2010: A Look Back at a Lot of Interviews

At the end of 2009, I took a look back at 100 interviews I’d done over the course of the year, and it was exhausting…not only for me, but possibly also for you, the reader. Oh, I still think it was a heck of a piece, but I believe I made a mistake by numbering them. I mean, you get about 20 – 25 into the proceedings, and it’s, like, “Oh, geez, I’ve still got 75 left to go? Screw this, I’m out of here.” So this time, I’m not going to tell you how many quotes are in the piece. I’ll just say that I talked to a lot of really funny, fascinating, and decidedly forthright people during the course of 2010, and I’ll let you dive in. Hope you enjoy the chance to reminisce as much I did, and here’s to a great 2011 for us all!

Big Shots at the Box Office

“I was in Australia, touring with my films and live show, and I got an E-mail from my agent, saying that there was interest in me for Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ I thought, ‘Okay, that sounds good.’ I thought it would be for a day or two, maybe a few days or something, and I would’ve been very happy to do that. But then the offer came in, and it was for virtually the entire run of the film. I didn’t even know what part it was for, so I asked my agent, and he said it was for the Knave of Hearts. So I looked up the Knave of Hearts in the original book online and…it didn’t really seem like a character that would require the run of the film. I thought, ‘Something must be different.’ And then I got the actual screenplay, and it was extremely different. I could see that it was written as a sequel. But it was a great part, and I was ecstatic to be in it…and I’m still ecstatic to be in it!” – Crispin Glover, Alice in Wonderland

“They called my agent and said they were auditioning for (‘Inception’), so I flew myself back, I read for Chris (Nolan) once, and I left. I think it was later that day that I heard from my agent, saying, ‘They’ve cut everyone except you. Now, they’re going to go to London to see some people, and then we’ll know more after that. So don’t get your hopes up, but…this is great!’ Then I came back and read again, and I got the job. And then, as you might expect, I freaked out completely.” – Dileep Rao, Inception

“I was actually down at my ranch in South Texas, and my guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re trying to get you a meeting with Sylvester Stallone. He’s casting a movie called ‘The Expendables.’’ Several months went by, and he’d already cast ‘The Expendables,’ but he still wanted to meet me for potentially playing the part of Dan Paine. So I went in to meet Sly, it was the first time I’d ever met him, and I’m a huge fan. I remember watching ‘Rocky’ back in ’76 or whenever it was, then getting up the next morning, drinking eggs, and running down the street…and now here I am meeting with this guy!” – Steve Austin, The Expendables

“I was privileged and honored to work side by side with Sly (Stallone in ‘The Expendables’). Most of my scenes take place with him, and I’m telling you, man, he took me under his wing, and it was a brilliant thing. I don’t know what else to say. ‘Rocky,’ ‘Rambo,’ just everything he’s done is iconic, and it wasn’t lost on me. I love the man, and I can’t wait to do another one, ‘cause Sly’s the king of the sequels…and in my whole career, I’ve never done a sequel to any one of my projects. So I’m, like, ‘Sly, I’m ready for ‘Expendables 2,’ okay?'” – Terry Crews, The Expendables

“Jessica (Pare) was just about to disrobe…we were in the (hot) tub…and they were, like, ‘Ready!’ And she took off whatever was covering her in the tub. And somebody asked the boom guy a question just as she was disrobing, and all he could say was, ‘Yesssssss…’ He could only whisper. I didn’t make a joke about it, though. I was just, like, ‘Okay, Craig, keep it cool, keep it together…’” – Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine

“I made the mistake of using one term loosely and saying (filming in 3D) was a tedious process, and somebody made it sound really bad. The bottom line is that it took a little longer, and the one that suffered more than anybody was (director Kevin Greutert) and the camera guy, because they have to get it right. You know, calibration and being specific with lights and all that stuff. For me, it was a good excuse to go play with the crew that wasn’t on set and crack a couple of jokes, so I got to socialize a little bit more.” – Costas Mandylor, Saw 3D

“Usually, when you’re coming in completely blind with who you’re working with, you don’t know if you’re going to get along, nor do some people put the time in to try to get along. We were all in Pittsburgh, and we did do, like, two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting (‘She’s Out of My League’), and in those two weeks, we hung out a lot…and, luckily, it went good rather than bad. Because sometimes it’s just awful, and you’re going, ‘I can’t stand that guy!’ So we were lucky. I know a lot of people always say this when they come off work, because they’re kind of trained to say it, but with this one, we all really got along, and I think that’s what helps our chemistry on screen so much: we thought each other were funny, we even liked to hang out afterward, and that played well. ” – Nate Torrence, She’s Out of My League

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Mark Valley chats about “Human Target”

You may have already read my preview of what we can expect from the next couple of episodes of “Human Target,” but in a conference call with Mark Valley – Christopher Chance himself – on Monday, I asked the actor to take a step back and consider how the show has developed since its original inception. After all, a lot of series spend their first season just throwing things against a wall to see what sticks. Basically, I was curious as to whether or not he felt as though the show had gotten into a groove…and, if so, when he felt like that had happened.

“I think they’ve been throwing me against a wall for 11 episodes,” joked Valley. “I think I’ve been throwing all of Vancouver’s stuntmen against the wall to see what sticks.”

After a pause, Valley laughed and asked, “Uh, what was the question again?”

Duly filled in, he then considered the question and answered it seriously.

“I think when it really clicked for me was probably the episode ‘Rewind,'” Valley said. “We didn’t have a lot of locations and didn’t have a lot of big set pieces going on. It all took place in an airplane, and you got an idea of, ‘Okay, very simply, this is something that has to get done in this plane.’ And it was broken down, and all our characters were…well, Chi and I were in the same location shooting as well, which is kind of cool.

“I think that episode ended the pace that we came up with and that we realized we could work at. I think it was the second or third episode we did. The pace that we came up with and the shorthand that we all developed with the crew and with the cameras and with the actors…it was pretty amazing the result that came out of that. And then we realized, ‘Oh, wow, this is what we can do. We can make a movie in eight days. Uh-oh, we have ten more to do.’ That was probably the one point where I realized, ‘Oh, wow, we’ve got something here.'”

Valley admitted, however, that he walked into “Human Target” with no real vision of what it would turn out to be.

“I’d been on shows before that have been new,” he said, “but with this one, not only is the show new, but Chi (McBride) is kind of new to the genre, I’m new to this genre, even the show runners are sort of new to this. So I went into it with an open mind thinking, ‘This is going to be exciting,’ as to how it’s going to come together. And it has been exciting. It’s sort of a collaboration in some ways, where everybody’s influence is kind of…if it’s not heard, then it’s felt and it’s reacted to, and the end product is something that everybody feels a part of.”

  

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Checking in on Fox’s “Human Target”

As a longtime comic book geek, I’m not ashamed to admit that not only was I already familiar with the character of the Human Target from his adventures in the DC Comics universe, but I’m also one of those who actually watched when broadcast television first tried to make a television series out of the adventures of the man known as Christopher Chance. Few, however, would dare to suggest that ABC’s “Human Target” attempt – which aired in 1992, starred Rick Springfield, and lasted for a grand total of seven episodes – was a true classic of the comic-book TV genre…and that includes Chi McBride, who plays Winston, Chance’s partner, on the Fox series.

“Somebody asked me a crazy question today, like, ‘I heard that there was a rumor that Rick Springfield was supposed to be doing this one,'” said McBride, when I talked to him during the January TCA press tour. “I was, like, ‘What are you, goofy? The Human Target in a walker?’ I remember that old show…and that was pretty bad. We’re the 2.0 version of that, and it will make you forget about that thing.”

Based on the episodes I’ve seen, I’d have to agree with McBride…and so, it would seem, would our man John Paulsen, who described “Human Target” as “a fun ride.”

“Even though the series is heavy on action,” said Paulsen, “it has a lighthearted, fun feel to it — think Jack Bauer with a sense of humor — which is underlined by Chance’s charm (with his usually female clientele) and the dynamic between Winston and Guerrero, who do not particularly like each other.”

Guerrero, for those of you who haven’t yet checked out the series, is Chance’s technical expert, and he’s played by Jackie Earle Haley. Between this role and his memorable turn as the somewhat psychotic Rorschach in “Watchmen,” you’d think that he was paying off DC Comics for all the great gigs they’ve been providing him…and, indeed, in January, I asked him outright if this was the case.

“I should be, right?” he laughed. “Yeah, I’ve got them on the kickback plan.”

“I’d never been a huge comic book fan,” he said. “Growing up, I could never really get into them. When I was a kid, I was a super-slow reader, and when I’d open up a comic book, I couldn’t figure out what to look at first. The pictures? The words? Just the pacing of it kind of threw me off. Cut to years later, though, and I absolutely fell in love with ‘Watchmen.’ I mean, I became a ‘Watchmen’ fan, and since then, I’ve really begun to understand and appreciate comic books and graphic novels, especially the more grown-up ones, I guess you’d say. Right now, I’d almost have to say that my favorite comic book…and this will surprise you…is ‘V for Vendetta.’ It’s because it’s…it’s literature, man. It’s just an absolutely phenomenal, thought-provoking piece of work.”

Whether or not Haley feels the same way about the source material which inspired his current series remains unconfirmed, but when it comes to watching Fox’s “Human Target,” you’ll almost certainly enjoy it more without having read the original comic books. Why waste time nitpicking about continuity issues between the two mediums when you can enjoy each on their own merits? Having seen the next two episodes of “Human Target,” I can tell you that, while it has very little to do with anything that’s seen print in the past, it’s still a fun hour of adventure, humor, and even a bit of drama. Mr. Paulsen had observed that, as of when he composed his piece, “the show hasn’t done much in the way of a serialized plot, so new viewers could pick it up without missing much,” and while that still remains more or less true, the series is finally getting around to delving into the mysterious background of Christopher Chance, played by Mark Valley.

On March 10th, Chance reunites with a fiery former flame (played by Leonor Varela) when he is called to South America to rescue an archeologist (Kris Marshall) targeted by a South American army and a deadly bounty hunter, and although Chance’s past isn’t exactly what you’d call an open book by episode’s end, it does give you some insight into his romantic history. The episode on the 17th, however, is arguably the best installment of the series to date. Lennie James, late of “Jericho,” guest stars as Chance’s former partner, and although you arguably learn more about James’s character than you do Chance’s, it’s an episode that’s filled with both action and emotion. In addition to finding Chance getting caught up with the FBI, it’s also notable for expanding Guerrero’s storyline, which means that – woo-hoo! – Haley will hopefully be taking more of a spotlight in future episodes. Not that he and McBride aren’t consistently contributing to the overall success of the series, but any chance to get more Jackie Earle Haley is a chance we’re ready to take.

Haven’t checked out “Human Target” yet? Now’s the time, especially with upcoming episodes featuring guest appearances from Armand Assante and Lee Majors.

“Human Target” returns to Fox on Wednesday, March 10th, at 8 PM.

  

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“Human Target” is a fun ride

Based loosely on a comic book of the same name, Fox’s “Human Target” stars Jack Deveraux Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, a private bodyguard/security expert who is hired to protect his rich and/or important clients. The series also stars Chi McBride (“Boston Public,” “Pushing Daises”) and Jackie Earle Haley (who played Rorschach in “Watchmen”) as Chance’s colleague (Winston) and technical expert (Guerrero), respectively.

Even though the series is heavy on action, it has a lighthearted, fun feel to it — think Jack Bauer with a sense of humor — which is underlined by Chance’s charm (with his usually female clientele) and the dynamic between Winston and Guerrero, who do not particularly like each other. To this point, the show hasn’t done much in the way of a serialized plot, so new viewers could pick it up without missing much. Chance’s background is a bit of a mystery, but the series hasn’t delved into it at all.

Thus far, ratings have been decent (~2.1 to 2.9 in recent weeks) even against the Olympics. It has been reasonably well-reviewed as well, garnering a 70 at Metacritic and a 7.0 (“good”) at TV.com.

  

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TCA: Human Target

If you’re finding yourself concerned that Fox’s “Human Target” might tarnish your memory of Rick Springfield’s interpretation of the DC Comics character, then it means 1) you’ve got a really long memory, and 2) your memory is perhaps a little faulty, because Springfield’s version really wasn’t that good. Fortunately, what I’ve seen of the new “Human Target” actually is pretty good…if you like action-packed spectaculars, that is.

“Yeah, the show is a lot about action,” admits McG, one of the series’ executive producers. “But, truthfully, what I respond to mostly about the show is indeed the writing and the ability for these three guys to entertain. My favorite moments in the show are the character moments between what I think is an interesting triangle where you have three characters that occupy very different space. There’s nothing about each that would step on the other’s toes, and that, for me, makes it very entertaining to watch.”

The first episode takes place on a train, the second on a plane, and, yes, there’ll be an episode set on a boat coming up in due course. (Chi McBride claims there’s also one on a tractor, but we’re pretty sure he’s kidding.) Yes, set-piece stuff has been done to death via just about every mode of transportation there is, but McG’s fellow executive producer, Jonathan E. Steinberg, swears that they’re trying to expand beyond the predictable.

“We’re trying to do something you’ve never seen before in every one of them,” he says. “That’s the challenge for us: to kind of wade into a genre that’s been trod over for a long time and find a way to turn it on to you every week.”

Taking the original comic book character and making him into a TV series wasn’t quite as easy in 2009 as it was back when Springfield was playing the part, owing to the reinvention of the Human Target through DC’s Vertigo line of comics. “When I tell people that I was doing research for the character, I was reading the DC Comics,” said Valley. “Then I started reading the Vertigo Comics, and there seems to be a fairly significant departure when it goes into Vertigo. The characters seem to become a little bit thinner, a little more introverted, and a little more obsessed with his own existentialism. And the original DC character seemed like a little more like what Jon has on the page, actually. So in terms of kind of sticking with what the original character was, I think we are right in line.”

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