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Media Blvd Interview Simon Helberg

22 March 2011 Leave a comment

Simon Helberg, “The Big Bang Theory” star, talks about Dr. Horrible Sequel & More!

Friday, 18 March 0011

By Frederic Germay

Simon HelbergActor Simon Helberg stars in the Thursday night comedy smash hit, “The Big Bang Theory,” as the lovable nerd, Howard Wolowitz.  Before “Big Bang,” Simon has had roles in critically acclaimed television series such as Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” and he’s been a season regular on the popular late night sketch comedy series, “MADtv.”  In 2008, Simon played the villianous sidekick, Moist, in cult icon Joss Whedon’s, Emmy-Award winning “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” internet series.  “Dr. Horrible” won numerous awards, including People’s Choice Award for ‘Favorite Online Sensation,” and it ranked at #15 for TIME’s 50 top Inventions of 2008.

Simon recently took the time out of his busy shooting schedule to talk with MediaBlvd Magazine about his new independent film, “I am I.”  Simon’s film is being produced by the rising film & arts website, www.KickStarter.com.   Read the previously published portion of the interview here.
In the rest of the interview listed below, Simon discusses his origins in the acting business, his experiences working on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” the effects of the time slot change for “The Big Bang Theory,” and he dishes the latest news on the highly anticipated “Dr. Horrible” sequel!

MediaBlvd>  So, going back quite a bit, how did you know that you wanted to be an actor

Simon> Well, I did music a lot in my childhood years, and I really thought that was what I was going to do.  I grew up in the business, my dad was an actor, he was in The Groundlings, an improv sketch comedy group.  I sort of grew up in that theatre seeing that, and I always loved it really deeply.  I guess I never really thought about doing it [at the time], because I was so in love with music.  And there really wasn’t an outlet, I didn’t really think about doing plays or anything as a kid.  When I realized there were plays at my high school, and my friends started auditioning and I thought “oh, this could be interesting.”

Then I realized this was what I wanted to do, and I started taking [acting] classes when I was in high school, doing improv when I was in high school…I would continue practicing piano in my room, but it’s a little harder practicing acting alone, but I still made funny faces in the mirror and stuff like that [laughs]. When I went to college, to study at NYU, I really fell in love with the whole, dare I say, craft.  I just wanted to learn more and more about it as a real art form.  So, that was it – in 11th grade, doing a drama – a lesbian period piece [laughs], and I, uh, was not playing a lesbian, but I did have a few lines as a delivery boy, and I milked them for all they were worth, and got laughs from probably everyone there.  I probably ruined the integrity of the play, but I knew that I wanted to that kind of thing.

MediaBlvd>  Now, one of my favorite shows, Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” featured you as a performer in a late-night SNL-esque sketch show.  Now, you’ve also worked on MADtv for awhile, so what was that like – making the transition from being a performer in a sketch show to being in a show, acting as a sketch performer?

Simon HelbergSimon> Well, um, sketch comedy – I kind of grew up with it in my bones, with my dad and all.  I was doing a lot of it in Los Angeles at “ Second City” out here, and I spent a few years performing and I really fell in love with it.  As for MADtv, it was a bit disheartening – it really wasn’t my cup of tea the way they ran everything over there.  I enjoyed the experience, I was 22 and it was a real kind of bureaucratic system, and it just…there was a lot of talent there, but it was really challenging to get your vision of something on the air…the sketch[es] seemed insurmountable and really infinite.

Doing “Studio 60,” I thought there were a lot of aspects about the sketch comedy world that were relevant and accurate in a way.  The show is obviously very dramatized, and then we [the show] went off into Afghanistan, and then we were in another whole world with that show, but the drama within that stage light – it’s hard.  To be on a show with Aaron Sorkin, he’s a genius, and the actors were all unbelievable, so to get to kind of switch around and do a little bit of a sketch and to do some actual scenes, and do some impressions – I had a great time doing it.  It was a little hectic, it was a little chaotic, but I was loving being around everybody and doing that work.  So, yeah, overall, it was very fantastic – and it led right into “The Big Bang Theory!”

MediaBlvd>  And I have to say, on “Studio 60,” you had the best Nicolas Cage impersonation I’ve seen!  It was hilarious!

Simon> [Laughs] Thank you, I appreciate that!

MediaBlvd>  Now I’m sure you’ve been asked this a billion times before, but since I’m a huge Joss Whedon nerd, I have to ask – can you confirm whether there will be a “Dr. Horrible” sequel, and will you be in it?  Can you divulge the title?

Dr. HorribleSimon> Last I heard, Joss [Whedon] is making some indie movie called “The Avengers” [laughs], he’s using Kickstarter for it too, I’m sure [laughs].  Anyways, he’s going to be making “The Avengers,” which is going to take up some time, obviously.  All I know is that we’re all interested in making this, and by all, I mean – Joss, his brothers, Zack and Jed, Jed’s wife Maurissa – they’re the ones that wrote it.  Neil [Patrick Harris], Nathan [Fillion], and Felicia [Day] are all interested last I heard.  I also heard that there’s a story, and that they’re writing some sort of incarnation of it, whether it be a film or another web video, or even a stage play.  I’ve heard rumors for all of that.  About the job, I know that there was a concept, but I don’t know how far along they were in terms of writing it, or the medium they want to make it for, but I can say we’re all excited to be a part of whatever comes of it.  We had such fun doing the first one, and I can pretty much say that there will be something else involving Dr. Horrible, and I would assume it [the sequel] would be on a bigger scale than what we thought.  That’s my feeling based on what I’ve heard from Joss and everybody.  We’ll just have to wait until Joss finishes that sweet little action project, “The Avengers.”  [laughs]

MediaBlvd>  Obviously, “The Big Bang Theory” is a smash hit success, but is there a little known underrated project that you’ve worked on that you wish had gotten more attention?

Simon> Well, I did a pilot for HBO that I created with a friend of mine, a couple people actually, it’s called “Derek & Simon.”  It was me, Derek Waters, and Bob Odenkirk that created it.  I think that it’s really fantastic, it went to Sundance, and then we made a webseries that went up on this site called SuperNova.  [Unfortunately], it was an ill-fated website, it was sort of in the beginning of the craze of comedy-based websites and all that, and that website [SuperNova] ultimately went under.  There’s two seasons worth of this internet show called “Derek & Simon,” and I think it’s really funny, and I’m proud of that.  Unfortunately, the best way to see it is by searching YouTube and the web, I haven’t found a way to [get it all together in its entirety]
Also, I got to be a part of a Coen brothers’ movie, “A Serious Man,” which people did see, I’m sure of it.  It was a quieter Coen brothers’ movie in the box office stuff, but it did get recognized in a ton of ways, and I was proud of that.

MediaBlvd>  Yeah, that was a fantastic movie!

Simon> Thank you!

MediaBlvd>  Out of curiosity, since you play a bit of a nerd on “The Big Bang Theory,” are you anything like your character, Howard Wolowitz, in real life?
Simon> Um, yes and no.  The most I can really relate is not in [in terms of] fashion and [the way he] executes things, but I am a passionate person, which I think all these characters are, so I know what it’s like to feel really enthusiastic about something.  For me, it’s not being an engineer and it’s not hitting on every girl that walks by [laughs], but I do feel like a bit of a romantic, I guess…  I know I could liken that to him [Howard], although instead of sonnets, he’s got the worst, you know, crash-landing of a pickup line [laughs].

Simon HelbergHoward] is definitely a lot more confident and bolder than I am, and he doesn’t quite understand the concept of the word ‘no’ and rejection.  His insecurity is so deeply buried that it’s nearly undetectable, and I’m a little more neurotic and insecure, I think, in real life than he might be.  It’s more fun to just do the things you wish you got to do – where you wish you had the guts to walk up to girls and maybe not say those specific things [that Howard might say], but in his mind, he’s reciting Shakespeare, so…  But it’s fun to imagine always having that confidence; I think that he just thinks when he’s in a room that it’s all about him.  It’s fun to play that, because as an actor, you can kind of relate to being egocentric at times.  Still, I’m a far cry from a gaming/engineering Casanova, but I do hold these characters dear to my heart.

MediaBlvd>  “The Big Bang Theory” had a recent move to Thursdays.  Now do you think that transition has helped improve the show and the show’s audience, or were you more of a fan of the traditional Monday timeslot?

Simon> Well, I think the show, as a product, the quality has been there since the first season.  Things have developed, characters have evolved, the writers have gotten more comfortable and familiar with our characters as we [the actors]have with the writing, but it’s always been a good show.  I think the only thing the move to Thursdays has done is [that] maybe it [has] changed up our audience, maybe [it has] given people who go to bed at 8:30 an opportunity to see us.  It’s proven that we’re capable of taking an audience wherever we go.  It’s proven that nerds will follow, and they’re fierce and you don’t want to mess with a group of nerds, because they’ll trample you to see our show! [laughs]  It’s the most inspiring thing to feel so supported, so the move to Thursdays has really invigorated us in that sense.  But we’re still making the same show, and it’s nice to know we still have such lovely secure fan base, because, ultimately, with no people watching the show, there would be no show.  We’re just really thankful.

MediaBlvd>  Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring actors, comedians, performers out there?

Simon> Well, there are two things that are sort of interchangeable, but I think they’re both fundamental when in conjunction with each other –  [first off] studying and taking classes that you connect with.  Just as with anything, there are classes out there that might not be as valuable, but I think that studying [is crucial].  You should force yourself to study before you jump into it [a career in entertainment].  In order to play the piano, you probably have to take a few lessons – you have to learn how to read music or whatever.

And the second thing is to just do it in any capacity that you can – whether it’s performing in 99 theaters, or 25 theaters, or open-mikes for standups, or writing your own material and doing student films, or doing one act plays, because you don’t learn anything until you’ve really done it.  You don’t get to practice what you’ve learned in school until you’ve really done it.  And by doing it [acting], I don’t mean by trying to get into the next Jerry Bruckheimer movie and then giving up, I mean really putting in the work because that’s how you really learn.  I don’t think there’s a million overnight successes, I don’t even think there’s ten – a lot of those people have been working their whole lives to do it.  There’s always has to be some element of work, thought, and stretching your imagination and getting out of what’s comfortable and doing things that are classic, things that are challenging – even if they seem impenetrable.  Just train at “high altitudes,” the way that runners do, so that running on a normal level will be that much easier.

MediaBlvd>  Thank you very much, that’s excellent advice.  I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview!

Simon> Yeah, of course, thank you and I look forward to reading it!

Frederic GermayFrederic Germay is the Deputy Editorial Director of MediaBlvd Magazine.  With his post at MediaBlvd, he has interviewed several celebrities and written hundreds of film reviews.  On Sundays, Frederic co-hosts MediaBlvd’s politically-oriented talk radio show, “Purple Haze,” alongside Gary Morgenstein and Dr. Kenn L. Gold.  Frederic enjoys long walks at the beach, making fun of Sarah Palin, and not laughing at Dane Cook’s pathetic attempts at stand-up comedy.  If you have any questions or comments, you can email Frederic at frederic.germay@mediablvd.com

Source: Media Blvd

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