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What Drives Nathan Fillion

What Drives Nathan Fillion (photo)

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Even if Nathan Fillion weren’t currently playing the eponymous mystery writer on the hit TV series “Castle,” the genre fans out there would surely know the charming Canadian actor from his work with cult-beloved producer Joss Whedon. Fillion had a pivotal role as a serial-killing priest in the final episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” captained both the ship and ensemble cast of space western “Firefly” (and its spin-off feature “Serenity”), and goofily played Neil Patrick Harris’ superhero nemesis in Whedon’s web musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

Fillion currently co-stars in writer-director James Mottern’s terrific desert drama “Trucker,” starring Michelle Monaghan in a career-launching performance as Diane Ford, a free-spirited (okay, promiscuous) big-rig driver who’s forced to watch over the 11-year-old son she all but abandoned to her ex. Fillion plays Diane’s drinking buddy Runner, one of the locals whose casual relationship with her proves complicated by the fact that he’s married. In support of the film, Fillion called me to talk about trucks, villains, Joss Whedon’s super-fans and the superhero franchise he’d like to reboot.

What’s the largest vehicle you’ve ever been behind the wheel of?

I had a Ford F-250. It was a big ol’ farm truck, but it wasn’t a rig. That’s about the biggest I’ve ever driven. That’s what I drove back and forth to high school. I was a poor guy, and it was a truck that my uncle owned and let me drive because I had no money. It was little compared to the thing Michelle [Monaghan] was driving around.

Runner’s relationship with Diane is unconventional, to say the least. Some people believe that men and women can’t be just friends when there’s any chemistry between them. Would you agree?

No, I don’t agree. I think when there’s chemistry, you know if there’s going to be some sort of compromising. You can know that. I like to think I’m able to draw the line. When it comes to married women, or if you’re in a relationship yourself, I try to keep myself out of situations that would force me to make decisions that could [lead] to trouble.

Michelle Monaghan’s been getting a lot of buzz for the role since the film premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Could you share any outside observations about her in this performance?

I’ll tell you what I really enjoy. We all go to the movies, we all watch television, we know what they’re about, how they work. When the main character is a cop or a spy, it’s very exciting, but I also very much enjoy when the main characters are nobodies — a trucker. Michelle’s as serious as a heart attack about her work. She’s just very, very natural. You don’t need to have a huge role to attack. She attacks what is seemingly a small character.

Your career has been a bit entrenched in the Cult of Joss Whedon. Have you had any bizarre encounters with Whedon’s super-fans?

Yeah, one or two. [laughs] One thing I can say about Joss’ fans is that they’re dedicated, passionate, intelligent and very excitable. If you go to a sci-fi convention and there’re 3,000 of them in a room, one of them is going to get a little riled up and ask you to take off your pants. I’m a pretty reasonable man. I don’t let things get too far out of hand. I try not to mix fans and booze. I keep a lid on things.

10132009_DrHorrible.jpgSpeaking of Whedon, the only villain I’ve known you to play was Caleb on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Do you feel you’re ever typecast as the nice guy?

Not in the least. If anything, I’m typecast as a guy who’s maybe not so nice. He’s the hero who’s the anti-hero, or you think he’s a nice guy but he’s an adulterer. I’ve played so many roles, like a man who is married who cheats on his wife.

Maybe it’s your even-keel disposition that gave me this perception.

I agree. That’s part of the trick. People don’t walk around acting like they’re the villain. The villain walks around acting like he’s the good guy. The villain always thinks the show is about him, he’s going to win. The villain doesn’t think he’s a villain.

I know you’re too busy with your own TV show to work on Whedon’s series “Dollhouse,” but if you had time, what kind of character do you think you’d play?

Well, I wouldn’t be a doll, because they’re all in really great shape. I would be some incredibly rich businessman who hires a bunch of dolls to be some kind of private army. Yeah, that would be me.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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