Working “2nd Watch” With Wil Wheaton
By Brian Walton on June 14, 2012
When the first season of Falling Skies ended in a pretty shocking cliffhanger, we immediately wanted to talk about it with someone. Sure, we finally caught up to actress Jessy Schram this week to talk to her about it, but we wanted more details right then, the kind of details that can only come from a conversation with the creators and stars of the show. Thankfully, the folks over at TNT have heard our prayers (and seen the audience reaction to Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick) and are giving Falling Skies its very own after-show, 2nd Watch, hosted by Wil Wheaton, starting this Sunday. We happen to know a guy who knows the guy hosting the show, so we caught up with Wil about all manner of Wheaton happenings.
Nerdist: First off, congratulations on 2nd Watch and the success of TableTop. Also, thank you for our new Ticket to Ride addiction.
Wil Wheaton: If you think your Ticket to Ride addiction isn’t serious enough, give Ticket To Ride: Europe a try.
N: With 2nd Watch, how did TNT approach you? Were you already a fan of Falling Skies?
WW: I have a good relationship with TNT from the work I’ve done on Leverage, and I’ve worked with some of the people who are doing Second Watch for Leverage promotions. When Executive Producer Laurel Ripley got in touch, and explained that they were doing a show similar to Talking Dead for Falling Skies and wanted me to host it, I hadn’t seen much of the show, so the first thing I wanted to do was watch it.
I went to iTunes, bought the pilot, and watched it. Then I bought the next episode, and watched that. Then I bought the rest of the season, and pretty much watched it nonstop until I got to the end. In the meantime, TNT got me a press pack with a few episodes from the second season, and some other materials, so I pretty much mainlined the entire series in about 36 hours. The last time I did that was when I started watching the new Doctor Who a few years ago.
N: It’s been announced that the all-star cast of Falling Skies will be stopping by to talk with you. Is there anyone you’re particularly excited to converse with?
WW: I think Noah Wyle is an amazing actor who brings a lot to the show, so I’m looking forward to geeking out with him about acting stuff. Sarah Carter (who played Maggie) has one of the most incredible scenes I’ve ever watched on television since Tony and Carmela broke up, and I can’t wait to talk with her about how she brought that particular scene to life.
N: You mentioned that you’ve seen some of Season 2 already. How much have you gotten to see before the rest of us? (Blink once if the resolution to season 1′s cliffhanger is awesome, twice if it’s super awesome. Wait, I can’t see your blinks!)
WW: I’ve seen a lot of it, and if I say anything about it, I owe TNT two million dollars per episode. So I suppose if you raise the money… actually, forget that.
N: 2nd Watch will be living on the web. In what ways will the show’s format be taking advantage of its portal?
WW: Hopefully, it will let us reach out to and embrace the audience in a more interactive way than we can with television, which is one-way communication.
N: With after-shows like this and Talking Dead, you and Chris are acting as ambassadors to the community on behalf of those shows. Do you think networks are finally seeing the value in personally connecting with the audience? And how does having the trust of an audience weigh on deciding whether or not to take on a job like this?
WW: It’s a huge responsibility to host one of these shows, because we need to know as much about the individual episodes and the cast as the most über of überfans. We’re essentially acting as a bridge between the fans of the show and the people who make it, so we absolutely need to have our shit together. I take the responsibility very seriously, and I know that there’s a certain amount of “this is awesome” implied when I agree to do something like this, which is why I wouldn’t have said yes if I didn’t absolutely love the show.
The networks are taking baby steps, as younger executives who have grown up with the Internet replace retiring executives who are still trying to fight the Napster battle. One of the key areas (in which) indies are destroying the majors is with fan outreach, no region-locking, no DRM, and things like that. It makes me really, really happy that TNT and AMC are seeing that the old style of one-way, top-down network to audience relationships need to adapt and change to meet what audiences expect right now.
N: TableTop really feels like a show where you are letting the viewer in on something you’d be doing whether there was filming or not. Was there any hesitation in letting people into what could be considered your personal escape?
WW: The most important thing to me was to convey to the audience how much fun we have when we play games, so more people would want to play games with their friends and families. I didn’t think or worry about anything else.
N: Have you discovered any games because of audience reaction to TableTop? Have any game makers or fans sent you a diamond in the rough or are there any games you’d like to feature that may not be that popular?
WW: I was just at Origins, and I was given so many games by publishers and designers, I had to have six boxes shipped home. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one game in there that will make it into our second season, if we’re lucky enough to get the pick up.
I would LOVE to play Cards Against Humanity, but it’s just too dirty.
N: How much of a challenge was it to find a way to make the playing of board games visually exciting?
WW: We had to work really hard to find games that were 1) Easy to understand, 2) Easy to learn and play, 3) Playable in 90 minutes or less, and 4) Visually interesting. Finding a game that fit three of those criteria was easy, but finding ones that fit all four was really challenging. Games that I love, like Dominion or 7 Wonders are amazing, but what makes them great is what happens in our heads while we play them, so they don’t translate to television very well.
A lot of credit goes to our incredible editors and our director, who turned our gaming experience into something that was entertaining and fun to watch.
N: Who has been the best player so far or who has surprised you with how quickly they took up a game? Do you have a dream guest you want to get on the show?
WW: I can’t say, because the episode hasn’t aired yet, but there is one player who sat into a game that he/she/it had never played before… and he/she/it DESTROYED the entire group. I mean, it wasn’t even close. It was like he/she/it had been playing this game for years. After the game was over, my associate producer and I decided that he/she/it was either a savant, a robot, or a witch; it was the only explanation.
I would love to get Nathan Fillion on the show, and some of my friends from Big Bang Theory.
N: You’re one of the biggest champions of the current new media boom. Where would you like to see it go? Do you have any plans for shows past TableTop?
WW: I saw this picture on Tumblr yesterday, where someone had made the word YOUTUBE in the style of the Hollywood sign, and added the words, “Deal with it” at the bottom. I think of the new media revolution in similar terms to the American Revolution: the rebels are faster, play by their own rules, and don’t have the institutional inertia of the Empire. The rebels can run circles around the Empire while the Empire is still trying to figure out who the rebels are. This is the best time in history to be a creative person, because all you need is an idea and a lot of hard work. You don’t have to go impress one person who is a gatekeeper; you just have to be awesome in your own way, and get your creation in front of an audience. The old media Empire doesn’t know how to adapt to this, which is one of the reasons I believe they are trying to pass laws to crush the rebels, instead of adapting to make the revolution unnecessary.
I’ve been playing a lot of really douchey douchbags, and it’s been a lot of fun, but I want to do something a little more serious, a little less silly. I don’t think I’m going to get cast in that kind of role right now, so I’ll need to write it myself and make a short film that I’ll release online. And I’d love to do more TableTop, of course.
N: Pardon us if we have a fanboy moment, but given Wesley Crusher’s powers, can he transcend alternate realities and appear in the J.J. Abrams-verse? More to the point, have you tried to make that case to J.J.?
WW: I wish. I was really hoping I would get a cameo or even more in the newest movie, but it didn’t happen.
N: You’ve been in a number of projects that have very personal meanings to people. How do you process being a focal point in so many people’s personal lives?
WW: I don’t think about it too much, because it would get overwhelming. I just do my best to follow my law (Don’t Be A Dick!), never take anything for granted, appreciate and enjoy the wonderful stories people share with me about how my work has touched their lives, and hope that when it’s all over, I will have inspired someone to be kind and awesome.
2nd Watch will stream online at 11 pm Eastern immediately after Falling Skies airs on TNT at 9 pm Eastern on Sunday. TableTop posts every other Friday on Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry. And for more stories like this one first thing every morning in your inbox, consider signing up for Nerdist News.