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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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick and Brian Answer Whedon Questions with Shakespeare Geek

12 November 2011 Leave a comment

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 01, 2011

Nick and Brian Answer Your Whedon / Much Ado Questions!

Here we go!  Last week when news broke about Joss Whedon‘s no-longer-secret Much Ado Movie, I jumped on the chance to get in some questions with Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher, two members of the cast (and better known as the comedy duo BriTANicK).  The announcement of that pending interview was the most popular post ever here on Shakespeare Geek!  (Take *that*, Bob Dylan!)  Special thanks for the link love to Whedonesque, who was clearly responsible for most of that traffic :).  And while you’re here, why not show a little love for JuliaGiolzetti who initially played connect-the-Twitter-dots and made this whole thing happen? Thanks Julia!

Without much further ado (ha! see what I did there?), here are Brian and Nick’s answers. I did my best to group questions into larger, more general topics that they could speak to rather than hitting them with dozens of little yes/no questions. My questions are in bold, their answers in italics.


First off, how did you two get involved with a Joss Whedon project? It’s pretty well known that he’s got a cast of regulars that show up in all his projects, and I personally have this picture of everybody getting together at his house for a regular Sunday dinner thing when one week everybody shows up and he’s got scripts for them.  Am I close? 🙂  How did you get the call, and how was the project pitched to you?

It was very lucky and a little bizarre how we got involved with this film. Joss had been a fan of our sketch comedy duo, “BriTANicK”, on YouTube. He had mentioned us in a blog post he wrote back in the Spring, but had never reached out directly until his assistant offered us these parts out of the blue about a month ago. Basically it was just “Joss is making ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and wants you to play these small roles. You in?” And we tried to play it really cool and said we maybe could be interested in that (inside we were screaming like little girls). So without any audition, Joss basically offered the Watchmen to us. Within a week we were on a flight to Los Angeles.

Tell us a bit about your involvement in the process.  You’re playing two watchmen.  Did you come in, do a scene or two, and then done? Or was this more of a close-knit effort, where everybody in the cast was part of all aspects of the movie?

One of the best parts about this movie was that it was filmed literally IN Joss’s house, and everybody was encouraged to meet, hang out, drink wine, and relax on “set” even when we weren’t shooting. Both of us have been on other sets where we’ve had more lines and spent way less time on them, just because Joss’ house was such a great environment to exist in. Everyone was incredibly close-knit(most everyone besides us had known each other for a long time), and it definitely felt like we were all a bunch of excited kids making a project we all loved rather than working on a rigid film set.


Probably the most obvious question is how in the world did you all keep this a secret?  It’s not like the announcement came out that he wants to do Shakespeare, or is doing Shakespeare. Instead we got, “Here’s our movie,” and the world said, “Wait, what?”  Surely you saw the buzz – for those first few hours everybody assumed it had to be a joke.  How long was this in the works? Was this a typical movie  just done in a hurry, or was this really more a case of a bunch of friends getting together for a do-it-yourself effort?  To put it bluntly, since somebody did ask — did you get paid?

To be honest, I think it was so easy because it all happened so fast. Joss casted it really a week or two before we started shooting and asked everyone to be quiet about it. Once we were on set, he promised that right when the shoot ended(which was only 12 days), he would reveal to the world what we had done. So I think the fact that it happened so quickly and that we knew there was this cool launch plan at the end, we were all really on board with just shutting up and not tweeting for a bit.
 
The movie definitely wasn’t done like a typical film. Joss had stated from the get-go that it was to be more like a “filmed performance” rather than making a film. We shot on three cameras and moved through scenes like the wind. Lighting was minimal, if any sometimes, and all the actors wore their own clothes. It definitely felt like a DIY project, but because everyone is so talented and such a professional, it was like a very very polished DIY project. As for money, a little but really not much at all. But we’re pretty certain that everyone there would have done this completely for free if they were asked.

How intimidating was it for you to tackle Shakespeare?  Did you (or any of the cast) have previous Shakespeare experience going into this? I see from IMDB that Alexis Denisof played Tybalt in a tv movie (with Jenny Agutter, who I see is in The Avengers. Small world!). How did everybody else handle the challenge?  A number of people specifically asked me about how Nathan Fillion tackled the role of Dogberry, in case you’ve got any good stories you can share 🙂  Does anyone have stage experience? It’s certainly got to be different doing a live performance versus putting your efforts onto film for people to critique for decades to come!
 
Everyone was at varying levels of Shakespeare knowledge and experience, which was so exciting. People like Alexis had done a ton of it and were very well versed, where as a number of people were tackling it, literally, for the very first time. Brian had done some plays in high school, and Nick was classically trained and had performed Shakespeare in high school and college, but neither of us had ever really tackled it professionally.

As for Nathan… What can we say? The man is a power-house. He moves and speaks as Dogberry with such hilarious gusto it was almost impossible to keep a straight face. When he tells stories it’s like listening to Gandalf explain the rings, everyone just shuts up and listens in awe. He’s a lot funnier than Gandalf though.
 
On a similar note, can you tell us a bit about the project’s overall approach to Shakespeare? Did Whedon know that he wanted to do *something* Shakespeare, an eventually settled on Much Ado, or did he always know that this was the exact play he wanted?  Is this a period piece, or more modern? I am assuming (ok, hoping) that we’ll be hearing Shakespeare’s original text – how much attention was paid toward getting that correct? By that I mean, getting both the pronunication and the …what’s the word, pacing? timing? … as you might experience when going to see a Shakespeare play?  It’s not enough to just say the words, after all. There’s a way to say them. When it comes to Shakespeare, you know that there are going to be people in the audience who hear and feel every beat between every word, and when something doesn’t sit right it’s going to stick out like a sort thumb. If the cast and crew themselves were not highly experienced in Shakespeare, were coaches and other experts brought in to help in these areas?
 
As we understand it, Joss had been toying with doing this play for a while. But as he always said, he had a hard time getting over the fact that the play essentially “was about nothing”. Once he finally wrapped his head around what he really loved about the play, which seemed to be the exploration of what mature love really is, it felt like he was just ready to roll. He wrote a screenplay using all original text, only cut down a bit, and decided to set Leonato’s estate in his present day house, where the characters use iPads and swim in his pool. Joss was a stickler for lines and pronunciation, and had a very clear sense of the timing he wanted in every scene. There weren’t Shakespeare coaches on set, but it felt like Joss intentionally really wanted the actors to bring parts of themselves into the roles. We were directed to play it very down-to-earth and real, much less theatrically than you would see on stage, and I think that let a lot of the actors explore Shakespeare in a totally new way. Some archaic references were cut, but others are played up to hilarious results.
 
Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film version of this play is still fresh in people’s minds (then again, I hang out with Shakespeare geeks). Did that help or hinder this production in any way?  Do Amy and Alexis expect to be compared to Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson?  How about Nathan versus Michael Keaton as Dogberry?

It was definitely part of the decision to film the movie in black and white. Along with a few other reasons, Joss felt that filming in black and white would help differentiate the two films. In terms of the performances, to our knowledge, it was never really discussed. The overall feeling was that we were doing something that felt so interesting and our own, that nobody seemed to be worried about it.
 
Some general Shakespeare questions:  What’s your personal favorite Shakespeare play?   Villain?  Having now had him as a director, in what Shakespearean role do you see Joss Whedon?

Brian: I love Twelfth Night and Midsummer very much, and have become a Much Ado fan through this process. I’m definitely into the less “villainous” of the plays, so I’m not sure I could answer that with enough confidence.

Nick: I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, it’s really hard to narrow it down. I’m a big fan of Julius Caesar (I really want to play Marc Antony someday) and Othello, but my favorite scenes are in King Lear and Henry IV pt. 1. My favorite Shakespeare villain is Richard III. 

Joss’s Shakespeare character: Henry V, he’s charming, fearless, and having worked with him once we would happily follow him into war with France. If Henry V was alive today, Firefly never would have been cancelled.

Many people want to know about distribution. The press release says that it will be ready for festival season, but what we want to know is how and when will we be able to see it? Is this going to be some sort of web release?  Straight to DVD?  Where can a Shakespeare Geek put my name to get on the list for a review copy??

Your guess is as good as ours. This whole thing is an experiment, even for Joss, but we recommend checking back with muchadothemovie.com for updates.

How much does the weight of Buffy/Angel/Dollhouse/Firefly weigh on a production like this?  When Amy and Alexis are cast in the romantic leads like this, do their previous roles together alter how they play it? Or do the actors go out of their way to make every role independent, even though they know fans will make the comparison?

The tension of past work was definitely there and exciting, but with a play like this we really wanted to respect the characters and the text before any thought of how the fans view the actors from past roles. That being said, it was really fun just knowing how much the fans would love all the connections in the Whedon universe, and putting people like Alexis and Amy together again.

I got a few questions about general back stage 
hilarity, bloopers, and other such antics.  What was the work environment like?  A constant struggle to keep a straight face?

Yeah, it was an absolute blast. Filming the party scene turned into an actual, raging dance party by the end of the night. Nathan Fillion kept showing us magic tricks with his iPhone and verbally sparring with Tom Lenk. Riki from Garfunkel and Oates would pick up guitars and just start singing weird little songs. Joss and his wife had a bottle of Chardonnay that was comically oversized that we all popped the last night, only to have Joss drink it from a wine glass that was comically undersized. People would sleep at the house, jump on the trampoline, slide around in their socks… It was work when it was work, but it was definitely play when it was play.

Let me see if I can phrase this question so it makes sense.  It’s always been my mission to take the fear out of Shakespeare, and to demonstrate through a wide variety of means that Shakespeare is for everybody.  Bringing Shakespeare to people, rather than trying to bring them to Shakespeare. I’m wondering if this is Joss’ way of doing something similar.  Did you get the feeling while filming this movie that everybody was “rising up to the challenge of Shakespeare”, or was it more a case of “Hey, let’s use this as a way of bringing Shakespeare to everybody.”  Does that make sense?  Many actors and filmmakers will express a desire to do Shakespeare as if it is a legitimizing moment, like “once you do Shakespeare you can do anything.”  I don’t see this crew as doing that, which is one of the reasons I’m so pleasantly surprised that this project just came out of nowhere.

We definitely wanted to show how Shakespeare had such a universal and wonderful story that was so easily accessible to all of us, well studied or not, younger or older. It seemed to be one of the reasons why Joss wanted to cast people from all across the spectrum of Shakespearean experience, and put it in a modern light. The idea that we could all have fun with this text, understand it, connect with it, and gain something from our understanding, and it feels like everyone surprised themselves with how true that turned out to be.

What do you know about future plans for Bellwether Pictures? Can we expect to see more Shakespeare? Are there other projects already in the works (or possibly complete and ready to be sprung on an unsuspecting audience)?

Your guess is again as good as ours!

Before we go, tell us a bit about BriTANicK?  What can I plug for you?

You can see our sketches online at www.BriTANicK.com. We perform sketch/stand-up/improv monthly at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in New York City(ucbtheatre.com). We are also the voices of Cartoon Network, the ones who tell you what’s coming up next. We will come perform near you if you’d like… E-mail our manager, Brad Petrigala, and promise him something nice (b.petrigala@bep-la.com). Check out Nick in the upcoming MTV series “I Just Want My Pants Back” and Brian in his tiny role in Jason Reitman’s upcoming “Young Adult”.

Thanks!

A big thank you to Brian and Nick for doing this!  Go see BriTANicK!

Original Interview at Shakespeare Geek

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