Alan Tudyk – director, creator and star of Con Man – talks about fans and his recent Emmy® nomination with ADTV’s Jazz Tangcay.
Alan Tudyk is a multi-dimensional actor whose talent has led him to a variety stage, film, television and voiceover projects over the past 20 years. He is perhaps best known for his work in Joss Whedon’s cult 2002 television series, Firefly, as well as its follow up film, Serenity. Alan created and stars in Con Man, now an Emmy-nominated series. We talk about going from a digital series to the SYFY network and how a real convention inspired just one of many moments in the show, Con Man
Congratulations on the Emmy nomination. We’re all fans, so watching this was a lot of fun. What started it all for you?
It’s so common what started it for me. The first little seed of wanting to make my own show was that I wasn’t seeing a role like Wray Nerely in Con Man in my options for auditions. I had done roles on stage on and off-Broadway where I was the guy in trouble, the guy in the middle of everything and trying to keep all the balls in the air. I also liked being the balls in the air, but I was hoping to do a Wray Nerely-type role for TV. So, I started thinking what I would write a show about. I’ve been going to sci-fi conventions since 2003 after Firefly was canceled. Coming from the outside of sci-fi conventions, I had that same experience of being a fish out of water, so it was easy for me to write about that world and seeing things with fresh eyes. I was able to write it down and store it in a part of my brain.
Five years ago, I started writing scripts about it. The rest was its own journey that brought us here.
I have to ask you, are conventions as wild as they seem. I’ve never been to one, but with cosplay and everything else, it seems like it’s quite an experience.
I think it is probably a blast. I say that because I’ve never experienced San Diego Comic-Con as a fan. I’ve always been there promoting some project or representing a project. If you like Halloween and getting dressed up, that’s definitely a reason why you would like Comic-Con because you do get to dress up. Also, if you like being with people who celebrate difference, that’s what Con is about. If you say, “I am Wonder Woman today,” and you don’t look like Gal Gadot, you could be a 50-year-old Asian man who says that. Everyone around him will say, “Yes, you are Wonder Woman today.” That’s the coolest thing about conventions is that, they are places where there is a lot of acceptance and no judgement. It would be a blast if you’re game for it.
How have the fans reacted to Con Man?
They’ve been great. I’ve gone to many conventions. The best part is you get to speak to a crowd of people. There are a few people who are worried that it makes fun of the fans or that it mocks them for their excitment or devotion. I tell them how the show works in that my character is someone at who doesn’t appreciate the fans, but whenever he doesn’t appreciate the fans, he always has to pay a price for that.
In the first episode, Felicia Day who is a big convention person plays a fan who is my assistant. Everytime you go to a convention, you get a volunteer assistant. She shows up, and she is dressed impossibly like me. I’ve just gotten off a plane, and she’s wearing everything exactly as I’m wearing. I ask how she does it, and she tells me that she wants to dress like me so she can be a decoy in case anyone ever follows me or attacks me so she can be a decoy and draw me to safety.
By the end, I piss off so many fans I need a decoy to lure them away. She jumps out and says, “Look at me, I’m a jackass who doesn’t appreciate everything I have in life and I have a drinking problem.”
If the fans are ever slighted, they’re always ultimately proven to be right.
For people who have seen it, there’s just huge support and a lot of people asking when the next season is. Firefly was canceled in 2003, and my character is dead. People still ask when the next season is. “We can clone you and age you by fifteen years.”
The fans will write the plot. It’s never the end in sci-fi.
You’re going over to Sy-fy and that’s going to be exciting.
Very much so. It will allow more people to see the show and even among the fans of conventions. I actually went to one in Boston. There were over 1000 people at the panel, and I asked how many people had seen Con Man? Only 20 people had. On one hand, you might think that I find it soul-crushing and demoralizing, but on the other hand, I see this as a huge opportunity. I find it exciting that this thing about us breaking records. We’re the number one and most this and most that, so for all the people exposed to it, it gets this huge response. For there to be a group of people who are huge supporters of me or Nathan Fillion and supporters of the convention life and they haven’t been exposed to the show. That’s great. It’s many more people.
Following the show, you do see the records, and now you’re going to be on this mainstream. It’s a new journey.
It took someone to say it to me. When you have your little idea and the powers that be don’t give you a shot, so you go and do it your way. We went to the fans, and they impossibly gave us the money. Then we impossibly did it. We delivered it. It was good and people liked it.
I love that it is an ode to fandom because we’re all fans of something. How much is based on your own experience?
Probably a lot of it. It’s not a re-telling of events, but my experience of the world, absolutely. I’ve met sci-fi actors who are like Wray. The character who is adored by fans at the conventions, but whose career has not lived up to their own standards in that what they feel they should have done with their lives. They feel they should have more respect and don’t appreciate what they have. I’ve seen a few people, not many, but they come back to the Green Room, and they’ll talk about the fans.
My landlord in the series is the most famous stunt lady-man ever. He was a man who did women’s stunts way back before they hired stunt women. Now he wears dresses and wears his own screams. My first landlord in Hollywood was a female named Dale and she was one of the first stunt women as they were finally allowing women to do stunts.
Was it episode seven, the Of Mice and Men episode, when they get stuck in the room. I peed myself over that.
Great! That does come from a convention. That came from Toronto. You can’t walk across the floor because the security is overdone. They treat you like people will be disrespectful to you, but that is never the case. You can walk anywhere, if you walk with purpose you’ll be fine.
They take you these back ways down in the guts of the centers, and you come to these doors with key cards. There was one guy and you’d have to call him. He’s the only guy with the card, and I realized that if he had set his key down while he was talking about and how busy he was, if he had put that key down, we’d all be fucked and stuck in this anti-chamber and that’s where that episode came from.
When Lou Ferrigno came in and suggested to do Of Mice and Men, I simultaneously said yes and no. I pulled that security bit in and we made that episode.
What is your working relationship like with Nathan?
As we work, it’s great. We are friends. I’ll take scripts to him and go through them with him. If I have a problem and can’t figure out a joke, or I can’t make it funny, I’ll kick it around with him. He is one of the funniest people I have ever met and has amazing ideas. He comes in and does his act, and I want him to direct. He’s a natural director. It’s hard for me to give him direction because he’s a true leader. He’s one of those leader people.
It’s easy working with him actor to actor. I remember being worried asking him if he would do the bald gag. If he would do something so ridiculous to do that. He was absolutely game for it, and he found it hysterical.
There you go. You’re still doing a ton of voiceover work too.
I am. Disney keeps giving me jobs, but I haven’t done anything on Wreck it Ralph yet. The way they make movies is amazing. That whole process of having seen it go from the original to final script is brilliant. They pull in the best minds and the best collaboration.
Consider Con Man in your Emmy voting.