Interview with John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman of "Dark Minions" on Amazon and of "Big Bang Theory" of CBS - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Dark Minions poster

Interview with John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman of "Dark Minions" on Amazon and of "Big Bang Theory" on CBS 5/3/13

Here is the audio of the interview. These guys are great, and so funny! I had a blast talking to them. Their animated work is very entertaining. You should definitely check it out quick, while it's still on Amazon, and make sure to give it a good review, too, so they make more. Fun show!

Bowie (right) and Sussman (left)Kevin Sussman showed up first, and then later, John Ross Bowie, in case you can't tell who's who.

If the audio is not streaming well, please right-click on this link and save it to your computer. It should work better that way! We'll hopefully have a transcript of this up soon.

Interview Part 1 Interview Part 2 Interview Part 3

Here's the transcript of the interview, provided by Gisele!

1. How did Dark Minions come about?

Kevin: "Well, John and I had been writing together for a while; and we, I think, one day I had sent him just a sketch of something -- just a funny idea. I had like this vision in my head. You know, the scene in Star Wars where they're taking over the rebel ship, and there's that rebel ship where everything's white and there are these macho troopers everywhere, and I always thought to myself, 'What is in those troopers? Are they covered? What's in there? Shoes? What did they put on the walls?' So I wrote, not thinking it was going to turn into a script, or anything, but I just wrote this one scene that I sent to John, where there are a bunch of troopers marching by, and then a door opens up and troopers march out, and you open one of those cabinets and there are Cheerios or something and then it goes back into it. And then I think John wrote the next scene and added a scene after that. It sort of clicked just the minutiae of what it would be like to live on a space station type of thing. And so we thought of breaking it down into, you know, then we thought back to the story."

2. Why or how did it get on to Amazon?

Kevin: "Originally we wanted to do a live action thing with John and I starring in it, and that's how we shot the draft originally. The networks, everyone read it and loved it and the networks thought it was a good concept. We were kind of thinking of a multi-cam show with a live-audience type of thing, with just a voice-mix, and so, yeah. So we thought the networks are looking for a show like 'Modern Family' and the next 'Friends' -- always the next 'Friends.' And this was not that. When Amazon announced that they are going to be doing original content, one of our, John, actually pitched it to Amazon as an anime thing, and we met with Amazon, and they actually were the ones who suggested doing it as an animation. We all thought, 'Oh, this is perfect, because computer animation, unlike traditional puppet animation, kind of required that you just have a couple of main sets, similar to a multi-cam studio show like 'Big Bang,' where you've got your main set that you shoot on over and over again, and then you have a new set every episode, and the production timeline for animation -- it just sort of seemed like a perfect match. We had originally written it to be for a live action thing, and it'd be perfect with a couple of main sets and then build the occasional swing set."

John: "Well, the first time I saw this, Kevin sent me the first scene. We really haven't tweaked it too much, and his original pitch was, 'Check this out.' This person goes to work in outer space on an intergalactic warship. But we liked the idea so much that we started talking more about it, and we discovered that we had both worked for big consulting firms in the '90s. We worked for like big, gigantic, professional services firms; and we didn't know each other, but we were both essentially working for the animal. We were trying to figure out what we were doing with our lives and there was a lot of... You know, we used to joke we were working for the evil empire. So we took that idea of two basically nice guys who got caught up in the big scene and took it to its logical extension. So we had these two guys who, because of economic reasons, were working for a place they did not like. I won't say that we worked for ourselves after that, but we were able to draw from our experiences working corporate America."

3. So will there be more episodes, or do you know yet? How long does it have to be on Amazon?

Kevin: "Dark Minions will stay up for a month, and then they'll base their decision on sort of internal boogaboo and they have traditional methods as well as taking into account the reviews that people can post on Amazon. All the pilots are up there now, and they're all free to watch. So, we don't know exactly what their magic formula is in terms of how much weight they give the reviews to make as part of the decision, but they should decide, I think, at this point, in like two weeks."

John: "How long has it been up?"

Kevin: "About two weeks now."

John: "Yeah, about two weeks from now, I think. We submitted a top-secret document where we saw the first season going. Just to give them an idea, just to let them know that we have a broader vision of what would happen with these characters and, hopefully, that would play into account, too. But, yeah, it's kind of a brand-new business model, which is both exciting and terrifying."

4. How did Clancy Brown and Richard Kind get cast?

John: "The casting director, Ivy Eisenberg, submitted to us a list of people, and we had a wealth of material to pick from, but there was something about those two, Clancy Brown and Richard Kind. We heard a bunch of people read for Drebnor, and they all had that kind of incredible science fiction voice quality. Clancy has this incredible voice -- the kind of voice that keeps building and building. I thought 'God, you really sound like this in real life.' He sounds like a petulant child whose toy's been taken away from him. He's comedy gold."

Kevin: "There were a couple of roles that we were going back and forth about for Clancy. For me, I found that walking around my neighborhood, walking my dog, and just sort of doing his audition -- not as a reference, but just like going over it in my head, just because it was cracking me up. His performance where you just repeat the funny lines and stuff. I was doing that for Clancy Brown. He was my top choice as soon as I heard him."

John: "Yeah, and then Richard didn't even read. Richard -- everyone just agreed he would make a terrific Feldenbaum, and we just offered it to him outright. And then he, and this is the craziest thing, he came in and found out he and Clancy had gone to Northwestern together... at the same time. They hadn't seen each other in years, and they got into the booth and were able to put their stuff together, and they had this wonderful spontaneity, because they were working, and they were playing with each other, and these guys who have 30-year-old chemistry working together. And it was just a happy accident. We had no idea they knew each other, and it worked out really well. They had incredibly different career paths, but we were happy to reunite them."

5. It must be kind of different from acting to be able to create something like this and then see it come together and be able to pick the voices and all that. It must be really exciting for you.

Kevin: "It's been so much fun, because, as I was saying, John and I have written a bunch of stuff together, but this one was, as John said, it didn't quite write itself, but it was definitely the easiest and most enjoyable thing that we've written. This is sort of like, for fun, you know. Generally, it was just sort of a joyous thing to be working on it. Actually, while they started animation on this, John and I were working on some other thing for another network that was more network-y and more about us doing the show. It was more like a job job, and executives would give us their notes which inevitably are basically like, 'Can you water this down in that line and maybe take down that scene, because we want to water down the effect a little?' And John and I would just say to each other, 'Can we just get back to our space puppets, okay?' We can just submit a draft and say, 'Can we get back to our space puppets now? We just want to play with our space puppets.'"

John: "Yeah, it really didn't feel like a job. And we still had development deals, and we still had tough decisions to make, and there was still actual work and late nights, but it was really fun to work on."

6. Do you have ideas for future episodes or have you written any?

Stuart: "We have outlines. Yeah, we have brief outlines for stuff."

John: "We're being deliberately cagey about it."

7. Are you both fans of Star Wars and other Sci-Fi?

Kevin: "Yeah. It's not a requirement to work on Big Bang. In fact, I am a nerd, but I am not as nerdy as my character on Big Bang, although I did actually work in a comic book store, but when I originally got a job in a comic book store, it wasn't because I was crazy about comics. I needed a job. That said, I think I am actually nerdier in real life than most of the Big Bang guys. Most of those guys are not nerds, but they're still playing tech nerds."

John: "My first day on Big Bang, which was like 5 years ago, I came in, and I was really excited to be there, and I was talking to the cast, and 'The Watchmen' trailer had just come out, the Zach Snyder movie. I said, 'Hey, have you guys seen 'The Watchmen' trailer,' and I just got all these eyes staring back at me. I said, 'You are the best actors in the world.'"

8. Have your co-workers on BBT seen it? Any feedback?

John: "They all went underground for a few months. Mayim liked it...

Kevin: "And Melissa. Yeah. It's funny because when we were working on a show while doing Big Bang, the writers were really supportive of John and me as writers, as well; and they would tease us and say, you know, 'By the way, next week, we're going to be acting on Big Bang."

9. Have you shown it at the conventions? Will you be going to Comic-Con?

John: "I showed the trailer for it at a Big Bang convention in Birmingham, England, and it went over really well. We'll know whether it gets picked up in June, so hopefully, we'll take it Comic-Con. I would love that."

10. Will you both still be on BBT next season?

Both: "Yeah, we'll be on for a couple of years."

11. Any other projects coming up?

John: "We have a bunch of scripts that we wrote in network development that are sitting out there. A script that you write on spec is never really dead, because I'd given up on 'Dark Minions' for 18 months before we sold it to Amazon. I really thought it would never happen. So, we have other scripts. They may never see the light of day -- they may. Who knows?"

12. Any acting things do you have coming up?

Kevin: "No. Big Bang starts up in August, so unless I hear that they've packed up the comic book store set, I'm pretty sure I'll make my return. But I don't have any movies or anything to report."

John: "Well, I've got 'The Heat' -- the Sandra Bullock movie. I play an FBI agent in that."

13. Did you ever get any flak from anyone playing somebody with a speech impediment?

John: "I get flak because people are like, 'Ugh, a speech impediment,' but I don't get anything from people who are offended by it. In fact, I got a lovely e-mail from a speech pathologist that I went to college with who explained the actual term for what Kripke's problem is. I've been calling it rhotacism, and apparently it's not that, the term is 'Liquid Rs and Ls,' I think. Liquid consonants, something liquid. She very gently corrected me. I was waiting for some sort of speech impediment advocacy group to come down on me, but so far so good. You have to be very careful about this. Because he has a speech impediment, everything else about Kripke wins. We found out a few months ago that Kripke is actually smarter and has better research than Sheldon. Kripke will win a prank war. Even though he loses on the basketball court, that means he loses an office that isn't a good office anyway. They always set it up so that Kripke is the supervillain and gets away with it. So I think that's one way they're able to deflect criticism about the speech impediment, because that's like, 'Kripke has one problem. The rest of his life is pretty awesome.' He's not a victim by any stretch."

14. I like the overweight guy on "Dark Minions," because TV actors are always so good looking.

Kevin: "In my experience, geeks are, you know, often overweight or underweight. Me, personally, I fall into both categories. I've been told that I have the second thinnest chin in show business, the first being Joel Grey."

John: "Joel Grey? Interesting!"

Kevin: "Yeah, and... but, at the same time, I have this paunch that's on display. In the episode of 'The Big Bang Theory" where I come into the show, which now is like a permanent part of my TV image. There it is. 'Hello.' So yeah, I mean, you know, I'm very much in line of slender, but not in shape which is a hard line to walk, I'm telling you."

John: "I really love the way Andy is designed. I find him... We were seeing that during editing, and we were watching all this footage of the guy, and we saw how really appealing he was and how sort of universal his struggle seems. When he's running down the hallway and then stops and leans his head up against the glass and he's checking his pulse and panting, I love that moment so much. You're just concerned about him. You have a lot of empathy for the guy. And a lot of that falls in the animation. They did a lot of great work on the character design.

My Review of the show and more information

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