Hi, I’m Wil Wheaton. I’m not a dick, but I play one on TV…

the 8-bit bang theory by r. stevens

The first appearance of Evil Wil Wheaton on The Big Bang Theory is airing again tonight, so I thought I'd gather up all the posts I wrote while working on it in one place:

leveling up while geeking out on the set of the big bang theory

I remember being in drama school in my early twenties, and having at least a decade more experience than everyone else in the room except our teacher. I remember paying close attention all the time, even when I wasn't working on a scene in front of the class, or getting notes directly from her. I remember her telling the other kids in the school, many of whom were convinced that they were going to be The Next Big Thing (all of them except Salma Hyek were wrong) that they didn't learn anything about performing while they were actually doing it. They learned while watching other actors perform, and understanding why their choices worked or didn't work. 

I haven't done a show like this in years, and I want to make sure that I am completely back in shape, I guess you could say, by the time we perform the episode next week. To make sure I get there, I spent the entire day, even when I wasn't in the scene, watching and listening, and remembering skills that I once used every day, but haven't even thought about in a very long time. By the time we got to my last scene of the day (God, I wish I could describe it, because it's hilarious) I felt confident, I felt funny, and I felt weird but also good.

The Big Bang Buzz

Once we started rehearsing, I noticed something that had changed from yesterday's rehearsal: the script was just as funny, but it was more alive when we performed it. I guess that, having lived with the script for a full day and having run the scenes several times alone and together, those difficult-to-quantify things that make us actors (I guess we could call them "Dramachlorians") have started to do their thing. We're thinking about the scenes when we're not in them, we're hearing the characters in our heads, we're subconsciously applying the notes we got from the director yesterday, and what was a collection of notes and chords 24 hours ago is starting to turn into a piece of music.

unraveling the mystery

I can't get into any real specifics, because we've reached that point in the production where any new insights or revelations that have happened (and they have) are all related to things that would certainly qualify as spoilers, or are observations that I feel would be unprofessional to share without the explicit permission of my fellow actors.

However, during rehearsal, I got to watch them take something that was already very funny, and then try several different approaches to one particular bit, each one funnier than the last, until they settled on something that I know is going to kill when the audience sees it. You know you're working on a tremendously funny show when the stuff they throw away is funnier than the stuff that makes it on air on other shows. I also have a new appreciation for how perfectly the writers on The Big Bang Theory balance the extremely geeky jokes that guys like me go crazy for, with the non-geeky jokes that people like my wife enjoy. It's a lot harder than it sounds to gently push a time machine through the eye of the comedy needle every week without touching the sides and making that one dude's nose light up … which sounds kind of funny, but trust me, is not.

The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary

First of all, for anyone who is wondering, the show's art department made actual cards with actual graphics and rules on them, and we all spent a fair amount of time making up some logical rules to go with the Mystic Warlords of Ka'a. As far as I know, there aren't official rules or an official card set, but I'm sure someone will create one within a couple of weeks if the show doesn't. (Oh please, oh please.)

When he first talked to me about working on the show, Bill Prady told me that I'd be playing a "delightfully evil version" of myself. This sounded like a lot of fun to me, but it was more difficult to find that character than you'd think. When I'm playing Fawkes on The Guild it's easy to slip into his kilt and be a jerk, but wearing my own clothes and essentially playing a stylized version of myself made it a real challenge to hit "delightfully evil" without veering into "not committed to being delightfully evil" or "just plain evil." Keeping that twinkle in my eye, and knowing that Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Version) is planning to scam Sheldon from the moment he sits down, was essential to this particular characterization working out, and I didn't completely find it until we'd run the episode a couple of times.

During one of the run throughs, when Jim did his Klingon bit, I turned to Kevin and asked him, "Did he just say 'revenge is a dish best served cold' in Klingon?" like I was trying to figure out if that's actually what happened, like maybe I misunderstood him. Chuck Lorre told me that it would be funnier if I was more exasperated. "You're just here to play this game, and now some guy is quoting Klingon at you. This happens everywhere you go," he said. 

I sighed dramatically, and said, "Oh, it does." Everyone laughed, hard, and Chuck pointed his finger at me. "Yes. That is exactly the way to play that beat."

When Chuck gave me that note, I grokked how to play Evil Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory version), and I could see the comedy in every beat I played for the rest of the show.

Finally, I did a Q&A post about Creepy Candy Coating Corollary last month, before I knew I'd be returning to the show. You'll have to go through the comments to find the questions and my answers, but if you're interested in that sort of thing, I think you'll dig it. There is also a hilarious T-shirt in that link that you probably want to see, regardless.

Also, my second episode, which is titled The Wheaton Recurrence (!) airs April 12 on CBS. Tell all your friends, and that one guy up the street who washes his Camaro in jean shorts on his lawn every weekend … he needs friends.

71 thoughts on “Hi, I’m Wil Wheaton. I’m not a dick, but I play one on TV…”

  1. I’m not a dick, but I am roleplaying one in a supervillains game. It uses the old WoD system, and it’s AWESOME.
    By the way, I doubt you realised but for the past two years I’ve been commenting on your blog saying “I’ve always wanted to try my hand at an RPG, but never had the chance” – well now I do, every Sunday!
    Next step: attend a convention!

  2. I bought that t-shirt on Saturday. My little sister was pretty jealous, because she’d already spent all her money on shoes and dresses. I’ve finally found a way to get her to go into Hot Topic! :-D

  3. Thanks for getting me into this show Wil. I was becoming a bigger fan of yours around the time (AHHH BRAID SOUNDTRACK!!! Sorry listening to the Burrito while writing this) the episode was coming out so I decided to watch it. You really turned me onto something great (well, you and the girl at work with whom I am enamored).

  4. Fun side note (for me anyway, you can take it or leave it): I started playing Braid around the time I began listening to the PA/PvP/wilw DnD Podcast. So that soundtrack is linked forever in my mind with the time I was becoming more interested in Penny Arcade, PvP, D&D and your work!

  5. Found this show by accident a few weeks ago and thought you were great tonight as an evil version of yourself. Have you ever played a role where the character’s actions left YOU embarrassed or otherwise affected when the scene was over?

  6. That's about the time I started playing it, too. The music I grabbed (and just realized forgot to link in the show notes) is my favorite, because it's so hauntingly beautiful.

  7. Yeah. On Criminal Minds it felt really awful at the end of each take when we were in the cabin. I'm not a Method Actor™, but it's impossible not to connect to at least *some* of the emotion a character is feeling in a scene.

  8. Heard about this a while back but never saw it, stumbled on it tonight – and you did a superb job (VERY convincing)
    Looking forward to part 2, and your visit to the wild west (when it finally releases)
    With some luck I’ll bump into you at a con someday maybe even autograph something for ya :), but till then – hope you and the gang keep up the great work
    -the man from Skullcrusher mtn

  9. I’ve already recruited a friend of mine who hadn’t roleplayed for 15 years, and he’s thoroughly enjoying it. Making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.

  10. I enjoyed the rerun as much I as I did its first airing. Please put a bug in someone’s ear that you would LOVE to participate in that ep’s DVD commentary.

  11. Huzzah! We had never watched Big Bang Theory until your first appearance on there…my household was instantly hooked! It’s because of you that we get to enjoy that show. Thank you for giving us that gift :-)

  12. Thank you. I’m sure you get tired of answering questions at some point. The actor’s craft fascinates me. Always has. I love the reality of the back stories. It’s like I can get into the story but there’s always this “Wow! That’s really good acting,” or “That scene must be very hard to play,” as I watch. Have a great evening!

  13. A “Clip” Post? Are you kidding me??!?! What a rip! Next thing you know you’ll do a post where you do the 3 Ghosts. Wheaton-Past, Wheaton-Present, and Wheaton-Future. ;-)
    WHEATON!!!!!!!!

  14. Something about the way that last line is phrased makes it sound like you are the guy who washes his Camaro in jean shorts on his lawn every weekend…which is a deeply amusing image.

  15. I saw you on tonight’s show. Sadly, I missed the first half. :(
    I’m a bit of a Star Trek nerd. Next Generation introduced me to the franchise.
    You were great tonight. Mind you, I hated Evil Will’s fake Mee-Maw ploy. But I think the fact that I thought you were a jerk is a testament to just how good you were. ;)

  16. Jean shorts *and a muscle shirt*, you mean. Don't forget the muscle shirt, man. I have to wash it by hand, on account of it's vintage.

  17. Wil,
    It looks like you did another great job as the bad guy. Yet another day on another great job. Keep up the great work.
    FG

  18. Laughing *so hard* at ‘dramachlorians’ …
    You know, since you sort of got me into both blogging and poker, I want to ask you to read the post I wrote for Pokerstars’ blogger tournament thingy … but nah, I don’t think I know you well enough. I mean, if I wouldn’t ask you to help me move, I definitely shouldn’t go there.
    … So I’ll just tell you about it. I brought teh funny at the expense of dicks who play poker. And I learned it all from you!
    –Ian

  19. Whoah, that was strange. I was watching The Two Live Crew Job Leverage episode on NetFlix when I read this.
    My response went like this: Uh huh, watching it now, on NetF-… huh? Wha-? WAIT!
    …and then I passed through a reality distortion field into this universe.

  20. I have to admit that episode of Criminal Minds totally freaked me out. I had to go online and “verify” that was really you playing Floyd. It was an amazing performance, creepy, but amazing.

  21. Nerd Jesus! Ahahahahahaha! Holy carp is that funny as shit! Sacrilegious, definitely, but funny nonetheless. We need a Motivational Poster for this one because it’s just too good *not* to have one. Wow. You’ve effectively made me totally snortlaugh and make me forget what the hell I was going to write in my reply! I declare Nerd Jesus to be WIN!

  22. Wil, I just have to ask you this. After watching the repeat of “The Creepy Candy Coated Corollary” last night, I could have sworn that for a few seconds you were totally making Riker’s poker face. I’ve seen yours before, and it was completely different than your poker face. This one was just so uncanny that I wondered to myself if maybe you had done it deliberately as an homage to TNG, or maybe even just because you have a cool beard now like Jonathan. I’d have to watch it again to be completely sure, but my money’s on you “borrowing” that face. So, which is it? Fluke, or deliberation? I just have to know!

  23. How about “Don’t be Floyd Hansen?” Because that guy not only was a complete dick, he was a psychopath that scared the shit out of my poor geriatric Mother who absolutely adores you! If I had a nickel for every time she called me into a room because something you were in was on, I’d probably have a couple of grand stashed away. She’s starting to get dementia, I think, because she’s seen your CSI episode at least three times now and I keep having to remind her that Walter is you and she acts surprised every time I tell her. lol

  24. You mention of being on BBT the first time got me to add it to my Tivo’s to do list. I am now addicted. I hadn’t seen your episode until tonight and it was TOTALLY with the wait. I realize that there are copyright issues and courtesy etc., but I would love to see a t-shirt with the above graphic of evil Will and Sheldon with the caption that says “Game over MoonPie”. Can’t wait for 4/12!

  25. Yeah, I just made a comment further up the page about Floyd. That guy completely freaked me out, but literally terrified my Mom. She’s elderly, and not in the best of health physically or mentally, but she loves to watch her “stories” and has always loved Wil. She knew who he was before I even did, and knows about roles he played in some really obscure stuff when he was a kid that I wouldn’t even know about if she didn’t constantly call me into a room and say “Look! It’s ‘Weasel’ from Star Trek!” whenever something like that would come on. So after watching him as Floyd in Criminal Minds (or “Creepy People” as she calls it lol), she was freaked out pretty bad by his performance.
    After the episode was over, she kept saying “But he used to be such a nice kid!” and then proceeded to tell me to “Get on that email machine of yours and tell him that I didn’t like him on this show, and that he’s a mean and bad man on this show!” LOL Explaining to your borderline septuagenarian Mother in what I’m pretty sure is the early stages of dementia that he’s an actor and was specifically cast to play that role for the sole purpose to act like a “mean and bad man” is loads of fun, let me tell you! She got really quiet for a couple of seconds after I said that, and then she stated very matter of fact “Well then, he’s a pretty damn good actor because I didn’t like THAT creep at all!” After she said that, I just said “Neither do I, Mom, but you’re right about him being a great actor, because not once during this episode did I associate him with Wesley Crusher. That guy was just plain out of his mind, and really effed up in the head!”
    I can’t even begin to get into how I had to explain to her that he’s merely just playing a “delightfully evil” version of himself on the Big Bang Theory…needless to say, my head asplode.

  26. We’re playing “What the heck is this thing?” LMAO! My best guess is that it’s some kind of CD or CD ROM disc spindle holder, but the more I look at the damned thing, the less I’m sure about what the heck it is! You’re right, we need to go straight to an inside source.
    Wil…What the heck is that thing?!

  27. That guy does need friends. So does the guy who keeps building Starfleet models and hanging them from his bedroom ceiling and I just happen to tbe in the market for new friends.
    My niece and I are totally ganging up on her non-geek dad with the Sheldon-isms. And he can’t play RPSLS to save his life… or win a decision. It is awesome!!! Evil Wil made her very happy but kinda skipped her record when she realized you used to be Wesley Crusher in a past life.
    April 12th can not get here soon enough.

  28. Complete non-sequitir, but while watching your appearance on Big Bang, someone watching with me noted that we’re due for a new Star Trek series.
    I think it’s time you go to Paramount with a pitch for The Next, Next Generation. The time is ripe. Hopefully, Paramount has learned their lesson from DS9, Voyager, and “Enterprise”. All three of those series thoroughly sucked ass and were a lame attempt on Paramount’s part to keep milking the franchise. They weren’t grounded in anything sociologically substantial. Phasers, transporters, shields, and holodecks… yeah, yeah, yeah, all very well and groovy, but show me something new or I’m off to play Grand Theft Auto.
    The Original Series and Next Generation worked in large part because of the times they were launched. The Original Series reflected ’60′s culture in many ways. The Next Generation was as much about our post-Cold War world as it was about the 24th century.
    There is a lot of contemporary stuff you could tap for a Next, Next Generation. You could easily come up 25th century themes in the Star Trek universe that would reflect the problems we face now with the banking and real estate collapses we’ve endured recently along with the current conflict in ideology between the Western world and fundamental Islam.
    Looking at the gap between the Original Series and Next Generation, the ideal time to launch the Next, Next Generation should be around 2012. Start laying the groundwork now. Given the times, I’d suggest bringing back Crusher as a somewhat darker figure, certainly not from the Kirk/Picard mold, who kept getting lured back to Star Fleet only to have Star Fleet perpetually falling short on their promises to him. (Now THAT would be contemporarily relevant.) Put Crusher in charge of the Enterprise M, or whatever model they decide they’re building, but where “M” is the equivalent of today’s Prius… with constant recalls and sudden, unexpected acceleration.
    And be certain that you get at least some creative control. The NG producers were smart to have some of the Original Series characters appear. Nimoy, Kelly, and Doohan were awesome when they came back to the franchise. It’d be cool if you could get Dorn, Burton, Sirtis, and McFadden to come back for spots.
    But don’t let Frakes or Stewart anywhere near the set. You don’t want those two dweebs upstaging you.

  29. It's an old fuse board. In the continuity of the show, Leonard collects things like that, which is why there's a lot of neat old pieces of hardware all over their apartment.

  30. I did! He played doubles with Kunal against this guy George and this guy Robin, who Kunal said are the two best players out of the entire cast and crew. They played 3 matches, won the first, lost the second, and lost the third after taking it to deuce.
    It was pretty awesome to stand there and be a proud dad while people kept telling me how incredibly good at the game my son was.

  31. :D Proud-dad moments are the best. My son’s entering high school next year and he’s going to be in the robotics competitions. Proud-geek-dad moments aplenty in my future. :D

  32. Ok now I’m picturing Wil in jean shorts and one of those mesh muscle shirts washing his Hot Red ’88 Camero…
    Note to self: sometimes there is such a thing as “too much” description in writing.

  33. Oh.
    Just read your FAQ on Trek. I wasn’t aware that your break away from the series had been acrimonious. I’m sorry to hear it went down the way it did.
    Still, you of all people must know what motivates the suits at Paramount: Cash. Maybe they’ll take a risk in a couple of years with a new crew. But Star Trek fans love continuity. That fact can’t elude the bean-counters at the studio. A “Captain Crusher” would be familiar, even expected on some level, and would give a new series a better chance of success out of the gate.
    If you have any reliable contacts left there, I hope you’ll seriously consider reaching out to them. Your appearances on Big Bang must be drawing some notice.

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