We filmed until 330 this morning, and when I finally got home a little after 4am, it was all I could do to convince myself to wash off my makeup and go to sleep. I woke up at 1230 this afternoon in the same position I fell asleep, and I probably could have easily slept another 3 hours or more. When I wrap (I'm writing this from the set) in a few hours, I go straight to the airport, fly up to Vancouver, drive two hours to location, and start work on Eureka at 655 tomorrow morning.
Ever since I woke up, I've felt like I'm wrapped in this warm blanket of happy exhaustion, and I'm so grateful that I'm only in 4/8 of a page tomorrow, so by the time I really hit the wall tomorrow afternoon, I'll be able to fall into bed and stay there.
It's a lot to do, and it's as exhausting as it sounds ... but it's also a lot of fun. This has been my life to varying degrees for the last several months, and though it's overwhelming at times, and I don't have a lot of free time, all I have to do is look at the times I had as much free time as I wanted (from about 2001 to 2007) and everything falls into a wonderful perspective. I keep saying that I hope I don't wake up from this wonderful dream, and I mean it more today than ever.
Last night, we shot on the back lot at Warners. It was a night shoot, with about a hundred extras and all kinds of atmosphere - cars driving and lights changing - and I felt like I was really in the movies, more than I usually do. When we got to my scene, it took me several takes to find Evil Wil Wheaton, and I started to feel like I was screwing up and causing everyone to think twice about bringing me back for more episodes. After the second take where I just felt off, the director came over to me and told me to have more fun, don't be so controlled, and remember [SPOILER] and [SPOILER]. A few things clicked into place, and we shot a few really funny and truthful takes. I couldn't put my finger on exactly why, but Evil Wil Wheaton came to life, and I couldn’t believe that, even for a second, I hadn’t been able to produce him out of snarky air.
Earlier today, before we began shooting, I walked over to Mark, our director, and said, “I just wanted to thank you for helping me find Evil Wil Wheaton last night. Your notes made all the difference for me.”
He said I was welcome, and told me that the scene was really funny, and looked great, too.
“I always have such a good time when I’m here,” I began, and I then I knew exactly why I was having so much trouble finding Evil Wil Wheaton. “And I just realized why I was having so much trouble last night.”
“Oh?” Mark cocked his head a little bit to one side and waited for me to continue.
“Yeah. I was so exited to be working outside, at night, on the backlot, and so overjoyed to just be back on this show, it got in between me and Evil Wil Wheaton. My very real joy and happiness was so overwhelming, it informed my performance and pushed it in the wrong direction. When you told me [SPOILER], it brought me out of that nerdy joy enough to focus me back on finding the truth in the scene and the character.”
“I saw that happen,” Mark said.
“Usually, I have four days of rehearsals and run throughs to get that giddiness out of the way -- and I honestly feel like a real freakin’ noob to not have realized this right away -- but I only had the one rehearsal and the one run through on Friday, and then … well, there we were.”
Mark nodded slowly and smiled at me. “Well, you were great.”
“Thanks, man,” I said. “I feel so silly, because it’s not like this is my first rodeo, you know?”
Mark nodded, and was called away to do director stuff, so I came up to my dressing room to write this post, while the memory was fresh in my mind.
I’ve been an actor for just over 30 years. I’ve worked in nearly every environment possible, on all kinds of productions, in all kinds of roles. If I wasn’t playing an evil version of myself, I would have remembered that I was playing a character who is snarky and evil and lies about his grandmother and breaks couples up to win at bowling … but that blurring of the line between me and the character I play of the same name is something that is relatively new to me. I’m grateful that I had a fantastic director like Mark to help me find and define the line between me and Evil Me again.
Added long after we wrapped: Seconds after I finished writing this, I was called to the set to work, and then I got in a car to come straight to the airport. I’m waiting to board my plane back to Vancouver now, and I have a moment to edit and post this. Before I get on my plane and instantly fall asleep, I want to add that had a wonderful time on the show, like I always do, and I just want to take a moment to once again thank the cast, crew, writers and producers for making me feel so welcome. My episode airs on November 11 on CBS. I really hope you’ll tune in, and tell your friends to watch.
I shoot Big Bang Theory on Monday before I go back to Vancouver to finish out the fourth season of Eureka, so I have scored an entirely unexpected bonus weekend at home with my wife.
Yesterday, we heard that Toy Soldiers was playing on local station KDOC (which was one of the truly great UHF stations here for my entire childhood). Anne told me that she'd never seen it before, so we flipped to channel 56 and began to watch.
We picked it up somewhere toward the middle, in a scene where we're all sitting around in our underwear at night.
"Why are you in your underwear?" Anne asked.
"Because that's what dudes do," I said.
She frowned for a moment, thinking, and then said, "how long did it take you to choreograph the upcoming sword fight?"
"Not long at all," I said. "Turns out it was a class feature."
She gave me a blank look.
She nodded, patiently, and turned her attention back to the movie.
I don't remember the exact line, but in the theatrical version, I say something like, "We should get a fucking machine gun, Billy. Wid a machine gun, we could shred dees muddafuckas!"
FUN FACT: Dan Petrie, the director, asked me to do some kind of New York accent for the movie. I was only 18, and didn't think to actually study up on a specific one, so I just did what sounded right in my head, and asked Dan to ensure that I never sounded "like Corey Feldman in Lost Boys." Dan has always said that he thought it sounded fine, but I'm not so sure. I trust and respect him, though, so I'm willing to accept that I hear (and see) this movie through a lens of self-consciousness that exists only in my mind.
The version we were watching, though, was the TV edit, so I actually say something like, "We should get a [jarring edit] machine gun, Billy! Wid a machine gun, we could [jarring edit] these money finders!"
Because, you know, that's how rebel dudes in bording schools talk to each other.
"Hey, what's up, money finder?"
"Oh, you know, just flipping around."
"Did you see those girls from Delta house last night? They were flipping hot!"
"Yeah, I totally flipped that girl Gina. Flipped her [jarring edit] yeah!"
"You lucky bad man! Well, see you later, money finder. I'm going to go get some ponies and get flipped up."
I've often thought that the TV edits of movies are pretty silly. At the End of Stand By Me, Ace says, "You going to kill us all?" Gordie replies, "Just you, Ace [jarring edit] you cheap dimestore hood." OHHH BURN! You can see that Ace is so horrified by what a mother flipping bad man Gordie is, he has no choice but to back down.
Anyway, we had a really good time watching the rest of the movie, Anne just enjoying the 1990 time capsule, me watching 18 year-old me and his painful fashion choices though the spread fingers of a facepalm.
Speaking of facepalm, I paused the movie right after Joey died (SPOILER ALERT - he couldn't handle a flipping machine gun, and didn't shred a single monkeyflapper) so I could share this with the world:
Though I give myself a lot of shit for things like my accent, the dangly ankh earring, and the endless scenes of underwear-clad dudes who were totally not gay, I should point out, and make very clear, that I like Toy Soldiers a lot. Even though it's incredibly dated, I'm proud to be part of it. I had a great time working on it, made some good friends during production, and gained several levels in acting and being an adult while we were on location.
Anne and I had a surprisingly good time watching it, and it seemed like every scene prompted a memory that I hadn't thought of in years. I had so much fun recalling them, I'm considering making my own commentary track as an mp3 and selling it at Lulu for a few bucks. You know, in all my vast amounts of free time.
If you want to watch Toy Soldiers in all its non-TV-edited glory, you can stream it from Netflix, or you could always buy the DVD ... though I think it really needs to be viewed on VHS for maximum authenticity.
In a couple hours, I'll be on my way back to Los Angeles for a few days, so I can work on The Big Bang Theory. I obviously can't say anything about the episode, but I got the script last night, and it's just hilarious. I can't wait to see my friends there again, and bring a little Evil Wil Wheaton to life.
I'm nearly finished with this season of Eureka. I only have two more days of production until next season (if Doctor Parrish comes back next season, which I really hope he does) and I have a lot of conflicting emotions about that. On the one hand, I'm looking forward to seeing my family again, and I plan on taking some time off to play games and recharge my creative batteries when I get home ... on the other hand, I really love living in Vancouver and working on Eureka every day. The cast and crew are just awesome, and I've made some very good friends while working on the show in the last few months who I'll miss seeing almost every day. Yesterday, I was talking with Neil Grayston about this, and he said out that, since Colin lives in Los Angeles between seasons, a lot of the actors -- including himself and Niall, who I've become very good friends with -- come down to visit, and we'll have a few opportunities to get the band back together and hang out. I really hope that we do.
In other news, I made a couple more stupid cell phone videos:
When I posted this video on Twitter, I was delighted to get numerous replies from people who had made three, then two, then one frame summaries of it. I retweeted the ones that made me laugh the most, which you can see for yourself in my retweets, if you're interested in that sort of thing.
I am easily amused.
I'm sitting in my apartment in Vancouver, finishing my coffee and oatmeal. My iPod is shuffling through a massive 80s alternative playlist I made before I came up here, so I've been accompanied by Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Souxie, Depeche Mode, The Jam, and Bauhaus while I start my day. I'm not going to the set until at least 4:30 today, so I stayed up late last night after work playing Civ V, while Chilean miners were pulled to safety on BBC in the background. Seriously, guys, the engineers who made that possible are some of the most amazing people on planet earth. I hope they get the credit they deserve for saving all those lives and reuniting all those families.
I got tired of Queen Elizabeth fucking with me (I may be militarily inferior now, Mum, but you just wait until my science gets going, and then you'll be sorry! Muwahahaha!!) so I went to bed around 1230, and slept until I woke up 11 hours later -- I guess my body was completely wiped out after a loooooong day on the set. I've been in slow motion today, catching up on feeds and trying to motivate myself to write, without a lot of success.
Once, not very long ago, I wrote in my blog every day, no matter what. Since I started working full time on Eureka, though, I haven't had a lot of extra creative energy when I'm done filming. The list of stories I want to write is growing, and my notebook is filling up with one line ideas that I hope to tackle in November and beyond, but my immediate motivation just isn't there; I need time to recharge, I guess.
There's a lot of really cool stuff happening on the set every day, but we can't talk about any of it, because it's all spoilers for episodes that aren't even going to air until something like January at the earliest. Normally, I'd get home from work and fire off a quick 500 words about something awesome that happened on the set that day, but if I did that now, it would look something like this:
Today, I shot a scene in [REDACTED] with [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] where we [REDACTED]! Oh man, [REDACTED] was so awesome because [REDACTED]. Tomorrow, we're going to shoot [REDACTED], so we rehearsed that between [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], and I just can't wait for it.
So, as you can see, it's just not that interesting. I suppose I could write those posts and publish them in a few months, but that doesn't really appeal to me. It feels even more like writing into a black hole than usual.
Speaking of Clash of the Geeks, writing that story, even though it was just under 3000 words and is very silly, was a pretty major milestone in my life as a writer. See, I've written lots and lots of fiction, but I haven't felt like a lot of it is worthy of being published. (Note to writers: this fear -- because that's what it is -- doesn't serve any useful purpose other than pushing you to write better ... unless you keep setting the bar higher and higher so you don't risk rejection or embarrassment. I'm Wil, and I'm the Voice of Experience.) I knew that I had to publish The Last Unicorn (Pegasus Kitten) no matter what, so I decided to just write it, have as much fun as I could, and not judge every goddamn word that my brain spit out. I decided that it was okay to be lurid, it was okay to have fun with it, and I only stopped once to think about the reality of my story appearing alongside actual, professional, award-winning authors. The result of that was an experience I enjoyed, start to finish, and a story that I'm actually quite proud of. Those of you who have read it can probably pick out the one line of dialog that made me squee with joy when I saw it coming, a line I would probably not have given myself permission to write under normal circumstances.
So far, the feedback I've gotten from readers and writers has been enthusiastic and positive, so I've been able to stack that on top of the unadulterated joy I felt while writing it to almost get me over the wall of doubt that my internal critic has constructed between me and the next story.
tl;dr: You don't have to be perfect when you write stories. Just have fun and give yourself permission to enjoy the process. Also, release your frakking work, even if you don't think it's the best thing ever. I'm Wil, The Voice of Experience.
Huh. Look at that. I found something to write about today, after all. Not too shabby, since this initially started out as the dreaded blog about not blogging.
Just before I went out to GenCon in August, I wrote:
I have one request, which I hope isn't unreasonable: I'd like to test the theory that you can't have too many dice. If I see you at GenCon, would you give me one gaming die? I'll bring home as many as I get, dump them all on my office floor, and take a picture. I think it could be pretty cool ... or very, very sad. Either way, it will be something, you can be sure of that
Before I even left, the response was epic, including this hilarious and brilliant comic my friend Joel drew for his webcomic, Hijinks Ensue.
I hoped I'd get a fair amount of dice, but I was totally unprepared for how many, and the incredible stories that came with just about each one. For three straight days, hundreds of people gave me probably close to a thousand dice, total, and each one had a story: "This is from my original red box" and "These dice killed all my players and I need to get rid of them or they won't play with me again" and "This is my first set of GenCon dice, I wanted you to have it" and the most common: "These dice are evil. They are out to get me. Here you go. Good riddance."
Since I came home from GenCon, I've been too busy to take a proper photo of the giant haul of dice I got, but I made some time this morning to take a few shots. They're all at Flickr, and none of them truly capture the enormity and beauty the way I can experience it with my own eyes, (especially pouring out close to 15 pounds from the big GenCon bag I keep them all in) but this is my favorite one:
Now, to the important question: Can you have too many dice? I require further research and testing, but the early results of my experiment clearly say "No. No you can not have too many dice, especially when each die or set of dice you get comes with a story from the person who gave it to you, allowing you to make a personal connection that merely talking to each other does."
Enormous thanks to everyone who gave me dice at GenCon and at PAX. I think I'm going to keep doing this, until one day I have enough dice to cover my entire floor.
It's quiet outside my office window, like the heat and humidity is sort of absorbing and muffling most of the sounds that usually come through during a typical Saturday morning. All I really hear is birds singing, the occasional drone of a distant train, and the low rumble of thunder out over the mountains somewhere ... it's magical. Both dogs and both cats are asleep in my office, Nolan is sleeping in, and Anne is out at the gym. At this peaceful and solitary moment, it feels like I can take a few minutes to look back on the last week.
I'm home between episodes of Eureka, and rather than spend the week taking walks with my wife and my dogs, I recorded an audiobook. It took about 24 total hours, spread across four days, to perform my friend John Scalzi's Agent to the Stars. I'd read this book a couple of years ago, but performing it aloud was an entirely different experience from reading it. I had to create distinctly different voices and characters for everyone in the book, and that brought the material to life in a way that simply reading it did not. I love Agent to the Stars, and I'm blown away that this was John's "practice novel" that he wrote on the weekends while he was working full time on what was, at the time, his real job. Briefly, the story: Tom Stein is a junior agent in Hollywood, and when an alien species decides to make First Contact with humanity, he acts as their agent ... to the stars. There's much, much more than that, obviously, including characters I really cared about and became invested in, but that's the basic MacGuffin. At least once a day while working on the project, I marveled that I was getting paid to read a book I loved. I mean, for one week, that was my job.
I seriously mean it when I say that I don't ever want to wake up from this wonderful dream.
Oh, hey, it's raining outside. I love the way the rain smells when it's warm outside.
That reminds me: one day this week, when I got home from work, Anne and I watched this huge thunderstorm blow up from way out east, and eventually over our house. It was probably 85 degrees when it passed over us, so while we watched the gutters on our street swell with a miniature flash flood, I grabbed Anne's hand and said, "Let's go run out in the rain!"
Some of you may remember a story I first posted on my blog a thousand years ago, about dancing in the rain with Anne; it made it into Dancing Barefoot as We Close Our Eyes. It's a tiny story that's really just a love letter to my wife, but it remains one of my favorite things I've ever written. Strangely, since that happened back in 2001 or 2002, we haven't intentionally run out into the rain, so this was especially lovely.
The afternoon sun was low in the sky, and the trees on our street broke it up into golden shafts of light that turned the sudden downpour into a glittering cascade of tiny jewels. We kicked off our shoes and skipped across our lawn like children (or a middle-aged couple deeply in love with each other). When we got to the street, it was still hot under our feet, and the cold raindrops were creating little clouds of steam that sat around ankle level. I brushed my hair back off my face, and looked up into the sky, with my arms out and my palms turned up.
"Remember when we danced in the rain in Santa Barbara?" Anne said.
"Yeah," I said, "that was awesome."
"I liked that a lot," she said.
I turned to look at her, and remembered how much I loved her at that moment, so many years ago, and wasn't surprised in the least to discover that I love her even more, now.
I kissed her face. "I love you so much," I said.
"I love you too. I love that we're walking in the rain!"
I took her hand in mine again, and we walked up our block and back. We were soaked through to the skin when we got home.
Last night, we went on a date to an arcade (I know, right?) where we played the hell out of Centipede. I'm not sure exactly why (some may say my reflexes were affected by a Guinness) but Anne destroyed me on our first two games, and got a high score. For her initials, she put in ASS, laughing hysterically the entire time.
"I really love that we still do stupid stuff like this, even though we're all old and shit," I said.
"Yeah, we're totally twelve," she said. "Play again? Or are you too chicken?"
"Nobody calls me chicken!" I declared, and started another game. This one, I focused, did my best, and not only did I win the game, I got an even higher high score ... so of course, I put in SEX as my initials. We made a stupid cellphone video of the moment, because it was important to preserve that for posterity.
When we got home, I played Xbox with Nolan, and fell asleep a little after midnight, happily exhausted from a wonderful week doing things I love with people I love.
This is a very, very good life, and I'm grateful for it.