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Fran Kranz: News

22 January 2012 Leave a comment
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Fran Kranz: Death of a Salesman

11 January 2012 Leave a comment

Who: Fran Kranz

What: Death of a Salesman

Where: Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street, New York, NY10036

When: 13th February 2012 – 2nd June 2012

How: Online Booking

Price: From $76.50 to $201.50

The Uncommon Bonds of Common Rotation from The Huffington Post

6 December 2011 Leave a comment

The Uncommon Bonds of Common Rotation

Posted 12/3/11


Discovering the Truth in Lying With a Rare Folk Trio

I am riding shotgun in a rented van crawling up Fourth Avenue with Common Rotation, a road weary L.A. folk trio who has taken a one-day respite from supporting the Indigo Girls’ American tour to back their favorite songwriter on a stopover in New York. The songwriter, Dan Bern, is not only one of the genre’s most prolific composers and thus the band’s hero and mentor, but also its neighbor — along with Bern’s fellow movie soundtrack songster, Mike Viola (Walk Hard and Get Him To The Greek), who lives a few doors down. For the moment, Bern is sprawled in the back amongst the instruments and duffel bags playing scrabble on his smart phone; a touring ritual that I discover later over Indian food has been going on for months between himself and members of CR no matter where they are or the hour of the day or night.

A mere five minutes have passed since our hurried salutations in front of Joe’s Pub near Astor Place, where the band would be playing a set before joining Bern on stage later in the evening. Normally, this would not be enough time to engage in a furious deconstruction of the Woody Allen film canon; the sudden cross-dialogue of which evokes a zeal usually found in the company of old acquaintances.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is the best Woody Allen movie,” pronounces the stout 34-year-old driver, Jordan Katz, Common Rotation’s all-purpose multi-tasker. Katz’s proficiency on trumpet and banjo, something he claims he picked up when the band wouldn’t let him play bass anymore, is only outdone by his more than credible maneuvering through rush hour traffic. His bemused smile and nifty tie and vest ensemble belies an almost wicked sense that his vehement choice of Woody film is not altogether serious.

A voice from behind intones, “Adam loves Celebrity!” The Adam in question is 33-year-old Adam Busch, a slight, enigmatic soul with a penchant to appear almost cranky enough to be lovable. Later, while riding in an elevator, I proffer that if I were in a band it would be Common Rotation, he leans dramatically toward me and whispers, “Run away… fast!”

Of course Celebrity, a film lampooning the Hollywood bullshit machine made by a New York wise guy, would fit Busch’s idiom as part-time actor. When informed that he looked so familiar that I was forced to remember him from an episode of the cult TV show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where he played a nerd villain, (he’s also played, among others, roles in Grey’s Anatomy and House) Busch sardonically replies, “Yeah, well, everyone has met someone who looks like me.”

As we quite literally run through everything Woody from Hannah and Her Sisters to Match Point, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Love & Death (Bern’s favorite) and of course Annie Hall, a nearly apologetic voice chimes in with, “C’mon, Manhattan.” And with that, the 33 year-old soft-spoken, bespectacled, Eric Kufs enters the fray.

Kufs, guitarist and part-time handler of dobro (lap-slide) duties, and Busch, whose musical expertise ranges impressively from sax, harmonica and glockenspiel, begin engaging in a rapid-fire Woody Allen joke-off. I am, for the purpose of full disclosure, partly responsible for this mess, so I gladly join in.

This lively back and forth goes on for 20 or so blocks and a couple of avenues as Common Rotation heads up to the offices of a rock magazine to play live with Bern for a pod cast. One gets the feeling that this kind of stuff (chatting up relative strangers before donning instruments, clearing throats and whipping off a few ditties) happens routinely for CR; moving from one subject to another with the kind of ease in which they traverse the country, one town and one rented van at a time.

It is how it is done the old-fashioned way; plugging a new record, as is God Keeps an Open Gallery, the band’s fourth and latest full-length offering.

Open Gallery unfurls much like my short time with the band, familiar and lively; as if you’ve discovered something new that sounds as comfortable as your most well worn albums. There are teary ballads and gospel sirens, upbeat sing-a-longs and tender instrumentals, and across them all an enviable string of memorable melodies swept along on beds of wonderful three-part harmonies. Every note, Katz tells me, was rehearsed and recorded in the band’s living room.

“For some of the tunes, I was set up in my bedroom with the banjo, while Adam would be across the house laying down harmonica in his, and Eric was in the living room playing guitar. We’d just sort of roll out of bed, put on headphones, and start playing.”

The romantic notion of sharing suburban Los Angeles digs — Katz describes it as a sprawling California house, circa 1906, once owned by Gloria Swanson — brewing up the morning café, yawning out the cobwebs and getting down to making music together is not lost on Busch.

“Every one of our songs is basically a search for truth,” he says proudly. “I feel like you’re supposed to experience real things for people. I take it as a responsibility to share the experience with the audience. I would hope our live shows are always expressions of those little private moments that are sometimes forced to play out in public. There is nothing more fascinating than a couple breaking up at the next table or a man going through a crisis in an elevator; you’re invested in the wellness of that individual. Isn’t that where love starts, really?”

This search for truth is manifested in two of Open Gallery‘s first three songs, the aptly named, “It’s a Wonderful Lie” and “A Reasonable Lie,” both written by Kufs and Busch respectfully, and stark reminders that the search could be something of a chore. This not-so coincidental reminder is on the heels of the band’s previous full-length studio recording and de facto title of its web site; “Common Rotation is a Lie.”

So what’s all this infatuation with the truth?

“All storytelling is a lie,” Kufs weighs in. “It’s always from one perspective. Even the most even-handed documentary is going to be in some sense coming from its own perspective. So to get to the whole truth is in itself a wonderful lie. Adam’s song deals with what we have to tell ourselves or our friends and lovers that gets us through; a reasonable lie.”

“We all bring ideas in,” Busch adds. “Eric will come in with something and we’ll play around with it, and then Jordan might add a part, or I’ll have a lyric or musical idea. It’s a group effort, but Eric is the driving force behind Common Rotation.”

Kufs returns volley by making sure I understand that the trio’s relationship, as friends and fellow musicians, is an advantage to his compositions. “I know which of my songs will be for the band,” he states emphatically. “Because I know what everyone can bring to them and I don’t have to say much. After all this time, they know what I’m trying to achieve, what emotion, what theme.”

Open Gallery is by each member’s measure, the most complete vision of Common Rotation, yet the album is replete with guest appearances from the aforementioned Indigo Girls, which Kufs makes sure to mention are “the most supportive and giving artists and friends.” Contributions also include They Might Be Giants’ Marty Bellar and Daniel Weinkauf, neighbors, Dan Bern and Mike Viola, among others.

This atmosphere of the creative give-and-take provides the tracks of Open Gallery a sense of proper contemplation; craftsmen at work, selecting the right mood for a song, the requisite accompaniment, the singular phrasing.

“It was the economic realities of touring that brought us to this self-contained sound,” Busch admits. “We didn’t want to create something that the three of us couldn’t perform on stage. We forced ourselves to enhance what Eric was doing on guitar, whether it’s me and Jordon on trumpet and saxophone or adding the glockenspiel as an undercurrent. That’s why for the first time I think this record is a proper representation of what and who were are. I used to have to explain our records, but I just hand it to someone now and say, ‘This is us.'”

This type of “closing ranks” to produce an insular, singular sound that translates “the truth” of the band can only come from a comfort level provided by a solid background, relationships forged in youth and developed somewhere between the thick and the thin; the story of Common Rotation.

The band originated first in friendship and then an uncommon bond in musical talent. Hailing from the same neighborhood in East Meadow, Long Island, crossing paths at Little League in middle school to sharing an admiration for Elvis Costello, especially Kufs and Busch, led to a songwriting kinship, a developed sound, and the obligatory local gigs.

Soon, Busch’s acting career led the band to relocate to California, which brought about an expansion of the act in the famed Living Room tours of its early days when CR literally played at people’s homes, captured in Peter Stass’ documentary, How To Lose, which chronicles the trio’s protest of Clear Channel’s monopoly on the musical touring market. A more old-fashioned route of record promotion is hard to duplicate, unless one mentions the ingenious concept of Union Maid, wherein the band set up a web site to post new songs for fans to download for free. This gave birth to an Internet fund-drive to help the band complete the recording of “Open Gallery.”

This may be why a reluctant swoon into maturity, a strange seduction with materialism and the constant specter of mortality creeps into what Common Rotation believes is its best work; close childhood friends, playing, struggling, growing together as a movable feast for 20 years.

Finally arriving at the magazine on 29th street, the band uncoils like a machine, instruments out, tuning up, the voices warmed and ready. Bern counts off and it is as sudden as the Woody Allen debate in the van or the ease with which the scrabble bounces off cyberspace; four voices meshing beneath Bern’s staccato lead. “I just nod at these guys and they go,” Bern recounts when I marvel at the relative comfort in which CR melds into his back-up unit.

Much later, on stage at Joe’s Pub, the picture is complete; the rushing around, grabbing meals-on-the-run, the seat-of-the-pants scrabble fades beneath the polished sheen of the music. They put it all on display, the “private moments” in song and dialogue; witty, wistful and harkening to the days of dust bowl troubadours or vaudeville shtick; all of it as real as any lie.

For Common Rotation, this is the place where it breathes, a true band, a gathering of talents presenting its wares; old-fashioned, uncommon, familiar.

 Original Interview at The Huffington Post

Nathan Fillion is a Pop Culture King with The L.A. Times

13 November 2011 Leave a comment

Nathan Fillion, a pop culture king beyond ‘Castle’

Nov 8, 2011

If you settle for 20th century definitions, Nathan Fillion is a prime-time television star – after all, his Monday night series “Castle” is cruising through its fourth sly season on ABC with more than 13 million viewers a week. But in this pop-culture era of digital tribes it’s really not fair to limit his celebrity with that sort of remote-control thinking.

These are the days of compartmentalized fame and there are few better examples than Fillion, who is able to able to anchor a popular network series even as he puts together a dynamic resume of cult-audience projects, be they beautiful misfires (Joss Whedon’s “Firefly”), bold misfits (James Gunn’s “Super”), experimental farce (Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog”) or cosmic cartoons (he returns to the role of Green Lantern in the upcoming animated movie “Justice League: Doom”).

“When I go to a sci-fi convention, oh God, it’s the closest thing to being a rock star I will ever know in this life,” Fillion said over a coffee with an expression of rapturous deadpan. “I want to be a rock star, don’t you? It’s a good thing to be, a rock star.”

When you have won over cults as diverse as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Desperate Housewives” fans, for instance, you walk away with a special sort of celebrity. More than a million people follow Fillion on Twitter, and this past Valentine’s Day, readers of Entertainment Weekly voted his character, the charming boor Richard Castle, as the TV male they would most like to date.

It all adds up to a curious career odyssey for Fillion, who was raised by two English teachers in Canada and was himself on a path to become a high school teacher when his Edmonton theater work led in 1994 to a role on the soap opera “One Life to Live.” After a Daytime Emmy nomination, the soap job led to Los Angeles sitcom work on “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” (which starred Ryan Reynolds, that other Canadian who wears a Green Lantern ring) and a brief but memorable role in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” (playing a namesake for Matt Damon’s title character).

Fillion also landed the role of Caleb on the final season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a key early moment in his collaboration with Whedon. Fillion was Whedon’s leading man in the star-crossed sci-fi western series “Firefly” in 2002-03 and its feature-film sequel, “Serenity,” in 2005, and every few months there’s an industry rumor or a fan campaign calling for the franchise to saddle up again.

To the constituencies of Comic-Con International, Fillion feels like a homegrown superstar and he is acutely aware of his need to foster that part of his career. Last month, a “Castle” graphic novel (written by fan favorite Brian Michael Bendis) hit stores and also popped up as a carefully placed prop in a recent episode of the series. Fillion knows that “Castle” viewers who tune in to watch him and co-star Stana Katic solve murders represent a very different demographic than Comic-Con, but he says the line between mainstream sensibilities and genre tastes is narrowing.

“It’s so great in Hollywood now,” he said. “You have people past 40 sitting and talking about serious stuff, writing and making movies and TV, but there’s laser pistols and superheroes and alien monsters involved.  It’s viable and mainstream. There’s a treasure trove of story, and film and television are dying for story, and comic books are like storyboards, and with special effect what can’t you do now?”

The 40-year-old Fillion longs to be in a big-budget sci-fi or superhero feature film but by no means is he overlooking the value of “Castle,” which started off as a big-city send-up of “Murder, She Wrote” and has morphed into a “Moonlighting” informed by “Law & Order” and “Bones.” The show is enjoying its best numbers ever right now.

 

Like Hugh Laurie on “House,” Fillion clearly adores the cranky possibilities of playing a self-possessed scoundrel.

“I read him and immediately thought, ‘What a great time this would be to play him because he’s a kind of a jackass,’ ” Fillion said. “He’s doing his own thing, he’s selfish, he’s vain, he’s got all these character flaws. All of that I knew right away. What I didn’t know was how the mother and daughter relationship would humanize him. He’s not in control there, he doesn’t know how to be a dad and he gets humiliated a lot — that reduces him to something very basic that people can sympathize with.”

Fillion is never shy about mocking himself and that, according to Whedon, is the secret of his success.

“Nathan is a dork,” Whedon said. “He’s handsome, hilarious, a classic raconteur and a caring, considerate guy. But it’s his dorkiness, and his delight in it, that make it all more than charm. No one is more ready to poke fun at Nathan than Nathan. Except me.”

What’s next? Fillion is back with Whedon for the role of Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing,” a modern adaptation of the Shakespeare shot in black-and-white over 12 days in Santa Monica that earned cast members “hilariously miniature paychecks,” according to the press release. The film will be ready for the festival circuit on the other side of spring. It’s just another cult moment in a career oddly defined by fandom and fizzles.

“There were so many projects that I just loved — and that a lot of people loved — but they didn’t fly,” Fillion said. “You’re doing so many projects and then one makes it. And then you sit back and look at it and try to figure out why. Was it the timing or the mood? Is this what people were ready for at that moment? So many projects I’ve done fell short that I didn’t even imagine what it would be like to have a show reach Season Four. I’ve had the greatest time with the failures but this is OK, too.”

– Geoff Boucher

Original Interview at The Los Angeles Times

Interview with Joss Whedon from Rookie Mag

13 November 2011 Leave a comment

Yay, Geometry: An Interview With Joss Whedon

Our hero on Shakespeare, high school, and his new movie. No, his other new movie.

11/07/2011

For anyone who has the nerve to be enthusiastic about things, a species I believe is commonly called “nerd” or “geek,” Joss Whedon is like a living embodiment of that presidential slogan about hope. A person might be laughed at in high school for reciting self-motivational mantras with rocket-ship metaphors, but these are the people who have the will and creative juices to go on to make great things, great and thoughtful and awesome things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, the upcoming Avengers movie, and now, a semi-modernized version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Here, Joss talks about that homemade project and things of feminist concern, helps me get over myself and my attitude problem about school, and displays the wonderful knowledge and interestingness you gain when you have the nerve to be enthusiastic about things. And so, vote for Obama in 2008! Or…what? I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Read the interview. Bye.

TAVI: Hi.

JOSS: Hi. I’m so sorry that I’m super late.

Not a problem at all. I’ll just jump right in then.

All right, let’s do this.

So The Avengers was like this huge superhero production, and really exhausting, I would imagine. After making it you should’ve taken a vacation, but instead you made another movie. I wanna know why, and what’s wrong with you.

There is something horribly wrong with me. I admit that fully. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I was in New York at the end of the shoot of The Avengers, in the beginning of September. It had been about seven months since I’d slept for a full night. I was so crazed, and Kai, my wife, and I were talking about the vacation we were gonna take for our 20th anniversary of bein’ sweeties. We had October free, so we were going to Venice. Then we started talking about Much Ado—neither of us can remember how it came up. And Kai was like, “You know what? Make the movie. Venice isn’t sinking that fast.” I said, “Honey, there’s no way I can adapt the script and put it together in a month.” She’s like, “Yes, you can.” So I started talking to people about it. Then I realized how much work it would be and I was like, I have gone insane. This is a terrible idea. But at that point I’d already started getting people to commit, so it was like, I gotta put my head down and do it. It’s one of the weirder decisions I’ve ever made and absolutely the best.

That’s good.

Yeah. What if it turned out the other way!

That would suck.

It was exhausting, but it was the kind of exhaustion that feeds you and makes you strong. I mean, I’m very excited about The Avengers, and I hope people will be like yay! for that film, but you know, you make a movie like that piecemeal, a tiny bit at a time, and then you assemble those pieces, and half of what’s going to be great about the movie is not even built yet, because it’s special effects. And then I get to do this other thing, where I’m shooting by necessity about eight to 10 pages a day of just…meat. All the interactions, all the dialogue, all the silly, all the fun, all the visuals—they’re all there. They’re accomplished by the end of the day. You don’t go, “Oh, excellent! We got him walking into the room. Tomorrow he’ll say a word.” It’s a completely different experience.

You’ve worked with a lot of the actors in Much Ado before, and you filmed it in…I believe I read 12 days? on a shoestring budget and in a single house. Does that kind of seat-of-your-pants spirit come through in the movie at all or will it be like The Avengers: Shakespeare Edition?

[Laughs] It definitely will come through—though hopefully not so much that people go, “Wow, this looks like they shot it fast!” But yeah, it is literally homemade. ’Cause it was my house we shot it in.

Oh, wow!

Yeah. My wife designed the house. She’s an architect. That was another reason we finally decided to make the movie. I was like, I have the space, the whole movie takes place in one location. And I happen to live in it, and it happens to be beautiful. I mean, I’m in love with that house. My only regret was that we didn’t have any kind of rigs or steady cams or anything like that, so I couldn’t move from space to space as much as I wanted to. Because part of what’s beautiful about that house—and what I like about a film—is the flow.

I heard that you used to throw these, like, Shakespeare parties at your house.

They were Shakespeare readings. Shakespeare parties sounds like we all get in the big collars and quilted hose and dance to a lute. It’s just people showing up and reading. We started it years ago with some of the Buffy and Angel people—actors and writers and friends—and it turned into a huge monster of fun. Everybody just enjoyed each other enormously, learned about the text, got to pretend, got to show off a little, and got to make fools of themselves. Then it kinda died down for a while, because we had kids, and everything dies down when you have kids. But during its most fertile period, we did Much Ado with Amy and Alexis, and it became clear to me that if I was ever going to shoot a version of that play, this is my Beatrice and Benedick. They had both done an enormous amount of Shakespeare onstage, and they were the kind of people that even when they had tiny little parts, they would just blow it up, and not in a show-offy way. When they read Beatrice and Benedick, they were just delightful.

That’s kinda perfect.

It all happened very organically.

Did filming Shakespeare feel different from your normal supernatural and superhero stuff, or did any of the super-blank tactics come in handy?

The most interesting thing to me was that it’s not that different. When you do Shakespeare, you have the burden of trying to make it all make sense. ’Cause some of it just doesn’t necessarily track. But there’s a way that it does, and you sort of have to find that. So I’m like, well, what’s up with Margaret? What’s up with Borachio? And why on earth would Don Pedro say this this late in the scene when it’s already been said? And one by one you figure out these problems, and you go, well, wait a minute, there’s a lot more here than I realized. And what I figured out was that my version of Much Ado is just exactly the way I make my shows and my [superhero] team movies. Everybody gets to step up and explain why they’re there. They get to have their moment, you know, that explains why in their world, they’re the center of this universe. Everybody gets to shine. They are all heroes. Especially Hero.

We have to read a bit of Shakespeare this year, and we did Romeo and Juliet last year, and I had a bit of trouble with it. It’s hard to read and appreciate something when it’s an assignment for school. Any ideas on making it easier? Did you like Shakespeare in high school?

Oh my god yes. Literally my favorite subject. I loved what he had to say, I loved all the darkness, I loved all the strangeness. Hamlet is my favorite—that would be no surprise to anybody who’s hung out with me. But I also found sometimes that I needed someone to interpret it for me. The best thing is to see it. Because there are certain things that don’t make sense until you really understand the context. I would always read a play before I saw a film of it, and I remember reading Henry V before I saw [Kenneth] Branagh’s version, and going, OK, this doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Then I saw the movie and saw, A, where it did make sense and I had missed it; and, B, where Branagh used the fact that it didn’t make sense to create his own emotional through line. Both of those things were life lessons for me. He’s great at making clear to an audience what he’s saying and what he’s feeling, and sort of going beyond the text and saying, here’s why they’re talking about this odd thing in the middle of this very emotional scene. And there’s a good deal of that in my Much Ado. A good deal of finding not just the point of the scene but the life beyond it.

I guess part of it is ’cause the plays are written to be performed. I think my favorite thing about what I have read of Shakespeare is how theatrical it is. Especially A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He’s playing to an audience, he’s not playing to a reader.

Your Much Ado is a modernized version, right?

It’s modernized in the sense that it takes place today, or in a sort of nethertime. I mean, there are definitely iPhones about, everybody’s dressed rather elegantly, a lot of suits. This was a purely artistic consideration and had nothing to do with the fact that we had no budget and it was BYO costumes [laughs]. But we decided Leonato is clearly like a politician, and he lives the life of an extremely rich politician. One of the things we added is that he has what I refer to as a court photographer, who’s always just there, taking pictures, because everything in the play is a big event, and very important people are always having their pictures taken during big events. But also, the way she’s looking at everyone, and the way we’re looking at everyone—which is very often through glass or in a reflection or distorted—and the way they’re all looking at each other and not really seeing each other is very much kind of the point of the thing. Also, they’re all super drunk, not gonna lie. We sort of referred to it as the Kennedy compound. They’re very privileged, and they party very hard. They’re not responsible people. And everything they do in the play is evil, irresponsible, or just plain ridiculous. So it kind of makes sense that they’re all a little bit in their cups.

Is there anything in it that you think would appeal especially to A Teenage Girl?

It is the first romantic comedy, in the modern sense. Two people who can’t stand each other who are perfect for each other. All the greats—His Girl Friday, The Cutting Edge—all the great romantic comedies have built off of that premise to some extent. There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of romance.

I think Beatrice is one of the great female characters that Shakespeare ever wrote. She is extraordinarily witty. And generally speaking, Benedick—he may get the last word in the play, but not generally around her.

There is also an element where everybody behaves like a bunch of teenagers. Status is everything, and everyone’s always forming little cliques and either turning against or trying to help other people, and gossip nearly destroys Hero and tears everything apart. It is a very fraught little world that would be recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in a school.

What I’m saying is, the villain in Much Ado is gossip.

Can we talk about the feminist problem of this play—the fact that the plot revolves around whether Hero is a virgin and therefore worthy of the love of her father and her fiancé? Doesn’t her father say he wants to kill her when he thinks she’s had sex?

Yeah. But everything in the play is taken to a modern interpretation [in the movie] in the sense that, yes, they’re talking about whether or not she’s “a maid,” or a virgin. But what [her fiancé] Claudio’s dealing with is the idea that she’s into somebody else and that she’s made a fool of him. What [her father] Leonato’s dealing with is being publicly shamed. And that the closest person to him in his life, his daughter, has been lying to him. It was very much about playing the emotionality of two men who feel like they’ve been made fools of. It’s not about the hymen so much as it is about, uh…the human. The human, not the hymen! That’s my motto.

You know, you’re not gonna get around certain anachronistic and outdated concepts, but the emotionality about it isn’t outdated at all. Clark [Gregg, who plays Leonato] and I spent a lot of time talking about, well, how do you come back from telling your daughter she should die?

Does he tell her she should die in the movie?

It’s in the script: “Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes.” But in that same scene, I have him embracing her fiercely, because he’s just so torn. He can’t figure out what to do. What he does is I think reprehensible, and so do we all, but we worked hard to understand that in his position what had just happened was socially completely devastating, and that’s what his whole life was based on. And that emotionally he felt completely betrayed. But by that same token, before that scene is done, he’s holding on to her, saying, if they’ve done something to her, I’ll kill them. We played it in such a way that he lost his temper completely, but then at the same time couldn’t not hold her.

Then there’s another problem, which is why would Hero take Claudio back after he’s been such a dick to her?

Getting her to forgive him was important, and part of that had to do with, when she finally says to him, “And surely as I live, I am a maid,” she doesn’t say it like, “It’s OK, I’m a virgin”; she says it like, “You were fucking wrong.” She’s fierce. A lot of lines that are often played laid-back and passive are her getting in his face. “Why would you think that about me? How could you do that?” She is a little tougher. And I also added a bit: in the funeral scene, where Claudio’s going down to the tomb to mourn for her and he’s all distraught, she’s actually watching. It’s a lovely image. And you can see her feel like, well, I’m still kinda pissed, but he clearly means it.

There’s been a teenage girl, or a little older, in almost everything you’ve done, and I wanna know what that fascination is about. Are you making up for the fact that you went to an all-boys school?

[Laughs] I think that obsession existed long before I went to an all-boys school. You don’t really grown obsessions late in life. I think they’re formed early.

I have never really known why I need to write about really strong adolescent girls. I do know that I have issues about helplessness, and that seeing [girls] portrayed as helpless, for all the years of my youth, got very old. I am much more interested in some of the older comedies, particularly the black-and-white comedies of the ’30s, when most of the movie stars were female and they actually had things to do and a lot to say before they were sort of sidelined in the mainstream, in movies. And I was raised by a super strong, very interesting woman. And I was also very tiny and helpless. Those are the things that I know about. But I still don’t know why my avatar’s a girl. But she always has been, and I’ve just given myself up to it.

What were you like as a teenager, other than helpless?

Um, I was annoying. But I was funny. As much as I annoyed almost everyone, I could make them laugh. I was a terrible procrastinator and, unless it was English class, kind of a terrible student, and I just…I hate that every day of my life. I regret that.

Really?

Yeah. Every day.

You should talk about that more, ’cause I’m in a really awful “I don’t care about school” phase and I need to get out of that.

I don’t think I ever had an “I don’t care” phase, because I went to schools—particularly Winchester—that were so good that you really got engaged in the process of learning. I just had a mental block against doing work, even if it was work that I loved, and that makes me sad. It plagues me. Like my girl avatar, it’s something I never really understood. Why would I sabotage myself? Because ultimately, I find, the class is gonna be as good as you decide it’s gonna be. You may have a terrible teacher. You may have a great teacher. But ultimately there is no such thing as a boring subject. It’s just a question of whether you’re going to decide to engage with it.

Math, I was good at, but I never really engaged. Literature was always the thing that had my heart. And I loved history, but I still could be lazy. I took a lot of languages—I can speak none of them now. I just really never got off my duff unless it was creating something. I always wanted to cut right to the part where you’re making something. I didn’t actually want to learn how. Which doesn’t work, by the way.

I didn’t really start writing till after college, didn’t realize I was a writer till after college. But once I started, I worked as hard as I could. All the time. I didn’t actually study writing, but I lived with a lot of it, and grew up with a lot of really good writers. Like with everything else, if I don’t lay the groundwork, if I don’t do the stuff that seems like it’s not that rewarding, I don’t get the reward later on. I feel that all the time. Not to sound like the biggest old fogey in the world, but it’s true.

So why do you think school doesn’t matter?

Like I know why it matters and everything. The thing is, I feel like you have this point of view when you’re a teenager that’s unique, the same way that I’ll never see things the same way I did when I was little again, where everything is all new. And I’m always itching to take advantage of that in ways I don’t think the schooling system encourages you to do. So I’m always writing or drawing or something…I don’t know. I think it’s also because I’ve always been a perfectionist and now I’m burned out from that as far as schoolwork goes. I think I was kept under the illusion that grades in middle school were really important, which they’re not, and now I’m all worn out.

You used up all your best, and now high school is gonna be a disaster. I do sometimes feel that school is a little counter-intuitively designed. I don’t think it necessarily takes the adolescent mindset or heartset into account enough. There is a need for exploration and change, and there are so many questions and there are so many priorities shifting and there’s so much shit going down, and our design for schools is pretty much “sit them down and give them facts.” I do think there are better ways to engage people in not just the accumulation of knowledge, but, you know, the desire, the habit of pursuing knowledge.

You said that you didn’t really realize that you were a writer after college. What happened for you to realize that?

A desperate need for funds. I was planning to go to northern California and make movies and I didn’t have any money at all, and I knew you could make money by writing a TV script—that’s how my father had made his living for many years, and I thought, well, TV is a lesser art form, but I’ll just try my hand at a script and maybe I can make enough money to get started. And the moment I started writing my first spec script, a script just to show people I could write or find out if I can, I fell madly in love with writing. And later on I fell madly in love with TV and realized, oh, most of the best writing isn’t in movies. It’s in this other place.

Were there any shows that made that clear to you?

Hill Street Blues was enormously influential for me. I’d never seen anybody quite do that.

Can you explain what that is a bit?

Hill Street Blues was a cop drama from the early ’80s, and its tonal shifts were startling and deliberate and unlike anything I’d seen on TV. Every week, every scene, the ground would just shift under your feet. You really didn’t know what kind of show you were gonna see. It was gonna be dramatic and people would cry and blah blah blah, but you also never knew when they were gonna suddenly drop something very funny or very tough or very unexpected. And that’s the only kind of TV I like to make. You go in not knowing, and most TV is about knowing. Mostly people [watching TV] are like, “Can I order potatoes again? Thank you for the potatoes. See you next week.” A lot of my favorite shows are potato shows. With Roseanne, for instance, you know what you’re in for. And Columbo. But I just like to change it up.

I feel like I skipped over the high school stuff out of cowardice but it’s weird to talk about because I’m, like, in a rut.

I’ve been in a rut. I was in a rut for several years. Ruts are easy to come by when you’re a teenager. The ground is pitted with them. I also know that even though I couldn’t articulate it, I was pretty much in control of my world in a sense that…you know, early on, I don’t know, maybe 14, I realized that every year I go to school and in September I’d be like “Yeah! Let’s do this! I’m very excited!” and by mid-October I’d be behind in everything. And I kind of trained myself—I gave myself this little mantra: I was like, you know, “I’m gonna be fierce this year.” I can’t remember the whole mantra, but it had to do with me being a rocket ship. And it worked. I was like, no, I’m fierce homework guy, engaged guy, doing my work, I’m a rocket ship, I’m not gonna let up. And I was working great, and then I told somebody about my rocket ship mantra, and they laughed at it. And I just stopped.

Did you ever fall into a Lindsay Weir thing where you’re less into the idea of being a rocket ship and more into the idea of being a lazy person or somebody who doesn’t care?

[Laughs] That’s a good metaphor for me, a lazy person…

No! I was talking about, OK, about myself, because suddenly the idea of being someone who is not engaged becomes appealing somehow. Even though I know that I actually do like math and that I am a huge nerd, that idea at some point this month became appealing to me.

You know, there’s two versions of that. One’s “I don’t want to do anything that I don’t want to do.” Then there’s also “I wish to be this person. This person who is not engaged.” Which I think are two different things.

For me it was never me-against-the-school kind of stuff, because I was raised by teachers and my mom taught at my school that I went to for 10 years, so I always sort of had their perspective in mind, and had respect for what they were trying to do, and I had some of the best teachers you could have. So it wasn’t that, but there was desire to be disengaged, or at least to appear disengaged, a desire to be…dare I say bold? Which I really never even got close to. Super did not accomplish bold. It’s not like I was gonna go hang out in the alley and smoke cigarettes with the “bad” kids. It’s just that thing where you want things to feel easy, like they seem easy to you, like you’re just sort of coasting.

Sometimes you need to get away from ordinary expectations, but at the same time it’s very easy to be a lazy person and go, “I’m getting away from ordinary expectations by not doing my homework.” And with the way some classes are run, all of a sudden you find that, yes, you’ve just become a lazy person. You actually haven’t done anything awesome or disengaged or cool, you’ve just forgotten to do your homework. Again.

Well. I’m going to take that and do something inspiring with it. Can we know anything about what Wonder Woman was like in the script you wrote?

She was a little bit like Angelina Jolie [laughs]. She sort of traveled the world. She was very powerful and very naïve about people, and the fact that she was a goddess was how I eventually found my in to her humanity and vulnerability, because she would look at us and the way we kill each other and the way we let people starve and the way the world is run and she’d just be like, None of this makes sense to me. I can’t cope with it, I can’t understand, people are insane. And ultimately her romance with Steve was about him getting her to see what it’s like not to be a goddess, what it’s like when you are weak, when you do have all these forces controlling you and there’s nothing you can do about it. That was the sort of central concept of the thing. Him teaching her humanity and her saying, OK, great, but we can still do better.

Why do you think the “humanity and the world being awful” theme is something that you visit a lot? Like in Dr. Horrible

Well, I think the world is largely awful, and getting worse, and eventually the human race will die out. And it’ll be our own fault.

That’s gonna be my rocket-ship mantra.

[Laughs] “It’s all futile and soon the human race will die out. And now, geometry! This isosceles triangle will save us all!” No, I can be very pessimistic on a broad scale. On a smaller scale, I love people and I’m interested in them. There are certain human truths, like death, that nobody gets to escape, and pain, which everybody not only feels but needs. You have to go through it. So for everybody, at some point—very often for teenagers—the world is a terrible place. The world is a giant, awful black hole of evil conspiracy. Sometimes that’s because you have perspective on what the world’s really like, and sometimes it’s because you’ve completely lost perspective and you’re having a terrible day. But no matter what, everybody shares that feeling, and life is kind of about your ways around that, your ways around certain truths. Some people combat it with faith, some people combat it with work. For me, if I’m not writing or creating something, I get very antsy. That’s my little defense against darkness. Also, my kids.

If being creative is part of your work and not doing that work makes you antsy, but it can also be so exhausting, how do you make all of that work?

Well, you do have to shut down every now and then. That was hard for me for a long time. My wife kind of helped me by demanding that I do so. That worked out. And then I had kids, and everything changed. I learned to be present. I learned to stop and just do what I’m doing for a little while. And then I’m recharged and it all helps. I started doing yoga, too. There, I said it. Yes, I live in L.A. Clearly I live in L.A. Now excuse me while I have my protein shake and my chardonnay. Mixed together. No, that was a horrible idea.

It sounds awful. Even though I’ve never had chardonnay.

No, no, no. Stay in school, kids! Geometry!

Have you ever been disappointed by anything you’ve made?

I’ve been disappointed by things other people have made of mine—the Buffy movie, Alien: Resurrection, stuff like that. I’ve been disappointed when I didn’t feel like I brought everything to the table that I could. Either because of exhaustion, or I just missed something. There’s at least one phrase I wrote that I’m like, “That is not what I’m trying to say!” and I never fixed it. It was between Willow and Tara, and it still bugs me.

Really?

Yeah. At the end of the [Buffy] episode “Family,” Tara says, basically, you always see the good in me, and when I feel bad, you make me feel better—how do you do that? And that’s not what I was trying to say. I was trying to say that you take the worst thing about me, and you make it seem like the best thing. That’s something that I got from my wife, because she does that for me all the time. She’ll take something that I’ve always sort of felt awkward about and be like, no, that makes you awesome, doofus. Ohh. How’d you do that? How’d you turn that around? I failed there. I failed. I failed America. And its territories.

You subscribed to Sassy, right?

I did, I had a subscription.

And it was for girls but you really liked it.

Yeah, I did. I liked the way they talked to girls. They talked about things like feminism, body issues, community, and diversity, but in context with teenage girls’ actual life and language—not with an agenda of either dictating their politics or getting them to buy more makeup. Other people weren’t doing that. I liked what they had to say, and I liked the bands. Definitely some people say, “It is odd that you should have had a subscription to Sassy.” But I don’t think it needs to be explained. I get complaints about Buffy that, you know, “There’s no strong men! Male character!” I’ll be interested to hear what people say about Much Ado on those terms, because men are very often supremely doltish in this movie, but even Beatrice herself is made a bit of a fool. I’ll be interested to hear some people say, “Oh my god this text is so misogynist,” and some people will say “No, it’s a great feminist text,” and some people will say, “No, it’s just a funny play!”

Is it any of those things to you? Just a funny play, or misogynist, or feminist…

I think it’s often chauvinist, often feminist, often funny. It’s human; it’s Shakespeare, you know? He has a very keen eye for who we are and he’s a little bit merciless with it. That’s where he gets his humor as well as his darkness. I think that’s kind of what makes it art—you can’t just be a political statement one way or the other. It’s gotta breathe beyond those boundaries.

OK, I think we’re about done. Is there anything you’d like to say to the TEENAGE GIRLS OF THE INTERNET?

Um, go geometry. Yay geometry. I feel like I gave it a bad rap earlier. Um…if there’s something I have to say, it’ll show up in something I create. I talk better through other people.

Well then I guess we’ll have to keep an eye out for what you say through Much Ado About Nothing, in theaters blah blah blah!*

[Laughs] Wow! That was segue-tastic. You just wrapped that whole thing up.

Thank you. And thank you very much.

Thank you! Nice to talk to you.

Nice to talk to you too.

* Much Ado About Nothing is, even as you read this, being edited, and will be finished sometime in the spring.

Original Interviw at Rookie Mag

 

Much Ado About Sean Maher from Edge on the Net

13 November 2011 Leave a comment

Much Ado about Sean Maher

by Jim Halterman
EDGE Contributor
Monday Nov 7, 2011
While actor Sean Maher has appeared in high profile projects like Joss Whedon’s cult fave “Firefly” series (and the “Serenity” feature film spin-off) as well as the just-cancelled “Playboy Club” series (where he played a closeted gay character), he made headlines recently for publicly coming out as a gay man for the first time in his career.

Unfortunately, that good news was clouded a bit when shortly after his coming out NBC abruptly cancelled the drama, based on Hugh Hefner’s popular nightclubs in the 1960s, due to low ratings after just three episodes had aired.

After bumping into the always cheery Maher at a recent GLSEN event in Beverly Hills, EDGE’s Jim Halterman jumped on the phone last week with him to reflect on the rollercoaster ride he’s endured over the past few months, why he thinks “The Playboy Club” didn’t last, as well as details on the just-announced Whedon project that currently has Hollywood abuzz and features Maher in a villainous role.

100% out

EDGE: It was great seeing you at the GLSEN event but it made me wonder if it was a different experience for you being at an event like that now that you’re 100% out?

Sean Maher: Yeah, it was very freeing and it was very liberating. I think it also just kind of reaffirmed for me how proud I was of the decision I had made. It felt great to sit there at the event and hold Paul’s hand and not have to worry ’Is anybody looking for me?’ Actually, it was the first event that we had gone to together so it was very freeing in many ways.

EDGE: How long have you and Paul been together?

Sean Maher: It’s going to be nine years!

EDGE: That’s a long time in gay years!

Sean Maher: You know what’s funny is when we first started the adoption process, we were less than five years and our lawyer said, ’I gotta let you know that you’re not really considered a long-term relationship yet.’ We were like, ’What are you talking about?’ And he said, ’You’re considered a long term relationship when you’ve reached five years.’ We were like, ’But we’re gay! We’re in gay years relationship!’ It’s just interesting.

Playing a sexy villain

EDGE: The news just broke about Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and your part as Don John. I know you’ve worked with Joss before but how did this come about?

Sean Maher: He just simply emailed me. I was in Chicago at the time working on “The Playboy Club” and I came back to the hotel and I got an email from Joss and he said ’I’m pulling together this small, indie film adaptation of ’Much Ado About Nothing.’ Trying to put together a cast. I’m looking for a sexy villain. What sayeth you?’

I said yeah. It was a no brainer for me. As terrified as I was and I really was terrified because I had never done Shakespeare and I think when it’s Joss you want to make him proud. I love him so much so I always want to be the best that it can be so I did feel a lot of pressure to dive headfirst into a play that I wasn’t 100% sure I knew the ins and outs of, but once we started rehearsing and started getting around the dialogue and the characters and the dynamics and the relation that he had and then it didn’t feel like work at all.

It went from being one of the most challenging, terrifying experiences to not feeling like work and in the end incredibly exhilarating and magical. I kept saying to him, ’I’m so happy I’m doing this! This is just so much fun!’ His wife had said she hadn’t seen him this happy in a long time. We were all there, we weren’t getting paid much money at all and we came together because we love Joss and obviously love the idea of this project and everybody cleared their schedules for him. Everyone came together and everyone was just dedicated 100% heart and soul. It really was a very special thing to be a part of.

EDGE: You shot the whole thing in 12 days but was that a plus or a minus?

Sean Maher: That’s the thing. I think because it was such a short period of time there really was not a lot of wiggle room for error on the actors’ part so we needed to come to work and know our words like the back of our hand and knowing everything in terms of the dynamics between the characters and coming to work and just being ready to go.

Realistic & intimate

EDGE: When I go to the “Much Ado About Nothing” website, the picture is a guy in a lake in scuba gear and a martini glass which makes me think this isn’t a traditional telling. Is that the case?

Sean Maher: I’m actually in that picture underwater getting ready to come up because I’m in that scene. So I’m holding my breath underwater.

That’s obviously a still from the scene so it is a little bit of, obviously, Joss’s twist on it. He didn’t change any of the text but we shot the whole thing in black and white and he wanted to draw it in from being anything too theatrical. He didn’t want big Shakespeare. He wanted us to make it as realistic and as intimate as possible and use the dialogue and it really takes each actor knowing exactly what they’re saying with every word and every line and every paragraph, which is hard to do and to do Shakespeare right where the audience understands what’s happening is difficult.

’Playboy Club’s’ failure?

EDGE: I had the chance to also talk to Chad Hodge [creator of “The Playboy Club”] at the GLSEN event about the show having such a short life. What are your thoughts on why the show didn’t really get a chance by the network?

Sean Maher: I’m not even sure. I’ve seen so many theories in my day and gone through so many cancellations so a part of me stopped trying to figure it out what happened. It really was something special we were doing. I think…and I’m not an expert on the market…but I don’t think the time slot was working in our favor and I do think people had the wrong perception of what the show was about. If I had a quarter for every person who told me, ’I love the show! I had no idea there was singing in it!’ I probably could fund the next few episodes.

It was amazing that nobody knew what was going on in the club. It wasn’t just sex and girls in bunny outfits. I thought Laura [Benanti, who played mother-bunny Carol-Lynne] kicked ass on this show! She worked her ass off every single episode and I think everybody was drawn to this Tony-award winning actress who is just electrifying and magnificent and nobody knew there was singing in the show! I think the small things like that where there was such a misconception of what the show was about absolutely hurt it.

And, you know, you never know what could’ve happened if we had been given a chance to survive another week or another few weeks. I think it was such a big show and it was expensive so they decided to pull it sooner rather than later.

Moving on…

EDGE: You and your on-screen wife Leah Renee (who played Alice, a closeted lesbian married to Maher’s character] obviously forged a good friendship during the short time you worked together.

Sean Maher: We finished the sixth episode, I came back to LA, the show got cancelled the day I started rehearsing Joss’s movie and I never got to say goodbye to anyone. Like say goodbye to the set, the crew…and I was dying to see Leah so it was so nice to see her [at the GLSEN event] and have some closure. She’s someone I will now have in my life because we did have such a strong connection.

It’s sad, especially when they were writing such great stuff for her and I. We just connected in such a lovely way and I think the writers were responding to that and they were writing some really, really amazing stuff for she and I. It’s a shame.

EDGE: “Much Ado About Nothing” is going to hit the festival circuit in the Spring. What else is going on?

Sean Maher: I don’t’ know! I’m waiting to hear on one other project and I should know more this week and if that doesn’t work on, then I just enjoy some downtime, enjoy the kids for awhile and get back into the rat race.

To check out the Much Ado website, visit the “Much Ado About Nothing” website. You can follow Sean Maher on Twitter @Sean_M_Maher.

Original Interview at Edge of the Net

Lust For Love Interview with Fran Kranz and Dichen Lachman

13 November 2011 Leave a comment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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