Jodi Long chats about working on TBS’ “Sullivan & Son”

Jodi Long co-stars as Ok Cha Sullivan on TBS’ “Sullivan & Son”. The show is created by Steve Byrne and Rob Long. The show was also already picked up for a second season for 2013. Jodi took out some time to chat about her role on the show and her stories from season one.

Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to work on “Sullivan & Son”
Jodi Long: I got the script and thought it was just so funny. I think we talk about race and make fun of being political correct. I think it is a conversation that America needs to have, look at and laugh at. Everyone has some kind of predjuice. Our cast has this big mixture of this multi-racial and ethnic and that is what this country is built on. You don’t see that sort of thing a lot on TV but it is the reality of our world.

MG: How do you stay serious after giving some of your hysterical lines?
JL: The thing is I do have the best job in show business. We get to laugh all week. You come into work and some have on a laugh pin-stripped shirt and these guys will go off and go five-minutes each on this shirt. So then we get the scripts and Steve and I just have a blast. So much of my stuff is with him and he can’t keep a straight face. We really have to rain it in for the audience, because during rehearing we are always laughing.

MG: What would you say has been your highlight of season one?
JL: The highlight for me has just been working with these great people all the way from Vince (Vaughn) to our prop people. I am being completely serious. There is so much love on this set, it is phenonomal. The energy is just so positive. The episode when I set up Steve on an online dating service and that was a really fun episode for me in particular.

MG: Any cool behind the scenes stories you want to share?
JL: I got a really good one, it happened on shooting out last episode of the season. We had this one guy that was an extra on our show since the pilot, a very nice 90-year old gentleman named Maurice, who always has this veteran hat on. So we got talking one day and I asked him why didn’t he come to the cafeteria to eat one day. He told me that he didn’t like to eat too much before a show, so I thought that was really cool. So the last episode they gave him a few lines and we were all excited. I asked him if he was excited and he told me that his wife was going to be so excited. I asked him why he was still going this at the age of 90 and he said it was better than sitting on home and waiting to die. I just really liked this guy. The day he did his lines, I asked him if he was having a nice day and he told me “Jodi, I think this has been the best day of my life”. He said “I have felt so encouraged or supported before”. He said that in the thirty plus years being a extra that he was NEVER upgraded to a day-player. So I was so excited to have known that and it was just so sweet. This just proves how great this show really is. I have never told anyone in the press this, so you are the first.

Christine Ebersole talks about her role on TBS’ “Sullivan & Son”

Christine Ebersole is well-known performer & two-time Tony Award winner from the 2001 Broadway revival of “42nd Street” and 2006’s “Grey Gardens”. She is currently playing the role of Carole on TBS’ hit comedy series “Sullivan & Son”. Christine took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about her role in this very funny show and what she enjoys most about performing on stage.

Mike Gencarelli: Your are a such a well-known performer & two-time Tony Award winner, how did you get involved with a show like “Sullivan & Son”?
Christine Ebersole: I think what really convinced me was that it was funny. That element really struck me when I first read the script. The show also has heart. I really loved that.

MG: All of the cast that I’ve spoken says that Carol has some of the best lines in the show.
CE: I feel like it is a total feast. I am thrilled beyond words. The people I work with all enjoy each other’s company. We basically laugh all day and get money at the end of it. (Laughs) It’s awesome!

MG: You worked with Brian Doyle-Murray back on “Saturday Night Live”, how was it working with him again?
CE: After 30 years, we finally got to work with each other again. To still both be players at our age is just great. It is all gravy.

MG: The episode “Creepy Love Song” features you singing with Owen Benjamin was so hysterical, how many times did that take to shoot?
CE: Our characters have a childlike innocence to them which I think allows us to get away with all the things that we do. Those characters are just having fun.

MG: What has been one of your favorite experiences from shooting season 1?
CE: I am hard pressed to pick just one. Even when I don’t have a lot of scenes in the show I am just so thrilled to be a part of it. It doesn’t matter if I have more or less lines. Of course you always want to be the center of attention but when you are not you can revel in the joy of the person who is getting the attention. Things like this don’t happen all the time.

MG: How does working in front of a live studio audience compare to the audiences from your live stage work?
CE: It really is the closest thing to working in front of a stage audience. With television you are allowed to mess up and do things over. On stage you can’t do that. It’s very close to having that energy that fuels you. It’s great having that barometer to gauge how funny things are.

MG: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming live performances?
CE: I am going out performing a show I did at the Carlyle a few years back. The show is about finding eternal youth. I will be doing songs from “The Great American Song Book” and telling true stories about my life.

MG: What do you enjoy most about performing?
CE: For me it is the audience. The group I am working with right now is also really great. Taking everything in and seeing the audience enjoying themselves is what it’s all about.

MG: Tell us about your role in the film “The Big Wedding” and working with the great cast?
CE: The film was supposed to come out in the fall however it has been pushed to next spring. I think they want to work more on the publicity. The film is really beautiful and was written by Justin Zackham. The cast is also pretty amazing. I play the mother of the bride who is played by Amanda Seyfried. The film is just really fun and sweet. The best part was I got to write and perform a song called “Gently Down the Stream” which will play at the end of the film. Don’t leave when the credits come on or you will miss the song.


Related Content

TBS’ “Sullivan & Son” Interview Series

Home is where the bar is. TBS’s new workplace comedy series on Thursdays at 10/9c!

“Sullivan & Son”, which is executive-produced by Vince Vaughn (“The Break- Up”), Peter Billingsley (“Iron Man”) and show-runner Rob Long (“Cheers”), takes place in a popular bar in a working-class Pittsburgh neighborhood. Filled with locals and regulars, the establishment known as Sullivan & Son serves as the unofficial “town hall” for the neighborhood. The show stars some of the best talent on television including Steve Byrne, Dan Lauria, Jodi Long, Owen Benjamin, Vivian Bang, Brian Doyle-Murray, Christine Ebersole, Valerie Azlynn, Ahmed Ahmed and Roy Wood Jr.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with various members of the show including Brian Doyle-Murray, Christine Ebersole, Dan Lauria, Jodi Long, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and Valerie Azlynn. We hope you enjoy our interviews! These people really have some great stories and love what they do, which shows within this great television series! Be sure to turn in to the show and tell you friends!

UPDATE 9-13-12: Congrats on “Sullivan & Son” being renewed for a second season! Also Christine Ebersole and Jodi Long have been added and next up we have Roy Wood Jr. , so stay tuned!

Brian Doyle-Murray

Christine Ebersole

Dan Lauria

Jodi Long

Owen Benjamin
Roy Wood Jr.
Steve Byrne

Valerie Azlynn

Plot Outline: As the series opens, Steve Sullivan (Byrne) is a successful corporate attorney from New York who brings his girlfriend, Ashley (guest star Brooke Lyons – 2 Broke Girls) for a visit just as his Irish-American father, Jack Sullivan (Dan Lauria – The Wonder Years), and Korean mother, Ok Cha (Jodi Long – Beginners), are preparing to sell the bar and retire. Upon arrival, Steve reconnects with his best friend, Owen (Owen Benjamin – The House Bunny); gets accosted by his long-suffering, under-appreciated younger sister, Susan (Vivian Bang – Yes Man); endures offensive comments from gruff barfly Hank (Brian Doyle Murray – Groundhog Day, Saturday Night Live); and gets hit on by tipsy cougar Carol (Christine Ebersole – Royal Pains, Amadeus). He even feels a rekindled romantic spark with his former sweetheart, Melanie (Valerie Azlynn – Tropic Thunder). It doesn’t take Steve long to realize that what he really wants out of life is to return to the old neighborhood and take over Sullivan & Son, even if it means giving up a lavish Manhattan lifestyle with the gorgeous Ashley. And so begins Steve’s quest for a more meaningful and rewarding life behind the bar. Sullivan & Son is from Wild West Picture Show Productions, in association with Warner Horizon Television.

Valerie Azlynn talks about working on TBS’ “Sullivan & Son”

Valerie Azlynn is currently playing the role of Melanie on TBS’ new comedy series “Sullivan & Son”.  The show is created by Steve Byrne, who also stars, and Rob Long (“Cheers”).  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Valerie about the show and what her inspiration was for her character.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with “Sullivan & Son”?
Valerie Azlynn: Well, it was a normal audition process for me. I met Steve (Byrne) and the guys during the audition and I thought we all worked well right from the beginning. Steve was so kind and cool during the audition process. Honestly it was a very fun audition. I left and just thought how awesome it would be to get to work with these people. I was shocked when I got the part. It not only made my day when I found out but my entire year. I was so excited.

MG: What do you enjoy most about playing Melanie?
VA: I personally enjoy how confident and semi-grounded she is. I would say she – if it is like a car – she is the axle. Nothing really works without the axle. It is always there and grounded. The guys are like the wheels and Steve is like the driver [laughs]. She is able to put everbody in check. I think Steve and her have a lot of similarities. If anything they are both extremely stubborn. I loved her relationship with the guys. They are her brothers as well. Even with my own brothers in real life, you can put them in check pretty easily…which is good.

MG: What is your inspiration for her character?
VA: I stole out of that from real life experiences. The rest of the character is stealing from Bea Arthur, Julia-Louise Dreyfuss and a lot from my grandmother. She was a really firey red-head, who not only put people in there place but told them where they were going to go. From being partially raised by her, I got this little attiude from her. So that is a big part of the character. Lastly I like to throw a little Angelina Jolie in there, since she is so sexy and cool. I don’t even know if she has anything to do with my character but let’s just toss her in cause it sounds good [laughs].

MG: Was it hard to keep it serious amongst a cast mostly of stand-up comedians?
VA: I think there were some moments where it was really hard to keep a straight face. I feel like I had done a ton of comedy and my background is improv. I think just the fact of staying in a scene and improvising, if anything it made me want to take the scene longer and further.

MG: What was your highlight from shooting on season one?
VA: I would have to say my favorite is actually “The Panty Theif” episode. I mean we include panties, a puppy and punching. It has everything. The real treat was working with John Michael Higgins. For me personally, he does work that if I was a dude I would totally want to emulate this career. So my plans is to do the female version of that [laughs]. But he is seriously funny as shit! He just reads a line and everyone goes into a riot. It is the same thing with Brian Doyle-Murray. There are just some people that are so extraordinary.

MG: How does this show differ from your past TV work?
VA: This show for me is just such a great experience. I get to be a regular on the show and not just coming in and supporting. I felt like I really got to be a part of the family. Also the way a sitcom is shot is such a great bonding experience. You are all together everyday of the week for a couple of months. When you are anactor, if you are going in and out of jobs with guest spots etc, those experience are great but you don’t get to have that constant bonding. There is such a charm with this cast. I developed great relationships with everyone from the very first day. I loved working with all of these people.

MG: What do you have planned next?
VA: I did another little spot on “Castle” for their season opener this Fall. I was on it last season for a couple of episodes also. It was really fun, I got to play a superhero. I just pop in and out. I haven’t heard anything yet about season two of “Sullivan & Son”. Maybe our fans will reach out and demand more episodes. I feel pretty good about it. All we do is try and make you laugh and I think the audience really appreciates that.

Steve Byrne talks about creating new TBS’ series “Sullivan & Son”

Steve Byrne is the creator, along with Rob Long (“Cheers”), and star of the new TBS’ comedy series “Sullivan & Son”. Steve is known best for performing stand-up. The show is executive produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley. The show also co-stars Dan Lauria, Jodi Long, Owen Benjamin, Brian Doyle-Murray, Christine Ebersole and Valerie Azlynn. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Steve about the new show and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Being a creator of “Sullivan & Son”, tell us about its origin?
Steve Byrne: It all starts and ends with Vince Vaughn. He has been such a great friend of mine for many years. He told me one day “Why don’t you develop something for yourself”. My focus was always on stand-up. I never wrote anything before and I told him that. He told me “Well you can do it” and that is kind of how the conversation went. He just said “You can do it”. So I went out and bought a bunch of books on script writing and studied for few months. Then I spent another few months writing the inital pilot. I turned it into him and Peter Billingsley and they liked it and suggested with meet with some writers. So we met with Rob Long and we just hit it off right off the bat. Originally the show was suppose to take place in a diner and Rob said “You should make this a bar show”. Well I said “If you sign on, you did one of the best bar shows ever, if you want to do it then hell yeah! Let’s do it!”. So that is how the whole thing came about.

MG: Going from stand-up to sitcom, what do you enjoy most?
SB: What I love about sitcom is that I am not by myself. Stand-up is a lonely profession. It’s a few weeks a year living out of suitcase and constantly being by yourself. You are the life of the party for two hours a night but then you just go back to the hotel room by yourself [laughs]. So it can be a pretty depressing. But being with this great ensemble cast, there is such a genuine chemistry we all have. When we brake for lunch, nobody goes off into their own dressing room. We all sit down and eat lunch together. We got some real good veterans on the show like Dan Lauria, Brian Doyle-Murray, Christine Ebersole and Jodi Long. Everyone has been tremendous to work with. It has been the highlight of my career.

MG: Does it still feel like stand-up due to the live-audience aspect?
SB: I think the only element to stand-up that could be parlayed to doing it in front of a live studio audience is us comics feel more comfortable. I never get nervous. You can put 200 people in front of me or put 5,000 people in front of me. I feel very comfortable and I’ve been doing it for 14 years of my life. The only thing I have a problem with people saying with have a laugh track on our show. We don’t. We earn the laughs that we get. We don’t tamper with them. It’s not our fault that the audience is enjoying themselves at the taping [laughs].

MG: Working with your friends, you find it hard to keep it serious? or is that the magic of the show?
SB: [laughs] There has been times when we try not to goof off too much. I think towards the end of shooting it started to feel like summer vacation. We knew the end was near and people got giddy and had fun. But when push came to shove and they said action, everyone delivered and always tried their best. Hopefully people enjoy the show.

MG: What do you have planned next? Stand-up tour? Season two?
SB: Hopefully we keep the numbers we have and get to come back for another season. Ultimately my primary motivation is to drive people back to my live performances and stand-up. Hopefully the show goes well and I get to do it for many more seasons to come with my pals. I also had a third one-hour special in the can that I was getting ready to film, before the show got picked up. So at some time, I would like to film that.

Brian Doyle-Murray talks about TBS’ new comedy series, “Sullivan & Son”

Brian Doyle-Murray is the older brother of actor Bill Murray.  He is also a “Saturday Night Live” veteran and has appeared in many films including  “Groundhog Dog”, “Wayne’s World & “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”.  Brian took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about co-starring as Hank in TBS’ new comedy series, “Sullivan & Son” and what we can expect from the first season.

Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to work on TBS’ new comedy series, “Sullivan & Son”?
Brian Doyle-Murray: I had worked with Rob Long, one of the executive producers, on the TV show “Love and Money”. I really like him and thought he was a sharp guy. He is really good at what he does. when I read the script, I thought it was time for a show like this. I worked with TBS before also and I really liked them as a network as well. They give shows a chance and also willing to take a chance on shows. Once I did the pilot, I knew it was going to be great. The chemistry was just so fantastic.

MG: Tell us about working with this amazing cast?
MG: Steve Byrne is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Dan Lauria is just so great. I had no idea how hysterical Jodi Long was. She has some of the funniest lines. Dan and her both are theater mavens, they got the chops. Christine Ebersole and I worked together on “Saturday Night Live” doing the news, many years ago. She is such a classy chantoose. She has two Tony’s and here she is playing this cougar tramp and is just hilarious. Vivian Bang and Valerie Azlynn are beautiful and also really knock it out of the park. We also have more stand up’s per square inch for any show on television [laughs]. Besides Steve, we have Owen Benjamin, Steve Wood Jr., Ahmed Ahmed and Brian Scolaro. Brian is so subtle, it is like he is not even there and then he just kills it. Owen has some of the most amazing energy…for a slacker [laughs]. Roy does these great prank calls, which are very funny. He is real understated but very powerful and when he hits it, he does it right on the head. Ahmed has been all over the world and is a great addition to the cast. We have also had some great guest cast as well. Billy Gardell pops up in the show. I worked with him on “Yes, Dear”. So I believe we are really lucky to have such a great round cast.

MG: Being a veteran actor on the show, you find you are able to fit in among all the young cast?
MG: They were very kind to an old man. I enjoyed working with them. What settles it for me is “Am I having a good time doing this?” and “Do I like who I am working with?”. There is a lot of laughter on the set. People really enjoy coming to work. Believe me I have been on some when they don’t [laughs].

MG: What do you feel that your character Hank brings to the show? What do you like most?
MG: He is like somebody we all know I think like an Uncle or something. He is kind of unaware that he is offensive. His bias is so ingrained though that even when the people he offends are his friends, he doesn’t get it. He will use a term for his friends ethnicity affectionately so the friend instead of punching him out just kind of sigha and saya “That’s Hank”. I think there are a lot of people out there like that. They just kind don’t get it.

MG: What do you like most about working in front of a live audience?
MG: Well that is instant gratification for something that is funny. I have a pretty good idea what is funny but if you do it twice in one day in front of a live audience. They will let you know if they like it or not. We honed it in by the time we do it finally. So it works well.

MG: Sticking with TV, tell us what you like most about doing voice work like on shows like “Motorcity and “Spongebob Squarepants”?
MG: You don’t have to shave [laughs]. You don’t even have to take a bath. The mic doesn’t know if you stink or not. You just show up and don’t even have to memorize anything [laughs]. No, it is really fun work. I really enjoy voice work.

MG: Starting with “Saturday Night Live” to iconic roles in “Groundhog Dog”, “Wayne’s World and “Christmas Vacation”, what do you enjoy most about comedy?
MG: Well nothing compares to getting a laugh. You have to assume it on something like voice work. On “Sullivan & Son”, you know you are getting the laughs. It is very rewarding and very satisfying. Working with these people, the process is more enjoyable than the result even. Just the act of doing it. Cracking each other up is fun.

MG: What else do you have in the cards upcoming?
BDM: Besides this? Well, we just wrapped. I am trying now to match the circadian rhythms of my cats. That is I am trying to sleep 22 hours a day [laughs]. So, that is my goal.

Owen Benjamin talks about new show on TBS “Sullivan & Son”

Owen Benjamin is currently co-starring in TBS’ comedy series “Sullivan & Son”.  He is co-starring along with Steve Byrne, Dan Lauria and Brian Doyle-Murray, just to name of few of this amazing cast.  Media Mikes got a chance to chat with Owen about this show and what we can expect from the first season.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with “Sullivan & Son”?
Owen Benjamin: I have been friends with Steve Byrne for awhile. We used to do shows together and make stupid internet videos. He and Vince Vaughn had been friends and Steve recommended me to tour with those guys. We did a national tour together on 2010 and we just all clicked. When they were putting the show together they wrote me in. I will be playing pretty much a version of myself and they knew they liked me and wanted to hang out with me.

MG: Did you take the role so you didn’t have to remember your characters name?

OB: Yeah we just kind of did that as a lot of comedians have done the same thing. It’s kind of weird. (Laughs)

MG: What has been a highlight for you from working on the show?
OB: Everyday doesn’t feel like work. We all got there early and went to the gym and had breakfast together. The writing staff, producers and studio are all so positive. They just want a good product. It’s really great working in an environment like that. As a comic I am a joke control freak so I thought it was going to be a little weird having someone else write for me. The writers did such a good job that I felt really relaxed and didn’t want to try and pitch any of my jokes. It was a huge weight off my shoulders which allowed me to just focus on my acting.

MG: Was Vince involved on set at all during the shows shooting?
OB: Yeah! He does this because he loves it. He just loves comedy. He got in to producing because his is doing it with his friends Peter Billingsly and Steve Byrnes. Vince gets to be a part of his friend’s careers. He would be on set pitching jokes and checking things out. It’s been an honor working with that dude.

MG: What can we expect from the first season?
OB: The thing that I really like about this show is I am a bar guy. I have been a bar guy all my life. I worked at one when I was growing up and I love drinking and partying. This show is a local bar. I think a lot of sitcoms will land flat because they are missing that authenticity of real life. As touring comics we have a really good sense of what is funny in America and not just in Silver Lake California. The characters can be over the top but there is a good base of love, family and respect that it allows the characters to do some pretty insane stuff.

Dan Lauria talks up TBS’ “Sullivan & Son” & reflects on “The Wonder Years”

Dan Lauria is best known for playing the father, Jack, on “The Wonder Years”.  He is also a stage play veteran, which is how he got involved with the new show on TBS called “Sullivan & Son”, which is executive produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley.  Dan is playing the lead role of Jack Sullivan on the show.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Dan about the show and what we can expect from the first season.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the show “Sullivan & Son”?
Dan Lauria: Last year, I was doing “Lombardi” on Broadway.  Vince Vaugh and Peter Billingsly came to see the show. They are the producers of “Sullivan & Son”. So they actually offered me another role but I didn’t think I was right for it. He respected that but then called back two days later and asked me to play Sullivan for twice the money. My agent actually said “Yes” before calling me and said “If you don’t take it I’ll kill ya!” [laughs].

MG: So Dan tell me the truth were you only interested “Sullivan & Son” to play a character named Jack again?
DL: [laughs] Yeah another father named Jack. Unlike “The Wonder Years”, this father laughs all the time. Thank God, because I can’t keep a straight face with these guys on the show. There is no way to keep it serious on this show. You can walk it with tears in your eyes saying your dog just got run over and there will be 10 minutes of dead dog jokes till you are laughing.

MG: Give us a little background on Jack Sullivan?
DL: The whole show is based on Steve Bryne’s humor. He is half Irish and half Korean. So Jodi Long and I play his parents. I am like the lovable guy, definitely not like “The Wonder Years”. Jodi, well she is the bar Nazi [laughs]. Jodi is so unlike the character she is playing. She’ll come up with the most clueless lines and Steve will just burst out laughing. You want that in a show. You want everyone loose.

MG: After being on “The Wonder Years” for many years, how it returning to a starring role on TV again?
DL: This is a much easier job than “The Wonder Years”. This is four cameras and live in front of an audience. The schedule is pretty much the same every week. Unlike “The Wonder Years”, it was not only long hours but whenever you saw a close up of me or Alley Mills talking to the kids…they weren’t there. They were at school. We were talking to X’s on a chair. So this job, I feel like I am robbing the bank. I feel like I feel asleep next to a slot machine.

MG: Having such a theater background, you must love that it is shot in from of a live audience?
DL: For me it much easier especially since I am stage veteran. I have done a lot of plays and I love a live audience. For me the best audience is the first day we block it for the cameras. They crew guys have been around for a long time and when you can make them laugh, you know you got something. I am trying to be neutral about it and trying to have that actors attitude of never want to get too high or too low. But boy, the way the crew has been reacting, it is hard for me not to have high expectations.

MG: Why do you think will draw viewers into this new comedy?
DL: Our showrunner is Rob Long, who was with “Cheers” forever. Our show is “Cheers” meets “Archie Bunker’s Place”. We are more blue collar. I think we are going to connect with audiences because everyone has a bar like this in their neighborhood. It is the old corner bar that is going through the change since it was all Irish and now mixed. We got Brian Doyle-Murray, who is great as the old bigot. Then we have Christine Ebersole, who is a two-time Tony award winner. They we have they young stand-up’s like Roy Wood, Ahmed Ahmed and Owen Benjamin. They are just terrifc. Christine plays Owen’s mom. In one episode, they try and do a mother-son lounge act. They do all these sexy songs and it is the most perverted show I’ve ever seen [laughs]. It is absolutely hysterical.

Interview with Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan is the man responsible for the props and special effects for “The Evil Dead”. He also worked the stop motion animation work in “Evil Dead 2”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tom about his work on the series and about his influences growing up.

Mike Gencarelli: Were you a fan of Ray Harryhausen and has he inspired your work?
Tom Sullivan: It all started for me…art, film…when I saw the original “King Kong” when I wa five years old. I thought if there were jobs that were this cool…(laughs) I hadn’t heard of Ray Harryhausen yet, or Willis O’Brien. I didn’t even know how they did the gorilla in the movie. My five year old thinking was that they had a lot of really strong gymnasts, really athletic people. But I knew it wasn’t a real animal. I had no clue about stop motion. And it wasn’t until the 3rd grade that Famous Monsters of Filmland came to my attention. It had stories about “King Kong” and Ray Harryhausen. Then I started seeing movies like “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad” and “Jason and the Argonauts.” And I thought, “oh, somebody carried this on. Somebody took the stop motion banner forward.” And Ray did that exceptionally. He was making the most remarkable special effects films over all of that time. Next to him were the occasional big studios films and then the George Pal films. Pretty much everybody else’s films were pretty lame. There was a filmmaker from Eastern Europe named Karel Zeeman, who was like the Willis O’Brien of, I think, Czechoslovakia. He did these most imaginative films that were just beautiful. Films like “The Fabulous World of Jules Verne” and “Journey to the Beginning of Time,” which was about some kids taking a boat down a river. They start in almost an ice age, a glacier and the farther they go down the river the farther back in time they go. He filled the film with herds of dinosaurs and mammals and things like that. Eventually they hit the ocean. It’s a really creative film…lots and lots of mattes and stop motion. You can find them on DVD. “The Fabulous World of Jules Verne” is neat because the sets are a series of engraved drawings. You can see the lines drawn on it and it has this really charming take on it…the Victorian charm of manners and other things. But anyway I found those guys and just took off. Ray’s stuff was highly influential to me. I’d love to see that stuff come back. In reality, stop motion never died. It just took on new forms. Like the stop motion puppet films that Tim Burton produces. I think the new “Addams Family” film will be stop motion. Puppet films are doing great…they make money. But I’d like to see stop motion come back. Maybe pair it up with digital compositing. Digital compositing is the best thing out there. A lot of films have them. People driving around in cars or on trains, there’s a view out of a window. A lot of that is done with green screen because you can control things a lot better. Done correctly, with the time and talent and money, it’s nearly impossible to tell. Look at a Ray Harryhausen film. That’s one guy putting out five monsters for a movie. For the new “Clash of the Titans” film the credits went on for eight minutes because they had armies, literally hundreds of people doing that stuff. Each figure had to be constructed. Not just the sculpture but the muscles, textures, hair if it has it. They all have to be incorporated and animated in layers. You start with a guy with a stick figure animating that, and then someone adding on the layers of muscle and skin and clothing and hair and then you have the textures…lighting textures and skin textures. It really takes about 15 layers to do that. And with the video-assist in stop motion today you can actually see the stop motion growing as it progresses. Ray Harryhausen has turned out to be incredibly influential. Did you see the film “Monsters?” That’s a Harryhausen film. “Lord of the Rings?” That’s a Harryhausen film. “Cloverfield?” That’s a Harryhausen film. Just with some tweaks on it. “Godzilla” is a Ray Harryhausen film. The filmmakers wanted to match the success of “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.” That was the first one! Even though “King Kong” featured it, Ray Harryhausen made if a part of the landscape. The big monster on the loose thing. He did a couple of those. And he wrote some books for us film scholars…he spread the information he had gleaned.

MG: What was your inspiration for some of the props and special effects for “The Evil Dead”?
TS: Probably the Book of the Dead. In the script it was described as having an animal skin cover, which I took for leather. It was also described as having two letters from an ancient alphabet. To me I thought, no matter how scary I make those letters, it’s going to come off as a scrapbook. To me, as an illustrator, and I’m an artist first, you try to make something breathe. In that split second that it takes to identify what something is, at the moment your brain is processing it, you’ve got to make it simple so that all of the clues point to exactly what it is. And letters on a leather book they’re not…they’re not words. Like “TO SERVE MAN.” They’re not recognizable. They’re just symbols. And that really doesn’t speak much to me. If it’s a book of awful things, you should be able to just look at it and know you’re not going to pick it up…it’s too disgusting. My dad used to get SAGA and other men’s magazines that used to have all kinds of rancid stories in them. I’d sneak them from him. And one of them had a story about Ilse Koch, who was the wife of a concentration camp commandant. She was tried later in the Nuremberg Trials and executed, thankfully. But she would skin the prisoners and use the skins for curtains and lampshades and book covers. Needing to not just put somebody’s back on the book cover but a recognizable human feature, the story goes I didn’t want to put a schlong on the cover (laughs) so a human face seemed good. I’ve been looking and I’ve never found a book with a face as the cover. I’ve never seen any of Ilse’s books so I don’t know what she used. I’m not sure she used a face so I think we made that up. I did a slush mold of Hal Delrich’s face. I stretched it over some corrugated cardboard and instant book cover. I also got some store bought parchment…thick dyed paper…and I bound that together with grocery bag material. That became the book binding. I glued that in. Then for the next two weeks of filming, when I had finished up my other chores and done make up for people I’d sit around the kitchen table down in Tennessee and talk with Josh Becker, who was second unit camera. He helped with sound and lots of things. He’s really a film scholar and a film director now. We would talk about film and I would illustrate the book. I based the design on Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. It had some cool drawings and he would have his mirrored…reversed…lettering. He could right backwards so that you could only read it in a mirror. I should say here that the “Evil Dead” book does NOT contain any hidden messages. I call it sanscript or the font of the dead. The hidden messages didn’t come in until the Anchor Bay books, and that was a lot of fun. I designed them and illustrated them. And the eyes still scream on the “Evil Dead 2” book.

MG: You did more stop motion animation work in “Evil Dead 2.” Tell us about that process?
TS: “Evil Dead 2” was a much bigger film. The first was a little tiny thing. But the second one had like a $3 million budget and three stop motion crews. Sam actually gave me my choice of what I wanted to do. I thought stop motion was going to be the next big thing, not predicting digital at all. At the end of “Evil Dead 2” there’s a scene where this flying Deadite comes in and battles the soldiers on horseback and knocks them off. He then kills a couple of them. And the woman running with the child and it swoops down on her and then Ash shows up. The problem was I had prepared a list of dos and don’ts to shoot the background plates. My cameraman for the finale, Larry Larson, who had a lot of experience in this stuff, he and I put together a little list. I’m not sure what happened. Some of the things were “don’t put dust in the air” or “don’t kick smoke up, or as little as possible.” Because if you use that as the screen you project the image on to behind the puppet it would put the creature not on the plain behind the dust but in front of the dust, which would make it look smaller perspectively. But Sam wanted dust and he got these huge aircraft engines and ruined it! So there were just one or two shots that we could actually use for backgrounds. That was the reason I did the film and it goes by so fast people don’t even remember they saw it. I built, designed and animated the model. I even put little screws in the back attached to wires so I could animate various expressions. I didn’t get to use it because the whole sequence was truncated. But if you look closely in one of the profile shots when the Deadite is flying, in between one of the wing flaps you can see the face smile. On “Mighty Joe Young” Ray used to put clay over the lips to animate the lips moving…beautifully too. It was astounding how he did that.

MG: Would you say that “Army of Darkness” was the most difficult film to work on due to the large scale?
TS: Actually on “Army of Darkness” all they needed was an “Evil Dead 2” Book of the Dead. They had apparently lost the books, they never returned from “Evil Dead 2.” So I sent them one and a couple of months later I had to call and ask “where’s my money.” (laughs) The art director reminded them that Ash had to get sucked into a Book of the Dead and it had to be bigger than the “Evil Dead 2” book. So their art director just did a derivative copy of it. I hate the cover. But they needed a bigger book so that Ash could get sucked into it and then crawl out. But that’s the only film I actually got credit for the Book of the Dead on. They were kind of stingy on credits for “Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead 2”, which is too bad because I could have used a career! (laughs)

MG: Tell us about your website, http://DARKAGEPRODUCTIONS.COM/?
TS: We don’t have a catalog yet. I’ve been an illustrator and have illustrated H.P. Lovecraft role-playing games for the past 18 years. I’ve got a terrific printer that prints archival paper with archival ink. Really beautiful, archival, will last hundreds of years prints. I make convention appearances and I take along some racks and lots of prints and props that I show off. I have fun meeting the fans. That’s the greatest reward out of all of this. Seeing the influence that films have on people…I never expected that. I mean I saw “King Kong” and wanted to make movies. And a convention doesn’t go by where I don’t meet someone who says “you know, I’m an artist because I saw your work.” Or a filmmaker or special effects guy. That’s really cool…really cool.

A Media Mikes exclusive:
Following the interview Mr. Sullivan said he had a little news that we could break for him:
Ryan Meade, a friend of Mr. Sullivan and a filmmaker, is finishing up a documentary film about Mr. Sullivan called “Invaluable.” The title comes from the word Fangoria Magazine has used to describe Mr. Sullivan’s involvement in the “Evil Dead” films. The film covers Mr. Sullivan’s art and film career and includes interviews with some of films biggest stars, including, of course, the cast and crew of the “Evil Dead” films. The film will also feature a lot of behind the scenes looks at the “Evil Dead” films.

EXCLUSIVE News: Tom Sullivan Get His Own “Evil Dead” Documentary, “Invaluable”

We recently interviewed Tom Sullivan known for his work on the “Evil Dead” series.  The full interview will be posted in mid-August during our “Evil Dead” interviews series, including Danny Hicks, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly and Timothy Quill.

Following our interview with Mr. Sullivan, he said  he had a little news that we could break for him as a MovieMikes exclusive:

Ryan Meade, a friend of Mr. Sullivan and a filmmaker, is finishing up a documentary film about Mr. Sullivan called “Invaluable.” The title comes from the word Fangoria Magazine has used to describe Mr. Sullivan’s involvement in the “Evil Dead” films. The film covers Mr. Sullivan’s art and film career and includes interviews with some of films biggest stars, including, of course, the cast and crew of the “Evil Dead” films. The film will also feature a lot of behind the scenes looks at the “Evil Dead” films.

Here is an official quote from Tom:
“It’s official. There’s a documentary about Tom Sullivan. The Evil Dead FX Guy, Tom Sullivan. Not the other ones. Although they would be worthy subjects of well made documtarys too. Except for maybe that one Tom Sullivan but we won’t talk about him. But it’s shaping up to be a lot of fun and I learned a lot about Tom Sullivan. The Evil Dead one. And it’s by Ryan Meade.”