NYCC 2016: Adult Swim’s DREAM CORP LLC

Have you made your appointment with Dream Corp LLC yet? The mind-bending new series from creator Daniel Stessen is currently admitting new patients every Sunday night at 11:45pm on Adult Swim. Starring Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”, “Hello Ladies”), Nick Rutherford (Balls Out, “Drunk History”) and a host of guest stars, the series follows a strip mall clinic that uses advanced technology to invade its patients dreams in order to solve their real life problems. At New York Comic Con this year, the Adult Swim panel was treated to the first two episodes of Dream Corp which blend live action sci-fi and trippy rotoscope animation.

Accompanying the new series to NYCC was creator Stessen with stars Gries, Rutherford and Merchant (who also serves as an executive producer on the show). I sat down with them to talk about this new addition to the Adult Swim lineup.

How did you develop Dream Corp?

Daniel Stessen: I had the concept, been developing it for a while, and created this world and kind of came over to Steve for a little guidance as to how to make it more palatable to a larger audience. Being that he has some–

Stephen Merchant and Daniel Stessen

Stephen Merchant: I think he’s being immodest–or he’s being too modest, I should say, that’s not right. Too modest. I was there as just a friend of Danny’s…to do a voice for this robot [T.E.R.R.Y] that’s in the show and inevitably whenever there’s anything creative going on, I like to start meddling, and just offering thoughts. And we started talking more and more. And it was just for me, it was something I would have done as a friend anyway…but I just thought, you know, let’s try to screw these guys for some money. (Both laugh)

Stessen: And the robot, we love the robot, he was built by Jim Henson Studios…That was one of the more validating moments of my last ten years on Earth, just getting that call that they were on board to build Terry the robot.

Merchant: There’s a really strong visual sense to the whole thing, again largely down to Danny. He’s just got an incredible visual imagination. And so you see that both in the real world–where you see this kind of twisted, eccentric sort of laboratory– and then also when you enter that dream world. And that’s done with the rotoscope animation. When you go on the set, it’s you know, it’s bits of cardboard and people with fake cardboard wings and cardboard jaws and things. All of which is going to eventually going to be animated but which only [Danny] can really see. So a lot of people I think are just stood there and like ‘you want me to what? I’m drowning in spaghetti now?’ And he’s like ‘Trust me.’ So it’s sort of extraordinary, an extraordinary kind of vibe there. Wouldn’t you say people were confused [on set]?

Stessen: It’s just, when people would walk on when we were shooting the dream world stuff, people would walk into an empty room and I would just be like ‘this is going to feel super weird, just trust me, it going to look real cool.’

Can you speak about your characters?

Nick Rutherford and Jon Gries

Nick Rutherford: I play patient 88–
Jon Gries: Nick!
Rutherford: Yeah, Nick as well, who comes to the office to work on erectile dysfunction and pretty quickly realizes that the office itself is kind of dysfunctional.
Gries: What happens is that he has to work for us because he can’t pay for his procedure
Rutherford: Yeah I can’t pay for the procedure and you think that it’s a confidence issue and I don’t have a job so you say–
Gries: A job?
Rutherford: Why don’t you work here? And I’m like this is a terrible place, but I kind of go along with the flow.
Gries: So he’s really the eyes of the audience. Because obviously he’s come into this place that is so–well from some perspectives, would be ridiculous and crazy. It’s not from my perspective.
Rutherford: It’s your life’s work.
Gries: It’s my life’s work. Dr. Roberts has this vision that this is the most transforming and necessary procedure but he’s lost his funding. So now he’s working out of a strip mall because he believes and he knows that it’s working. He knows that he’s changing people’s lives. There’s a little problem here and there but–
(Both laugh)
Rutherford: There’s a lot of problems.
Gries: There’s a couple of bugs that get worked out of the system. But it could be because the system’s really old and we haven’t had the money to update it.
Rutherford: And I think Nick, Patient 88, comes into it and kind of sees a family forming. Because everybody trusts and loves each other. Like there’s, Stephanie Allen plays Joey, his protégé–
Gries: My intern for nine years. No pay!
Rutherford: (laughs) Yeah, Nine year intern. Who loves him and obviously thinks he’s the most brilliant guy ever and he just does not give her the time of day. And Mark Proksch plays kind of the navigator of sorts, I don’t know if you know his work–
Gries: He’s amazing. And he doesn’t ever leave the building. For fifteen years he doesn’t leave the building.
Rutherford: So he’s incredible. And then [Ahmed Bharoocha] plays kind of the nurse and he’s just this big stoner who doesn’t even really care. So Everybody relies on each other in a nice way. So the meat of the story is us working together and growing together and me being thrown into this world. And it being very dangerous, but also fun. And then bringing in these amazing guest stars and throwing them into that.
Gries: He gets attacked by June Squibb at one point. She stabs him.
Rutherford: Yeah she stabs me in the neck with a a screw driver. I’m kind of like the Kenny, I get hurt a lot. (both laugh)

Have you ever had a weird celebrity dream like with [episode one guest star] Dave Coulier?

Rutherford: Yeah that was really surreal.
Gries: I did, I had a weird celebrity dream. I was very nervous, I was about to do a movie years ago and I dreamt that I was in a barbershop. And I was sitting and the man sitting in the next chair was Fred Astaire.
Rutherford: Really?
Gries: True story. And he looks at me and he goes, “Are you worried about something?” And I said “I’m just a little uncomfortable” And he said “Have fun. Just have fun.” I swear to god! And that was like two days before I started shooting Fright Night Part 2.
Rutherford: Have fun out there.

What was it like working with the rotoscope animation?

Dream Corp LLC/Adult Swim

Rutherford: It’s really fun because everything is so grand. You know it’s like now you’re falling off of a hot air balloon, or now you’re running away from your bullies in high school. So you’re playing these large characters, so you just kind of jump into it. Like, I remember thinking when I was very young and being an actor, how it must be really hard to shoot like Jurassic Park when you’re in front of a green screen and then they’re like “and THAT’S a velociraptor” and you’re like “ahhh!” I didn’t feel that at all during the production that that those scenes were difficult thing to do. Because they’re just so silly and fun and you’re wearing kind of a half costume so they can animate it later. Like I’m dressed up like Legolas–
Gries: And literally it was sometimes it was pieces of cardboard, you have cardboard on you almost like a really bad–
Rutherford: Like a play
Gries: Like a kid’s play. But you know it’s all for reference and they’re gonna draw on top of it. And the thing is, knowing how beautiful the animation is also gives you the impetus that when you’re in it, you understand what it’s going to look like, so it helps, it augments. Whatever decision or choice you’re going to make, you can go further with it because you just have that confidence behind that animation. It’s almost like ‘pay no attention to me, it wont be the real me, it will be a better me.’

Stessen: The inspiration came from working with his name’s Michael Garza [of Artbelly Productions] out of Austin, Texas. He worked on A Scanner Darkly, and then a couple other guys on the crew are Scanner Darkly. And one of the woman who was an animator on Waking Life. Which I’m a huge fan of. I saw Waking Life a while back and watched it over and over and over again. Huge inspiration. And we made a short film together that did well in festivals and kind of, we started developing that style in trying to evolve it and I think we’re pushing it forward a little bit and figuring out that we can build things out of cardboard. And make a dragon face. Because all he has to do is draw what’s there. Not that’s all he has to do–his job is to draw what’s there. So we could draw you [all] here and now you’re on a volcano, you know what I mean? So it gives us a lot of flexibility and the fact that with where we are, with little funds, we could do a ton.

What can viewers expect for the rest of the series?

Gries: Surprise after surprise after surprise. I’m not kidding you, it’s different every time!
Rutherford: Yeah it really is. I mean there’s this kind of thread of these different guest stars coming in and getting their therapy as our relationship progresses and as the interrelationships between Joey and Ahmed and…Randy–Randy’s arm gets cut off (laughs)–
Gries: There are things that happen, there’s a continuity within the core group and yet at the same time it’s absolutely ridiculous what happens–but it still stays, it still answers that continuity. And yet the people that come, the patients that come, their stories individually are so different from week to week that it just gives us a whole other area to run through.
Rutherford: yeah There’s like a couples therapy–a gay couple comes in to get like couples therapy. June squibb comes in to quit smoking but then finds out that really just she just wants to have sex.
Gries: And have a baby–and she’s never had sex in her life.
Rutherford: So Roberts appeases that in the dream world–
Gries: You know he says, it’s been a while!

Dream Corp LLC is on tonight and every Sunday on Adult Swim at 11:45pm, with the premiere episode currently streaming at AdultSwim.com

For photos from Adult Swim and many more NYCC panels, make sure to check out our Facebook page!

 

Paradiso Chapter 1 “NYC’s Most Interactive Escape Room”

In a New York Comic Con weekend filled with virtual reality experiences, nothing entertained my imagination more than Michael Counts’s escape room, PARADISO: CHAPTER 1. Billed as “part immersive theater, part escape room, part existential game,” Paradiso satisfies multiple action movie nerd fantasies in one pulse pounding hour.

The Paradiso experience begins, if you choose to provide your smartphone number, before you reach the venue with some ominous video messages ‘exposing’ the Virgil corporation who you are due to meet at your appointed time. Everyone in my party also received different clues to help us but to keep secret from each other.

In midtown we met up with our contact in a functioning karaoke bar to begin our experience. Ostensibly we are being welcomed into the offices of the Virgil Corporation who are on the lookout for genetically gifted escape artists. A wonderfully spacey secretary doled out forms and waivers in Virgil’s reception before the “normal” procedures were quickly overridden and the ‘real’ escape experience begins. Cue the Saw-ready voice changer demands from the heavens. Suddenly the office was revealed to be full of puzzles and my team sprang into action.

Chapter 1 features four more spaces after that reception office, each offering their own distinct look. For my money, the best room was a vintage library where we encountered a frantic handcuffed woman who upped the tension and hastily armed my teammate with a pistol. Other thrills included an air duct for us to feel extra John McClane-y and a massive bomb to be disarmed complete with digital countdown clock. The actors, handcuff lady included, make for an extra level of intrigue as they can help or hinder your progress and to this day none of my team can decide on if we allied ourselves correctly.

Teams who have diversified their skills roster get rewarded as the in-game puzzles range from visual clues to math and physical puzzles. If you’ve ever fantasized who would be in your Oceans-type heist amongst friends, that’s the crew to bring. And going into this Halloween weekend, Paradiso provides an excellent alternate to conventional horror houses by getting your heart-racing without scaring you silly. Ultimately my escape team was done in by some algebra in the final room–who knew that would come in handy?!–but we eagerly look forward to many more chapters to come.

View the Paradiso trailer below, and find ticketing information at its official website.

Creator & Stars of Adult Swim’s “Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter” Speak at NYCC

Written & photographed by Elizabeth Phillips

On Monday, December 7th, Adult Swim will premiere a new live-action mini-series called Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter. The show will air for five consecutive nights, ending Friday, December 11th. The story follows Neon Joe, a mysterious man with a talent for hunting werewolves. Set in the pretend town of Garrity, Vermont, the town finds itself in trouble after a round of werewolf attacks and calls on Neon Joe for help.

At the 2015 New York City Comic Con, Media Mikes was able to sit down with lead actor and creator, Jon Glaser (Girls, Parks and Recreation), as well as several other cast members from the show, including Scott Adsit (30 Rock, Big Hero Six), Stephanie March (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Steve Little (Eastbound & Down), and Steve Cirbus (Delocated), to discuss the upcoming series.

Elizabeth Phillips: How did the idea for this show come about?

GLASER:
I was a guest on Jimmy Fallon to talk about my previous show, Delocated. I took some clothes that I owned- I did a neon yellow hoodie, a knit hat from american apparel, and these Coors Light sweatpants, and I paired them arbitrarily and just went on the show, and I said “I’m really sad that Delocated is done, but I’m excited about my next project. It’s called Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, and I’m dressed as the character right now. That’s really all we have at the moment, but we’re excited to figure it out.” It was one hundred percent a joke. It was not real. I mean, I treated it like it was a real thing, but I thought it was obvious it was a joke. There was no ideas. It wasn’t a passion project- it was just coming from this arbitrary joke, and Adult Swim said, “Why don’t you write a pilot of it?” I love that that’s where this show came from. It’s one of the things that I’m most excited about. There was no attempt to do anything but make a dumb joke on a talk show, and now it’s turned into this, which i think is super cool.”

EP: Is there anything else like this on television?

CIRBUS: I don’t think there’s anything else like it on TV. Neon Joe is a werewolf hunter that wears neon, so that werewolves know where he is. He’s not afraid of the werewolves. He comes into a situation- in this world, nobody believes in werewolves. It’s not like we have werewolves running around. He shows up, and he says, “Hey, guess what, small-town USA? You have a werewolf, and I get rid of them.”

ADSIT: I trusted all the creative minds behind it, and I also love Adult Swim. The people in charge there really see the people who create shows as artists and let them do their art. They think of these creators as auteurs who are allowed to express themselves. That’s unique.

EP: What is the balance between the wackiness and seriousness in the show?

MARCH: I feel our characters take themselves very seriously. I don’t think anybody was winking to camera or goofing off. We were all playing different people, and we were really committed to being those people. I haven’t often had an opportunity to work on something that is so wacky and so fun and so loose- almost never actually, so I couldn’t not do it. It was too good an opportunity. I certainly had a good time doing it!

CIRBUS: I think what makes the humor in John’s work and the collaboration of Glaser with PFFR is that it’s always rooted in some sort of truth. The humor is born out of fairly non-sensical human situations moving to a very terrifying situation, or conversely a very human situation that just goes sour for whatever reason, and that strikes a chord, a funny chord.

LITTLE: I feel like it’s played real, just, you know, there’s werewolves. I mean I’m sure there’s a guy that wears neon somewhere in some bad neighborhood because he’s not scared, and that’s Neon Joe- just not in the world of werewolves or bed and breakfasts.”

Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter will air Monday, December 7th through Friday, December 11th on Adult Swim.

The Cast of “Blindspot” Speaks at NYCC

One of the new tv hits of the season is NBC’s “Blindspot”. The mystery show created by Martin Gero focuses on a Jane Doe (Thor’s Jaimie Alexander) recovered from a duffel bag in Times Square. Jane didn’t know who she was or how she got there, but she was found covered head to toe in new tattoos that seem to offer some clues. The most obvious of all is the name ‘Kurt Weller’ on her back, a specific FBI agent. Kurt (played by Sullivan Stapleton) and his team are now working with Jane–whose knack for fighting skills and foreign languages is intact despite her identity crisis–to crack the codes all over her body. In recent episodes it’s becoming clearer that Jane may be more connected to Weller than originally thought. Fortunately for the creators and audiences, the show was just picked up by the network for a full season so there’s hope for solving Jane’s past after all.
Gero, along with series stars Stapleton, Audrey Esparza, Rob Browne, Mariana Jean-Baptiste and Ashley Johnson joined me in the press room of this year’s New York Comic Con. Though they were mum on spilling any spoilers, they were more than enthusiastic to talk about their characters and the making of the show.

Lauren Damon: How much research did you do into actual memory loss when creating Jane’s character?
Series Creator, Martin Gero I’ve been obsessed with this drug that this is kind of based on that’s being designed for you know people that have traumatic experiences which will basically gently erase memory. So if you’re–like let’s say you’re in the army and your car gets blown up, and you see your friends die, it’s literally this thing that you would administer immediately and you would–it would make it difficult for that memory [to be retained]. So you wouldn’t be traumatized by it. And then there’s another version where as you–memory is really interesting in how it gets unpacked and packed, and so there’s a lot of people working to erase trauma. Again, to ease kind of like traumatic memories. It’s to like kind of delude them. It’s hard to talk about in like sound bite sort of way…I’ve talked to a lot of neurologists and I mean, like listen that’s the kind of science fiction-y part about the show is the drug, but it is based on some very real research that is going on.

LD: The character of Patterson often has to deal with a ton of techno-jargon, do you ever look at your script and just go ‘Wow…’?
Ashley  Johnson (plays Forensic Scientist “Patterson”): Every time. [laughs] Every time whenever we you know, we get the scripts maybe a week in advance? I don’t know maybe sometimes a little bit more and every time I sort of read through it–it’s just panic sets in. Every time. And the episode that we’re doing now…just everytime I see the new stuff I just, I panic a little. But then, you know, we don’t have a choice. We have to do it. And it’s fun.

LD: Do you go out and research the same as Patterson does?
Johnson: Yeah. A lot of the time…with a character like this you have to do a lot of research, but it’s fun because I’ve learned so much. Just with all of the stuff I’ve had to talk about…I have to do a lot of research [laughs] it’s like I’m in school.

LD: When you have a major mystery at the center of the show and then you’ve wound up being picked up for additional episodes, are you constantly fighting bringing closure to that mystery too soon?
Gero: No, because I was a little arrogant and I designed the show to go a while…So like if we had only done 13, it would have been really not that exciting for fans to be honest, because there would have been no resolution…No but like I know what all the ‘tent pole’ episodes are for the first couple seasons and so like I know what [episode] twenty-two is already…And episode ten which is the last episode of the first half of the season, so it’s the mid season finale, like is a huge twist on the show that propels kind of like a new energy into the back half of the season.

For the actors, are you the type of people that prefers to know the secrets that are going to be revealed on the show to help with how you act or not? Do you ask Martin about it? 
Marianne Jean-Baptiste (plays FBI assistant director, “Mayfair”): In certain instances, there are certain things that will impact a character that I think you need to know. And you need to be alright with. And there are other things that–it’s like you’re picking up the script and you’re just really excited because you want to know what’s going on…Because you’re not going to play it regardless of whether you know about it or not. You’ve then gotta sort of act as if you don’t know it. So it really depends on what it is. For me anyway. It really depends on what the thing is.
Johnson: Right. I would agree. I think that there’s a lot of things that you need to know for the character’s sake–because your character would know–but I think for me, like I’ve had the option to sort of know sort of what the end goal is. Sort of who she really is, I don’t want to know. I want to sort of find out when everybody else finds out or as the show goes along. And I want to discover along with Paterson and it keeps it fun that way, yeah.
Audrey Esparza (Plays FBI Agent “Zapata”): I have a little ‘Martin chat’ before every episode and ask him dumb questions. So I do. But I actually don’t ask too far ahead unless I feel like it’s a question that needs to be answered for me in that episode. I kind of like working from scene to scene, moment to moment. So if it doesn’t affect that particular episode, I try not to grab to much. I think you can only play with the moment.
Rob Brown (Plays FBI Agent “Reade”): Same. We trust Martin. He gives us what we need to know to execute. As a fan of the show that I’m on though, every now and then I’ll kind of tug at him, ‘hey hey hey…’ and he’ll oblige, usually. And you know, sometimes we can snag a little more out of him…

Were there any training courses for you when you got the part?
Esparza: Oh my god we’ve been doing so–we did, we did, after. It was so much fun. First of all we have some incredible FBI and DEA men on the set helping us. And Sullivan Stapleton is an incredible asset. if I’m holding a gun wrong, he’ll definitely let me know. We went to the shooting range, we learned tactical skills. The boys came in knowing a little bit more than me, I’m getting better every day. It’s really important for me, from my dance background, to understand the physical vocabulary of somebody who’s trained that way and yeah, every episode try and get better.
Brown: Everybody in the cast is a really really good athlete, so we just pick shit up as we go along. Anything physical after this, we’ll probably be fine.
Esparza: And we’ll probably absolutely do it ourselves.

LD: Sullivan, do you have more gun experience?
Sullivan Stapleton (Plays FBI Agent “Kurt Weller”): [Laughs] Yeah. You’re in big trouble, Esparza! Yeah it’s just I think I’ve had years of working with weapons. So it is like funny seeing–sometimes they’ll tell people if you’re firing an M4, some people said to portray some of the kick-back of those weapons…they don’t do that. Unless you’re not holding it! [laughs]

LD: Jaimie and Sullivan get into a whole lot of action, do you guys ever get to do stunts?
Baptiste: Yes, stuff is coming up where you know, people who don’t necessarily go out of the office go out of the office and are involved in field stuff.
Johnson: Yeah we may go out into the field a little bit every once and a while. I know for me, I’ve found that I’m very bad at walking and talking and doing other activities [laughs] So you know, I’ll have the dialogue and then they’re like ‘Ok! So you’re gonna walk over here and then you’re gonna type some stuff on the computer and then you’re gonna point up to the screen!’ and I’m like ‘Okay, woah woah woah, I don’t know if I can do all of this at once!’ Which sounds ridiculous but I think with the dialogue that I have it can be a little rough. So those are my stunts. Basically just walking and talking [laughs] is a stunt for me!
Esparza: Yeah.
Brown: We can do more. I’m happy to run around with a gun, we’ve had plenty of that.
Esparza: Lots of running, lots of guns and helicopters.
Brown: There’s action and blowing stuff up, New York.
Esparza: I’ve got a fun fight thing that happens in [episode] 8.
Brown: You’re really showing off
Esparza: I am. I’m just gonna show off all day…
Brown: It’s been very fun. 

LD: When it comes to shooting, do you find you go in with any different mentality on the days you’re shooting the action sequences versus the dramatic days?
Stapleton: No. No, just going in there to do the action and the stunts, I’ve got to wipe the smile off my face and you know, pretend like that’s what we do every day being agents. Yeah, there’s no challenge, it’s just fun.

LD: Jaimie comes from a lot of action roles and how much of that helped like just with her walking onto set and having to function as this amazing fighter?
Gero: Oh yeah…I mean you couldn’t have done it with somebody that had no fighting experience before and Jaimie has an amazing stunt double, Ky Furneaux, who’s just like literally one of the best in the world–recognize game, internationally. So she brings so much to the show and we just take it really seriously. You know what’s exhausting I think for Jaimie and Sullivan is even though they’re done filming some days, they have to go immediately into fight rehearsal. Because these fights are like incredibly complicated and hard to do on television shows. Which is why most television shows don’t have a giant fight sequence every episode. They’re smart, they figured it out, it’s a lot of work. But it’s important to us…So her being able to do action was incredibly important.

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted Jaimie for the role?
Gero: I didn’t know from the beginning, but the second I met her like there could never be any other Jane. It was her or I was just gonna be terribly disappointed. And she kind of felt the same way. So it was like one of those really exciting meetings when we met. We were like ‘Okay this is gonna be great.’.

Being at Comic Con, do you guys have any favorite superheroes? Ashley are you partial to Captain America? [Johnson plays a waitress Cap rescued in the 2012’s Avengers]
Stapleton:Han Solo.
Johnson: [laughs] Um, oh man.
Baptiste: Oh my gosh, that’s a tough one man! I love Batman.
Johnson: Yeah you love Batman
Baptiste: I love Batman.
LD: Which Batman?
Baptiste: I like the Dark Knight stuff. That’s the stuff I love.
Johnson: Daredevil is awesome, I think
Baptiste: What’s his power?
Johnson: Have you never seen it?
Baptiste: I’m not sure. Red. Red outfit?
Johnson: Oh, Marianne…
Baptiste: Is it good? I’m gonna–you’ve got me watching X-Files again, so…
Johnson: I am also such a Deadpool fan. I wanted to see the Jessica Jones stuff because I love–I mean that is exciting. Oh god there’s just so many. I do love Captain America, he’s a little bit too straight laced for me. But he’s great…There’s just so many.
Baptiste: Batman.

Blindspot airs Monday nights at 10pm on NBC.

NYCC: Doug Jones on Crimson Peak and Hocus Pocus

Doug Jones is one of the busiest performers in Hollywood, but he’s often hard to spot under creature makeup. In the Hellboy series he played Abe Sapien, while in Pan’s Labyrinth he played the alluring Faun and completely terrifying Pale Man (You remember the one…big bloody hands, eyeballs in the middle of them? Yeah. He’s actually a super nice guy!) Both these projects saw Jones collaborating with director Guillermo Del Toro, a successful pairing that will be returning to movie screens this Friday in the gothic horror romance, Crimson Peak. Jones will once again be deep under cover as two of Peak‘s resident haunts. The film is holding its NYC premiere today and I caught up with Doug this past weekend at New York Comic Con to discuss his ongoing collaboration with Del Toro and, seeing as it’s the Halloween season, the enduring appeal of the Disney classic Hocus Pocus in which Jones was the benevolent zombie, Billy Butcherson.

Lauren Damon: How many films have you done with Guillermo Del Toro?

Doug Jones: This is my fifth feature film with Guillermo Del Toro, Crimson Peak is, but I also am a recurring ancient vampire on his TV show, “The Strain”. Then there’s more in the works for other projects coming down next year too.

LD: What was your first project together?

DJ: Mimic. I worked a couple days doing reshoots as their long john bug creatures that took over the New York subway system. You know, as they do! [laughs] A big cockroach will do that. And then that was five years before–that was 1997–and then in 2002ish is when I got a call about Hellboy one. And that’s when our relationship was really cinched in. From working on that. And then he came back around to get me for Pan’s Labyrinth and then after that Hellboy 2, and then after that we had plans for me to be in The Hobbit when he was directing that but then he had to pull out. So I was gone too. Had plans for me in…that HP Lovecraft story, At The Mountain’s of Madness, then that ended up not happening either. So we had a couple near-misses, and then Crimson Peak came along and he threw me in there as couple of his ghost ladies. I’ll be the first ghost–I’m the mother ghost and the bathtub ghost. It’ll all make sense if you’ve seen it.

LD: Now when you see the part are called “Mother ghost” and “Bathtub ghost”, are you just like “What??”

DJ: It’ll make sense, I promise! [laughs] 

LD: Do either of these ghost have particular quirks that you can talk about?

DJ: Well first of all playing ladies was interesting. And the other lady ghosts are played by Javier Botet–another tall skinny guy from Spain. He was the mother–or Mama ghost– in Mama. And so between he and I, Guillermo likes tall skinny guys playing women, apparently! So we’re gonna do that.

LD: Now are these characters actually on set or added in post-production?

DJ: No I was on set, filmed it on set. They probably had CG people –like the visual effects people were on set to supervise a couple of moments because, as you saw in the trailers, the ghosts are kind of see-throughish. So we’re kind of like made out of vapor yet we were filmed practically on set.

LD: Speaking of tall skinny guys in the film, how was working with Tom Hiddleston?

DJ: Taller than I expected! Yeah when I met him, I was like “Oh my gosh!” But oh yeah, delightful. Now we only brushed by each other briefly in one scene, had a near-miss. But Mia Wasikowska was my main focus. Both my characters interacted with her almost exclusively. But someone asked me recently–because Tom Hiddleston has quite a following as you know…so you might appreciate this question–Someone asked me recently in an interview ‘What does Tom Hiddleston smell like?’ Isn’t that precious? And you wanna know! Cause when I met him, I hugged him hello, he’s a very sweet guy, he’s very very accommodating and very sweet. Now mind you, when I met him I was dressed and made up in a five hour makeup job as the Bathtub ghost, my face is covered with latex foam rubber so unfortunately he smelled like latex foam rubber…because everybody did that day to me.

LD: Now, have you seen the completed film?

DJ: I have not yet. I am gonna see it when you do. I was going to be coming back here to New York for the premiere [today] but…I’m filming Quiji part 2 out in LA so I have to be back for filming. So I’m like, ‘ahh! curses!’ Yeah.

LD: Now moving on, last month I was in Walt Disney World where their Halloween party is Hocus Pocus themed…

DJ: Isn’t that wonderful? I know, I saw a clip of that! Yes!

LD: Why do you think that film has caught on and has such life now?

DJ: I don’t know the whys, I’m just very happy that it does. That it has any life. I think…it’s family-friendly, that always sells, it’s Disney, that always sells, it’s Bette Midler, she always sells, right? And it’s—the witches are not glorified, it’s a good winning over evil story told with lots of humor, lots of visuals and it’s timeless. The styling of the film even, it still holds up today…so it can go on and on. I think it’s only grown in popularity over the years instead of fading like most movies do. So I’m very tickled pink about the home video market. I’m tickled pink about the ABC Family Channel running it multiple times every October and its become like the Wizard of Oz. It’s a sit down event film that the family gathers for so now our original fans are all grown up and have kids of their own. so the audience is only getting broader and broader every year. So I’m very happy. I did not expect that.

Crimson Peak opens this Friday, October 16thYou can read my review here.
Thanks to Doug for taking the time at NYCC to speak with me! 

Creators Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland join actors Chris Parnell & Sarah Chalke to discuss “Rick and Morty” at NYCC

Rick & Morty, Adult Swim’s hilarious sci-fi animated comedy from Justin Roiland & Dan Harmon (“Community”) released its first season on Blu-ray and DVD last month. To celebrate this release, the creators joined actors Chris Parnell (“Saturday Night Live”) and Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) at New York Comic Con where they sat down with the press just prior to taking the stage for their panel.

Rick & Morty follows Rick (Roiland), a belching, misanthropic mad scientist who’s moved into his daughter Beth’s (Chalke) family home, much to the dismay of her husband Jerry (Parnell). Rick drags his poor grandson Morty (also Roiland) off on outrageous science adventures that include other planets, other dimensions and on occasion inside a human body.

What about the show do you think speaks to the audience?

Justin Roiland: I think it’s a bunch of things. It’s the sum of all these parts, like Harmon’s ability to tap into a sort of the more emotional core component. Making characters really relatable and real. And then me, my sort of crazy, insane retro scripting and I don’t know. It’s very strange. It’s a weird sort of perfect storm of creative, I don’t know—

Dan Harmon: The carefree vibe. Like you…it’s nice to feel like you’re watching something that kind of doesn’t care if you’re watching.

Roiland: Yeah, yeah.

Harmon: So it’s kind of that energy that a new project has an opportunity to have that’s just like ‘alright let’s just—’

Roiland: And maintaining that is tricky. You know we’re trying to continue to maintain that. I mean I love stuff where at the end of the episode, Rick’s like [dropping into the scientist’s voice] ‘Member back in the first act of the episode when you did this?!’ It’s like you know, fuck it. It’s a TV show. We all know what we’re watching. We’re watching a TV show. I just love that kind of stuff. Just not giving a shit. The end of MeeSeeks is a great example you know where he’s just like…’Hey!’—he’s waving at the camera— ‘Alright! See you guys next week! Fuck!’ You know, whatever, like ‘I don’t give a fuck is my new catchphrase!’ All that shit. I don’t know I think that just lends a very loose kind of…it just let’s everyone who’s watching go like—Well then there’s the people who go ‘Does Rick know he’s on a TV show? Is this like some sort of master plan?’ But no, it’s just us having fun and being loose and allowing ourselves to do that kind of stuff. And who knows, I don’t know if that’s the secret ingredient. I think there’s a lot of things that added together make the show really connect with people.

 

One standout character of the first season was Mr. Meeseeks, a loud blue guy that exists solely to complete one task set by the human who summons him into creation. He spends most of the episode trying to teach Jerry a better golf game. The cast even brought a lifesize Meeseeks along with them to NYCC!

 

What was the origin of Mr. Meeseeks? 

Roiland: Uh, we were breaking a story, Harmon was on tour for Harmontown, he was out of the room and I remember like we had some story…I don’t remember what the fuck the story was, but I was just like this fuckin’ sucks and I was like ‘We gotta have fun with this! And [dropping a Mr MeeSeeks-like squawk] I’M MR. MEESEEKS! I’M MR. MEESEEKS!’ and I just started doing that. [Series writer Ryan] Ridley got all mad at me and I was like ‘I’M MR MEESEEKS LOOK AT ME!’ And then I don’t know if it was until [Harmon] came back—I think we came up with like the conceit of the Meeseeks but then Harmon came back and really helped us fine tune the story with Jerry and the golfing and all that stuff kind of was after [Dan] got back because I remember [him] being in the room and the whole like wiggle at the end. When [Jerry] finally lands the putt and they all disappear. But it was really just like out of my frustration of us really banging our heads against the wall of the other story that was just lame and we couldn’t get it…And Ridley was all pissed. But then he kind of came around. But then there’s a lot of stuff in that episode…that’s verbatim, like ‘I’m Mr Boobybuyer—I’ll buy your boobies!’ that’s all Ridley kind of angrily pitching ‘OH WHY DON’T WE JUST, I’M MR BOOBYBUYER!?…I’M THIRSTY SLIPPERY STAIR, BLAHBLAH’ And I’m just like ‘That’s perfect! Type it up!’…Now I’ve found that when Ridley gets upset and angrily pitches things spitefully, I’m like ‘Pay attention, guys…this could be good to put in the show.”

 

What would you make your own personal Meeseeks do for you?

Sarah Chalke: Your own wish granting Meeseeks…

Chris Parnell: Wow. I guess to make me a lot of money, maybe you know?

Chalke: Yeah

Parnell: Just a lot of money.

Chalke: Then you don’t work and the Meeseeks goes out to work for you

Parnell: Well I still probably want to work because it comes with a certain sense of self-worth…you know…but yeah to have a lot of money. I’d buy a nicer house and put my kid through college. What would your Meeseeks do?

Chalke: Probably a lot of neck massages. They’d take over the barista duties of the household. Which are about 13 to 14 a day, so it’s a heavy job. So, barista Meeseeks.

 

My personal favorite episode, Rixty Minutes, had Rick showing the family a remote control that not only flipped channels, but show programming from entirely alternate universes, many of which were ab-libbed voice work by Roiland.

Lauren Damon: Were there any additional alternate universe scenes in Rixty Minutes that were cut?

Roiland: The production plan for that episode is so different from the normal production pipeline because we’ll write and the break the—I guess you could call it the B-Story, the A-Story, whatever the narrative is—and then we try to keep that relatively tight and small. A third of the overall episode run length and then all the sketches are just experimental. It’s just like, I’ll go in the booth and just riff and improv shit. Harmon will be on the other side…But yeah, it’s weird, it’s a huge strain on the team, you know.

Harmon: Was there ones that we cut?

Roiland: We cut a Seinfeld one. It was just like Seinfeld—Unrelated Seinfeld and he’s like [twisted Jerry Seinfeld whine] ‘What’s the deaaaaaaaal with Chinese BONES….Whhhhhhy do they taste so goooooood?’

Harmon: Yeah, it was a universe where all of Seinfeld observations were just totally unrelatable.

Roiland: Like ‘What’s the deal with HUGE cocks? WHY do they taste so good in my mouth?!’ And then Rick’s like ‘Jeez, uhhh, Seinfeld’s really—’

Harmon: ‘This universe’s Seinfeld, his observations aren’t really resonant…’

Roiland: But then the audience is just exploding in laughter [Morty’s voice] ‘Oh, boy they really like it though!’ But that got cut…we might have put that on the DVD as a cut, deleted scene. That pitch was probably better than what—if it’s on the DVD you’ll be like okay, I see why they cut this. A lot more got cut for this new one, I really cast a wide net. And our poor storyboard guys boarded way more than they needed to board. But anyways…

 

If you could travel to any of the Rick & Morty worlds, where would you go?

Chalke: Uhhh, planet Squanch

Parnell: That’s a good answer. Pluto. I wouldn’t mind going to Pluto. That’s one that comes up this season. Jerry goes to Pluto.

 

Do you ever have to ask the writers what the hell is going on when the shows really offbeat?

Chalke: I mean every time you read the script, it’s one of the funnest jobs for that reason. Like you get the script and you’re so psyched to see where it goes and I laugh out loud when I’m reading it so the jokes are crazy. That’s the fun part of it, you get to see all these different ways a character can go. Like we go to a different dimension in the second season. They have us go to other planets as well, so that was cool and different and I got to be…like our characters but in a different dimension. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say what so for that you got to try totally different voices. I was like a Warrior who talked like this [Deep roaring] ‘JERRY!’

 

How much is ad-libbed for you guys?

Chalke: Most is the scripts. I mean the scripts are genius, mostly it’s the script. But if something happens or comes up and I ad libbed that Beth was a burper like her father, so we throw some burps in there. One of my few talents is burping on cue.

 

Are you ever surprised by how much vitriol Justin can get in just saying “Jerry”?

Parnell: [laughs] Uh, no. But it’s fun, it’s fun to hear it. I mean—I don’t know if he does Rick and Morty at the same time, I kind of think he does, I mean I’ve seen him do it. In person. But it’s just, you know, it’s amazing to watch. And then also they get so many great guest voices, you know? Sometimes you can kind of pick out who it is…

 

Season one set up so many crazy things, are we going to follow up with them in season 2? Like the League of Ricks? And that evil morty? Does the continuity exist?

Roiland: It’s sprinkled throughout the season.

Harmon: A little goes a long way. I mean it’s like I have a lot—I come to the table with a lot of gun-shyness from Community because I feel like Community’s fanbase became so rewardable and was so thankful for continuity in the show and I never like to do inside stuff. Meaning that you would have to have seen something previous in order to get it, I always try to painstakingly avoid doing that but I felt like over five years, Community—because of the intense relationship the fans had with the show—it actually got branded as being more ‘inside’ than I ever strove for it to be. And so now I’m in the writer’s room in this new show and  we got Mr. Meeseeks, we got the Council of Ricks, we got a billion things that we just shot out you know and so the question ultimately becomes do we revisit that stuff? I tend to be the guy that says no, not yet. Just let’s show some restraint and then we’ll be rewarded for it later. And not that Justin’s like ‘NO let’s do everything again’ but he’s a little less convinced that it would destroy the show than I am. Somewhere in between there what happens is little sprinkles here and there.

Roiland: Yeah, we don’t want to jump the shark, so to speak, too quickly in the show in terms of giving away too much of Rick’s backstory and going back to all the things we’ve kind of established in season one—

Harmon: I will say we spent a great deal of time in the writer’s room this year revisiting a major thing from season one and ultimately it was all wasted time. I mean it might be spoilers for season three for me to talk about what we were doing…but I will say it was like four or five weeks of us talking about ‘Okay, the finale’s gonna be when we do this…’ and we ended up going this isn’t working. It’s sort of like the second Dungeons of Dragons episode of Community was cursed from the beginning because it’s like to decide that you’re just going to do something again, you better really have your shit together…Ultimately stories tell themselves. It’s already hard to do that. But if they’re fighting you because you decided that you know what a story is better than the story knows, than you’re really screwing yourself.

 

Did any of you have an older relative like Rick making a bad influence on your lives?

Roiland: Not a huge bad influence. Maybe a little bit. I think I’m a lot like him and I’m gonna die at a young age like he did…

Harmon: I had a great grandpa who died a hermit. He lost all his money in the stock market and then he made it all back but he never trusted banks after that. So he lived in a corrugated tin hut out in some land in Wisconsin. He was rich again but it was all cash under his mattress! And he was a theology major and like he was the only other Harmon who went to college I think.

Roiland: [Rick voice] ‘DAN! DAN! C’mere I got cash under my mattress!!’

Harmon: But I never got to meet him, he was my great grandpa. The first time I saw him was in a coffin. I think Rick is just a symbol of all our mental illnesses.

Roiland: Rick’s a weird combination of me and Dan. Depending on what episode you’re watching, it’s more Dan or more me.

 

Rick & Morty is out on Blu-ray & DVD and you can check out their full NYCC panel at Adult Swim’s YouTube page.

Author Naomi Novik Talks “Temeraire” at NYCC

Naomi Novik has in the past several years taken her readers literally across the globe in her best-selling Temeraire novels. Beginning with the first, His Majesty’s Dragon, the fantasy series is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an alternate history where talking dragons comprise a valuable aerial force for their respective nations. More specifically they follow the adventures of William Laurence, a British naval captain whose capture of an enemy ship bearing a rare dragon’s egg leads him to a new life as an aviator with this hatchling he names Temeraire. Novik’s dragon is intelligent, witty, intensely loyal to his human captain and often defiant of the society of his time. And he is just one of many in a hugely diverse cast of humans and dragons. Such vivid characters thrown into Novik’s rich reworking of actual history really make this a standout story.

The books are scheduled to wrap up with its ninth installment,  League of Dragons, hopefully sometime next year while director Peter Jackson currently holds the screen rights to the series (More on that below). With all of the above going for it, and the fact that it’s a personal favorite book series of mine, I was so excited to get to speak with Naomi at New York Comic Con while she signed books for her fans.

Lauren Damon: When planning the novels, because they’re centered around the Napoleonic Wars, do you have an outline of what history is going on or do you start with your plot?

Naomi Novik: Oh I definitely check the history first and sort of look into the details. I have a general sense of where the plot is going because I know where the Napoleonic Wars go and I know how I modify the Napoleonic Wars so in that sense I know before I go in. But in terms of figuring out how the details of my plot are going to dovetail the details of history, it’s sort of like a back and forth. I generally get the broad strokes of the historical events first, make sure my plot works with that and then as I write, I generally check on the more specific details to make sure that I’m not contradicting something.

 

LD: Have you ever hit a snag because history went a different way than your plot?

Novik: You know I’m sure that happens on a routine basis and I just don’t remember all of them…I can’t think of a specific historical event example, but what I can remember is one time I was writing a scene set in Istanbul describing a place and it turned out that that place just didn’t kind of exist. But while reading about that I discovered about a location called the cistern—which was sort of this underwater cistern of the Byzantine era that used to store water for the city and then later on was abandoned and people would still be able to reach it through the basements of their homes. And would occasionally throw things down there. Sometimes bodies disappeared down there and I thought, that’s fantastic! So I put it in. So it actually worked out for the best.

 

LD: When it comes to the battles sequences, which read as hugely cinematic, how do you plan out just the logistics of those?

Novik: The battles are almost always heavily influenced by actual Napoleonic battles. I mean it depends. The actual battles that take place in the course of a military campaign, then the individual scenes that are about sort of—you know there’s the battles in a war and there are fights that are sort of an adventure sequence, right? And those are more just out of my imagination and the battle scenes are—I have a wonderful book called The Military Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars which basically shows…you can watch the movement of all the companies. It breaks up battles over several days. So you see here’s how they were, sort of setting themselves up, here’s where they were this day, here’s the terrain they were moving on, here are the ways that this person didn’t know what this person was doing and they misunderstood one another. And they got bad information from their spies. And all sorts of details like that which I tend to use as kind of, not exact—because of course my battles are quite different—

LD: They add the aerial level.

Novik: Yes, exactly, because there’s a third dimension going on which changes the tactics and  also just the historical locations but yeah, I mean I try to keep that same scope. That scale.

 

LD: When it comes to certain characters, fans love to pick up on certain expressions or character tropes that repeatedly pop up in your stories—Like Laurence’s concern for his neckcloth or Iskierka [a truly fiery fire-breathing dragon] saying “See if I don’t!”—When you become aware of fans grabbing onto these things, or sort of catchphrases, do you get self conscious about it?

Novik: No, not really. You know, I feel like that’s part of theIn a way I feel like finding those things is part of the pleasure as a fan. I like it myself as a reader. I like recognizing a character’s vocal tics, the character’s all definitely have their own, quite distinct voice in my pen. And I feel like if I tried to…if I became self-conscious and tried to muck with that in a way, I’d probably lose my own internal sense.

 

LD: Are there certain characters that you really enjoy writing their voice, their dialogue?

Novik: Yeah, I mean Temeraire, obviously. Temeraire is just always fun. Iskierka is always fun. I love writing the dragons voices. I feel like the dragons voices are always really cool. And there’s that pleasure of writing a voice that’s not quite human so I really like to do that.

 

LD: I love how you even include sexuality into the discussions that the dragons and the humans have because I feel like you don’t often see that associated with the fantasy genre:

Novik: I do feel you know it’s an interesting thing, that in that period there was simultaneously more prudery in a certain sense. Like you didn’t talk about certain things. But at the same time you lived with it a lot more. You lived with death a lot more. And in a way, living with death, I mean you lived in much closer quarters—especially on ships and you sort of had to pretend it wasn’t there. But it really was. And I mean, with dragons especially, I feel like dragons don’t have shame in the same was that human beings have shame. You know, they don’t cover themselves for warmth, so they don’t have any of that body stuff going on. So Temeraire just kind of doesn’t get what’s going on a lot of the time. So his perception is very fun. But I feel like it’s very much that that’s a thing that happens that’s part of life and I don’t know…I feel like I don’t want to pretend that’s not there.

 

LD: Iskierka in particular in regards to her Captain, Granby’s homosexuality is just kind of  like ‘Yeah, of course that’s how he is!’

Novik: I mean to a dragon it’s like what’s the difference between these two—it’s like two action figures, you know?

LD: Or dress up dolls? [Note: The dragon’s frequently make fashion decisions for their humans.]

Novik: Yes, exactly, that’s from Iskierka’s point of view absolutely!

LD: Peter Jackson holds the filming rights to these books—what’s happening there?!

Novik: Basically what happened was you know, after Guillermo Del Toro dropped out of The Hobbit and [Jackson] took over, that essentially put a stop to all his other projects. He’s finishing up the last Hobbit now, and I know he’s going to take a well deserved break and then we’ll see, you know?

LD: Did you see the giant Smaug up on the floor and think eventually?
Novik:
I hope so. I hope so. I mean it’s amazing.

 

LD: Now you wrote the first one in 2006?

Novik: I wrote the first one in 2004 and then they didn’t publish it until 2006 because they asked me to write two more so they could bring them all out one month after another. So I wrote the first three in like 2004-2005, so it’s been about ten years writing it.

 

LD: So back when you were writing it, or at any point since,  have you ever head-cast actors you’d like to see in any of the parts?

Novik: No, no…I don’t. Although I will say I thought at one point—I actually think Tom Hiddleston could make a great Laurence.

[Note: At which point I showed Naomi my Loki iPhone case as a sign of support.]

Excellent! I mean I say that like I’m a huge Tom Hiddleston fan, I mean I love Loki he’s such a fantastic character, I love him…But there are many actors of whom I’m a huge fan who I would say would not make a good Laurence. But I think he actually would.

 

Famously fan-friendly, Naomi is a co-founder of the Organization for Transformative Works, “a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the fair-use rights of fan creators” and has written her own fan fiction.

LD: Being here at NYCC and just kind of in general are you happy to see that fan fiction is something you hear more about in public discussion, do you think it’s coming sort of out of just something you see online?

 

Novik: I hope so. You know, in fact we had this panel about fairy tales and of course 95% of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings are fan fiction. It’s the same impulse as fan fiction. It’s using characters that other people recognize to tell your own stories in a way that allows you to communicate and form a community around fiction. So there’s nothing actually new about the fan fiction impulse, it’s just that we’re doing it about media of a different form, right? Which is quite interesting.

LD: Speaking of fan communities–you just opened your own fan forum, is that a convenient way to consolidate your fans?

Novik: It’s not even that, it’s more that you know there are a lot of fans who don’t feel like they know where to find the place to talk. And I love giving them a place to talk now. And a lot of people said that they wanted one, so we went ahead and put it together. But I love–one of the things that I love about the fannish community in general is that it’s so widespread. There’s so many different places and proliferating conversations and I love that. It’s not like, I would never want everybody to come to feel like that they had to come to my site. It’s more like here’s another place to talk if you want to hang out and talk about Temeraire.

 

LD: Do you have a memorable first fan encounter, or when you became aware or your series having fans?

Novik: I fortunately, the year the Temeraire books came out, I went to like seven conventions that year. And I went to a lot of smaller science fiction conventions first which was a good kind of ramp up. And I mean it’s just really wonderful you know. For me it’s a completely positive experience. I mean I get tired and sometimes I lose my voice. There’s just something wonderful about coming out here and feeling this kind of fannish energy all around you. And it’s not a sort of, I don’t know, it’s such a thing that I myself would do. I feel like I’m just meeting my people from the other side!

The 9th and final Temeraire novel, League of Dragons, is aiming for a release sometime next year while Novik will also be releasing an entirely new fantasy novel, Uprooted, on June 30th 2015.

New York Comic Con 2014 “The Following” Panel

On Sunday, October 12th, Marcos Siega, Kevin Bacon, and Shawn Ashmore took to the Empire Stage at New York Comic Con to discuss their show The Following. Slim on specifics, the actors and director didn’t give too much of the new season away to fans, instead opting for vague descriptions of possible upcoming plot points. With Lily Gray’s plotline officially wrapped up and Joe Carroll in prison, it’s a new dawn for The Following, allowing a new set of events to start and creating a good entry point for new viewers.

In the teaser that was shown, Bacon’s character Ryan has a new love in his life, an ER doctor, as does his niece Max, but don’t worry Following fans. Shortly after setting this idyllic scene, a cocktail waiter was shown coming towards Ryan with a knife- perhaps setting us up for a new slew of bad guys?

After the teaser and discussion, the floor was opened up to questions from the fans. One woman asked Bacon and Ashmore for tips on working in the FBI; they laughingly replied, “Don’t do anything we do.”

Check out the slideshow below for more pictures of The Following Panel at New York Comic Con. Season 3 begins January 20th.


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New York Comic Con 2014 “Adult Swim Panel Block”

Three shows were represented at this year’s Adult Swim Panel Block on Friday, October 10th at New York Comic Con. Starting things off was a panel for the upcoming The Jack and Triumph Show, which features Jack McBrayer and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (voiced by Robert Smigel). The show will be a sitcom with a live studio audience that includes a combination of scripted comedy and improvisation. Audience members were treated to some clips from the show, featuring guest stars Joy Fatone from NSYNC and film critic Leonard Maltin. Also present on the panel was Blackwolf the Dragonmaster, who fans may recognize from a 2002 viral video shown on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The panel ended on a sadder note with Smigel showing a SNL sketch in remembrance of Jan Hooks, a personal friend of his.

The next panel to take the stage was for the animated show Rick and Morty. Last year delegated to one of the smaller rooms, this year the panel was excited to take the main stage. The group, consisting of Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, and Sarah Chalke, brought an animatic mashup full of Rick’s newest catchphrases from the upcoming Season 2. Panel members promoted the Season 1 DVD, available now, as well as the upcoming comic book spin-off, written by Zac Gorman and published by Oni Press. They then delighted audience members with an improvised family breakfast scene in character.

Finally, Robot Chicken, or the annual meeting of the silly hats club, took to the stage. This panel is always a favorite among fans, and this year did not disappoint. Moderated by Adult Swim Vice President Keith Crofford, the panel included co-creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, actors Clare Grant, Breckin Meyer, and Macaulay Culkin, and producer John Harvatine IV. Things started off with a segment from Season 7’s “Chipotle Miserables.” A few announcements followed including the release date of the Robot Chicken: Christmas Specials DVD on November 18th and the release of “The Lots of Holidays But Don’t Worry Christmas Is Still in there So Get The Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special” on December 7th, before the floor was opened up to the fan Q&A. This year’s fan portion of the panel produced the annual sexy pose request, as well as the return of Emmett, the fan with whom Meyer had a rivalry with at last year’s NYCC panel. A trailer for Clare Grant’s new pilot the Team Unicorn Saturday Action Fun Hour! was also shown.

Click through our slideshow below for more moments from The Adult Swim Panels at New York Comic Con 2014!


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New York Comic Con 2014 – Andrea Romano & Greg Cipes Panel


On Friday, October 10th, the voice directing legend Andrea Romano took to the stage at New York Comic Con to discuss her illustrious career and her advice to aspiring voice actors. The eight-time Emmy Award winning director was joined by Greg Cipes, the voice of Beast Boy in Teen Titans and Michelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tv series, who stopped by the panel to discuss working in the animation voice over industry.

Romano, herself once a struggling actress, got her start in the industry while working as an assistant to voice agent Don Pitts. From there she went on to work at the Hanna-Barbera, the studio known for Scooby-Doo and The Jetsons, while freelancing with Disney television animation on shows such as Bonkers, DuckTales, and Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. She now works as a freelance voice director, and her filmography is extensive, including Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, The Boondocks, Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, and Tiny Toon Adventures. In general, she is working on at least five projects at a time, once even juggling eleven projects all at the same time.

Nicknamed “Velvet Hammer” by the actors she works with, Romano calls making a comfortable environment for the talent to feel safe to create and work as one of her biggest goals when working on a show. She emphasized the importance of taking acting classes before trying to make a start in the realm of voice acting, saying that creating an emotional and believable character goes far beyond just being able to do a voice. Romano is generally regarded as one of the most iconic voice directors and voice casting directors working in the animation world today and is known for giving many actors’ their first big breaks. Greg Cipes, whose very first professional audition was in front of Romano for the role of Teen Titans’s Beast Boy, said “I was green…Andrea fought for me. I got the role.”

New York Comic Con 2014 – Broad City Panel


Appearing before a packed room at New York Comic Con on Friday, October 10, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson declined the use of a traditional introduction and danced their way on stage to Missy Elliot’s iconic song “Work It.” Fans of their Broad City show cheered and danced along with them as they took the stage. Once at the microphone, the women seemed shocked at the large crowd, some of whom had queued up an hour before the actual start of the panel, remarking that they had never imagined any of this when they had started their show, originally a web series, in 2009.

The Broad City web series began on YouTube in 2009 and achieved an almost cult-like status before being discovered by Amy Poehler, who transitioned the show into a 30-minute televised format. Poehler is now an executive producer on the Comedy Central show, which wrapped its first season in March. About the move to television, Jacobson said, “(Comedy Central) never made it feel corporate. It still feels like we’re making a web series. Not for the web, but it’s still so DIY and everyone is so collaborative.” Glazer and Jacobson both have strong comedy backgrounds; they met doing improv and are Upright Citizen Brigade alums. The first season of the show was nominated for Best Comedy Series at the 2014 Critics’ Choice Television Awards, and both Glazer and Jacobson were on the 2014 Variety’s Power of Women: New York Impact List.

The panel was moderated by fellow comedian Nicole Drespel, who also appears on the show. A sneak preview of Season 2 was shown, which further explored Abbi’s obsession with the store Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Jacobson and Glazer then did live commentary for the Season 1 episode “Fattest Asses,” before the floor was opened up to questions from the fans. Questions ranged from their ideal guest stars- living or dead (Lucille Ball and Clive Owen for Glazer; Richard Jenkins, Frances McDormand, and Idris Elba for Jacobson), to advice on how to break into the comedy world. When asked how much of their characters were actually based on themselves, Glazer replied, “It’s like 15% of ourselves, blown up to the full 100. It’s like my f—ing nuttiest and Abbi’s f—ing craziest.” One fan thanked Glazer on behalf of her friend for being the first tv character she felt comfortable identifying with, calling the women feminist heroes.

The panel wrapped up with a clip from the companion web series to the tv show, Hack Into Broad City, and audience members were treated to free tee-shirts and stickers from the Comedy Central staff.

The second season of Broad City will premiere this January.

New York Comic Con 2014 – Cosplay Favorites

New York Comic Con finished up this year with a bang, bringing in a record number of guests. The convention, taking place from October 9-12, was held once again at the Javits Center in New York City. The event was filled with its usual fare- panels, screenings, sneak peeks, vendors, exhibitors, artists, freebies, autographs, and special guests- but also included several new features this year, including a stricter harassment policy (“Cosplay is not Consent”), which allowed guests to report incidents through the NYCC app on their phones. Also, a new main stage clearing procedure seemed to work rather well, cutting back on line waiting times and seemingly spreading out the larger panels throughout the entire weekend. The addition of a NYCC Eastern Championship of Cosplay also brought in crowds, filling the main stage on Saturday night.

This is New York Comic Con’s ninth year and its largest yet. Run by the exhibitor Reed Pop, 151,000 tickets were sold, up from the 133,000 that it boasted last year, and out-topping San Diego’s attendance of 130,000. Thursday, originally reserved for press, VIP, and four-day pass holders only, was broadened into a full day of programming, which helped the increase in numbers. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was the appearance of George Clooney, who visited the main stage during Disney’s Tomorrowland panel, saying, “It is not lost on me that I’m spending my honeymoon at Comic Con.”

Here are some of our cosplay favorites from New York Comic Con 2014:


Created with flickr slideshow.

New York Comic Con 2014 – “Bob’s Burgers” Panel Coverage

The Bob’s Burgers panel, comprised of Loren Bouchard (show creator), Bobby Tisdale (voice of Zeke), Kristen Schaal (voice of Louise), John Roberts (voice of Linda), Larry Murphy (voice of Teddy), Eugene Mirman (voice of Gene), and H. Jon Benjamin (voice of Bob), took the main stage at New York Comic Con this past Thursday, October 9th. Although Dan Mintz (voice of Tina) was not among them, a larger-than-life Tina Belcher, joined the panel, sitting on the side during the discussion.

The audience was shown three clips of the new season. In one, Linda dyes her hair blonde, while in another Bob partakes in a life-drawing class, where he is forced to draw Edith, a character that was seen in the previous “Art Crawl” episode. The last clip had Gene, Tina, and Louise visiting an upscale grocer on a quest to buy black garlic. In addition to these sneak peeks, audience members were also treated to some key news announcements (tracks are being prepared for an upcoming show soundtrack and there will be a Christmas special where viewers will meet Bob’s father for the first time), before the panel continued with a fan Q&A, where many of the questioners came prepared in Bob’s Burger character costumes.

One fan asked, “As actors and performers who have very unique voices, how do you bring subtlety to your characters?” Kristen Schaal remarked, “Definitely the scenes. I took a college course on subtlety and it cost me $500,000. Totally worth it.” Loren Bouchard also shared some anecdotes with fans, saying that in his original meeting with the Fox network, he pitched the show as a “Family that runs a restaurant, and they’re cannibals,” believing that he needed to make the show edgy in some way-to which the Fox executive replied, “What if they’re not cannibals?”

The Emmy-awarded Bob’s Burgers entered its 5th season on October 5, 2014, and judging from the response at this year’s New York Comic Con, fans can’t wait to see what happens next.

Bobby Moynihan and Method Man talk about FX’s new comedy “Chozen”

On Monday January 13th, FX will debut its animated comedy, Chozen from the creators of Archer and Eastbound and Down. Chozen stars Bobby Moynihan as the eponymous openly gay rapper who’s fresh out of a ten year prison sentence and looking to make it big on the music scene while getting revenge on those who put him in the slammer. I got to catch up with stars Moynihan and Method Man along with creator Grant Dekernion and executive producer Tom Brady at this year’s New York Comic Con.

Bobby Moynihan (this writer’s favorite Saturday Night Live cast member) was eager to join the cast of the show,  “I got the thing that said ‘do you want to put yourself on tape for this?’ where I had the drawing of all the characters and I saw—I was a big Archer fan—so I saw that and it was just like ‘I want to do this.’…I called my agents every single day. Like 9 o’clock in the morning, ‘hey found anything out about Chozen?’” This isn’t to say Moynihan identifies with the brash character, “he just says and does whatever he wants…he walks in the room, his sister’s having sex with somebody and he’s just like, [dropping into Chozen’s voice] ‘Ooh, you havin’ sex? Good for you!’ He’s just pumped about things. I feel like I would be like ‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry! I apologize!’ And then never talk to my sister again…Just everything he’s thinking is just out there.” The comedian did add a personal touch to how he sees Chozen spending his time in jail though. “In my mind he just spent a lot of time aggressively going after taking what he wanted and just watching Lost…I keep saying it so hopefully it will come out. I’m a weird Lost nerd…I want to do a whole episode where it’s just him in jail watching Lost.” Would Chozen then have enjoyed that drama’s finale? “YES. YES” Moynihan says emphatically of his cartoon alter ego before adding, “It was perfect, I truly loved it.”

Moynihan is also a talented improvisational comedian, notably appearing recently on IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! as murderous orphan Fourvel (it’s one less than Fievel). “I didn’t really have much other than the name [and] that one joke” Moynihan says, “Just being able to improvise with Scott [Aukerman] and Paul F. Tompkins was a blast.” Fortunately we’ll get to hear Moynihan improvise in Chozen as well—“I feel very very lucky. It’s a lot of fun improvising and a lot of ‘oh my god, that was crazy, don’t use that…I don’t want the people to hear the fact that I said those things!”

Method Man plays Phantasm, the villainous ex-band mate of Chozen who was responsible in setting up the drug bust that puts Chozen behind bars. The rapper maintains that the sleazy voice he lends to Phantasm “comes from a family member named Daddio…you know, he smokes these backwoods cigars and it’s gotten to the point where his voice is so low you can’t even hear him!” Despite his background however, Method Man maintains he’s not behind the musical writing of the series “since I’m playing a character and not Method Man, no, I will not” although he’s not ruling it out adding, “if they gave me a shot to, maybe.”

 Behind the songwriting, and singing voice of Chozen is creator Grant Dekernion who was asked if we can expect more musical acts to come on the show in the future, he explained: “Obviously we got Method Man which blew my mind—and that’s definitely helped us open doors. You know, we’re hoping later this season we might see some more musical acts, I think once the show comes out and people get behind it and see what it’s about, that’s definitely something we can play with in the future. But I think just a lot of people are just curious to see it.”

Both Dekernion and executive producer Tom Brady are particularly excited to be creating the show for the FX network. “Been doing this a little while and you know, I’ve been part of shows that have been on networks and different cable shows and stuff and this is the right show for the right network” says Brady. “The content, the subject matter, FX seems to invest in voices. In this case, Grant’s, from his brain. And if they buy into it, they support it, they let you grow and they nurture it.” Other FX hits include It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League. Of the creative teams behind those shows, Brady adds “we’ve heard them talk about how supportive FX has been and them finding what identity those shows have, so that’s been kind of cool for us to think ‘hey, maybe we could be like that.’”

Check out Chozen Monday January 13th at 10:30pm on FX.

The Cast and Creators discuss their new hit show “Sleepy Hollow”

Sleepy Hollow returns to Fox this Monday after a brief World-Series-imposed break from the schedule. The new hit series follows Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), a cop in the small town of Sleepy Hollow, who finds herself partnered up with resurrected Revolutionary War soldier Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison). They’re on a mission to stop the four horsemen of the apocalypse lead by Death in the form of the Headless Horseman. So far the characters have encountered all manner of witches, demons, history and folklore from the Biblical Revelations to the lost colony of Roanoke. Sleepy Hollow marked Fox’s highest premiere ratings since 2006 and was renewed for a second season in the beginning of October. I sat down with the cast and creators of the show at New York Comic Con to discuss the supernatural drama.

Creator Alex Kurtzman spoke about the origin of the show, “the initial idea was just a modern take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was something that’s never really been presented or approached in modern context, so that was fascinating to all of us and…when we came to the idea of blending that legend with Revelations and it seemed crazy, but can it possibly work? And that was where it all started. And can we put these things together and have something really compelling?”

Tom Mison added about his approach to the show, “Lots of people wonder whether how much we went back to the original short story, which was something I’d read a long time ago, but when we got the script for the pilot it was so vastly different to that or anything that I could begin to research. I just let that script speak for itself, really.”

Co-creator Len Wiseman is best known for helming the female-led Underworld film franchise, a trend which continues here. Not only is Lieutenant Mills leading the case, but as the series has gone along, viewers have seen how Ichabod’s wife Katrina (played by Katia Winter) revealed to be a witch caught in purgatory, has played an integral role in leading the case from beyond the grave. Additionally Mills has in recent episodes enlisted her sister Jenny in determining the fate of humanity. The cast spoke about having kick ass women taking the lead on the show.

“I think it’s kind of ground breaking what’s going on” said Nicole Beharie. “First of all, they brought in Abby and Abby is a hero sort of unbeknownst to herself. Like, she didn’t know that all these things were going to happen to her and that she had all these powers to sort of draw upon. And then she also finds out, when she reconnects with her sister that her sister has all of this information and these resources. And then we find out that Katrina is this witch that has all these–I love that all these women in the show actually are an integral part of saving the world. There not just there as like a piece to sort of move the story on. And they’re not just batting eyelashes, like we’re helping to make the thing happen–If not making the thing happen. I personally think, if you look at all the episodes, okay? I threw the book, I saved the guy, so yeah that’s really a big part of it and I’m honored to be a part of it. And also you know, it’s a diverse cast too, so that’s ace.”

Mison was attracted by this aspect of the show. “One of the things when I read the pilot that made it appeal to me so much was that you have the two female leads who aren’t defined by a man. You have Abby who, she’s just a strong modern woman with important things on her mind and [Katrina’s] well, a witch, who’s far more powerful than her pathetic mortal husband. And you don’t see it enough. All too often, scripts are–the women are the girlfriend or the daughter and they have very little to do other than support the male characters’ stories. Whereas this from the start and throughout, the female characters have been rounded and clear individuals. And that’s–hats off to the show for doing that.”

A great deal of fun on the show is derived from Mison’s 18th Century Crane dealing with the modern world, including its ladies. Not only does Crane seem to connect with Mill’s sister Jenny, but in one fan favorite moment, Ichabod advised a tearful OnStar representative about romance while being locked in his  21st Century car.

Mison commented on this trend, “I’ve not really thought about that! That in every episode, there’s a new girl who Ichabod kind of semi-flirts with. Just because the wife’s in purgatory…[Ichabod and Jenny] seem to be kindred spirits, she’s ballsy and she fights for what she believes is right…But then I think there was a very tender connection with Yolanda, the OnStar lady and I’d like to see her become a recurring character. She could be like Ziggy from Quantum Leap! She could, anytime he needs advice but can’t find Katrina, he just goes and talks to Yolanda….maybe.” On-screen wife Winter remained quiet, “No? Everyone completely disagrees!”

Meanwhile, Crane’s wardrobe has yet to be updated as he assimilates the modern era, since he’s in the same outfit five episodes along. Mison laughed and defended his character’s jacket “that he’s worn for two-hundred fifty years?…Uh, it’s a nice coat though, at least!” A moment later he added “That will be addressed in some way or other” while another member of the press rooted for a good pair of jeans.

Of course this wouldn’t be Sleepy Hollow without its legendary Horseman and other supernatural elements running around. Everyone involved with the show had a lot to say on that monstrous aspect of the show.

“Okay, I’m 5’1″.” Beharie began on the topic of the giant Headless Horseman, “In the next few episodes, I run down stairs, he’s like chasing me with an axe. And I’m a little person, he’s a big guy. Like in real life, the guy who plays the horseman. So I’m scared by the Horseman. He’s on horses and I’m in heels.”

Having the Horseman on set is likely due to Wiseman’s preference for practical effects wherever possible. He said “Tv lends itself to practical effects due to its schedule and time. It’s a bit of a double edged sword but we try to–and you don’t really have time for elaborate visual effects. You don’t have a load of time for practical, but if you plan ahead, it’s the perfect platform for practical and it’s one of the things that Alex and I both are fans of, like the movies that we grew up on, to be able to have an actual–if you have a creature on the episode. If it actually really is a creature, whether it’s Hellraiser or Pumpkinhead or you know, these, I think there’s just more of a connection to it and I miss that. You don’t see that on television a lot.”

Orlando Jones, who plays Mills’s boss Captain Irving, brought up some other demonic foes as scarier “The show is crazy because the Horseman’s there! It’s not like it’s CGI, and she’s right, he’s like 6’6″ and when he’s swinging an axe you know…but I’m sorry…the Sandman and the Blurry [a recurring horned demon that only appears blurry to viewers so far]? Come on, I’m sorry. That’s just weird!” When Beharie agreed about the Sandman, Jones went on, “Homeboy turns into dust? I ain’t with that. It’s creepy, for me. I mean honestly.”

The Sandman they’re referring to was a chilling creation defeated by Abbie in the third episode, Kurtzman elaborated on what set him apart from being just a demon-on-the-week. “Sandman was literally a manifestation of Abby’s past. And of her guilt and something she hadn’t dealt with. And so we really try and take the approach with our monsters, is not just having them be random monsters but actually echo something very important in our characters and what they’re going through.”

Speaking on future monsters, Wiseman and Kurtzman teased their versions of the classic characters such as a gollem and a scarecrow while Beharie assured us we’d see plenty more of the Horseman.

As for future plot spoilers, the cast was a bit more hesitant with Mison saying “there are things that I can’t say because I’ll get in trouble. And then there are things that I don’t want to say because they’re such nice twists that I want you to enjoy them when they come. But it’s all about Katrina. The more Katrina comes back, the more revelations there are not only about Ichabod but about the fate of humanity. So keep your eyes on her, really.” Jones later added ominously about his own character, “I think the best description for Irving is assume I know everything.”

Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 9pm on Fox.

Photography by Elizabeth Phillips