Interview with Jon Donahue & Keith Coogan

“Crafty” is a new web series created by Mark Thomas Haapla and Morgan Mead. Morgan also co-stars in the show along with Jon Donahue (“Heroes” and Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2”) and Keith Coogan (“Adventures in Babysitting” and “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead”). In addition to his acting duties, Jon is also one of the writers, directors and producers on the show. “Crafty” is an ensemable comedy that takes place behind the scenes (at the craft service table, duh!) on the set of a hit television show called “The Telepathist”. The show is filled with kooky characters and a slew of celebrity cameos like Diane Delano (“Popular”, “The Ladykillers”), Daniel Roebuck (“The Fugitive” and “Lost”), Wyatt Knight (“Porky’s”), Ian Petrella (“A Christmas Story”), and a few of the guys from HBO’s “Entourage”. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk with Keith and Jon about how it was working on the show and what we can expect.

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Mike Gencarelli: Keith, how did you come on board for the show, “Crafty”?
Keith Coogan: This guy Jon Donahue, I met him at a screening for “Jaws”. He was there with some friends that made the documentary “The Shark is Still Working” which is a great behind the scenes making of “Jaws”. Great film. Not too long after, he contacted me and said they were doing this project. He had a sizzle reel and it looked great. I jumped on board!

Mike Gencarelli: Keith, tell us what we can expect from your role in “Crafty?
Keith Coogan: I play Keith Coogan, who is the second actor to take on the role of “The Telepathist”, the star of a popular network television show. I immediately jumped into…the insanity that takes place. I got the tone of the show right away and everyone involved with the show was having a lot of fun. I was able to step back and make a lot of fun of myself. I got a lot of great bits with Jon, where he thinks I am an insane actor. We were doing one episode that Jon wrote and directed and he also starred in the scene with me! It was great, a lot of fun.

Mike Gencarelli: Keith, tell us what is was like working on a web series?
Keith Coogan: It was pre-pro because they were renting a sound stage, they had nice cameras and equipment and had it all planned out. They even had shot lists, some storyboards and were ready to go. It didn’t defer from a regular TV or film shoot in that way at all. We were just trying to get the work done, bang out the pages and make something that we would enjoy. You realize there are no studios or producers involved, they are running the show, that is where it is new ground. You find yourself in the captain seat and it is a big responsibility. It is really easy working on a shoot with a hundred people and everyone only has a little piece of it, though in this, everyone becomes a lot more important. All of their input gets listened to and everyone gets a chance to shine on these shoots. Everyone has many roles to make it happen. It is funny but not all laughs and giggles, there can be clashes and stressful moments. This is art and these are creative people. It just shows the passions of everyone wanting it to be great.

Mike: Keith, can you tell us about some funny moments on the set?
Keith: Oh gosh, we got one of the creators into a chicken outfit and that was fun. I got a text message, it was probably a rum influenced text message, saying “Mark Thomas Haapala in a chicken suit or not?”. I said “Of course!” When you are browsing the web and you see a guy in the chicken outfit, that is comedy.
Jon Donahue: I gotta say I was against the chicken outfit but after we shot it I am all for it. You were absolutely right Keith.
Keith: You mean the chicken outfit seemed a little crazy during the “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Baked” episode…when me and the kid are smoking weed?!. You mean THAT sounded outrageous [laughs], I understand.
Jon Donahue: My favorite part of that day was when the glass coffee table you were under collapsed on top of you.
Keith: That almost killed me [laughs].
Jon Donahue: The coffee table scene is in the trailer.

Mike: Jon, what was your inspiration for the show?
Jon: As far as my portion of the writing, the show is created by Mark Haapala and Morgan Mead. They had these characters in mind. So we had shot three or four episodes and they were originally 10 minutes a piece, now they are around five minutes. On the first day when Mark called action, we just started acting. We didn’t know our characters or anything. When I wrote “Adventures in Telepathy”, which was Keith’s first episode, we understood who our characters were. So after that I went back and rewrote the pilot with Haapala to match what was written for Keith’s episode. By the way, Keith gave some great notes where his character should go. Remember that Keith?
Keith: Yes. You totally picked those up and put in hints of it in too…it was a big leap to go there right away.
Jon: I really had so much fun writing for these characters. I built on what they created and we went from there.

Mike: Jon, how did you feel shuffling between acting, writing and directing?
Jon: Funny enough, I found out I love writing. I used to be a news reporter and I only wrote news stories. This was different writing comedy. It was a lot of fun being able to write a joke every few minutes. What we realized in the editing process, before I started writing, was that everything has to be faster. Our episodes are five maybe six minutes and we have to get everything in, like story lines and make sure everyone has a piece in every episode. I find writing really fun. What I also enjoy is the improv on set. I love acting also and doing comedy, experimenting and being in the moment. I love the timing in the show, everyone is wonderful and so perfect. The day I directed Keith’s episode, I hadn’t directed anything before. I was having so much fun directing, I didn’t want to jump in front of the camera, which for me is unbelievable! I just had so much fun. The whole process was very long but very rewarding. We finally have a cut of the episode I directed in the can. It is going to be great and Keith is very funny in it.

Mike: Jon, tell us about the show and your role, Larry that you play?
Jon: The show basically is a craft service table on a television show, like Keith mentioned, “The Telepathist”. Obviously a take on “The Mentalist”. It is about a group of wacky people and everyone has their story. I play the first assistant director and I kind of compare my character to Jason Batemen’s on “Arrested Development”. He is the straight guy that has to deal with a bunch of imbeciles. Having worked on sets before, I have worked with a lot of assistant directors. I have been able to observe and understand where they are coming from. My character is the ring leader, since the director (Roebuck) is not even on set. He is agoraphobic, he can’t leave his house and directs from a laptop. I run the whole stage while he is in a bathrobe sitting in his house.

Mike: If you need to sum up the show in one word, what would that be?
Keith: Juicy.
Jon: I get it! Like a fruit!
Jon: I am going to use two words, F**king funny.

Mike: Tell us why should people check out the show?
Keith: It is funny. Everyone has a fascination of what is it like to be on a set. We do not pay that off with any reality. It is total divas and complete egotistical maniacs. It is funny in the way like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. These people are really crazy. You are not going to learn exactly what goes on behind the scenes but it is real stuff…wrangling different actors and working with creative types that don’t want to come out of their house. What is universal, is if you work in a office, bank or you are teacher there is always conflict, comedy and tragedy. These people would probably kill each other.
Jon: [laughs] and they have.
Keith: It is possible that the show “The Telepathist” takes itself a little too serious, just saying [laughs].
Jon: I just want to throw in that these characters are based on real people. We take them to the extremes but they are ultimately based on real people and will obviously remain nameless. Even though Kevin Connolly is playing himself, he is actually playing another actor in the industry.
Keith: It is a very creative show and I know everyone is going to grab onto it when they see it.

Mike: Keith, aside for “Crafty”, tell us about your “Monologue a Day”? What made you start that?
Keith: Sure, this past New Years I got an idea to combine the concept of “Julie & Julia” mixed with my love for acting and technology. I love putting stuff on YouTube. I wanted to keep it simple since the ambition is trying to do it and complete all of these pieces. I learn something, shoot it and put it up. It is 1 minute long, don’t want to try anyone’s patience. I alternate between comedy, tragedy, drama, Shakespeare, stuff from movies or books. I learned about the craft and it is really like a daily workshop. It has been great and has become a great casting tool for me as well.
Jon: Are you ever going to do the monologue from “Glitter”, I suggested?
Keith: [laughs] Yeah right!

Mike: Jon, you are also currently working with Tom Hanks on his latest film “Larry Crowne”, can you tell us about that?

Jon: I am not sure how much I can tell you. Basically he twitters everything, so I really don’t have to say much. It is about a guy who loses his job and has to start his life over. It is very funny. From script to what we are shooting now it is hilarious. The whole cast is great, Wilmer Valderrama and Nia Vardalos and everyone is so wonderful. Julia (Roberts) of course is always great. It is a blast. Tom is writing, directing, starring and producing. I am blessed to be there everyday. So I am very excited and “Larry Crowne” will be out next year.

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