea and PJ Holden. Did you script the story with their art styles in mind or did you go take a different approach?
Zebrowski/Parks: We knew that the comic was going to be gross and dark, and McCrea was floated as a possible artist. We were like “would he even lower himself to work on our paltry words?” And he did lower himself. He barely lets us know though! Honestly, we couldn’t be luckier to have McCrea and Holden working on our script and bringing it to life. It’s a miracle to write on a page “a war between millions of nude women alien races is happening in the background” and then POOF there it is!
SERRANO: Upon reading Soul Plumber, it’s evident your comedic tastes run dark. It’s reminded me of your book The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers, which fans of the comic will surely appreciate. Did you bring anything from The Last Book on the Left to Soul Plumber?
Zebrowski/Parks: More so than any information it really was the experience of writing a full book that showed us we could even accomplish this. There are a lot of easter eggs of information from Last Podcast all over the series. You’ll see some true crime familiar faces, perhaps, you’ll definitely see some of our deep dives into cults inspired us greatly.
SERRANO: For fans, both new and old, that want to get hyped for the comic, do you have any particular Last Podcast on the Left episodes you’d suggest they listen to so they can get into Soul Plumber mode?
Zebrowski/Parks: Brush up on your knowledge of Archons and the Intergalactic Committee, I would also revisit the story of Michael Taylor and Anneliese Michel. That’s if you wanna be a nerd about it! I’d say most people could use a brush up on the nature of Archons and their abilities to manipulate humankind. You can’t see them until it’s too late.
Soul Plumber is available wherever comics are sold.
The Japanese have someone that will make our hearts melt with excitement. She’s an international internet sensation lovely. Known asAnri Okita, she’s made a career shaking things up in the social media world and should be considered a national treasure. The hips don’t lie, she’s a pleasure to look at to some and what may be surprising, she’s a mom. Please give an all American welcome to Anri Okia.
Raven: Thank you so much Anri for doing this interview with me, I really appreciate it.
Anri: Thank you Raven Steel. I am happy to do this for my fans and a chance to offer just a little piece of this Japanese apple. Haha!
Raven: Yummie! As a time-honored tradition with me, I offer a few words of encouragement so that whenever you’re at your worse, you could remember these words to lift your spirits. Here’s goes, “Be Strong, because you know weakness. Be Beautiful, because you know your flaws. Be Fearless, because you learn to recognize illusion and deception. Be Wise, because you know your mistakes. Be a Lover, because you know hate and Laugh often because you know sadness”.
Raven: With that being said, please tell us Anri Okia all about yourself?
Anri: Hi, this is Anri Okia!! I truly appreciate the Interview for my cosplay from Raven.
I’m Japanese born and living in Birmingham/UK as well as living in Tokyo Japan. I have black eyes and Deep ash brown hair.
Raven: How tall are you?
Anri: My height is 66 inches or 168cm. I have some milky way freckles Birth sign on my stomach which I usually conceal.
Raven: Do you speak or write any other languages?
Anri: I speak Japanese for my mother language and British to pronounce English (where you can notice on my Twitch stream) and a little Chinese.
Raven: What does Anri Okita do in her spare time to relax after a tough media day?
Anri: I usually attend various beauty treatments and workouts, especially for the hips. Though recently, I started to notice an increased size with my breast and unfortunately, my hips. I realized my fans love my curvy body more than those compact skinny figures.
Raven: What sort of mangas or anime, do you love to read?
Anri: My favorite mangas by far are started from Rurouni Kenshin for the first place and Evangelion, Ranma 1/2, Ray earth, One-piece, Demon Slayers, all the Ghibli Animes.…you know I can’t stop this because I love more unfamous comics a lot!!
Raven: Does Anri Okita love animals?
Anri: I would love to say I am an animal lover. Especially dogs. Though while I’m growing up I learned about veganism. In Japan, we don’t have many vegetarians due to the amount of meat we’re served during school lunches. Overall, I guess I can’t say I am an animal lover completely.
Raven: What sort of music does Anri love to dance or relax?
Anri: I love EDM, RAP, Jpop, ROCK, R&B, and Amine songs!! I rotate these types of songs depending on the type of mood I’m in at the time. Because of my hectic work schedule, my only free time I have to listen is at bath time.
Raven: What sort of games do you play?
Anri: I play various games then stream them on Twitch. I mainly play MHW and FF’ remake also the Biohazard. I either play with one of my friend Hitomi, or some of my fans. Either way, I have a good time and have lots of fun.
Raven: Were you a shy young girl? Were you very popular in school?
Anri: Back in my younger school days, I was an outgoing girl, but wasn’t very popular among other students, Haha! Because of my dual heritage, I was felt like I was a foreigner during my school days. I was either too Japanese for UK students or too British for Japanese students.
Raven: Sometimes a woman’s body can suddenly develop almost overnight, how old were you when things about your body started to grow very quickly?
Anri: One day something extraordinary happened to me. At the age of 13, my body parts began to grow and grow fast. The boys at my school became very interested in me for a change. Suddenly, I was a bit but more interested than those skinny girls in Japan.
Who has the cute dolly face now, Raven?
Raven: That would be me wondering why I couldn’t have been the kid sitting next to you at school.
Anri: How am I doing, Raven? lol hmm…
Raven: You are doing a fabulous job, my lovely Geisha girl! Anri, you have a wide-spread fan base you have. How are they treating you?
Anri: I chose to focus on my oversea fans more. The trigger was 3M followers in China and 1M on Instagram. They accepted me more than while I was trying to be skinny a lot. I just totally appreciate the fans all around the world.
Raven: I notice you love to dress in various outfits. What’s your taste on outfits you love to wear? Do your fans help you dress in various clothing wear?
Anri: I would like to wear clothes that accentuate my figure, especially my cup size and the rest of me of course. I pick the types of clothing, including dresses, myself. In Japan though, it is almost impossible to find something in my size. Buxom size women like me have it rough here in Japan. But recently, I’m thinking of creating an Amazon Wishlist to list so that both my fans and I can select my wardrobe. I can’t wait to make this, it be will something I can share with my fans, together.
Raven: What photoshoot places have you traveled to?
Anri: I’ve been to Germany and some local areas in Hawaii. While on vacation, I’ve taken photos in the Maldives. In my home country, I’ve taken some nice shots at various Japanese hot springs.
Raven: Is there a country/place you would love to do a photoshoot?
Anri: Oh, I will be pleased to shoot either in Europe or New York City, U.S.A. Unfortunately, because of this COVID-19 thing, my dreams of traveling are just hoovering out of reach for now. I would love to travel around a lot overseas and photoshoot more!
Raven: Is there anyone you would collaborate with for a sensational photoshoot?
Anri: If this could be possible, I would love to have various buxom beauties, from different countries, to have an amazing photoshoot session. Me and these famous overseas girls, with a pair of nice-size boobs, would be a memorable experience.
Raven: Are you satisfied with your career the way it is now? Does Anri Okita want more, like World Domination?
Anri: Oh no. that’s not my final aim. but I love that idea.
Raven: Is there something on the body of Anri Okia that she is very proud of?
Anri: I’m just trying to figure out which of my best body shapes are.
Raven: What are Japanese women obsessed with?
Anri: As I said, If you visiting Japan, you will become obsessed with being as thin as possible rather than be a curvy girl!
Raven: What would you love to do when we are safe to travel and not wearing any masks?
Anri: Soon, I wish to attend the convention overseas, releasing music in the US, and lastly, I have another huge announcement, but tell you when it happens!!
Raven: Is it tough being a celebrity when you are out in public? How do you handle that? How do your fans treat you?
Anri: As you well know, my body is very noticeable in Japan, so I wear large clothes to hide my body. As for fans noticing me in public, fans know I have a two-year-old daughter and I sometimes get super busy with her. Whenever I am with my family, my fans are very respectful of me and do not approach. But if make the first move like saying, “Hello”, they will approach me with handshakes and offer compliments.
Raven: Is there anything about your lifestyle you could change, what would Anir change?
Anri: I’m pretty busy shooting, studying, and meetings but I love my lifestyle! Although, I would curious to know what it would life be like if I wasn’t Anri Okita.
Raven: Because of Pandemic, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
Anri: Though this Pandemic has made things difficult, my followers have increased as well as my earnings. Thank you so much! Internet business is my new stage.
Raven: Is there anything you would like to say to your beloved fans?
Anri: I will always love my fans. My fans made me never regret the life that I have. I’ll stay true to being Anri Okita. I love them and they love me. Thank you for your huge support. I want to make you guys a lot more fun, a lot more to get excited, and of course, always be satisfied!!!!
Raven: That’s it. That’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Thank you so much, Arni, for taking your busy schedule aside to have this interview with me. May your subscriber’s count be in the millions. If I could ask you one more question, where can our reader find more information about the beautiful, Arni Okita?
Anri: Thank you, Raven. I appreciate you reaching out to me for this interview. Of course, I would love to have your readers get more and more of me.
When it comes to video games, music is a very powerful tool that can make or break an experience. It can be used to motivate you to complete your objective, boost morale to play better, set the tone for an environment or scene, or even do all the opposite. Often times I find myself playing a title and wishing the score was better so I could really dive into it. In a day and age where video games are becoming the norm, people need an experience that can take them away from the harshness of reality, and music is one of these elements that often gets the least amount of love in this market, despite being a key tool that really serves as the sweet frosting on cake. And who doesn’t enjoy frosting? (Save it, you dieters. Frosting is amazing.)
When discussing games with friends, I seem to be the only one interested in the music, while everyone else seems to dismiss it entirely. It often breaks my heart to be the only one who thoroughly enjoys the music from titles, because I feel that’s the one of the bigger components that makes or breaks a title for me. Even if the gameplay is fantastic, if the music is awful it just makes me want play it less and less.
While video games have definitely seen a drastic change over the 30+ years they’ve been accessible to the public, the music has been one of the elements that has undergone the biggest development. Developers didn’t have the technology to add instruments and vocals back in the 80’s like they do now, so the ability to create music fitting for a title wasn’t easy. Nowadays we’re fortunate enough to have more at our disposal to undergo an experience that’s out of this world.
Now I’m sure I’m not the only one who has epic spy music playing in my head when I’m sneaking around, right? No? Just me? Drat. Well needless to say, when it comes to being an assassin/ninja and sneaking around, one of the biggest things that I need is a sweet soundtrack to fit the tone of what I’m doing. It gives a depth of flare to my life! So naturally the best person talk to about that is Austin Wintory, the composer of the next Assassin’s Creed title: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, right? Right.
So without further ado, here’s the interview!
Graphic Policy (Michael): You’ve been composing the music for video games for quite some time now, but I see you’ve also composed music for films as well. Do you find composing a track for a video game to be different than that of a film?
Austin Wintory: At the end of the day, what matters most is if I feel I was able to write worthy music. And by that I mean music, which justifies its own existence. Something that’s got personality and perspective and is worthy of the film or game it was written for. So in that sense, composing film music and game music, or concert music, or anything else, are really not that different. Music is music. But once you get your hands dirty and go deeper you realize that they actually are QUITE different. The interactivity of games sets them extremely apart from films. It’s difficult to summarize without being very long-winded but I will just say that in terms of the details they are very distinct from each other.
Graphic Policy: Music is such a powerful tool used in video games; be it a track that motivates you to save the princess and free the Mushroom Kingdom, or through using sound as a tool to help guide players together like in Journey. What were some of the big inspirations you felt with coming up with the music for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and how exactly did you want it impact the players?
Austin Wintory: With all games, or films for that matter, I try to use the project itself as the main inspiration. So Journey was Journey’s inspiration. And in the case of Assassin’s Creed, the game itself, the characters, the writing, the story, all of that was the primary inspiration. So you have this Victorian London setting, and two principal characters of sibling assassins Jacob and Evie. They have a particularly strong personality and an interesting dynamic between them that’s sort of irreverent and sarcastic, and that played a big part in figuring out how the score should feel. So even though I mentioned the time period of the 1860s, I didn’t really go out of my way to make it some so-called “period-authentic” score. Nonetheless, I would call the score in a way “Neo-Mendelssohn,” because I tried to channel this wonderful dancing quality that I find in Mendelssohn’s chamber music. It just so happens that that would be somewhat authentic to the period but it’s mainly that it feels right. The way in which I’d love for it to impact players is simply to enhance the game experience! One of the things I love about games is that we don’t really go out of our way to dictate the kind of experience the player “should” have. I see it as us creating a sandbox full of tools and toys that the player can then assemble kind of freely, and allow them to experience whatever they’d like. So my goal is to be part of the tool-set that lets them have whatever kind of experience that they want. Though obviously that’s through the lens of my perspective. So we’re not giving them a completely wide-open set of possibilities; it’s not objective, but we are nonetheless trying to give them more than just a rigorously defined experience the way a film might. Of course even as I say that, great films are very often subject to interpretation, so maybe I am simply stating the obvious.
GP: In your interview with Ubisoft, you explained that you’ve been a longtime fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. Did your experience with playing previous titles give you help with composing the tracks for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate?
AW: Most definitely yes, and also that familiarity with the franchise can give me a springboard to clarify something. I didn’t really compose “tracks” for the game, in fact no game score would I say I really compose ‘tracks.” I would call them cues, because “tracks” implies that they are linear pieces of music like you could just throw onto a CD or MP3 player and play back immediately. But the music in the game is often deeply interactive, and multi-layered, and full of algorithms that will change the way in which you change the music in real time. So for example, because I had played the previous games I was very familiar with the concept of the “reach high point.” These are the moments in the game which you climb up to some noteworthy landmark and “synchronize,” revealing things on the map, etc. Those moments are always intended to be kind of these beautiful little islands within an otherwise very action-driven game. I was deeply familiar with them because of it being such a core moment within every prior AC. However “reach high points” are not scored with some single linear track, it’s actually a series of interactive cues which sculpt the players experience as they are rising, and then ultimately performing the “leap of faith.” Had I never played any of the previous games, I would have had a lot of catching up to do to really appreciate how big a part of the overall experience these moments are. But because I was so familiar, I was able to immediately start coming up with ways to hopefully make it interesting and dynamic. It’s not one size fits all the way a linear track would necessarily be.
GP: I saw that you did a track for The Order: 1886. With that taking place in the same time period as Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, did your previous experience in dealing with late 19th century London help you to compose tracks for this title?
AW: In the case of The Order 1886, that was Jason Graves’ score for which he and I co-wrote the main thematic material. So I didn’t actually even write that first track on the album, it’s something that he and I co-wrote and which he then drew from when writing the rest of the score. So my job was very specific there. Additionally, that game was an alternate history of Victorian London, so even though the time period was similar, and the setting was technically the same, the context for that setting was distinctly different. There are no wildly futuristic elements to Assassins Creed like there were in The Order, and also the storyline, and the characters, and the motivations, and all that were radically different. A story of the knights of the round table persisting into the industrial revolution, and fighting werewolves in dark alleys, is a completely different game from an eternal struggle between assassins and templars in Victorian London (never thought I’d say that sentence!). So in my mind, because the music is always coming from “who are these characters and what is this story?” there was no real overlap, I would say. So it didn’t help nor hinder.
GP: From a game where there was no dialogue and just music and sounds, and to a game about assassination, has working on the music for Assassin’s Creed proved to be a different experience from your previous work with video game soundtracks? If so, how?
AW: Well certainly every game is different from the rest, and in some cases dramatically so. There is no question that Journey and Assassins Creed have very little in common in terms of the experience of playing the game. But at the end of the day, the underlying concept of just trying to write music that really faithfully captures the player experience is the same. So it doesn’t really matter that the games themselves are so different, my philosophy is unchanged. It’s hard to get more specific than this without breaking down each individual game that I’ve worked on but basically yes, they are all very different and that’s one of the things I love about scoring games. There is never a boring day on the job. You never know what to expect.
GP: Time travel plays a huge role in the Assassin’s Creed titles, despite the games taking place primarily in earlier time periods, did you utilize any concepts of a modern day or a somewhat futuristic tone for certain tracks in the game or did you stick with music that fit the setting of London in the late 1800’s?
AW: Well, bear in mind that Assassins Creed is not actually about time travel, it’s about people in the future using technology to look back into the past. So the game’s settings really are in that past, even though in theory were looking at it through the lens of someone seeing it from the future. And that has played a big part of the aesthetic of the scores in the previous games; they very often sought to channel that futuristic sci-fi quality with cool analog synths and things like that. I thought Sarah Schachner on Unity did a particularly good job at blending those things. However that was not the goal here, the present day aspects are actually pretty minimal in this game, and we also made the aesthetic choice to let those moments play on their own so there is very little in terms of music then. It’s really solely preoccupied with Victorian London. Thus it was with the score.
GP: With some video games having a production cost that can rival films in Hollywood, has working on a title as big and popular as Assassin’s Creed provided more pressure on you than other titles you’ve worked on?
AW: I wouldn’t really say so; certainly the overall size of the score was bigger than average, but I’m no stranger to elaborate productions, from both films and games. For example, a game like The Banner Saga, even though that was a relatively small independent game, the scope and production of the score was really only slightly smaller than that of Assassin’s Creed. So I wouldn’t really say that there was more pressure. I tend to put more pressure on myself than any outside entity could ever hope to!
GP: With music being a conduit to set the tone for the game’s plot and setting, what was the main process for composing tracks for the game itself? Were you given footage from the game to match to a scene or a storyboard you had to read?
AW: For me it’s all about play testing. I spend a lot of time with the game and really try to internalize how it moves and how it feels. And once again it was really really helpful to have played the previous entries of this franchise so thoroughly because I was less reliant on play-testing for this as a result. I try not to ever get caught in a situation of having to write music in a vacuum. By that I mean, writing music to a scene which is being described in some spreadsheet somewhere but which I have no real connection to. So I read the script, I would spend a lot of time playing the game, but then also in situations where I was not able to play the game myself the team at Ubisoft would do captures for me which I would then send follow up questions to and they would do additional captures as a way of answering my questions. So I would have them do for me the things that I would do myself if I had been playing. I would say to them “instead of going up the side of the building, can you jump and tackle that guy in the street,” because that would have been how I tested the game in that moment. They happily obliged me throughout the process. I should use this as a segue to really point out that the team at Ubisoft were absolute dreams to work with. Audio director Lydia Andrew and musical supervisor Christian Pacaud were absolute perfect collaborators. Couldn’t have had a better crew to work with.
GP: Were there any specific moments in your life that inspired certain tracks for the game? Maybe you dropped something on the ground and it had the perfect tune you were looking for? Perhaps a bowl of cereal that crunched just the right kind of way to inspire you? Possibly a bird chirping outside your window at 5am?
AW: I’m afraid my answer to this is yes, but nothing like the examples you provided. I actually suffered some very huge personal losses during this project and that played a very large part in my creative process. I don’t want to drag you through a long difficult story but the short version is that just days before I began, my father rather suddenly lost a battle to cancer after falling sick only weeks earlier. So my music started with a note of intense grieving as I tried to reconcile that. Then a few months later as I was near finishing the project, the same thing happened to one of my closest friends. There are a lot of specific moments in the score that I could point to as representative of my dealing with these losses in that moment. But I’ll just leave it at that for now.
GP: We see a strong separation in both Evie and Jacob’s personality and their styles of gameplay; with the ability to switch between them freely, will this also feature a switch in tracks? Have you specifically written different tracks for each sibling, or a single song that really captures the essence of both?
AW: Well I will once again specify that the score does not really consist of “tracks” or songs, but nonetheless your intuition is absolutely correct. Instead of having different themes or leitmotifs for Jacob and Evie, I have a single theme that represents them collectively because their story arc is a shared one. It’s all about the journey they go on together and the ways in which they grow apart and come back together, etc. But that said I do assign different colors to them. Specifically I have a solo violin played by Sandy Cameron, that I associate with Jacob, and a solo cello played by Tina Guo that I associate with Evie. So, in the areas of the game where you have specific missions that force you to play as one or the other character you will always hear that specific instrument featured. Then during the open world moments where you can switch back and forth freely, I recorded separate violin and cello solos within a given passage and the system will automatically toggle the soloist based on whichever character you’re playing as. So that way players will have different experience throughout the game musically based on who they’re playing.
GP: Any particular track you had the most amount of fun composing? Was it an epic fight track or possibly just a nice song to idle to?
AW: I put so much work into every moment of music in the game that it’s difficult to play favorites. Referencing my answer before about the losses that I endured during the writing process, there are some moments that are my own little private homages to those people. I snuck personal references and things into the score of my history with both my dad and my good friend. But other than that, I would say that the entire score was a joy to do. I really loved that the combat music ended up taking this almost ballet-like dancing quality. And so any time I was writing combat music I found myself wanting to leap to my feet and that’s just a great feeling. The grand finale of the game, on the subject of epic fights, is kind of a triple concerto where I finally bring out a third soloist, the pianist, played by Iain Farrington. This was a big show piece that was an absolute blast to do because it really let the three star musicians come together and just sizzle.
GP: With the Templars being the primary antagonists of the game, did you aim to give them a type of gothic theme that’s more commonly used, or did you plan to go with a different kind of genre?
AW: The templars actually don’t have their own theme in the score, which was something that I advocated for with Ubisoft because I really wanted to make it about Jacob and Evie, primarily. But that said, much of this game is preoccupied on a story level about the rise of industrialization, and the way in which this era brought out certain types of personalities, like thieving robber barons that were quick to take advantage of people. Because that’s a thread that all the villains tend to have in common, a thirst for power and a thirst for influence which often is expressed through money, I decided to treat that as an almost religious idea. There are moments in the game where I go for a kind of cathedral or religiously mystical aesthetic, and those are always the moments associated with the villains. So I would say that the templars don’t have a theme, so much as this intentionally ironic religioso aesthetic.
GP: Easter Eggs in video games has become such a norm whether it be some small dialogue, a picture somewhere referencing something, or even hidden scenes. Do you have any extra tracks that you were tasked to compose for any of these kinds of segments? If there were, did you know you were doing them for that specific part?
AW: There are definitely easter eggs, and if I told you, they wouldn’t really be easter eggs now would they??? ;)
GP: I know there are certain developers who like to put staff and crew into the game as little extras. Will we be seeing you in the game at all composing music, or struggling over writing a song in one of the many British taverns? Maybe a side-quest involving finding your missing music sheets?
AW: I wish! That would have been great fun and I have done this sort of thing before; I have on-screen cameos in several movies I’ve scored, for example. But in this case, my presence is purely musical. Though there are definitely some surprises in the spirit of what you’re asking about…
GP: Since you’ve been a fan of the series, which title is your favorite, and are there any particular weapons and characters you’ve found more appealing than others?
AW: Like so many others, I would say that my favorite was Black Flag, and part of what I loved about it was how stunningly beautiful it was and how easily the notion of an assassin translated to high seas pirating and that sort of thing.
GP: What was it about Assassin’s Creed that really drew you into the series?
AW: I always loved the sense of movement, loved the freedom, I loved the way the game felt under my fingers. I’m usually much more of a PC gamer but this was one of the rare instances where it really really made me love playing it on my Playstation. In terms of Syndicate, what drew me to it was how eager Ubisoft were to experiment and try something new with the score. And that would have been a draw no matter what the franchise was, I suppose.
GP: I heard you joke about a baton dagger in your interview with Ubisoft, any chance we’ll be seeing Austin Wintory as an assassin in the next Assassin’s Creed title? Assassin’s Creed: Traveling Orchestra perhaps?
AW: I’m not currently engaged to work on any other Assassins Creed games, but you never know what the future will bring. I certainly am planning to perform the music on-stage in a variety of different contexts, so maybe I will conduct from a hidden blade wrist baton of some kind!
When it comes to loss, it’s a difficult trial to bounce back from, so I’m very glad to hear that Austin was able to make something amazing out of his ordeal in order to pay tribute to his dearly departed. I can certainly relate, as the recent loss of my own father was the reason I ultimately took the plunge into writing. My sincerest condolences to you, Austin, and I know the game will be fantastic with your beautiful music. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take my interview. Thank you to Austin’s publicist and the rest of the people at Ubisoft!
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate comes out October 23rd for the Playstation 4 and X-box One and November 19th for PC fans. Stay tuned for a review when the game releases! Thanks for reading!
On Monday, I was fortunate enough to be involved in a conference call interview with Kevin Durand, who plays fan-favorite Vasily Fet on The Strain on the FX Network. There were many writers in line to ask questions and I happened to be the last one to be able to speak with him and ask a few questions, obviously geared towards the comic book aspect of The Strain and its influence on his role in the series. During my follow-up question I brought up how I had always pictured Mr. Durand as Abraham Ford from The Walking Dead comic book series and his response shed some light on who might play a future villain when that arc in the TV show adaption approaches. He was thankful that I thought about him as one of the characters from such a successful franchise and revealed he had been approached to play the role of the nefarious Negan of The Saviors. Here is the full transcript of the interview with Kevin Durand.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to The Strain conference call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. We will be conducting a question-and-answer session throughout the conference. As a reminder, this call is being recorded.
I would like now to turn the conference over to your host, Tom Ruffner with FX Networks. Please go ahead.
Tom Hello, and welcome to The Strain conference call with series star Kevin Durand. I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today, and remind you that this call is for print purposes only. No audio may be used.
The Strain season one finale airs Sunday night, October 5th, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on FX, and, as always, we respectfully request that you do not post spoilers pre-air to help protect the viewing experience for the audience. Due to the fact that there are so many journalists joining us today we ask that you limit yourself to one question and a quick follow-up, and then get back into queue for any additional questions you may have.
So, with that said, let’s go ahead and take our first question.
Moderator Our first question will come from Jamie Ruby from SciFiVision.com. Please go ahead.
Jamie Hello, Kevin. Thank you so much for talking to us today.
Kevin Oh, my pleasure. How you doing?
Jamie Great. And I really love the show; I can’t wait for the finale next week.
Kevin Thank you.
Jamie But I’m curious, have you read any of the books or where did you get the inspiration for the way you play “Fet” from?
Kevin Well, I read all three of the books before I fully signed on. And my inspiration to play “Fet,” I guess in reading the books I kind of saw him very similarly to the way that I’m playing him. I feel like a lot of it was on the page. I hear that he’s a lot more of a charming kind and happier than people had anticipated, but I kind of always saw that because through the journals and the books see how he really finds himself within this apocalypse and is blooming like a beautiful Ukrainian flower amidst the apocalypse.
Jamie Right. Another thought, what’s been the most challenging for you so far?
Kevin The most challenging. It’s just been such a blast and so much fun shooting. I mean we had long hours, it was cold. I know that a lot of the cast members found the climate to be a bit challenging; however I’m from 20 hours north of Toronto so I kind of felt really at home. So challenge wise I feel like all my preparation was there going in and my challenge was just to try to be the best that I could be every day.
Jamie Great. Well, thank you so much.
Kevin Thank you.
Moderator Thank you. And our next question will come from Earl Dittman from Digital Journal.
Earl Hey, Kevin, how are you this morning?
Kevin Hello. How are you?
Earl I’m doing great. Doing fantastic. So are you normally a horror fan or a thriller fan of films or television?
Kevin Yes. Since I was a child, much to the chagrin of my father, my mother would keep me up and I would watch horror films with her since I was about four years old or five years old, so I’ve always been a fan. And they always say that you marry your mother, and my wife is the biggest horror fan ever, so I kind of experienced a rebirth in terms of my interest in the genre since I married Sandra four years ago. So when this opportunity came along we read the books. We were kind of like snickering and giggling like some little kids going, “Oh my God, this is going to be awesome.”
Earl And what is it about this, I mean, the series is incredible, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen, what is it about it you think that is so appealing or is so appealing to a horror fan I think that we may not see in other things?
Kevin Well, you’re seeing this story being told from the perspective of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. But Guillermo has his eye on every single frame and he brings a certain beauty to the most horrific things, and it’s very hard to look away. You can’t help but stare at the Master’s face when you’re in an extreme close-up and look at the beautiful, intricate details. I think he has such a unique take on horror. I remember watching Pan’s Labyrinth and just being in absolute awe of the things that scared me, because they were so beautiful.
Earl Well, it’s fantastic, and you’ve done a great job. Appreciate it, and best of luck.
Kevin Oh, thank you so much.
Moderator Thank you, and our next question comes from Rebecca Murray from Showbiz Junkies. Please go ahead.
Rebecca Good morning.
Kevin Good morning.
Rebecca Why do you think he was so willing to take the leap from exterminating rats to exterminating vampires? I mean he did take a little while to consider it, but he jumped in with both feet.
Kevin Yes. Well, I think that “Fet” has this inner kind of warrior, this Viking warrior inside of him, and it was always kind of living within him. But in this specific circumstance, when all hell has broken loose and the vermin have turned into human bloodsucking vermin, it feels like way more of a natural transition than probably you would assume. He’s a master at exterminating, and this new world really needs him and I think he’s so happy to step up to the task.
Rebecca That makes sense. Can’t wait for the finale.
Kevin Thank you. Me, too.
Moderator And our next question comes from Kristyn Clarke from Pop Culture Madness.
Kristyn Hello, Kevin. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Kevin Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for speaking to me today.
Kristyn So, I’m curious, as we gear up for the finale and everything, how satisfied are you with where that has landed at the end of the first season and going into season two?
Kevin I have to say I feel so good about it. Even the way that from the first time that we get to see “Fet” and the journey to where he’s at now, I mean, the whole journey I’ve been just kind of tickled by. And to see where he’s at now you could see that things are getting more intense as the minutes roll by, and it’s kind of like seeing a great kind of prize fighter before a big fight staying really calm and relaxed and ready for action, and I think that’s where “Fet’s” at. I mean he’s making googley-eyes at this girl when the world’s going to crap. That’s because he’s very comfortable, he’s ready, he knows that if there’s anyone for the job that he’s the guy.
Kristyn And as a follow-up, obviously we’ve seen that he has become kind of a full-fledged member of the team now. What kind of affect do you think that had on the character?
Kevin Well, I don’t think he’s used to playing with other kids in the sandbox, but he’s a smart guy and he understands that there’s a lot of power that comes with numbers. He looks around the room and he has a genuine respect for everybody in that group and knows that we can all play our role in taking down the Master.
Kristyn Great. Thank you so much.
Kevin Oh, thank you.
Moderator Our next question comes from David Martindale from Hearst Newspapers. Please go ahead.
David Hello, Kevin. I love the show. You’re really wonderful in it.
Kevin Oh, thank you so much.
David Yes. Several weeks ago FX scheduled a call like this for Sean Astin on a Monday and his character died the Sunday night, so I’m kind of relieved that you’re okay. Is there a story behind how you hooked up with this show and with this character?
Kevin I was prepping for a film at the time called The Captive that I did for Atom Egoyan; I lost like 40 pounds, and I had this little mustache, and I looked like a very different person. Then I found out that Guillermo and Carlton wanted to meet me on this project. So I had three days. I read the book, went in, and after I read that first book I was like there is no way that Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse are going to see me at this big, robust, heroic, stoic fella “Vasiliy Fet,” because I was so skinny and sick looking.
And we had this meeting and sat down and I assured them that I was kind of starving myself just for this project I was going to do and then I was going to get back to normal. In the room they asked me if I wanted to be “Vasiliy Fet.” Every day since I’ve been so grateful for that meeting, because in playing him I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun, ever. And also in watching it, it’s been so incredibly gratifying to watch the season unfold.
David Yes, I agree as a viewer. I was at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. There’s a whole wall of vampire fiction there, which is great, because teenage girls needs something to read. But I think it’s cool that this show has taken vampires back away from those books and TV shows and movies that want to make the vampire charming and sexy and brooding and angst ridden. Do you kind of take pride in being involved in a show that makes vampires truly bad again?
Kevin Absolutely. I mean, obviously, I can’t take credit for that at all. It lays in the wonderful, crazy, beautiful, dark mind of Guillermo del Toro. Because he’s been having dreams about these vampires and making sketches and taking notes since he was a child, and that’s how these vampires came to fruition. They’ve been a part of his nightmares for decades. So what’s really satisfying is to see Guillermo, who is such a lovely, charismatic visionary, actually get those nightmares out of his head and onto the screen. And I’m so grateful to be a part of it and help him tell the story.
David Cool. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
Kevin Thank you. Thank you kindly.
Moderator Our next question comes from Henry Otero from TVFanatic.com. Please go ahead.
Henry Hello, Kevin. How you doing? You’re awesome on the show, by the way.
Kevin Oh, thank you so much. How are you?
Henry I’m doing all right.
Henry I was curious, since you’ve read the books is there a particular scene in the second book coming in the next season that you’re really excited to watch come to life on the show?
Kevin It’s so hard to pinpoint a specific scene, because even in just trying to imagine what we’re going to do in the second scene, because the books have really served us but they’ve been almost like a skeleton, and then Carlton Cuse and Chuck Hogan and the amazing writing room they kind of like put the flesh and the blood and the muscle on that skeleton as the season goes. So I can’t even tell you what I might be up to.
And one thing that’s interesting in the transition is in the second book I have a lot of—well, in the first book it starts and then I have it all the way through the third book as well—but “Vasiliy” is journaling a lot. So for me I’m starting to read the second book again just so that I can try to figure out how to play that kind of between the lines of just kind of like he goes through this almost like a rebirth; as everything goes to crap “Vasiliy” keeps getting stronger and more confident and more able. So I’m really looking forward to that evolution.
Henry Very cool. And quick follow-up, welcome to Twitter. I know you’re brand new to Twitter. What was that live tweeting experience like last night?
Kevin That live tweeting experience last night – I was so excited and had so much fun. I’ve always been so against doing the social media thing. I don’t know, my head must have been up my butt. I’ve just been so scared to share stuff. I thought I should stay mysterious, kind of. But I have to say since I’ve joined I’ve really enjoyed being able to see immediately people’s reactions and have communications to people who are watching the show or other projects that I might be a part of. Luckily they’re not tweeting and saying, “Wow, Kevin Durand, you really suck.”
Henry Yes, it helps that everybody loves “Fet.” Absolutely true.
Kevin Exactly. Exactly. It could have been a very different experience. I might be Astin already if that was the case. But yes, it was just so lovely to get all that kind of support, and, yes, I really enjoyed it. I think I might want to do it again for the finale. I don’t know, we’ll see.
Henry Oh, excellent.
Henry That sounds good. All right. Take care. Thank you very much.
Kevin Hey, thank you.
Moderator And our next question comes from Mary Powers from TVGoodness.com. Please go ahead.
Mary Hello and good morning.
Kevin Good morning.
Mary And just like everyone else said, I think you’re the bomb on this show. Just fantastic.
Kevin Oh, thank you. I’m the bomb. The bomb.
Mary Yes, the bomb. Yes.
Kevin I love that. “Fet” loves bombs.
Mary Okay, “Fet” thinks very quickly and has nerves of steel, even when he was facing that sleeping hoard of strigoi in last week’s episode. Given that, what do you think it would take to really unnerve this guy and put true fear in his heart?
Kevin Wow, that’s a really good question. I’m not really sure, because we haven’t gotten that yet. I don’t know if we will. I mean I think he has—it’s going to be interesting to see him in a group of people like this, and when you’re in a group of people under such a high level of duress there is a very high, intense level of bonding amongst the group. So I think the idea that “Fet” will develop feelings for people within this group would definitely raise the stakes for him and probably put fear in his heart.
It’s just like “Setrakian” has told us before, he said love is our downfall. And I think of him being a loner up to this point, like even seeing that he hasn’t seen his father or mother, he’s been estranged from there for years. He hasn’t really had to account for anyone for a long time, and now he seems like he really, genuinely respected “Setrakian” at this point and I see a relationship budding there, like a father/son relationship. It seems like he’s kind of interested in “Dutch” as well. I don’t see a whole lot of love lost between him and “Eph” but, who knows, they may become friends. I don’t know. But I think that that might be the thing is connection to these human beings under that duress may take him to that point.
Mary And then, just a quick follow-up, this was a question that came up several times I saw on Twitter last night, so what’s the deal with “Dutch?” Does he like this girl, or is it just harmless flirting, or what can you say about that?
Kevin We haven’t really explored it a whole lot. I think that he sees a spectrum of things in her. Obviously, she’s not hard on the eyes, but she’s hyper intelligent, she’s rebellious like him, she’s tough like him, she doesn’t take any crap like him, and he really gets a kick out of it. I think he sees she’s kind of reflecting to him kind of like a mirror in some ways in the short time that they have known each other, so he’s just intrigued.
Actually, as you probably know if you’ve read the books, I mean she doesn’t exist in the book.
Kevin So her fate and what she ends up doing within the show are completely a mystery to me. It’s one of those things that I’m so excited about with this show is that we really don’t know what’s going to happen. So if I make it through episode 13 then I’ll get to shoot a second season, and then maybe we can find out.
Mary Well, thank you. I’m looking forward to the finale.
Kevin Thank you. Me, too.
Kevin And I love, love your accent, by the way.
Mary Well, thank you.
Kevin It’s such a gorgeous sound.
Mary Thank you so much.
Kevin Have a good day.
Mary You, too.
Moderator And our next question comes from Terry Stanley from the LA Times.
Terry Hello, Kevin.
Kevin Hey, how are you today?
Terry Dude, everyone loves “Fet.”
Kevin Oh, that’s so good to hear.
Terry And you know you’re the son that “Setrakian” never had, so you’re not going anywhere.
Kevin Well, we’ll have to tune in to find out.
Terry Yes. Well, you mentioned earlier, I thought it was really interesting, about “Fet” essentially being kind of an upbeat character, and sometimes I wonder if he really thinks things are going to turn out okay or if he just has no fear.
But anyway, talk to me about the role of hope. When we look at especially the first two books, The Strain and The Fall – super dark.
Terry So talk to me about the role of hope in this series. Maybe it’s more important for the show than it was for the books.
Kevin I think that when you’re going up against the odds that we’re going against, I mean even just putting our little group just against that one seven foot, eight foot, maybe nine foot tall Master, I mean that’s scary enough as it is, but now we have a population that’s just exploding with these things. The only thing that you really have is hope. The only thing that you have is optimism.
And I think that’s part of why people have been drawn to “Fet,” because he’s not kind of letting the fall of civilization get him down. I think he truly believes and truly has hope in his heart, and not just hope, though. I think he really believes that he is going to get through it, and he’s starting to understand that he’s going to be instrumental in that, and it really makes him feel good and strong and confident in himself.
Kevin I don’t know if I answered that question. I kind of danced around a lot. I was trying—
Terry No, I think you did. Well, the difference between the books and the series, do you feel like for a TV show it’s really important to give people, to give the viewers some kind of ray of light?
Kevin Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean I think you have to have a reason. You can’t be watching this show for five seasons thinking that they’re all doomed. There has to be some chance that they could make it, and this is the group of people that I would hope for in a vampire apocalypse. I hope that there’s a real “Fet” and an “Eph” and a “Setrakian” and a “Nora” and a “Dutch” out there to help take us through it.
Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from Jasmine Alyce from Fanbolt.com.
Jasmine Hey, Kevin. So nice to talk to you today. Thank you for joining us.
Kevin Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Jasmine If you could play any other role on the show which one would you pick and why?
Kevin It’s so funny, because someone asked me that last night and I was so paralyzed by it, like I am now, because when I read the first book I didn’t even know that they wanted me for “Fet,” and “Fet” doesn’t start in the first book until about page 240. But even in the last, I guess it was the second half of the book, just off of that second half of the book I was like, “God, I hope I get to play that guy. I hope that’s who they want me for.”
In watching the show I guess maybe “Eichhorst” would have been fun, because I usually, up to this point, people usually see me destroying the world as opposed to helping to save it. So I can’t really think of who else I could have played, but “Eichhorst” would have been fun.
Jasmine Okay. Cool. Thank you.
Kevin But kudos, I mean how amazing is Richard Sammel as “Eichhorst?” I mean I don’t know if I could have in any way gotten to that same level of just sheer—
Kevin He terrifies me. Yes, he’s a terrifying dude. Terrifying opponent.
Moderator Thank you. And our next question comes from Erin Willard from SciFi Mafia.
Erin Hello, it’s Erin Willard. Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with us today. You’ll always be “Keamy” to me, but I forget about Keamy when I’m watching “Fet,” because “Fet’s” so awesome, too, just in a totally different way.
Kevin “Martin Christopher Keamy.”
Erin What a great character that is, too.
Kevin Sure it. Thanks for bringing me back to “Martin Christopher Keamy.” Thank God for that character. Thank God for Carlton Cuse.
Erin Well, tell me, what kind of an impact did that have on your career?
Kevin For that one I got an audition, and I went in and I did this one scene that was kind of there wasn’t a whole lot of description or I didn’t really understand who this guy was, they didn’t really tell me much. It was so secretive.
Kevin And I went in and read, and I got it. I thought it was going to be one episode, and I thought, “Well, it would just be nice to go to Hawaii.” I went out there and we all kind of fell in love, and I loved what they were writing, they loved what I was doing.
And then all these years later I get a call that Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro want to meet with me. I’m so grateful that Carlton thought of me for both characters, because I think these characters up to this point, and I’ve been doing this for like 23 years or something, they seem to be the characters that have had the most impact, and I’m so grateful for the fact that he thought about me for both times.
Erin Well, earned. Obviously well done by you.
Kevin Oh, thank you.
Erin No. Absolutely. Then just as a quick follow-up, you’ve been in a lot of, a fair number anyway, you’ve been in so many different kinds of productions but you’ve been in a fair number of sci-fi related productions. What do you like best about it and what do you dislike the most about it?
Kevin About sci-fi?
Erin Yes. Sci-fi horror, that kind of genre work.
Kevin Well, sci-fi done right is, as far as I’m concerned, is the greatest form of escapism. So not just as a reader or a viewer I’m a big fan of the genre, but even to be an actor stepping into that role it’s always just such a wonderful challenge and it’s always so exciting to kind of just – I always call it “drifting.” I always kind of drift off into these characters and become a part of these different worlds. Yes, it’s always been such a pleasure. When sci-fi is done right I mean there’s no limit to where we can take things and stretch our reality. And that’s why, it’s just limitless.
Erin Sure. But is there a downside to it? Have you found a downside to it?
Kevin Well, yes, it’s downside is when you don’t have enough money in the budget and you try to make these fantastical things happen, but there’s a lack of money and you see the lack of that money on the screen, and then it’s harder to kind of escape. It’s harder to get whisked away by something that the production just isn’t allowing you to go on that trip. Now when sci-fi is backed properly there’s nothing better.
Erin Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your work.
Kevin Thank you. Thank you for your question and support. I appreciate it.
Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from Mary Powers from TVGoodness.com. Go ahead.
Mary Hello again.
Kevin Hey there.
Mary I had just one other question. Last week’s episode where you were down in the tunnels and had to crawl through that tiny hole or passage that seemed like a very hard scene, and I just wanted you to talk about that. How in the world were you able to get through that?
Kevin Well, you know what’s really funny about that is that they brought me in I think a week or two early and wanted to see if I could make it through that hole, because they knew that I was the biggest one in the group. So I came to work and I just shot through it really quickly, because I have way too much confidence in my athletic prowess. I was like, “Yes, look at that, big guy could do it really quick.”
I didn’t keep in mind, I didn’t do the math and realize that okay, well “Fet” has this really thick, bulky jacket plus his knapsack. So I got to set and Mía just shot through that thing like a lightning bolt, and I was like, “Oh, I have to beat Mía’s time,” in my head. I got in there and right from the start I could hardly move, and the panic on my face it was a real panic, like I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this. So it really happened, I really did almost get stuck. So it took a lot of me maneuvering muscles that I didn’t even know that I had just to move like half an inch forward. So, luckily I got out. I’m here right now still alive.
Mary Yes. It scared the crap out of a lot of fans, though, I think.
Kevin Well how fricking scary was that vampire coming after me?
Kevin I remember watching her go through that tunnel afterwards, and I mean I got chills, I got chills just watching the way that it was so subhuman; it was so like it was animal. It was really freaky. I’m glad that she didn’t bite me, thank goodness.
Mary Yes. I think all the fandom out there is very glad as well.
Kevin Good. Awesome.
Mary Thank you.
Kevin Well, thank you very much. Thank you.
Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from Dan Calvisi from Act Four Screenplays.
Dan Hello, Kevin. My question is about the script that you get for the show, or maybe that your agent sends you for other films and projects. I’m wondering, what do you see as the difference on the page between genre material, like these thrillers and sci-fi and horror material or superhero movie like X-Men, versus more of an indie drama like Fruitvale Station, for example. I see that on your bio. I haven’t actually seen Fruitvale Station, but I’ve heard a lot about it and I know it’s more of a character driven type of thing.
Kevin Yes. Yes. Well, from my perspective, I don’t approach the scripts in any different way. It all comes down to how the words on the page compel me or not, and I never really discriminate by genre. So if I have a visceral reaction to the words I’m reading then I know that I’m in the right place and that I’m interested.
So when I read Fruitvale I remember thinking I don’t think that I could play this guy, but there was a visceral reaction where I was like – so that means that I have to try. And it was the same thing when I read The Captive, Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, I was like there’s no way that I could play this guy. I was terrified, and I knew that I had to do it.
Reading “Vasiliy” every day, it’s not so much feeling like I can’t do it. I feel so stimulated by the opportunity to get to play someone heroic and stoic and good. And so it really just comes down to the quality of the words on the page as to what genre it lives in.
Dan And which style do you prefer of shooting or directorial style working with the director; do you prefer more of a looser, getting a scene on its feet, maybe doing some more rehearsal and improve, or sticking to the script?
Kevin It’s kind of funny, I’m kind of loosey-goosey, because I feel like I can learn from every experience. So some directors come in super regimented, like you said, and they have a very specific plan of attack, and I’m happy to be one of the players on the field and let’s attack your plan, let’s go, and let’s see what I can contribute. And then a lot of the times I’ve worked with directors where, like you said, like you could even stray from the page and just kind of find moments that might not be there, and I enjoy that, too. I don’t really have a preference. I’m just happy to be there, bro.
Dan How about on The Strain, what is the style of shooting, are there very strict story boards or animatics?
Kevin Well, the style of The Strain the directors are all different from episode-to-episode. So, for instance, on episode 8 we had Guy Ferland direct it, and he had a shot list that was I mean it was truly insane like looking at this shot list at the start of every day. I mean we were just looking at each other there’s absolutely no way that we’re going to be able to shoot this in eight days. And Guy, it was phenomenal how he attacked it. No one believed that he actually got it all done, and not only got it done but did it in a way where I just think he really killed it and hit all the moments, and it’s one of my favorite episodes.
Then you have other episodes that are just like Peter Weller had a different kind of style. That’s one thing that I really loved about being on a TV series was that I got to work and learn from all these different folks, like every week it was a different plan of attack. So it was always trying to hold onto who you think the character is and how he would react in a certain moment and kind of help educate them, but at the same time be open to these different people’s opinions. That was kind of one of the fun parts of being a part of a collective.
Moderator Thank you. And our next question comes from Angie Barry from CriminalElement.com.
Angie Hey, Kevin. I’ve been a big fan of yours ever since Dark Angel, and it’s just a real pleasure to talk to you. So thank you for talking to us today.
Kevin Oh, wow. “Joshua.”
Angie Oh, yes, I have a lot of friends that really loved “Joshua.” When they found out I was interviewing you they were like let him know that we love him for “Joshua.”
Kevin That is so fun. “Joshua: was the first character that I played that when, because I spent so much time with him because I was in prosthetics for five hours in the morning and then two hours taking it off and it was about usually between twelve hours and fourteen hours between that, my days were so long that when that show ended I genuinely missed “Joshua.” I mourned “Joshua.”
Angie Yes. I think everyone knows him. Okay, so my question. You’ve played some different nationalities and you’ve done different accents, and I was just wondering do you work with dialect coaches or do you devote a lot of time to practicing different accents that your characters call for?
Kevin I have a funny kind of OCD. I’m a little obsessive compulsive with sounds and people’s idiosyncratic behavior, and I generally I don’t work with anyone. Sometimes the production will have someone that will kind of check up on me. But I’m so obsessive with this stuff that I usually just come to the table with what I end up doing.
For instance, for Robin Hood before Ridley had actually given me the job I moved to Scotland for two months and was frequenting a lot of hangouts in Glasgow and Edinburgh and just recording people, having conversations. There’s this one fellow, Bill Haggerty in Glasgow, that I’d meet at a pub about three times, four times a week and I would record our conversations, and I was trying to become Bill Haggerty.
So it’s always a different process, and I kind of go about it organically. With “Vasiliy” I wanted to find a way to meld a Ukrainian sound with a New York sound since he spent the first—
Angie I think you do a masterful job with it.
Kevin Oh, thank you so much. I really—
Angie Yes. I had a lot of friends that are like, “Where is he from; is he British, is he,” and I’m like, “Oh, he’s Canadian.” They’re like, “I would have never thought that. I saw him in Robin Hood, and I thought he did such a good job on that accent.” Then I had people saying, “Oh, well he’s obviously Ukrainian, I mean I hear his accent in The Strain and it’s so good.”
Kevin That’s so good to hear. It was definitely a learning process trying to think out the marriage between the two accents. Because “Fet” to me is like really like I mean he is New York, but it depends. And I think about it, because I’m French Canadian and so my natural accent is not the one that I’m speaking in right now. So I know that in certain situations I start to hear my accent again when things are a little bit more intense, or if I’m having a couple beers, or if I’m just talking to my mom and dad it all comes back. So I kind of implement that into “Fet’s” kind of life. If he’s hanging out and talking to his dad, like that one scene, it gets a little thicker, because it kind of brings out the Ukrainian. If he’s just hanging out with some dudes from the neighborhood then he definitely gets more New York. So it’s been really, really fun finding it, and I’m excited to keep finding it every day.
Angie Yes, you’ve done a really good job, and I really loved watching you on the show, and I can’t wait to see what you do next. So thank you so much for talking to us.
Kevin I appreciate that so much. Thank you.
Moderator Our next question comes from Robin Sanderson, MovieWhole.net. Please go ahead.
Robin Hello. Thank you so much for talking to us this morning.
Kevin Oh, it’s my pleasure. How are you today?
Robin I’m good. How are you doing? Okay.
Kevin I’m doing really well. Doing really well. Yes, I’m excited to get to talk about “Fet” and about the show. It’s awesome to be a fan of something that I’m such a big part of.
Robin That’s great to hear. So “Vasiliy Fet” seems to distrust people and he also seems to judge them, and he also seems to let his emotions drive his actions and relationships on the show [indiscernible].
Kevin I’m having a hard time understanding you. I think I’m just hearing some crazy sirens behind you right now.
Robin Can you hear– Sorry. Sorry.
Kevin Yes. Would you mind just asking again?
Robin Not at all. Can you hear me now?
Kevin Yes. Yes. Let’s give it a try.
Robin Okay. “Vasiliy Fet” seems to distrust people and he seems to judge them, and he seems to let those emotions drive his actions and relationships on the show. What are your thoughts on that?
Kevin So “Vasiliy Fet” mistrusts people and he what?
Robin And he judges them. I feel like he has a lot of judgment for the characters on the show, for “Ephraim” in particular.
Kevin I don’t know. I don’t know if I fully agree with that. I think “Vasiliy” is very straight up and he reacts to people the way—he’s very reactionary. So “Eph,” off the top, just kind of gave him – I think he’s a little bit, he has a thing in terms of judging people. I think that he kind of gets set off a little bit, his temper gets set off a little bit when people look down upon him and when they just expect a lot less from him. People have been looking down on him for a long time because of his job, and I think he feels that from “Eph”. And “Vasiliy’s” a very learned man. He might not come off that way, but he never, ever sees himself as a step below “Ephraim” just because he’s a doctor. So he kind of takes people for the way that they react to him, I think. I don’t think he judges people.
Moderator Thank you. Our next question comes from Preston Barta. Please go ahead. And that’s from Fresh Fiction.
Preston Hey, Kevin. How you—
Kevin I’m good. How you doing?
Preston I’m doing great. So, as you mentioned earlier during this call, horror films were kind of your babysitters growing up.
Preston What do you think your eight year old self would say about The Strain? You think he would be inspired by it?
Kevin Well, I think that my eight year old self would be so inspired by it, so excited by it, and I really, truly think that he would love “Vasiliy Fet.” I think that I’d be like, well actually I still am to this day, I’m still like, “Man, when I grow up I hope I can be like “Vasiliy Fet.”” Yes, I think that young Kevin would be really into it. Yes indeed.
Preston Great. Well, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
Kevin Thank you.
Moderator And our next question comes from Adam Bellotto from StarPulse. Please go ahead
Adam Hey, Kevin. Really love you on the show.
Kevin Thank you so much.
Adam Since “Fet” has joined this group of characters I mean he sort of developed this flirty relationship with “Dutch,” you have some really great chemistry going with David Bradley, but “Fet’s” interaction with the other characters is a little more limited. Is there a particular character that either you as an actor or maybe that you think “Fet” as a character would want more time with?
Kevin I love working with Corey Stoll. Whenever we got to do scenes together there was just a shorthand. I think we’re both kind of as journeyman actors we’ve both been around, both done a lot of work over the years, and I think there was just like a really nice understanding between us. So I look forward to getting to work with him a lot more.
And also, I’m very, very impressed by Mía Maestro as well, and we haven’t had a whole lot of interactions yet, but I’m looking forward to more of those as well.
Adam Yes, I’m hoping to see more of all you guys in season two.
Kevin Yes. Yes. Hopefully I make it through episode 13, and then I get to come back and we get to explore all this stuff.
Adam Yes. And then, just as a quick follow-up, I mean because for the first half of the season “Fet” is sort of unknown, he’s sort of stalking the streets as like the solo hero, and then about halfway through suddenly you’re in this big group dynamic. What is it like going through that change as an actor?
Kevin I really, really appreciated the opportunity to have the first half of the season to find “Fet.” I was really kind of exploring, trying to really feel him out, and by the time we got into the group dynamic I felt like I had a good hold on who he was. So when I started working with this group, who are all like such great actors and people that I genuinely fell in love with, became friends with, it was really rewarding to get to bounce ideas off of each other and move the narrative forward and find moments. Yes, it’s just really great to be a part of that group.
Adam Awesome. Man, thanks so much for talking to us.
Kevin Thanks, braugh. Thank you very much.
Moderator And our last question comes from George Nakhleh from Spoiler TV. Please go ahead.
George Hi, Kevin.
Kevin Hey, how you doing?
George I’m doing good. Thank you for doing this interview. We all appreciate your time. I’m a big fan of yours.
Kevin Oh, thank you so much, George. I appreciate that. Thank you.
George My question is The Strain trilogy has also been adapted into a comic book series, and being a big comic book fan myself I was wondering if you read them and if they helped you prepare for your role at all?
Kevin Yes, it’s really interesting. When I got the books initially and read the books Guillermo also gave me some of the graphic novels, and reading through them it was very informative to kind of see the physicality of “Vasiliy.” And even though my ideas were a little different, I still did take a lot from it. Very helpful to get to see an artist’s rendition of who your guy, who your character looks like, and even in every frame you get a sense of his movement and it just gives you more artillery to go into work with.
George Yes. To be honest, when I was reading the comics I actually did picture you. I’m not just saying that.
Kevin Oh, you did? Oh that’s nice.
George Yes, actually I did when I was reading them. They came out about a year ago, but I did picture you. Which brings me to my follow-up question. I also pictured you as, I don’t know if you read The Walking Dead, but I pictured you as “Abraham Ford,” and I wondered if you were ever approached to do that role?
Kevin You know what, I wasn’t. I wasn’t, but I heard that from people. Ultimately for me it’s just really nice; it’s such an incredible compliment that you think of me for these characters. I’m so grateful for that. But no, nobody ever talked to me about that.
But I think by the time they cast “Abraham” I think I was already “Vasiliy Fet” by the time they did that, I think. So I think even if they had thought about it I think it would have been too late anyways, because I became “Vasiliy Fet,” the exterminator.
George Well, we all appreciate you as “Vasiliy Fet.”
Kevin Oh, thank you so much. Thank you. I’ve had a lot of people with The Walking Dead talk to me, mentioned that they see me for a character named “Negan,” but I haven’t read the comic. But my ears are always open to what’s being said out on, and, like I said, I’m always honored to hear any of your thoughts. Bring it on.
George It’s my pleasure. Thank you very much.
Kevin Thank you.
Moderator Thank you, and that’s all the question we have for today.
Kevin Great. Awesome. We done did it.
Tom Thanks so much, everyone, for joining us today, and especially Kevin Durand. We really appreciate your time.
Kevin Oh, thank you very much. I had a lot of fun with you guys. Thank you, guys. Thank you. Enjoy the finale next week.
Tom Thank you, Kevin. As a reminder, The Strain season one finale airs Sunday night, October 5th, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on FX. If you have any lingering questions please feel free to give me a call at 310-369-0917.
You may now disconnect.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude your conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference Services. Once again, you may now disconnect.
I had the fortunate opportunity to be involved in a conference call interview with “The Strain” co-star Sean Astin, who plays Jim Kent in the series. Although, I did not get the chance to ask a question, it was still a great experience. Sean Astin is one of my favorite actors and I watch all of his work. To be able to listen to him speak about various topics was a real treat and I wanted to share all of that with the Graphic Policy community. Be sure to check out Brett’s Reviews of each of The Strain’s episodes after they air as they are a great complement to the show.
FX NETWORK: The Strain
September 2, 2014 – 10:00 PDT
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen thank you for standing by and welcome to The Strain conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. (Operator instructions.) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Mr. Tom Ruffner. Please go ahead.
Tom: Hello and welcome to The Strain conference call with series star Sean Astin. I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today and remind you that this call is for print purposes only. No audio may be used. The Strain airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on FX, and as always we respectfully request that you do not post spoilers pre-air to help protect our viewing experience for our audience.
Due to the fact that there are so many journalists joining us today, we ask that you limit yourself to one question and a quick follow-up and then go back into queue for any additional questions you may have.
With that said, let’s go ahead and take our first question. I’ll turn it back over to you, Don.
Moderator – (Operator instructions.): And the first question comes from the line of Earl Dittman of Digital Journal.
Earl: Good morning, Sean.
Sean: Good morning, Earl, how are you doing?
Earl: Doing great. I have to say first off you are fantastic in this brilliant series and it’s just wonderful to watch every week.
Sean: Thanks, man.
Earl: You’re no stranger to television. You’ve done 24, things like that and feature films, of course the iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy. How has The Strain been different for you as a actor, in any ways?
Sean: First of all working with Guillermo is a unique experience for most people who are working on these shows, I would say one of the most exciting things about it is spending time with Guillermo. He’s just so full of life and creativity and his imagination and you always feel like he’s both incredibly well prepared and in the moment and able to be spontaneous, so that’s pretty great. And then I have not in my life been a vampire guy really except when I was 16 and I worked in a movie theatre where my friend Corey Feldman’s movie The Lost Boys premiered. That was probably the height of my vampire interest. I sort of missed the rest of the wave of Vampire Diaries and all the way through to the recent Twilight and everything else, so being like learning vampire lore was pretty cool for me, particularly in Guillermo’s—the cosmology of vampires in Guillermo’s mind is really cool.
Earl: Yes, yes, and a quick follow-up, as Jim, we don’t hate him; we don’t love him. We understand he’s empathetic. What do you think about him in a couple sentences?
Sean: Jim is basically a morally compromised guy and I think he has the occasional quips that he has, comedic quips reveals some kind of personality that it might be fun to interact with, but his wife is suffering and so he’s a compromised guy basically the way I see him.
Earl: Again, thanks for your time and thanks for your great work, I love the series and you.
Sean: Thank you so much, Earl.
Earl: I appreciate it.
Moderator: And the next question comes from the line of Hal Boedecker from Orlando Sentinel. Please go ahead.
Hal Thank you, Sean. Congratulations. What does it mean to be part of this series?
Sean: Since being in Lord of the Rings this wave, this pop cultural wave of franchise inclusion has swept the globe where people—these comic book franchises, bestselling book franchises, television reboot franchises, they just come in big waves and it’s almost like being in one particular movie or one particular show isn’t enough anymore. So the fact that Guillermo and Carlton Cuse came along with this new incarnation of a vampire world meant a new franchise and so I feel I’m grateful that Guillermo reached out and swept me up in it. When you go to Comic Con, you have a team.
Hal: I also wondered especially the convenience store episode is so memorable. Can you talk about the challenges of filming that?
Sean: Yes, it aired last night, so you guys are the ones who are responsible not to do any spoilers, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler now. Ironically the biggest challenge of it was how cold it was. Toronto suffered really the coldest winter in most of the crew members’ memory and it’s one thing to sit here in a 75º day in Los Angeles and talk about cold weather, but it was bitter cold. So you look outside at these vampires who were in their post mortem makeup and you just figured that it wasn’t too far off from where they’re going to be if they had to stand outside any longer. But the emotions of it, I was told in my very first meeting with Guillermo and Carlton that this character from the books, who didn’t last that long in the books, wasn’t going to last very long in the series, so they invited me to be a part of this show knowing full well that in episode eight my character is going to get killed off. So there is a little bit of the gallows anticipation that comes knowing we’re in episode five; it’s only a few episodes away now before I get to say good-bye to all my new friends.
And then when you find yourself actually in the convenience store doing the work, there is an emotional responsibility that you have to the relationship between the characters. And so blocking the scene where Eph and Nora discover that he’s been fully infected, it was really kind of cool the first bit where they use the UV ray to see the worm in my face and they go and lay me down and do this sort of butcher surgery or field dressing surgery, that was all kind of cool and relatively straight forward, relatively easy.
But then when we got into blocking, Jim discovers that it’s all through my back and then I realize that the only thing to do is for them to kill me and I’m saying I don’t want to turn out like the rest of them and I don’t want go after my parents and asking Setrakian to basically explain what that is with these vampires go to the ones closest to them. It was pretty powerful emotionally and everybody had this feeling that it was exciting to be doing maybe one of the first big deaths of the show. I guess there had been others, but for me it was the big death because it was me.
And this dual feeling that the show—the characters move on and the show moves on and that was definitely a dynamic, unlike 24 where I never knew from one week to the next what was going to happen and I open the script or sitting in the makeup bus for episode whatever it was 13 and my character has this spectacular Sentox nerve gas death. So you’re like it’s sort of shocking, but you know anything can happen on that show and that is a very heroic death.
This one, Jim’s redemption is kind of petty redemption. He’s—I think the first one to plug in the UV ray lights and is what I think is a kind of for me it’s iconic where I come out of the convenience store and I’m the first one to extend my arm with the thing and burn one of the vamps with this UV light; and then of course everybody does it because Jim did it. But that feeling is yes, I don’t know; it was cool. I was at Disneyland with my wife and kids. I had run a marathon, this Disney half marathon weekend, so we did a 10K on Tuesday and a half marathon.
So I’m walking around and my legs are sore and the kids are having a ball and I realized the episode is airing right now. I hadn’t really been paying any attention to my phone for three days, but we’re sitting on the train going through Fantasy Land and I’m looking at seeing all these messages saying all right, Jim, we’re going to miss you buddy. It was a sad way for you to have to go, Jim, but we tried to have fun with it. What are you going to do?
Hal: Congratulations, it was great.
Moderator: Thank you and the next question comes from the line of Mike Hughes for TV America. Please go ahead.
Mike: You know what I found really interesting was when you said that you were 16 and you were working in a movie theatre because back then you had already been a successful actor. How did you end up then working in a movie theatre and what’s it like to be a guy who’s an actor working in a movie theatre watching other people act?
Sean: It’s funny I was looking online right before I got on the conference call and there was this article about celebrities who live below their means or something, modest celebrities; and it talked about how Leonardo DiCaprio occasionally takes a commercial flight. When I was 16 my mom and I, I had a car for a little bit and then she wanted or needed the car back, so I basically was doing summer school and night school. I really wanted to graduate with a better GPA than I had earned throughout the rest of my high school year and I would take the bus into Westwood from my dad’s place in west LA. I just worked in a movie theatre. I worked at the Bruin and Mr. Francis was my manager. I started by taking tickets at the door.
The fun story I have is with my buddy Corey. It was his movie. It was the first I guess I worked a couple of days on, it was like the end of Superman’s run. I can’t remember what it was, but anyhow and then it comes in and there’s the big premiere and Corey walks in and I’m wearing my blue blazer with my gray pants and my name tag. I used my middle name and Patrick is my middle name. I used my middle name and all the actors are standing by the concession stand and Mr. Francis, who is I don’t know 147 at that point he’s since passed away and he’s just a known guy; he’s a known figure—character personality and he said “Sean, you got to go pick up that popcorn.” I grabbed the broom and dust pan and I walked over. I was like “Excuse me, Corey,” and he looked and he saw me and he’s like, “Sean, what happened?”
I worked my way up through the ranks. It took all summer, but by the end of it, I was making bank drops from the box office and I cleaned the butter maker and it was fun. I remember my mom sort of being shocked that I would do that job, but I liked it. And that couple hundred buck check meant more to me than the $10,000 check that I got when I was eight because that $10,000 check went into an account that I didn’t see till I was 18 and now I was 16 and I could go spend that money. I don’t know. I count that as one of the good experiences for me.
Mike: That’s great. Thanks a lot.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question is from the line of Brent Hankins from Nerd Repository. Please go ahead.
Brent: Good morning, Sean, how’s it going?
Sean: Good. Good morning.
Brent: I really liked Jim’s arc on this season. I know going from the pilot where they set him up and you think he’s just a bad guy. Then as the season progresses, you see Sylvia and you see his motivation and it peels back this whole other layer of the character. I think that makes Jim one of the more relatable characters on the show because there’s this human element to this struggle—obviously he loves his family very much and would do anything for them. I think that gives just a whole deeper meaning to that character. What was it about Jim for you as an actor that really made you want to invest in that role?
Sean: I didn’t really care. Guillermo wanted me to do it, so I wanted to do it. And then the idea for me was figure out what it was that he saw in me that he wanted me to do it. I think you could take a wide range of actors and put them in that part and it would be a Rorschach test of who that actor is. I think what he liked is that as Samwise Gamgee I’m known for being a friend and loyal and likable, a nice guy; and I think he liked the juxtaposition of somebody doing something morally questionable or wrong, who is likeable at the same time that it would make—like you said it’ll be interesting for people to have to wrestle themselves with it.
There are all these apocalyptic franchises now and the question becomes how accessible, he used the word accessible—how, he used the word relatable, but how authentic if you can really feel like what would it be like if I was in that situation, if the power went out or if the grid went out or if there’s some terrorist event or some plague, the bubonic plague is around now, Ebola or whatever. So if you’re going to use a vampire story as a metaphor for that, you want to find ways into it that feel natural.
So, what I came to like about Jim, was the way that he wanted even though he did the wrong thing, he really wanted to be of service as a CDC guy, as an aide to Eph. He wanted to help and so I liked leaning into that. Then during the autopsy scene and during this scene in the eighth episode and a few other times, something will happen and he just sort of says what everyone else is thinking in a basic way. I think that made him even more entertaining in moments for folks.
Brent: You spoke about making it feel authentic. I think one of the most authentic things was his desire for not only redemption, because you called it earlier you said “petty redemption,” but he wanted so bad to be forgiven by Eph and by Nora and it’s sad that just as he kind of got almost to that point, we had to say good-bye to him.
Sean: Yes, it’s a study on human nature because Eph is reluctantly—Nora is sympathetic to him the whole time it seems like to me. Her compassion meter has a little more sensitively, but Eph finally kind of relaxes his anger towards Jim for a little bit as Jim has acquitted himself in battle really in the moment right before that. But then it’s Jim’s mortality that really provokes Eph’s empathy and he doesn’t want a patient to die, but he doesn’t want his friend to die. You can see it. He says at one point he’s my friend and that as an audience member watching it, I really like that. I really like that he showed something of himself and how he really felt. He would never have been that mad at Jim if he didn’t like him, because that’s what betrayal is. Otherwise it’s just villainy.
Brent: We think it was great and I’m going to miss you on the show.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Jasmin Alyce from FanBolt. Please go ahead.
Jasmin: Hello, Sean, thanks so much for taking the call today. I wanted to know what is one of your most fun experiences coming from the set and one of your funniest memories? Because the show is dark, how do you guys keep it light?
Sean: First there are lots of things that come to mind, but I always hit this. People don’t seem to remember, they don’t seem to talk about it very much. It was really, really, really cold. It’s a vampire show. Vampires you’re not supposed to be able to see their breath. It was a challenge I think for the effects people to do it how cold it was when there’s outdoor stuff and the vampires. But no, there was a moment where Corey came in on his phone playing this video game, the fighter pilot video game, so I downloaded it and the two of us with our phones or iPad mini’s in between dissecting vampires and bludgeoning the turned captain in the head with a fire extinguisher we were competing, frankly I was no match. Even over the holiday break when I had some time to practice, I showed back up and Corey was just an absolute, he absolutely dominated the game, so that was one fun thing.
And then frankly it was fun coming to work and seeing the different things that they had put together. I keep going back to the autopsy because I don’t think anything like it has ever been shown on television, a vampire autopsy. And they spent so much—it was such an expensive and intricate, I don’t know, was it a prop or special effect. We’ve been working with this actor and now we were dealing with his absolutely lifelike like corpse. It was really disturbing.
Another day we had when we’re at the airport hanger set and we come around, everybody had been filming for a few hours and they were on lunch break or something and my part started late, so I come in and I walk around and there’s nobody there, but a sea of 300 body bags all stuffed with dead bodies with the morning dew, they’d been filming all night long, over it. The lights reflecting off of it and it was really, really creepy and haunting and arresting—you pick the word and that’s the kind of stuff you’d get.
Jasmin: Right. Thank you very much.
Sean: Thank you.
Moderator: The next question comes from the line of Mary Powers from TVGoodness.com. Please go ahead.
Mary: Hello. After I went through my initial stages of grief after watching the episode this past Sunday, I went back and rewatched and one of the things I noticed was that Setrakian I don’t think severed Jim’s head. Now I don’t know how the disease works, but the question is are you quote “maybe alive”? Will we possibly have an opportunity to see a vamped out Jim or was that actually the end, period?
Sean: I’m pretty sure that Fet killed Jim properly.
Mary: Okay, okay.
Sean: He established, I think even in that episode, Setrakian reestablished that severing the head is one thing or injuring his—he goes into some description about how hitting certain bone things can hurt them this way and that way, but I think they’ve gone outside and shot them a lot. Eph and Nora are each shooting guns and killing them and Nora says he’s still coming and it’s like you got to shoot them in the head, so I don’t know how many times he pulled the trigger, but it felt like at least four or five at point blank range. I think Jim, I’m sorry to relate that Jim is—I appreciate the mourning. I feel close to Jim. My favorite thing was people with the hash tag RIPJIM. I kind of wanted to get that blown up and put that on the office wall.
Mary: Now what about Jim’s wife, Sylvia Kent, will we see her again? They just kind of left that storyline in some sense hanging.
Sean: The vampire says to me in the train station that now my wife is consigned to die with the rest of something or other, so it’s kind of a general comment and I suppose that that could mean whatever the normal course of cancer is can take place or as the plague sweeps the world, she doesn’t have any protection from it, but anything can happen. Jim could have an evil brother who wants to come and anything can happen, but I think in terms of the way the story is giving itself to the audience, I kind of think the Jim and Sylvia of it all has moved on.
Mary: Okay. We’ll miss you and thank you.
Sean: Thank you so much. I was surprised to see you doing an interview question because the word geek or nerd didn’t appear in the title of your blog.
Moderator: Thank you. And then next question comes from the line of Preston Barta from Fresh Fiction. Please go ahead.
Preston: Hello, Sean, thanks for taking the call today. I’m curious since you’ve been a part of a few horror affiliated projects like The Strain and Cabin Fever, do you have the capacity to be scared of your own projects?
Sean: When you say of my own projects, it kind of makes me think that you mean of the final product and when I watch it on television.
Preston: Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
Sean: I don’t know. I’m sure I do. It just depends on when you see it. If you see it at the premiere maybe it’s fun to get really into it, but then you’re aware of like the cameras outside. I think there are definitely moments beyond the first run of a show when you discover something late at night or if you find some reason to watch your things. Mostly with the horror things, I find myself thinking, man, that’s cool. Like yes, I did that and if somebody else is really scared and I was never like this as a kid. I never liked the idea of watching horror movies. I always thought it was fine for people to do them, but the idea that filmmakers would say they really in a kind of amoral way like to terrorize people and see people scared and make them jump. They love that feeling of like laughing when they could make people scared and I never really liked that idea.
But now that I’ve done it a little bit, I definitely am more connected to the idea that if you do something well, if you really commit like in Cabin Fever to the idea of this horrible disease and of your role in it and the malevolence of it and if somebody responds to it, I don’t know. I get the attraction now, so I think that’s a cousin of retaining the ability to be scared by something I’ve been in, but I’m not sure. I’m more scared in the moment that we do it because I try and be invested in what we’re doing while we’re doing it, but I’m not so sure afterwards.
I find myself when people are really startled by certain things or they’re scared kind of pleasantly surprised. Like I like it when someone says that really freaked me out. I’m like “Really? It did? Wow, that’s cool!”
Preston: And as a quick follow-up, I’m calling on behalf of my university, so if you could teach a college course of your creation, what do you think you would teach?
Sean: I sort of think I am teacher in my disposition. I gave a speech just now at the University of Idaho and afterwards we met with a group of drama students. I really like talking about leadership and I don’t know that I’ve led anything all that great, but I think I understand the anatomy of what it takes to be a leader. And that theme gives you entrée into virtually everything in life and human experience. I was just giving a talk at the Disney, the run Disney Expo for the Disney marathon weekend and I spoke each of the days and I talked a lot about inspiration — so yes. I don’t know. I think leadership and my training is in history and American literature and culture, so maybe English or something. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Moderator: Thank you and next question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby from ScifiVision.com. Please go ahead.
Jamie: Hello, Sean, thanks so much for talking to us today.
Jamie: So you talked about your last scene and everything, but I was curious, how did they do the sort of special effects with the worms and everything? Was it all digital or was some of it practical?
Sean: It was all digital. Basically they would put little orange dots, reference dots, all over the area where the worm would be, but you know what that is totally unfair what I just said. Scrap that. The actual prosthetic of the cut on my—I was immediately thinking of the worm effect, because that was the closest to me because I just saw it the other day for the first time. But no, they had a brilliant piece that they put on my cheek that they could sew and unsew and it was really, really good. People really responded to it on the set and I liked working with it, so it didn’t take very long to put on at all. It was a piece that started at the top of my inner eye at the bridge of my nose and went down right under the eye all the way around the eye basically kind of like in a half moon and then up into the hairline and down around the jaw and kind of underneath the jaw on the top of the neck and then up and around the same side of the mouth. So it almost looked like the Phantom of the Opera’s mask sort of like a miniature version of that or that with a convertible version of the Phantom of the Opera mask.
And then they painted it beautifully and then they added the—it was really cool was they pull the thread through it because if you’ve ever had stitches, I’ve had lots of stitches in my life and it felt the same. When they numb you, they put a long needle in and they numb the area that they’re going to give you a stitch, you can still feel it, but it doesn’t hurt and that’s exactly what it felt like when they’re threading the cut on Jim’s face. The actual worms, though, were orange dots.
Moderator: Thank you and our next question comes from the line of Angela Dawson from Front Row Features. Please go ahead.
Angela: Hello, Sean.
Angela: I was going to ask you since you did have some fair warning of your character’s demise, have you had an opportunity to look around what you’re going to do next? It sounds like you’re not looking for a franchise, but looking for something unique like this was and so what’s coming up on your agenda?
Sean: I’m sort of the opposite. When a franchise, a really good one, comes along, it’s great to be included. Actually I meant the opposite of that, so I play the voice of Raphael in the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise and I’m one of the many Raphael’s that there have been, so I kind of like that. Maybe I’m kind of a joiner, I don’t know.
The one thing I would say for everybody is that I knew that I was going to die, but I didn’t know how and when I got the script for it, which was only a few weeks I think beforehand, I loved it. Before that I had been a little bit kind of sullen over the fact that I was just getting to know everybody and enjoy everything and I knew I wasn’t going to be around very long. But when I saw how cool the episode was with this kind of “Butch and Sundance” battle royale out of a convenience store and then like the way that it was discovered on me and how the relationship is resolved and stuff, I absolutely felt like you couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. I was pretty happy with that.
I have an independent film that’s coming up called The Surface with me and Chris Mulkey. It’s a two-hander kind of a meditation on hopelessness and suicide, so there’s that. And then I also have a little animated film that I guess is being released independently called Ribbit about a poisonous tree frog, who believes he’s destined for something more than the life of a poisonous tree frog, so I play Ribbit. That’s coming out I think in September. I don’t know if it’s in wide release or not, but it’s on my radar.
And then I don’t know, I’ve been getting offered lots of fun things in the Sci-fi horror realm, which I haven’t grown too tired of yet, so as long as there’s something to play, I’m willing to keep thinking about that. And then I don’t know, looking for the next thing and the next thing to get excited about.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question comes from the line of Robert Samo from Fanboy Nation. Please go ahead.
Robert: Good morning, Sean. How are you?
Sean: Good, finally somebody with Fan Boy in the title.
Robert: I’m going to fan boy out for you right now. Rudy is one of the only movies that makes me cry.
Sean: That’s good.
Robert: Tell us about the trek through Guillermo del Toro’s mind. We’ve seen him from Pan’s Labyrinth and Hell Boy and everything else that he’s done. And to work with him that closely, there has to be some insight that you gathered to take that little stroll in his mind’s eye.
Sean: Now everybody expects something huge from Guillermo every time he opens the door, so I guess what really impressed me about him is that he continues to deliver in the face of overwhelming expectations and he does it in a way that is calm and fun. He just seemed—I’m not sure if it’s because he lived with this book for the years that he’s lived with it and wanting to make the show the way he’s wanted to make it and then getting to make it the way he wanted to make it, or if this is just the way he is everywhere he goes. But he was just happy, just a happy guy and when it came to giving direction, he was very specific, very detailed. If you had a question, he would relish in being able to elaborate on an answer as though this was the most fun part of the process.
And then you’d see him off to the side having a conversation with a digital effects supervisor about what the movement of the worm was supposed to look like and he would be in this enthralled state of bliss envisioning, making the fantasy of these worms in his mind “real” in the digital space. I guess he both loves the fantastic and the real and so and those things serve each other. Those interests serve each other, so it was fun. Yes, you’re right, it was really a privilege to interact with him.
Robert: Nice. Have you ever taken a look at The Strain comics and also you’re working with Feldman on Ninja Turtles, where he’s voicing Spike, correct?
Sean: Yes. I have seen the comic books. I haven’t read them all, but I think I understood a little of the story a little bit better when I glanced at the comic book the first time. I think I thought I get it now and that’s what that’s supposed to be, but somehow that seemed different. I listened to Ron Perlman read the audio books. That’s how I experienced The Strain the first time. I was riding my fancy bike in the middle of the night. I was in training and I would ride my bike all over the San Fernando Valley, which made me think of Tom Petty’s song about the vampire standing in the shadows freefalling. So the imagery, the ideas, the vocabulary for it was very richly drawn, beautifully performed by Ron Perlman; but when I saw the comic books, it seemed to me like somebody’s interpretation of it not like it was coming from the thing. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong; that’s just the way I came at it.
And yes, Feldman plays Spike. It’s fun to have my buddy Corey be my little turtle who then turns into a monster. It’s pretty fun because obviously he was around in the original time of that franchise, seems to be the word for the interview here, but yes, it’s pretty cool.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Matt Molgaard from Addicted to Horror. Please go ahead.
Matt: Sean, real quick, I just got to say as a father of a soon to be 13 year old girl who absolutely loves the Goonies and really just loves Mikey and a guy who was there himself in 1985, thanks for giving us a real slice of history that just can’t be replaced.
Sean: It was a privilege to be part of it. I have three daughters, 17, 12, and 9 and when you said you have to say on behalf of your daughter, I thought I was going to be in trouble like for [indiscernible] this awful horror stuff that’s going to give her nightmares for the rest of her life.
Matt: No, no, she won’t watch it, but no, she’s not going to bad mouth you. Listen, Jim Kent, he’s a really complex, conflicted character. I know a lot of actors that lean on personal experiences and engrained emotions to bring their characters to life in a believable fashion. Is there any part of Jim Kent that makes you say “I can totally relate to that; let me use my own familiarity to generate a real sense of authenticity.”?
Sean: I’m probably more like Jim Kent than I am Samwise Gamgee in as much as I have to make choices in my life that I’m not an ideal literary character because people always want to know if I was like Sam and I try and embody some of those traits that Samwise has, but for Jim, I guess my technique relies on trying to feel the emotions or the moments as the character would feel it in real time. That’s how I get the closest to manifesting something that’s authentic.
Having said that I don’t think I can help but bring a large part of myself to it. I just try not to draw one to one correlation between something in my life that I’ve experienced and something that it would evoke of an emotion that’s the same or similar to something that Jim would be feeling at that moment. I think that my empathy quotient is high enough that when I see he’s lied on behalf of his wife who’s got cancer or he’s trying to save people by plugging in a UV ray to maybe stave off some vampires or any of those feelings I find it very easy to be empathic for those feelings. And it’s easier for me because on take three and four and five and whatever as you reinvest in it, it might be harder for me to try and transplant emotions that I’ve had in my life a second time and a third time and a fourth time.
I do know a certain music that seems to be able to do things, but anyhow that’s my process.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Robert Fowler from AgentsofGeeks.com. Please go ahead.
Robert F.: Hello, Sean, thank you very much for taking out time this morning. I wanted to touch with you with regards to Jim’s overall role so far in the show and I guess not future. Being one of the senior actors in the show, what did you bring to the show with regards to perhaps adding your character development to the other people on the show?
Sean: I think you’re cutting out a little bit, but I think I get the spirit of your question. We did have these story meetings or not story meetings, but these sort of script sessions where we really try and carve out at least a week or two ahead of time some space for the actors to sit with Guillermo and the writers and maybe whoever was directing that episode just an opportunity to talk about it. It’s hard when you don’t have time to rehearse and particular at the beginning of a series. I think once people’s characters are really established and you’re going towards the end of the first season or into the second season, there might be a greater dexterity for working without—you know it’s sometimes scripts might come in at the last minute and that kind of thing.
But for us they had the scripts largely finished to my knowledge before we started, but they kind of rolled them out slowly at least to me; but I did participate several times in conversations where we would read through some scenes and we would say this makes sense to me or this doesn’t; “I don’t understand this” or “Can I say this this way?” and you really get to hear how each other are thinking about your characters. And they were very responsive to—there was a strong mutual respect between the creators and the actors. Everybody liked what was happening and wanted to make it better, so those were very rewarding conversations to be in.
And then I try and be myself, I try and bring my sense of comfort and confidence to the process and maybe that’s helpful to people, but at the same time I’m not immune from the anxieties of being in a new space and wanting to make sure that new space not just with a show that you’re doing, but knowing that the stakes for—and this is what’s kind of exciting, too. The stakes for a Guillermo del Toro project are high because the expectations are high. People really expect it to be great and that just means you have to try and do something new and interesting and it has to be believable.
I think you asked something about the other actors. I think you said something about the older actors, but David Bradley for example was someone that I had worked with in England on a project. And when he started bringing Setrakian to life it was just a privilege. The guy is indefatigable, just when everyone else, when I’m freezing cold and my jaw is chattering and my fingers won’t bend, he’s smiling and having a laugh and ready to keep going, so he led by example in a way that was quiet and wonderful. I think everybody feels that way about him.
I just watched Corey coming off of his show where he’s just had an incredible turn in House of Cards and it felt like a privilege to be around him. Richard Sammel… I could go through everybody on the show and to-a-person it was a positive interaction. Kevin Durand and I have the same lawyer, so our lawyer really liked the fact that one of his clients was killing the other one of his clients. I just have so much respect for him and I love him so much and Mia is just such a really whip smart, beautiful lady, a talented lady, yes, I could keep going on. I loved everybody; I’m sorry to be full on dead now.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Laura Bofill from EclipseMagazine.com.
Laura: Hello, Sean. This is Laura Bofill. First of all I want to say I’m a huge fan of you and I didn’t get to talk with you at Comic Con, so I’m happy to finally be able to talk with you now, so thank you. This is truly a privilege and I love the show.
Sean: My pleasure.
Laura: Yes, thank you. So I wanted to find out, you’ve had a rich career. What are the things that draws you to certain roles that you accept either on TV or in film?
Sean: I’m pretty promiscuous when it comes to what I do as an actor. Often times it comes down to whether I feel I can do it. If there’s a part of—in an animated thing, there’s a rake. I don’t mean a rake like a guy, I mean like an actual garden rake and I’m like can I see myself as the rake. Can I be the rake? And so if I feel like there’s—like I can do it credibly then I’m most of the way to doing it and it becomes about “Am I available?”
There are times when it’s clear that movies have been written and are getting made for reasons that are other than that are purely financial and people have figured out the formula. They figured out how to get money to make a movie. It’s really hard. I’m incredibly sympathetic to how hard it is to get things made, so there has to be an internal logic within the story. The dialogue has to be credible, but it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare for me to be willing to do it. I’m happy doing lower budget movies. I like doing big budget movies. It’s really just a question of if I’ve done a couple of really big things, things that have really scored, then I like the idea of scrounging around and finding low budget independent film where I can play a drug addict or where I can do something like that. If I’ve done a whole string of independent films that nobody has seen, then I find myself yearning to get back on the grid, so I think my career is very easy to interpret. It’s about working. I’m a working actor; that’s how I see myself.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Robyn Schlau from Moviehole. Please go ahead.
Robyn: Del Toro and Hogan stated that one of the reasons they had went with FX to take the series was because the network wanted the show to reflect the novels. Do you feel that your portrayal of Jim Kent is very similar to the Jim Kent in the novels or did you change him in any way?
Sean: I think that those guys wanted freedom, the freedom to make the books as close to the books that they wanted to or the freedom to move away from them if they wanted to. Understanding the essence of the books and the story of the books and the tone and the spirit of it and not shying away from the violence that’s in it and for all of those reasons, I’m sure is why and more. Creative freedom is why the lads would have chosen it.
But I don’t think that Jim Kent is exactly like the book. I think they wanted to—when I met them they knew exactly what they wanted Jim Kent to be. And when I experienced the book, I didn’t know what to make of how I might play Jim Kent, so I really was relying on the fact that they knew what they wanted and then it was my job to figure that out and give it to them. Jim’s character, I don’t think is that fully rendered in the books, so I hope I’m not telling tales out of school, but no, I think Jim is one of the characters in it that isn’t slavishly close to what’s in the book.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Theresa Argie from America’s Most Haunted. Please go ahead.
Theresa: Hello, Sean, thank you so much for talking to us today. I really enjoyed the series. I’m very sorry to see you go on the series, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out this season and other seasons to come. But on a personal note, I was wondering you’ve done a lot of these horror type movies or supernatural slightly seen science fiction type movies. Have you ever had a supernatural or paranormal experience yourself?
Sean: I am fully prepared to accept the existence of the supernatural, but I don’t—not one that I’m confident enough to relate, but I don’t think it’s fun to live this life without the possibility of the supernatural.
Theresa: So if there was to be any sort of supernatural beings be it ghosts, vampires, any kind of cryptic creatures, what would be your vote for the most likely of these supernatural beings to actually exist?
Sean: I’m sort of boring, so I would kind of think that whatever it is it would be very close to human beings. Some other sensory, some other like mental psychological, psycho-spiritual something or other that could cause sort of group think or collective consciousness I would think is it. I don’t necessarily expect to see apparitions and vampires walking around, but I do know that the mind is a very powerful thing and that people are very suggestible and so I remain open to that and to extraterrestrial potentiality.
Moderator: Thank you. And the next question comes from the line of Bruce Eisen from HereIsTV.com.
Bruce: Good morning.
Sean: Good morning.
Bruce: So having done movies and TV and given what a lot of people think is the golden age of TV, do you have any preference at this point for doing TV over movies or movies over TV?
Sean: I really don’t. I really don’t. I like to change gears, so the rhythms of a television show play to my own—I like the rhythms of television. I like the speed of it. I like the dynamism of it, but I also like the sense of detail and immersion that you get in a film, so to me my work doesn’t radically change based on the medium as much as it does relative to the story and the characters.
I’ll tell you I’d like to do comedies right now. I’ve just been shot in the head by Kevin Durand and one of the great TV franchises of this new decade is leaving me, so I’d love to flip a switch and start working with a laugh track.
Moderator: Thank you. And our last question comes from the line of Angie Barry from CriminalElement.com. Please go ahead.
Angie: Hello, Sean. I’ve been a big fan my whole life. My question is you mentioned earlier that you really liked seeing the hash tag RIPJIM going around, so I was just wondering, do you keep up with fan feedback on your projects or are you the sort of actor that prefers to just let it lie and however it falls, that’s how it falls?
Sean: I like scanning through the Twitter feed now and then, but I don’t have a consistency to it. I think every now and then I’ll get really focused or there’ll be some reason if I’m working on a kick starter campaign or if there’s something that isn’t going to get promoted anywhere else that I really like whether it’s something I’m doing or something somebody else is doing, I get in there. A lot of people have a charitable or other very emotional things that they want or they ask or something like that and I find it really hard to pick and choose at that, so I try and release myself from any obligation to that, but every now and then I’ll find something that I feel like doing it, so a little bit.
I have a talk radio show on TradioV called Vox Populi Radio. It’s a political radio show, so I definitely once a week, find myself digging in and hoping and wanting people that are paying attention to the conversations that we’re having and trying to promote it and stoke people’s interest. During those moments, I’m acutely aware of what people are thinking and saying.
What I noticed is with the people that respond to me or whatever, it’s a very similar thing. It’s very, very rare. I think I might have only blocked one or two people in the entire time I’ve had Twitter because people are just basically decent and have thoughts. Even if somebody is critical, I usually agree with them; they usually have a point that they’re making that I don’t think is too far off, but I don’t live and die by it.
Moderator: Thank you. No more questions in queue.
Tom: Thanks so much to everyone for joining us today and especially Sean Astin. We greatly appreciate your time.
Sean: Thank you. I enjoyed it. I just wonder like when you finish the interview or when the person finishes interviewing if they hang up and jump off, because like they’re just waiting for their question or if people like hang around and they’re waiting to hear what their colleagues are saying or whatever, so it’s weird to be in a vacuum like that, but for anybody who is still listening, I really appreciated it — the questions were so good.
Tom: Great. As a reminder The Strain airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific only on FX. And if anybody has any lingering questions, please feel free to give me a call at 310-369-0917. Thanks again and you may now disconnect.
An editor at Big Shiny Robot! and contributor to the Huffington Post, Bryan Young has his feet in both the political and entertainment world. He began producing political documentaries with the award-winning This Divided State in 2005. He’s also co-written and co-directed films, scripted comic books and is the author of Lost at the Con (which we’ll be reviewing later today).
Lost at the Con is a book about an alcoholic political reporter forced to cover a geek convention in Atlanta. He goes reluctantly into a world he knows nothing about. I myself live in both worlds and it’s gonzo tale could also be called Fear and Loathing at the Geek Convention. The book hits close to home, realistically portraying both worlds it deals with. A great read, it’s funny, entertaining, completely insane and shows heart all at the same time.
A book dealing with both politics and geekdom seemed like a natural fit to shine a spotlight on. Bryan was nice enough to take some time out of his day to answer our 10 Questions.
Graphic Policy: Lost at the Con is an interesting book that sees a political reporter assigned to cover a geek convention similar to Dragon*Con or Gen Con. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Bryan Young: I’ve been to a lot of conventions and the idea first crystalized for me after a visit to Dragon*Con in 2009 and it was the most unique convention I’d ever been to. I had a lot of interesting experiences there and was just so in love with the culture of it that on my flight home afterwards I jotted down a whole bunch of stories in my notebook. I didn’t really think much about it until after the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con and I went to a Harry Potter fan panel and was introduced to the idea of Snarry slashfic. After a conversation with Erin Kubinek, the cover artist, I was fascinated by the idea of what would someone like Hunter S. Thompson react to this. He was a writer who seemed to get thrown into sports in a very similar way and that’s really where the idea came from. It grew from there. I started on it in September 2010 in earnest.
GP: What I found interesting having my feet in both worlds is that you capture them both so well. Politics for all it’s glamour just seems to bring with it issues when it comes to personal lives no matter what the public sees, while those who go to events like geek conventions really are so open and happy, no matter what real life brings. In a way, they both have masks. Why do you think this duality seems to exist in both universes?
BY: Well, I think we’re all playing a part. In politics, it’s not always a part we want to play. I think it’s been best embodied on the campaign trail this year with Jon Huntsman. I’m from Utah so I’m very familiar with him and, even though we don’t agree politically, he’s a very down to Earth and reasonable guy whom I never seen go on the attack against anyone. Seeing him play the part of a politician you can see how uncomfortable it makes him, he’s dripping with it. It’s a mask they wear for the public to hide who they are. At a sci-fi convention, people are wearing masks as a release. That’s who they really are. There’s no embarrassment and there’s no hiding there. There are dualities everywhere, but the interesting thing is where they’re used and what they’re used for.
GP: The main character Cobb hates his life and you have him drinking heavily throughout the book. A lot of my political stories involve alcohol, so drinking definitely occurs in politics, but why did you have it play such a prominent role?
BY: This comes back to the Hunter S. Thompson thing. I am a big fan of his stuff and it seemed like so much of the gonzo style was informed by drugs. I have zero experience there. I have plenty of experience with booze, though. And I’ll be honest, when I was at Dragon*Con, booze was so plentiful I think I had a drink in my hand from 3:00pm sharp until I went to bed every night. My day job is a political documentary filmmaker (This Divided State and Killer at Large, both on Netflix) and I’ve been to plenty of film festivals where there are high profile people and politicians and what have you and they just hand you drink after drink after drink and I found that struggle of maintaining your composure in conversation and social situations fascinating.
GP: I found the section about celebrities at conventions really interesting. Thinking about political conventions and geek conventions, it’s harder to press flesh with the celebrities at the geek conventions while the political celebrities seem to be easier to meet, why do you think there’s this strange divide when it comes to dealing with the public when they both rely on them so much?
BY: That seems an easy one to me. Politicians depend on you to like them for their vote and a bad personal experience and seeming inaccessible can cost them your vote and the votes of all your friends. A politician wants you to feel like you have their ear because they represent you. With celebrities, there are many more boundaries as far as their personal lives and space are concerned. Their job isn’t as dependent on public appearances and they’re so well liked in a lot of cases anyway that they can get away with anything and people will still like them. If William Shatner killed a man tomorrow, we’d all shrug and say, “You don’t screw with James T. Kirk.” If Mitch McConnell did the same thing we’d be up in arms until he resigned and got thrown in jail.
GP: Space Lincoln, where did the idea come from? It had me laughing throughout the book.
BY: I’ve been going to a lot of cons and I take pictures of lots of costumes. On Big Shiny Robot! we do roundups of some of the best and worst costumes from most conventions we attend and it was a costume I saw and took a picture of it. It was in the last few years, what with the steampunk craze. As I wrote the book, I’d consult my old pictures for costumes to pepper into scenes and that’s really all Space Lincoln started as. After I wrote his first scene I knew there was something fun to be had there and I ran with it. But he wasn’t in any of my outlines. He came along as part of the journey of writing the story.
GP: I admit I can be a bit snobbish when it comes to going to conventions and make comments about “geek stench” and other quirky things you encounter. None of it is meant in malice, and all of it’s out of love. Did you find yourself having to pull back any bit at all thinking something was “too mean”?
BY: You know, I did have to pull back a bit on Cobb’s personality. He was much more vile in earlier drafts and I knew people just wouldn’t like him. And it was very odd for me since I really ignore that sort of thing as much as I can. I used to own a comic-book shop and if I looked down on anyone because of their weight or their hygiene or stereo-typical hatred of everything then I wouldn’t have been able to stay in business. Not because that’s what all my customers were like, but because I didn’t want anyone coming through that door and not feeling welcome. So I did have to get out of my skin to write Cobb, especially when he talks to Star Wars fans. I’m the biggest Star Wars fan in the galaxy and writing a character who knew next to nothing about it was more challenging than I can even tell you.
GP: Where’d the snarry come from? I’ve her of slash fiction myself, but never that.
BY: I discovered it much like Cobb does. Though I didn’t respond quite like he did. I didn’t believe there was such a thing. I made the mistake of googling it and was astounded. There are websites with hundreds of stories and pieces of fan art depicting it… It’s… odd.
GP: The book’s theme really is about people finding themselves and being comfortable in their own skin, whether it’s Cobb, the homeless man Cobb befriends, or the con-goers. In my personal experience those in politics seem to have a lot of issues being themselves and putting on masks. Do you think this is an issue for people in general?
BY: I think in our society we have a lot of work to do in making people feel comfortable as themselves. Everyone feels like they have to put on a face at work or at school or when they’re on television. And that’s fine to a point, but if it crosses over into making you uncomfortable with yourself as a person you really need to make a change. And that’s what Cobb learned.
GP: Thinking about the 2008 Democratic Convention and my first trip to San Diego Comic-Con this year, there’s a lot of similarities between the two. Do you think politics and the events surrounding them have turned to much into entertainment?
BY: I think that’s been true since CNN went on the air as a 24 hour news network. And I won’t say I’m not guilty of it. I’m the sort of guy who reads and watches all he can about the inside baseball of politics because I really can’t stand watching real baseball.
GP: You left the ending pretty open, any chance we’ll get a follow up?
BY: I’m always surprised by this question and I’m surprised I get it so much. I felt like I ended on a moment that had a certain propulsion to it that you could fill the details in yourself, but I have come up with an idea for a sequel. I don’t know if I’ll ever write it, but I’ve learned a thing or two about being on the other side of the convention circuit as an author. I’ll just say that.
I had the opportunity to sit down with George Strayton, the creator of the new role playing game The Secret Fire which made it’s debut at this year’s Gen Con
The game is set in a familiar fantasy world, but the emphasis is on game play and the word “role” in role playing. Strayton wants to bring that back, and that’s his focus in this new game, as opposed to lots of dice rolling. Through a mechanic that encourages players to do such that Strayton also has worked in a way for gamers to be encouraged to do good in the real world and those good deeds to be recognized in game.
Twitter is such a wonderful tool. The ease of communication has allowed this site to network with so many writers and artists we might of never heard of otherwise. And it seems like more often than not, we come across great comics like the still work in progress Death Tax by Jeremy Holt and Renzo Podesta. I recently got to read the first 40 pages of the graphic novel which focuses on a few individuals and an economic collapse.
The timely subject of a crumbling economy is not only timely but sets up a great mood for the story. I’ve described it as “post apocalyptic” without road warriors on motor bikes and the depressing part. There’s an air and feel of desperation that pervades it, but at no point is it a downer. What I think is even a better sign, after that first 40 pages, I wanted to read more. The mystery and meat of the story was just getting shown, and I clamored for more.
It’ll be a while before we get the completed works in our hands, but this is one comic I’m looking forward to. Here’s my score for the uncompleted work (keep in mind the score might shift on review of the entire graphic novel).
Story: 9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9
While he was hard at work completing Death Tax, Jeremy Holt has been kind enough to take some time to answer our latest round of ten questions which you can read after the break.
Ed Catto and Steve Rotterdam have recently launched Bonfire Agency, LLC. The company helps brands reach the highly sought after pop culture demographic and the influentials that can make or break what the next big thing is.
We’ve had a few articles about our thoughts on marketing in the comic book industry and the two men have agreed to subject themselves to our 10 Questions.
Graphic Policy: First let me say thank you very much for the interview and congratulations on the new venture. For people who don’t know, tell us about Bonfire Agency, LLC which you started along with Steve Rotterdam.
Ed Catto and Steve Rotterdam: Thank you for the opportunity. We’re really excited and the first few weeks have been a whirlwind. Bonfire Agency was created to help companies connect directly with highly passionate, intensely loyal and incredibly challenging to reach consumers of pop culture – and to do so with relevance and authenticity, encouraging these influentials to embrace their message and help spread it outwards. As a full-service marketing agency, we’re able to develop strategies and fully integrated campaigns that tap into the heart of what these consumers care about. And because this is a marketplace that hungers for the “new” and respects risk-takers, it’s an environment within which brands can play and experiment; to do some of their edgiest work in trying to engage and enlist these consumers.
In addition, we’re developing three discrete service offerings – a comics media ad network, our Fan-Pan research panel and a retailer-based promotional event network. We’re establishing great partnerships already, but one relationship in particular has been especially important in enabling us to hit the ground running. We’ve created Bonfire Agency as an agency within an agency. So while we’re independent, we’re also aligned with EastWest Marketing Group. This gives us access to offices in New York, LA and Chicago, as well as an established infrastructure, top talent and services. That being said, we’ll also be reaching out to specialists and top creatives as specific projects demand specific skills and sensibilities.
Drew Gaska is a hell of a writer and turns out puts a lot of thought into what he’s putting out? Don’t believe me? Check out his commentary about the third issue of his fantastic series Critical Millennium. The series blends sci-fi with some fantastic themes and plot lines involving politics, race, the environment and business. A lot to pack into a comic book and especially one this damn good.
With a his book being so consistently good we were psyched to have Drew step up and take part in 10 Questions.
Graphic Policy: First let me say thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I guess the first question would be where the idea of Critical Millennium came from?
Andrew Gaska: I was concerned for the state of science fiction! The concept of Critical Millennium was conceived in the mid 90s by myself and my former writing partner, Christian Berntsen, before he left the project in my charge.
Initially Critical Millennium was a smaller project called Variable Action Guard: Paperdoll. It was a kind of bad girl book – all the rage at the time of its conception. Paperdoll was a story about a super sexy secret agent – a sort of “Jane Bond” –working on the galactic fringe, but instead of gadgets, she would get replacement body parts that would help her get the job done. The thing about Paperdoll was, we wanted to trick readers into buying a bad girl book and find out that it had real story and amazing characters in it. The main character looked like a buxom bad girl, but was going to witness the brutal slaying of her sister in the first issue, and find out she was pregnant by the fifth – and the crux of the storylines were to revolve around the themes of loss and rebirth. It was in planning out the backstory of how mankind got into space, and how the frontier got to be such a bad place that her services were needed there, that the roots of what is now the Critical Millennium came to be. The Paperdoll concept is still very much a part of the Critical Millennium universe, but won’t actually appear until the second half of the 1000 years of mankind’s rise and fall in outer space.
As for the backstory as I developed it, I think a lot of it came out of the times. The mid 90s wasn’t kind to sci-fi. The classic Trek crew had said their goodbyes in STVI, Next Generation was leaving the airways for a series of lackluster wannabe action flicks, and the emerging sci-fi fixes were the likes of Voyager, Babylon 5, the Stargate movie, and Independence Day. It was a dark time for popular science fiction, and no one was saying what I wanted to – what I felt needed to – be said.
Socially, I was concerned for NASA. It had almost been a decade since the Challenger accident, and it seemed like the space program had come to a complete stop. There would be no moon base by the year 1999, and we weren’t even close to thinking about Mars. I started to worry about what would happen if we had some kind of global catastrophe, and how would mankind survive.
My friends – and my girlfriends especially – at the time thought I was nuts, and that money spent on the space program would be a waste when we needed to deal with problems here on earth.
Ironically, Stephen Hawking made a statement only two months after Critical Millennium’s release last summer that basically validates everything I have said for the past fifteen years, making me think that there is a rhyme and rhythm as to why it took so long for Critical Millennium to be published. Hawking said: “The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill.”