The Writing Life of a TadpolePosted on by PolyWogg
I had a chance to see James Marsters aka Brainiac from Smallville aka Spike from Buffy/Angel back in May for the ComicCon and passed on it — he’s not on my A list to see, and I wasn’t that interested the first time. However, he was here again, I was free, why not? I’m really glad I did because he was highly enjoyable. Most of what he talked about was Buffy or Angel, but he responded mostly to whatever questions were asked, fairly relaxed and laid back, the sort of guy you see and think, “Hey let’s grab a beer and chat”. Here was his chat:
Makeup: He said that it was somewhat rigorous for the six years he played Spike, but actually not as bad as it would have been 20 years ago. Instead, with the right chemicals for the adhesive and removal, he was down to 20 minutes to do the vampire F/X. He also remembers his first day when he went for make up and showed them a scar he nonchalantly referred to as having received from a brass knuckle incident years earlier, assuming that they would cover it up — but the makeup guy thought it added character to Spike, and opted to keep it instead;
Shooting Supernatural with Charisma Carpenter: He noted that it was fun because he never really worked with her much before. On Buffy, she left when he started being active (and in fact, he was sort of the same character, same type of function). He said it was also great fun because they were given this ancient spell to memorize 20 minutes before the scene, so they had to have them write it on cue cards for them;
Asked about doing accents: He said that he tried for a New Orleans style accent, but some people thought it was more Texan, and either way, it sounded like he was “black”;
Asked why he did Angel: Short answer was because Joss Whedon asked. Slightly longer answer is that it was the same writers, same people, same show, so easy to say yes. Early on, it was just 2 writers (Joss + 1), and they were killing themselves but Joss was too cheap to pay established writers to work on the show. So he accepted open submission scripts, hired 8-10 writers from it to work on episodes, paid them little and let them be hungry, all of them in the same writer room. Kind of related to the end of Buffy, he said Sarah Michelle Gellar was “toast”, just completely burned out, and later on, some of them felt the same way at times;
Asked why everyone else on the show could do bad things and were forgiven, but Spike never was: Further nuanced, the woman suggested that Buffy didn’t deserve Spike. Marsters noted that Spike’s evolution over the show caused challenges for the writers and for Joss in particular — he never wanted the show to show “evil” as cool. Instead, Spike was portrayed as the uber outsider, kind of the same attempt for the storyline for Dawn;
Asked about his and other’s reaction to Spike’s “death”: He said it wasn’t that big a deal because Angel had already been announced before the “death”, although he was disappointed because he wasn’t really a “hero”, just the wearer of the jewellery;
Asked about Angel ending: Marsters said that he was physically sick and tired, and even the last scene was difficult. Normally they do rain scenes where the truck sits in the sun all day and thus the water is warm; this time the truck was in the shade so the water was cold for the final scene. He did note that the relationship with the network was a bit strained, as they were delaying announcing renewal until they decided if the Dracula pilot was going to go forward or not. Joss pushed them for an answer, and they said, “okay, if you want an answer today, you’re cancelled”. Marsters thinks it caught Joss by surprise. However, for the actual ending (not including comic books), while all of Angel was about regret, they got to go out as heroes;
Asked about the infamous bathroom scene: I confess I didn’t get the initial reference until he started talking about it — basically it’s a rape scene with Buffy. He said that it was the worst day of his professional career. He went in, was really tense, and popped his shoulder/back out from an old whiplash injury. The genesis of the storyline was that the writers were told to take the worst day of their life, slap fangs on it, and show the world, with the actors having to live it. One of the female writers had a story about how she was breaking up with her boyfriend, felt like if they could just have sex one more time, most of the “issues” would go away and they would get past it, so she went to his house, and tried to essentially force herself on him. She turned that into the bathroom scene. Ultimately though, he realized that he had committed to the show, and that whatever they wrote for his character to do, he was committed to doing it.
Overall, Marsters offered a highly “accessible” panel, and was great. Next up? John Barrowman.
The Writing Life of a TadpolePosted on by PolyWogg
I like Picardo from Star Trek: Voyager where he played the Emergency Medical Hologram. The character is excellent, and the smaller configuration to the large hall worked well for Picardo’s panel. He immediately started answering questions, talking about his experiences first on Stargate and then on ST:VOY.
One of his favorite scenes: “Message in a Bottle” where he meets another EMH, and describes how he has expanded his programming to allow him to have sexual relations;
Did he make suggestions to the ST writers: He did, including that when he was alone in sick bay, maybe he could listen to opera — one of the most emotional art forms — and yet when the writers incorporated it, they had him singing to it too (which was not part of his suggestion). He also made suggestions for jokes, but not story arc. In the Message in a Bottle episode, again, there’s a scene where the two EMHs are trying to pilot the prototype ship, and Picardo says “Stop breathing down my neck”, to which the other EMH replies “I’m a hologram, my breathing is only a simulation.” Picardo’s response? “So’s my neck, stop doing it anyway.” Perfect hologram humour;
An actor/actress he hadn’t worked with yet: He noted that when he first started working, he got to play Jack Lemmon’s son. As a result, he got to meet Henry Fonda, Shirley Maclean, Walter Matthau, etc. He thinks Robert Duvall is amazing and is looking forward to the new movie, “The Judge”. He also said he would love to do a play with Al Pacino;
How/why he was cast: He said he got the role surprisingly because he wanted to play him in a multi-faceted way, with personality, not as an automaton. He pitched several ideas, not all of which got made. One that didn’t was about time travel to San Francisco at time of the earthquake, working with a suffragette, and singing with Enrico Caruso. He suggested when Seven of Nine came on board that perhaps the Doctor could teach her about humanity, since Kes had done the same for him. He said he loved doing the “Lifeline” episode where he got to play both roles, one as EMH and one as the EMH’s creator, Dr. Zimmerman. He noted it was an extremely technical episode in terms of making sure they stood in precise locations, at the right angle, etc., so the computer control could merge the two performances later. However, while he joked that it was the best experience working with such an awesome actor, he noted that in a lot of the scenes, he didn’t take into account a crucial factor — as Zimmerman, he slouched, while as EMH, he stood erect, and as a result, their eyes don’t line up when they look at each other as he was looking at his “equal height” rather than adjusting for his other character’s posture;
Experience filming China Beach: He noted that much of the show dealt with a serious part of history and how the war had been extremely divisive in the U.S. For the first time, those who disagreed with the war cast their blame even on the individual soldiers returning, not just the politicians, so there were lots of military members who came home, and never talked about it. Lots of people said that watching the show with their kids allowed them to talk about their experiences in ways they hadn’t before. But at a recent cast reunion, they noted the levity too. For example, there was a scene where Dana Delaney was supposed to be doing a complicated heart surgery and had her hand in the dummy’s chest. After about the third or fourth take, a crew member hid under the gurney, and put their hands up through the prop. So when Dana grabbed the heart, the heart “grabbed back”, scaring the daylights out of her. Picardo said he also got to add a bunch of small jokes here and there, most of which weren’t allowed by the censors. But one made it through, when a soldier came in during a Xmas episode, with a gunshot to the groin. Picardo wrote the line “You have a cartridge in your pear tree” and the censors allowed it.
Experience in filming Innerspace: In the movie, he played a high-tech thief with what was supposed to be an Iranian accent. He said he had two main memories of the movie. First, in the “big scene”, Picardo’s face is supposed to morph onto Martin Short’s and then a few seconds later you see him playing another role, but without the CGI abilities they have now. So they shot it as a single scene — Picardo did his first part as Short’s character, showing Picardo’s face, and then paces out of the scene a bit, with Martin Short pacing back in but you only see him from the back of his head. While Martin is pacing back in, Picardo would run around the side of the set, go into a bathroom, climb into a tub, rip off his tear-away outfit so he’s just wearing underwear, lie back in the tub, and then Short and Meg Ryan would walk into the scene. He said he had to do it repeatedly, getting out of breath, and yet in the tub scene, he’s supposed to be lying still! Yet the scene works great in the movie. Equally, his second memory was meeting the young starlet, Meg Ryan, for the first time. He’s being introduced to her, everything is pleasant, and then the wardrobe woman came over, turned to the producer and said, “Hey, we got the tear-away clothes to work!” and ripped off Picardo’s clothes with one pull and then walked away, leaving him standing talking to Meg Ryan while wearing only a very skimpy pair of underwear;
Fun on ST:VOY set: Like China Beach, he also had lots of fun on the ST:VOY set. He didn’t do pranks, as he is more verbal than physical, but there were episodes of people mooning others. For him, he recalled an early scene with Jerry Ryan where he went out of his way, consciously, to make sure he never looked at her butt. Tim Russ had a lot more fun though as the very serious Tuvok. In one early scene with the doctor, he was supposed to do a mindmeld with Paris to retrieve some memory. It was all very tense, very quiet in the scene, and just as he puts his hands on Paris’ temple, he did a James Brown squeal and said, “I feel good!” Great fun for the crew, not so good for the sound man who was straining to make sure any sound was picked up and had the gain cranked on the mic. More famous however was Tim Russ doing a scene where all the crew is suffering from nightmares. In Tuvok’s case, his dream was showing up for work naked on the bridge. In the scene that shows it, Tim is supposed to step off the TurboLift into the bridge area, and the Voyager crew notices him, and laughs. Obviously he would be wearing small boxers or something. However, before he did the first take, he visited the wardrobe department, and got a long black kneesock and stuffed it full of other socks, so that when he stepped out of the lift, he had this long appendage hanging down. The crew and cast lost it.
Would he like to be on Dr. Who: He said he is a huge Dr. Who fan, and would love to do a cameo so both “doctors” could be together.
While Picardo wasn’t the “best guest ever”, he was indeed highly entertaining, and engaging with his stories. Next up? James Marsters.
The Writing Life of a TadpolePosted on by PolyWogg
I went to ComicCon last year here in Ottawa with regular tickets, and upgraded this past year to VIP seats (much much better experience). But I hadn’t tried out PopExpo yet…it isn’t quite big enough yet to really draw big stars, and although there were several stars that were coming who were on shows that I watched, including Allison Mack from Smallville (she cancelled) and Nicole de Boer (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Dead Zone), I was planning to skip it. Instead, my wife surprised me with VIP tickets, and off I went.
First up, you need to know what I mean by “not that big yet”. While ComicCon has grown to cover 2.5 days in Ottawa, PopExpo is really more like 1.5 days. It is slow to get going on Day 1 (Saturday) and ends a bit early on Day 2 (Sunday). On the positive side, they have it set up so people can line up for events inside — no freezing outside!
The crowds are way smaller too. While the big hall packs in 3500 or so during ComicCon, PopExpo has it shrunk to half its length, and not heavily packed with chairs. So it is a slightly more intimate setting, which is nice, and also nice not to have to fight huge crowds. It also probably negates the need for VIP seats as pretty much any seat is good.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised throughout. I was surprised by the seemingly small crowds (I frequently heard people express surprise that they could get through signing and photo lineups so quickly and the stars were so accessible). You’ll see through the sessions, most were awesome panels.
Oh, and while I am not into the geekdom that leads to CosPlay, I do like seeing some of the costumes, even if I have no idea what show most are from (okay, I recognize Olaf)…on to reviewing Robert Picardo’s session!