Interview: Felicia Day Talks Eureka, The Guild, and Dragon Age

Felicia Day is a hard person to get a hold of. The Geek Icon has been working insanely long hours, putting together a fifth season of her smash hit web series THE GUILD, the final touches on the highly anticipated DRAGON AGE: REDEMPTION, and starting tonight, preparing for a guest starring arc on this season of SyFy’s Eureka. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough? She’s also writing a series of one-shot comics for Dark Horse focusing on each of The Guild characters. And she’s preparing to take over San Diego Comic-Con this week. And I think she killed a minotaur while riding a three-headed unicorn, though that may just be some fan-art I did.

Point is, we were incredibly lucky to snag a little bit of her time to chat about all of the above as well as answer the burning question: who’s the bigger nerd, Wil Wheaton or Neil Grayton?

MTV Geek: Your Eureka stint kicks off tonight… What’s it like working with the cast? And what’s it like being back on episodic television, in such a major role?

Felicia Day: Every actor gets asked “how is it like working with X” and of COURSE one has to say it’s a wonderful experience or you get in trouble, haha, but in the case of Eureka, I can honestly say it’s one of the best experiences of my life. The cast AND the crew are just genuinely a pleasure to be around. There is no hierarchy, no egos, just people coming together to make the best show they can. I haven’t been on a show this long since Buffy, and it’s very true that working on a film set is like forming a family. When I get on a plane to go to do an episode I feel excited to see my Vancouver family again. It’s a true blessing, this role.

Geek: What can you tell us about your role? We know is a DoD employee named Holly Marten, but that’s all I’ve got! I’m amazing at research!

FD: Holly Martin is a very fun, quirky girl to play. She’s a scientist, simultaneously scatter-brained and brilliant, and she was written just for me by the producers, Amy Berg and showrunner Jamie Paglia, which is honestly the coolest thing. They saw my work on The Guild and Dr Horrible and thought I’d fit in to the cast well, and after a few episodes they just kept asking me back! I love that there are a lot of shades of grey in the stories they gave her, not just the odd girl you give crazy things to do in a side story, there’s a depth there I love playing with. What a dream come true.

Geek: You’re caught in a love triangle between Fargo and Wil Wheaton’s character. The important question of course is: who’s the bigger nerd in real life?

FD: I mean Wil Wheaton is the paragon geek-daddy of all geeks, so it’s not really a contest in a GENERAL comparison, but strangely, Neil Grayton probably wins in an “Obscure band-off of the 80’s and 90’s”. See “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex for a reference. *shudder*

Geek: Ha, okay, we’ll give it to him then. Lastly on Eureka, any tease for what’s coming up with Holly? Stuff you can’t wait for people to see?

FD: I can’t say a lot, but there’s an episode later in the run where I get trapped in a strange location in a strange position. The internet can probably lift some semi-attractive stills from that sequence I definitely won’t want tagged on Facebook.

Geek: Hm, I’ll have to… Search… For those. Anyway, let’s move on to comic book stuff. I was going back to read some interviews with you to prep for this, and with the first Guild comic book mini-series, you talked about how it was tough getting a handle on the comic book form… Entering into this second series of one-shots, are you like, “Pft… I got this?”

FD: Yes, clearly writing three issues a comic genius makes! I WILL say that the tears that LITERALLY fell on my keyboard during the agony of writing the first books were absent for the other character one-offs, thank goodness. I was able to co-write several of the issues with peeps on my Guild team, my co-stars Jeff Lewis and Sandeep Parikh, my co-producer Kim Evey, and my director Sean Becker.

The process of co-writing was a bit of a learning curve with the first Vork issue, but by the last issues I had a really clear method of outlining and collaborating so I got what I wanted on the page, and at the same time left breathing room for my co-writer to surprise me with the characters I invented, which was the biggest thrill of the whole process. I MIGHT be so bold that I actually enjoyed writing them? Hopefully that doesn’t bring some writer’s block demon to loom over me again.

Geek: Can you talk a little bit about the cover artists for these one-shots? The line-up is pretty amazing, how’d that get set up? And do you have a favorite?

FD: I can attribute the amazing set of artists to my editor, Scott Allie. He has a spot-on eye for pairing the artist with the material, which was super important, especially with the one-shots, since each artist needed to reflect each different character distinctly. I am particularly in love with Peter Bagge’s Tink Cover and Gilbert Hernandez’ Vork, because they’re such a radical and stylized departure from how I’ve seen the show before, it raises the artistry to a new level.

I hate to say I have a “FAVORITE”, but the story of how Ron Chan got one of the Tink covers is a really fun one. It was actually because of fan art that he sent into to The Guild several years ago, even before the comics! His email was the first time I saw the characters interpreted by a professional artist, so when I started on the first set of comic issues a year or so later, I submitted his name to Scott as someone I wanted to work with. It took a while, but not only did he do a stellar Tink cover, he’s doing amazing work on the interiors of the upcoming Clara issue.

Geek: That IS a good story… One interesting thing about these one-shots is that they feel essentially like “The Guild,” but all have their own tone and pacing. What was your thought process going into these?

FD: I appreciate that, I wanted each one to feel completely distinct, art-wise, story-wise, tone-wise. I was feeling at first HAMPERED by the fact that I had a sandwiched timeline for these five stories, between the first Codex issues and the first episode of the web series, but I think in the end I was forced to be a lot more creative and character-based in filling them out because I couldn’t move the overarching story forward. As a result, I feel like I know my own characters much better as a result.

Geek: Did you have these character backgrounds planned out? Or in the process of writing these one-shots, have you found surprises about the characters? Things that maybe went back, and in turn informed the upcoming episodes of the web series?

FD: I knew a LITTLE about their backgrounds, but some of them I had to go back to square one and ask myself, “Who is this character and why are they like they are?” I find the funniest part of writing is creating a slate of characters who you want to see butt heads (and love each other), but sometimes I know in the web show I treated as a whole instead of individually.

Dealing with each of their one-shots, and emphasising who they are OUTSIDE The Guild, was a very educational process as a creator. Finding the strange sadness with Vork and his grandfather, sympathising with Bladezz because of his broken family, those were so fun to discover, like using a metal detector on a beach. And then figuring out how to do an issue on Tink without spoiling her closed-off mystery, that was the most challenging and ultimately rewarding.

100% there are a few storylines in season 5 that never would have been inspired without going through the one-shot process, Tink especially.

Geek: Let’s talk about the Bladezz one-shot that just came out… It’s almost sitcom-goofy (in a good way), but with very serious undertones… What was the inspiration here?

FD: Sean Becker, my director and co-writer, is a NUTSO comic book lover, and I knew he would be a great companion writer to take Bladezz and integrate the ideas of superhero-dom into his story. He knows all the tropes. My PERSONAL goal in forming the underlying story was to try and add depth to, what in the show itself, is a not-as-faceted character. I was always interested in WHY he was so hostile, exploring what happened to Bladezz’ home life, what he was covering, as well as just examining the struggle kids go through when their family is disrupted by divorce. And, as always, the theme of “identity” is always in The Guild. Add comedy on top of that, and yeah. I really love the issue.

Geek: For the web show itself, how does it feel that The Guild has now run longer, season-wise, than most TV shows?

FD: I can’t even understand the journey sometimes, because we have been working so hard for four years straight, it’s hard to see the trajectory with any objectivity. We started making a small web show with two women in my garage, and this year we had over 100 crew members this season, 75 speaking parts, 100 million views at this point. And it seems like more people find the show NOW than any year past?

 I guess that’s the slow-burn of the internet happening. Comparing what we do to TV is hard because I’d still love to pay my cast and crew more, but keeping the family together for this long is really a testament to how wonderful everyone I work with is. We will keep going as long as people watch and we get a budget! Thank you Xbox and Sprint!

Geek: And I’m sure you’ve never gotten this question before, but where are you on Dragon Age: Redemption? Any news on when its coming out?

FD: Coincidentally I just delivered the completed episode to Bioware EA! Six months of post-production work. I worked harder on this project than I’ve ever worked on anything, and I did it simultaneously while working on Eureka and doing Guild season 5 and the comics. I look back on the first half of this year and think, “No way are you living if you try that crap again.” Release on Dragon Age will be announced soon enough, probably early Fall. I cannot wait for everyone to see it. And that’s all I can say!

Geek: Lastly, with San Diego Comic-Con coming up, what are your plans? I’d imagine you’re going to be all over the place there? Anything special coming up?

FD: I am very very booked for Comic-Con. We have a Guild booth we sign at, and a panel Saturday in the Indigo Ballroom. I have a Dragon Age panel on Thursday and I’m on the Eureka panel on Friday. I’m scheduled to the 15 minute mark the whole time I’m there, so if you see me run by, please don’t think I’m rude, I’m probably just late!

Felicia debuts her character Dr Holly Marten on Syfy's Eureka, Monday night, July 18 at 8 pm.

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