Category Archives: Eureka Season 5

I really miss this place

 

image from i.imgur.com

I took this picture on one of the last days of production.

Whenever I watch Eureka this season, and I see an advert on the network formerly known as Sci-Fi for one of their stupid goddamn are-you-serious-with-this-bullshit reality shows, I get angry and then sad. Eureka was and is such a great show, and it deserved better than it got from the network. I guess if we knew then what we know now, we would have put in more ghosts and wrestling.

 

Colin, Jaime, and Neil came over for boardgames and homebrew last weekend. We had so much fun, what was intended to be a few hours of goofing off turned into an entire day and most of the evening. 

 

image from i.imgur.com

Neil Grayston, Colin Ferguson, some nerd, Jaime Paglia

I love the stories and characters on Eureka, and I am really proud of the work I did as Doctor Parrish… but what I miss most about Eureka is getting to see these people (and others who are not pictured) every day.

Afterthought - In comments, Jeff L. makes a point that I agree with:

To a point, I recognize the reality shows as a necessary evil in the current cable marketplace. The much higher margin on shows like that is what enables the channel to put on the more expensive scripted stuff. And you can make the case that a lot of the reality stuff is at least tangentally related to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genres (wrestling, on the other hand, pure money grab).

Based on the ratings for its scripted shows, if SyFy tried to run on a schedule of mostly original programming, it would probably be off the air in 6 months. So I've chosen to just watch what I like through the miracle of Tivo (and I try to do it within one day for max ratings bump) and I just ignore the ads for the shows I don't like.

Syfy may not be the destination channel it once was, but they still put out some quality programming, and as noted, they are a business so they can't really be blamed for making business decisions, as much as we personally may disagree with the whys and hows of them.

When I talk about how much I miss Eureka, and how much I want to kick certain NBC/Universal executives in the nuts for cancelling it, I readily admit that I'm not coming from a rational place. I am coming from an emotional place, because something that meant a lot to me was taken away.

I get it, it's business, and I'm not going to pretend that it's anything different… but I'm also not going to pretend that, for me, it isn't personal on some irrational level.

I’m on a boat: On the Delivery of Technobabble

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

On the Delivery of Technobabble

Originally published May 2011.

I was in three scenes yesterday, one of which contained a massive amount of technobabble.

For those who don't know what that is: on a sci-fi show, technobabble is what we call pseudoscientific dialog like "I'll have to run a level four diagnostic on the antimatter inversion matrix to be sure." It's pretty much the worst dialog an actor can have to deliver on a show, because it's rarely connected to anything in reality, and if we're talking about the inertial dampeners in a scene, we're pretty much infodumping to the audience, instead of doing something interesting with our characters.

…or so I thought until yesterday.

The thing about technobabble is that it isn't usually connected to reality. By that, I mean that though it does follow the logical rules of the show's universe, and references things the fans know about, for most actors, it's like being asked to perform in a foreign language that you barely understand (if you understand it at all.)

The other thing about technobabble is that the character delivering it is supposed to be an expert on the subject, and should have a point of view about it that stays alive through the whole scene. For example, maybe Doctor Hoobajoo is the leading expert in the galaxy on ion resonance within the subspace induction processor core, so when Doctor Hoobajoo talks about that subject, she's an expert. You can't ask her a single question about the subspace induction processor core that she can't answer. But for the actor playing Doctor Hoobajoo, she has to deliver a bunch of dialog based on something that doesn't even exist as if she's been studying it her whole life.

This is a tremendous challenge for the actor, because, unlike normal dialog that comes from an emotional place, technobabble comes from memories that don't exist. While the actor who plays Doctor Hoobajoo can draw on the emotional memory of being betrayed, or being afraid, or being in love to inform a scene, she can't draw on the memory of studying and mastering the twin fields of ion resonance and subspace induction. As an actor, it's easy to fall into the trap of delivering technobabble by rote, and for a lot of us, it's the only way we can remember those lines at all.

But sometimes, a scene is emotionally important, and is filled with technobabble. That's just the reality of working in science fiction. So when Doctor Hoobajoo is trapped in the power conduit with Commander Framitz, her former lover from her first deployment who left her for an android, and can only save them from certain depolarizaion by repairing a malfunction in the subspace induction processor core, the actor has a lot of work to do. Not only does the actor have to be an expert who can solve the problem and save their lives, she has to be emotionally connected to the scene and the history between the two characters. Oh, and she has to remember that the stakes in this case are pretty high. And she has to do this over and over again for several hours, during the master shot, the VFX shots, and all the coverage.

Boy, writing those three paragraphs just exhausted me. I'll be back in a little bit.

Okay, some coffee and steel cut oats seem to have revitalized me, so I can get to my point now, about what I realized yesterday:

I had a scene that was almost entirely technobabble. It sets up a lot of the action for the episode, tells the audience what's at stake, and gets them excited enough to sit through commercials for MegaSomething versus Giant Other Thing to find out what happens next. I drove the scene. Everyone else was reacting to me and the information I gave them, and I think I had one line in two pages that wasn't technobabble. It was challenging, and I knew from experience that I was going to have trouble remembering the jargon, so I did a lot of extra homework to make sure I was totally prepared. 

As I did my preparation, I realized that while the technobabble is just a dump of information, it's information that Doctor Parrish has an opinion about. The function of the scene is to get the action going and give the audience some important information, but that doesn't mean it has to be an infodump. The way Doctor Parrish feels about the other characters affects the way he talks with them regardless of the words. It affects who he chooses to give certain bits of information to, and it affects how he delivers the information. So I found ways to be emotionally connected to the scene and the characters, while caring about the information I was giving them, so it wasn't an infodump. A scene that could have been tedious and boring became a scene that was a lot of fun to perform.

Still, it was really hard to remember all the technobabble I had, and at one point, when I blanked on a line, my Star Trek skills automatically sprung to life, went into failsafe mode, and made me say "blah blah emit blah pulse blah blah blah." (The fun of technobabble is that a lot of the words are interchangeable. The frustration of technobabble is that we can't paraphrase or use any of the interchangeable words, because a subspace matrix is different from a subspace array.)

It honestly could have been boring and exhausting to spend much of a day delivering technobabble, but when I realized that I could keep it interesting by endowing the technobabble with emotional resonance, the whole thing came to life in a surprising and unexpected way. It was like I'd detected anomalies in the starboard neutrino emitter, and instead of adjusting the warp plasma induction subroutine to compensate for multiadaptive fluctuations, like you'd usually do, I thought about it, and equalized the portable phase transmission with a self-sealing warp core transmuter.

I know, right? I bet you never thought to do it that way. Well, I did, and it worked.

 

Eureka: This One Time At Space Camp

In a few hours, I will be picked up and taken to the set for my last day on Eureka. Though I've known this day was coming for a couple of weeks, and I've been trying to prepare myself for it, I'm not ready. I don't want this to be over. I don't want to say goodbye to my friends.

Monday, we had our last day of work in Cafe Diem. At the end of the day, Chris Gauthier and Nial Matter were wrapped for the entire series, along with some other actors who are [SPOILER]. I stood there, next to Neil and Felicia, and applauded for them. Then, without warning, I began to cry. It's real. It's really over. We're really done. In two days, I'll finish my last scene, and the first AD will call out, "That is a series wrap for Wil Wheaton," and I'll cry again.

I'm glad to feel sad, as strange as that may sound. I know I've said this about some other things, but it's true: I'm happy to be sad when something is ending, because if I wasn't, it would mean that nothing good happened that I will miss.

I will miss everything about Eureka. I'm going to be a wreck tonight.

So let's talk a bit about This One Time, At Space Camp, shall we? It's going to be Spoileriffic, so you have been warned (or you've already been spoiled, because you follow me on Twitter. Sorry about that.)

I learned to ride a recumbant bike for this episode. It was challenging, but not as difficult as I expected, and ended up being quite a lot of fun. I also think that "May the best man BLAH BLAH BLAH" is my favorite Parrish line of the series.

Wasn't Aaron Douglas magnificent? I loved seeing him play totally against his usual type, and I loved the way he interacted with the kids.

We talked a lot about how douchey Parrish should be in this episode. I wanted to let him be as supremely arrogant as possible, because he's convinced that all of this is just a formality at this point. I wanted him to lift himself up as high as he possibly could, so the fall at the end of the episode would be that much more brutal for him (and awesome for the audience, who are almost certainly cheering for Holly and Fargo at this point, if we've all done our jobs.) 

I watched the episode with Neil and Chris in Neil's trailer during breaks in filming, and when Fargo makes it but Parrish doesn't, Neil pointed at sad Parrish on the television, and did a Nelson Muntz HA HA right at him and then at me. It was really, really funny.

Can we just take a moment to marvel at how incredible Wallace Shawn was, too? I mean, holy shit was he incredible. We're so lucky he is part of the show, and you guys haven't even seen the best of it, yet.

Weeping for Titan,

#TeamParrish

This is a post about PAX Prime, which is suddenly upon us.

It's raining in Vancouver. Little rivulets of water are running down the window, as low clouds slowly move across downtown, swallowing up the tops of buildings as they roll by.

I have a late call today. I'm in one scene, and then I'm off until next Monday. Tomorrow morning, I'm going home to get ready for PAX.

I can't believe that PAX is already here. In years past, I've counted down for the entire month of August and most of July, but this year I've been so busy, not only have I not had time to count down to PAX, I haven't even had time to play games. In fact, if it wasn't for Pirates and Carcassonne on my iPad, and the occasional attempt to pull three stars on the last few non-three-starred levels in Mario Kart DS*, I wouldn't have played any video games at all**.

I have this bag of travel dice that I keep in my backpack, you know, just in case… I occasionally take it out and empty them into my hand. I look at them for a moment, the way normal people look through a photo album, and then I roll them a few times, just so I can hear the sound they make as they clatter onto the table. It makes me smile for a moment, before then I sadly put them away again. I haven't played actual boardgames more than once or twice since last PAX, and I haven't played an RPG at all. It's good to be busy, and I'm incredibly grateful for it… but I'm so excited to go to PAX and play games for four days, I can hardly sit still right now.

If you're coming to PAX, this information may be relevant to your interests:

My Schedule: 

Friday 2:30pm -3:30pm in the Pegasus Theatre – THE AWESOME HOUR WITH ME WIL WHEATON

Wil Wheaton first came to PAX in 2007, when he gave the keynote address that your parents won't stop making you listen to in the car. In 2008, he returned for a panel that asked and answered the burning question, "Can Wil Wheaton really be a panel all by himself?" This year, Commodore Wil Wheaton welcomes you aboard the USS AWESOME for 60 minutes of story-telling, lingerie-dodging, mirth-making, myth-making, iconoclasting, and the obligatory burning-questioning … ing.

Saturday 3:30pm-5:30pm in the Main Theatre - Acquisitions, Inc: The Last Will and Testament of James Darkmagic I

Jim Darkmagic receives a magical missive, informing him that his grandfather has died. There's to be a reading of the Last Will and Testament at the family estate. Not long after the family convenes, wackiness ensues.Join Gabe, Tycho, Scott Kurtz and Wil Wheaton as they guide Jim Darkmagic, Binwin Bronzebottom, Omin Dran and Aeofel "Al" Elhromane through an unscripted Dungeons & Dragons adventure before a live audience.

 

I'm going to have a booth, and I'll be signing stuff and trading shiny gold rocks for nifty things, like the special edition of The Happiest Days of Our Lives, my short collection of gaming essays Games Matter (expanded to include the complete text of my PAX Prime and PAX East keynotes), and an assortment of delightful 8×10 photographs, perfect for framing or folding into origami dicks. I won't have any of the new 3 Wheaton Moon T-shirts, but I will have a few 3 Wheaton Moon posters. I'm not bringing too many, because I don't know if anyone else in the world thinks it's as funny as I do and I don't want to have to haul them back home.

Anne thinks I should bring some of my cheesy 80s pinup posters, so that's going to happen. I'll also make a few of the Compleat Workes Of Mee Wil Wheatone DVDs. I imagine those will go quickly, though, so get there early if you want one.

I'm not going to spend too much time in my booth, though, because I desperately need to make up for the appalling lack of gaming in my life for the last 365ish days. I'll post a schedule when I get there, and probably blather about it on the Twitterbox, too.

Oh!! I hope that you'll bring me dice, so I can continue testing my theory that it's not possible to have too many dice … but that will be in its own post a little later today.

Wow. PAX is in four days. I can't believe it's actually here.

*Seriously, fuck you, Rainbow Road. Fuck you right in the face with a blue shell.

**Until last night, when I finally finished the single player of Portal 2. IN SPAAAAAAAACE.

I’ve never been so grateful to be so exhausted.

"How are you feeling?" The question sounded like it had been asked by a person standing at the other end of an aluminum tube, possibly while underwater.

"I can taste sound, and I can hear color," I said, only partially joking. "Can someone please turn down the sky?"

It was just before 8 in the morning, and I had been awake for close to 27 hours. I was standing in the airport in Vancouver, but my day had actually begun in Portland, because I'm working on two shows at once, playing Cha0s in the season finale of Leverage and Doctor Parrish in what it turns out is the series finale penultimate episode of Eureka.

This is a weird and awesome life, and I've never been so grateful to be so exhausted.

Because this happened in the middle of the night, and was only on Twitter, most of you missed it. However, it's hilarious to me and I wanted to make sure you saw it:

@TimHutton: return of the @BethJRiesgraf robot with an introduction by @wilw http://www.twitvid.com/9DSZG

and

@TimHutton: and now… almost live from west linn oregon, @wilw as mecha Chaos and… wait for it…… #Leverage http://www.twitvid.com/6X3ZW

We really do have this much fun when we work together (remember this and this from Eureka last season?) but we can still focus and get the work done … though I'm not sure it's really accurate to call it "work", when we love what we do so much.

I was worried that I would be so tired and spacey by today that there was a real risk that Doctor Parrish and Cha0s would bleed into each other, so I made two lists on the back of a script page. One is titled Cha0s, and the other is titled Dr. Parrish. On each list, I wrote down all the defining charactaristics, as simply and specifically as possible, for each character, so I have it clearly in my head and available to me at a glance on the set. I also drew a thick black line all the way down the page, to remind myself that there needs to be a firewall between the two of them. And because I know it'll be a FAQ, the fundamental difference between the two of them is: Isaac is, in his heart, basically a good person who is a little insecure, and easily annoyed. Cha0s, though, is basically a bad person who is profoundly arrogant, and easily amused.

I have a mercifully late call to Eureka today, before I head back to PDX at ouch-it-hurts-me-are-you-fucking-serious-o'clock tomorrow … and I couldn't be happier about that.

Saying goodbye to Eureka

Last year, my friend Amy told me she was moving from writing Leverage to writing Eureka. She asked me if I was interested in playing a scientist who was kind of a jerk. I said "yes" as fast as I could, and ended up playing Doctor Isaac Parrish for seven of the ten episodes in season 4.5. When season 5 was announced, I was invited back for more, and I said "yes" even faster this time, violating several laws of physics that I made up for the occasion.

Late last night, my Twitter exploded with people who were furious at the network formerly known as Sci-Fi for canceling Eureka. I figured that these people were talking about the news from last week, where we thought the show would have a six episode sixth season (that we would film in October), to end its run … but it was unlikely that dozens and then hundreds of people would be spontaneously upset about news that was a week old all in the same few minutes, so I did a little digging on the googles.

It turns out that the network formerly-known as Sci-Fi changed its mind, and took back the six episode sixth season. Eureka will have to wrap up season five and the entire series with the episode that starts filming on Thursday. I know they'll have to do some rewriting, so I'm hopeful that Bob Newhart is available.*

At this point, I know as much as you do, because I found out the same way you did. I'm trying really hard not to be upset with the network for issuing a statement to the press before the cast knew, so we wouldn't have to find out the way we did; as you can imagine, it isn't exactly easy.

Jaime and Bruce (the show's executive producers) called me shortly after the news broke, to thank me for being part of the show, and tell me how sad they were that it was over. I could tell that they were as shell-shocked as I was. I feel comfortable telling the public what I told them: I'm proud of Eureka. I think it's an incredible show, and while I'm sad for them to lose something they've been working on for so long, I'm selfishly sad that I won't get to work with this cast and crew any more. Eureka is a tremendously fun show to make, and from the very first time I set foot on the set, the cast and crew made me feel like I was part of their family. To have that taken away so soon after it began makes me profoundly sad; I can feel the loss in my heart and what would be my soul if I had one and wasn't made of pure beardstuff from the sixth dimension.

At the same time, I'm grateful that I'm sad, because if I wasn't, that would mean I never had any good times working on the show. You know that thing they say about loving what you do means it isn't really work? Well, I've been lucky enough to feel that way on four different shows for the last several years, and Eureka is the one I've been able to call home the longest.

Please join me in thanking Amy Berg, Jaime Paglia, Bruce Miller, Matt Hastings, Todd Sharp, all the Eureka Writers, and especially the cast and crew for letting me visit their town and work for GD, even if it was only for a short time. I've had a wonderful time, bringing a great character to life with actors I love and respect. I've made friendships that will last the rest of my life, and done work that makes me genuinely proud.

Goodbye, Eureka. I have been, and always will be #TeamParrish.

*Kids, ask your parents.

 

My 2011 Phoenix Comicon Schedule

This weekend, I will be at the Phoenix Comicon. I think this is my third or fourth year attending, so I've been able to watch the con expand (the vendor's area this year could hold the entire con the first year I attended) without losing its soul, or all the things that make it awesome.

I am quick to point out that conventions reflect the personalities of their organizers. If a promoter wants to get as much of your money as possible, then a con's going to feel that way, no matter who the guests are or what the programming is. If a promoter wants to make sure everyone has a really good time, gets the most for their money, and can't wait to come back next year, then you'll feel that, too.  After about four hours at my first Phoenix Comicon, I knew that I was going to like whoever promoted it (Matt, with whom I've become pretty good friends), because the show was awesome. Same thing with FedCon, same thing with PAX, same thing with Emerald City.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to going to Phoenix this year, and if you're coming out to the show, I hope you'll say hello to me so I can thank you for reading my blog.

Last year, I committed to far too many panels and things, so this year my schedule is a lot easier for me (and hopefully, I won't succumb to major conSARS when I get home due to exhaustion like last time.)

Here's my schedule this year:

Friday 7:30pm – Storytime With Wil. Come join me as I perform some of my favorite stories for you. I'm bringing some unreleased bits from Memories of the Future, Volume 2 that I can't wait to share, and there will be a particularly dramatic performance of The Last Unicorn (Pegasus Kitten).

Saturday 4:30-5:30 – Jaime Paglia's Eureka. Season 4.5 of Eureka is right around the corner, and you'll finally get to know my character, Doctor Isaac Parrish, as the season unfolds. Jaime and I are here to tell you what we can, and answer your questions about this awesome show.

The rest of the con, I'll be signing books and pictures and other cool things in the vendor's hall. I will have copies of MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE VOLUME ONE, The special expanded edition of THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF OUR LIVES, THE DAY AFTER AND OTHER STORIES, and SUNKEN TREASURE. I will also have a bunch of 8x10s from my various shows and characters. As always, there is no charge for an autograph if you bring me your own thing to sign.

Oh! Oh! Oh! If you missed this on Twitter or Tumblr: Joel Watson and I made this T-shirt. We love it so much, I'm bringing a small number prints to the con that I will sign and number.

I know, right? I love it.

Finally, because it was such a hit at Emerald City Comicon, I'm bringing a set of The Complete Works of Me, Wil Wheaton (being an incomplete collection of the audio, video, and textual works of me, Wil Wheaton).

If you're wondering what that is, and can't be bothered to follow that link (and who can, really? We're all very busy these days), here's a little cut-n-paste that I did just for you:

A bunch of my friends who are musicians release their entire catalogs on a USB drive (Paul and Storm, and Jonathan Coulton are two who you probably know), which lets people get a whole bunch of stuff on something that's small enough to fit in their pocket, and has the added bonus of being a nifty USB drive that can be used for TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS once the files are copied off of it. I know, right?! Isn't the future amazing?!

I have a bunch of work that's in multiple formats, including text, audio, and video, so I thought I'd collect as much of it as I could and offer my own USB drive thingy at cons, w00tstocks, and maybe as a big old honkin' zipfile at Lulu or something later this year.

I'm not sure anyone wants this sort of thing, though, so I haven't invested in the number of USB drives I'd need to purchase to make it cost-effective. I'm testing the waters at ECCC with an extremely limited number of DVDs containing something I'm calling The Complete Works of Me, Wil Wheaton (being an incomplete collection of the audio, video, and textual works of me, Wil Wheaton).

It's pretty much what it sounds like. Here's the README I created, which will make people who write and rely on actual README files twitch a little bit:

Congratulations, dear sir or madam! You are now in possession of a truly remarkable collection, guaranteed to restore even the most ill-humoured man, woman, or child to gaiety and mirth.

Included in this delightful volume are three separate collections. They are as follows:

Text: For the gentleman or lady who wishes to escape the hum drum modern world, we offer these portals to the past … and the future! These turgid tales of mirth and marauder can be read off an automatic teletype device, or given to a reputable printer for conversion to portable paper format.

Audio: Voices and music appear, as if drawn by magic from the aether itself, or perhaps from a more sinister locale beyond! A warning to the faint of heart or soft of spirit: some of these recordings are of a most uncouth and ribald nature! Let the listener beware!

Video: Pictures that appear to magically move, transporting the viewer to locations mundane and fantastical. 

The buyer is cautioned that these files are for personal use, and unless expressly and explicitly noted, are not to be reproduced for commercial or personal gain.

All files are copyright 2010-2011 Wil Wheaton. Some files are released under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike license. For more information, please visit creativecommons.org

There are three different directories, described thusly:

Audio

This directory contains the following:

Audiobooks:

Just A Geek

This is an audio performance of my first book Just A Geek. It is the super-bonus-holy-crap-is-it-really-nine-hours-long version because my friend David and I ended up including a lot of asides and what I called “audio footnotes”. You could think of it as the Director’s Extended Cut That Runs in Parallel With The Regular Cut, if you like.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives

I was so happy with Just A Geek, David and I got together again to do this one. It’s similar to Just A Geek, but David added in some nice interstitial music between each chapter. You know, for kids.

Podcasts:

Memories of the Futurecast Episodes 1-13

In the weeks leading up to the release of Memories of the Future Volume One, I started a promotional podcast. Each week, I read an excerpt from the book, and added some of my own comments. I’m especially proud of this podcast, and if you enjoy it, you’ll certainly enjoy Memories of the Future, which is in the text directory. All the shownotes and links are at http://memoriesofthefuturecast.com

Radio Free Burrito Episodes 0-4 and 9-31. 

Let me save you some searching: I never did an episode 2, and for some reason skipped straight to episode 3. I’m not sure exactly why, that’s just how we did things back in those days.

I left out Episodes 5-8 because the really, really suck. If you are determined to hear them, they are online. After Episode 9, though, the show starts to come together as I get comfortable and have more and more fun each time.

In addition to almost all the RFBs, I included Lakeside Shadow as a stand alone track, and Radio Free Burrito’s Mixtape (Volume One).

All files are .mp3, except for RFB episode 9, which is an enhanced podcast that apparently only plays on Apple devices. Sorry about that; I was young and foolish then (I feel old and foolish now). Just for shits and giggles, another short original tune I made, JazzyJazzJazz is also included. Don’t ever say I never gave you something for shits and giggles, kids.

All the shownotes and other neat-o things can be found at: http://radiofreeburrito.com

W00tstock from Los Angeles

This is an audience recording of the third w00tstock we did, at Largo. I think it’s hilarious and awesome, and I hope it inspires you to come see us to w00tstock in person whenever we come to a town near you. More information about w00tstock is at http://www.w00tstock.net

The Criminal Minds Production Diary

In July 2008, I worked on Criminal Minds, in episode 404, titled Paradise. I played serial killer and all around Very Bad Man Floyd Hansen. I keep a diary during production, which was printed in Sunken Treasure. I recorded it as a standalone audio thingy, with my usual asides and additional comments.

Video

Moments With Wil

One day I got it into my head that it would be amusing to make these little 30 second videos where I did something stupid, and then thanked the viewer for “spending this moment with me.” The problem was, they just didn’t work on their own, and I ended up showing the 15 I made to a few friends, before forgetting about them.

When we were putting together w00tstock, and the decision was made to include some short silly films, I knew that Moments With Wil had finally found a home. This is the first time all of them have been collected into one place and viewed by anyone who doesn’t also live in my house.

Stupid Cellphone Videos

While working on Eureka in 2010, I had one of those days where I was called in early, but ended up not working for almost seven hours. Sure, it was nice to earn a paycheck for sitting around and playing Plants Versus Zombies all day on my iPad, but I eventually got bored … and these stupid cellphone videos were born. It’s basically the Moments With Wil concept, without the fancy-smanchy titles and credits. As of this collection, there are 14 of them.

Text (which I wanted to call Text-eo, but didn't, because I'm apparently a chicken)

This directory contains nearly all of my writing, with the notable exception of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot, to which I sadly do not own the electronic rights. The Happiest Days of Our Lives is also absent, because a decent electronic version simply does not exist at the moment.

HOWEVER! What is here is pretty swell:

The directory HUNTER contains three different formats of my short tale Hunter (see how that works?), which is a short sci-fi story, set in a dark and desperate world. 

I have also included several chapbooks. They are:

Sunken Treasure – Wil Wheaton’s Hot Cocoa Box Sampler. 

This is just what it sounds like: a sample collection of all the different types of writing I do. I often suggest this book to people who are unfamiliar with my work, as it gives them a chance to find out if they’re going to like my work, and if they do, where they’d like to go next.

Games Matter

This is a collection of gaming-related essays and stories. It was prepared for GenCon in 2010. I’m really proud of this little book, and I plan to give it a wider release in 2011, with some additional material, including my two keynotes to PAX and PAX East.

Memories of The Future Volume One

Part memoir, part episode guide, part behind-the-scenes, all told from the perspective of a guy who is looking though his high school yearbook, facepalming and declaring “I can’t believe I thought that was cool.”

Volume One covers the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation from Farpoint to Datalore. Volume Two, which goes from Angel One to The Neutral Zone will be released in 2011.

The Day After and Other Stories

A short collection of short fiction, originally released as a chapbook at PAX in 2009. In order to get over my fear of writing and publishing short (and eventually longer) fiction, I released it as a print book in December 2010 for just 10 days, then released it as an eBook in January 2011. It is presented here in PDF and pub formats.

140 – The Stupid Twitter Book

I had this idea to make a short, small book, like the little Tao and Zen books you see in card stores and car washes. It would contain 140 of my stupid little Twitter things that made me laugh. I spent the better part of a day putting it all together, and then realized that Lulu, where I do most of my self-publishing, was going to charge something like $60 per copy, because it was a full color printing process for some strange reason. I didn’t think it was worth $60 (or anything more than $5, really) so I shelved the project. It’s not the same to read it as an eBook, but it’s still funny, and I think it’s kind of cool. For the moment, you’re one of 31 people in the world to see it, which includes the 10 people who bought this DVD at Emerald City Comic Con and my wife.

 

on the delivery of technobabble

I was in three scenes yesterday, one of which contained a massive amount of technobabble.

For those who don't know what that is: on a sci-fi show, technobabble is what we call pseudoscientific dialog like "I'll have to run a level four diagnostic on the antimatter inversion matrix to be sure." It's pretty much the worst dialog an actor can have to deliver on a show, because it's rarely connected to anything in reality, and if we're talking about the inertial dampeners in a scene, we're pretty much infodumping to the audience, instead of doing something interesting with our characters.

…or so I thought until yesterday.

The thing about technobabble is that it isn't usually connected to reality. By that, I mean that though it does follow the logical rules of the show's universe, and references things the fans know about, for most actors, it's like being asked to perform in a foreign language that you barely understand (if you understand it at all.)

The other thing about technobabble is that the character delivering it is supposed to be an expert on the subject, and should have a point of view about it that stays alive through the whole scene. For example, maybe Doctor Hoobajoo is the leading expert in the galaxy on ion resonance within the subspace induction processor core, so when Doctor Hoobajoo talks about that subject, she's an expert. You can't ask her a single question about the subspace induction processor core that she can't answer. But for the actor playing Doctor Hoobajoo, she has to deliver a bunch of dialog based on something that doesn't even exist as if she's been studying it her whole life.

This is a tremendous challenge for the actor, because, unlike normal dialog that comes from an emotional place, technobabble comes from memories that don't exist. While the actor who plays Doctor Hoobajoo can draw on the emotional memory of being betrayed, or being afraid, or being in love to inform a scene, she can't draw on the memory of studying and mastering the twin fields of ion resonance and subspace induction. As an actor, it's easy to fall into the trap of delivering technobabble by rote, and for a lot of us, it's the only way we can remember those lines at all.

But sometimes, a scene is emotionally important, and is filled with technobabble. That's just the reality of working in science fiction. So when Doctor Hoobajoo is trapped in the power conduit with Commander Framitz, her former lover from her first deployment who left her for an android, and can only save them from certain depolarizaion by repairing a malfunction in the subspace induction processor core, the actor has a lot of work to do. Not only does the actor have to be an expert who can solve the problem and save their lives, she has to be emotionally connected to the scene and the history between the two characters. Oh, and she has to remember that the stakes in this case are pretty high. And she has to do this over and over again for several hours, during the master shot, the VFX shots, and all the coverage.

Boy, writing those three paragraphs just exhausted me. I'll be back in a little bit.

Okay, some coffee and steel cut oats seem to have revitalized me, so I can get to my point now, about what I realized yesterday:

I had a scene that was almost entirely technobabble. It sets up a lot of the action for the episode, tells the audience what's at stake, and gets them excited enough to sit through commercials for MegaSomething versus Giant Other Thing to find out what happens next. I drove the scene. Everyone else was reacting to me and the information I gave them, and I think I had one line in two pages that wasn't technobabble. It was challenging, and I knew from experience that I was going to have trouble remembering the jargon, so I did a lot of extra homework to make sure I was totally prepared. 

As I did my preparation, I realized that while the technobabble is just a dump of information, it's information that Doctor Parrish has an opinion about. The function of the scene is to get the action going and give the audience some important information, but that doesn't mean it has to be an infodump. The way Doctor Parrish feels about the other characters affects the way he talks with them regardless of the words. It affects who he chooses to give certain bits of information to, and it affects how he delivers the information. So I found ways to be emotionally connected to the scene and the characters, while caring about the information I was giving them, so it wasn't an infodump. A scene that could have been tedious and boring became a scene that was a lot of fun to perform.

Still, it was really hard to remember all the technobabble I had, and at one point, when I blanked on a line, my Star Trek skills automatically sprung to life, went into failsafe mode, and made me say "blah blah emit blah pulse blah blah blah." (The fun of technobabble is that a lot of the words are interchangeable. The frustration of technobabble is that we can't paraphrase or use any of the interchangeable words, because a subspace matrix is different from a subspace array.)

It honestly could have been boring and exhausting to spend much of a day delivering technobabble, but when I realized that I could keep it interesting by endowing the technobabble with emotional resonance, the whole thing came to life in a surprising and unexpected way. It was like I'd detected anomalies in the starboard neutrino emitter, and instead of adjusting the warp plasma induction subroutine to compensate for multiadaptive fluctuations, like you'd usually do, I thought about it, and equalized the portable phase transmission with a self-sealing warp core transmuter.

I know, right? I bet you never thought to do it that way. Well, I did, and it worked.

on the learning of lines and the telling of the story

Scene 15 is a little over three pages of intense dialog, some important character beats, and a fair amount of technobabble. We were supposed to shoot it tomorrow, but it was moved to this afternoon, so my plan to learn it tonight was pushed up by almost 24 hours.

People always want to know how actors learn lines, and there isn't one correct answer, because we all do it in different ways: some of us learn by reading the script over and over again, some of us learn by performing the entire scene aloud by ourselves, some of us write the scene down, and some of us run lines with another person until we have the dialog in our heads.

I learn my lines by understanding the scene, deciding what each line (or dramatic beat) is about, and then trying different things with my lines until I find the choice that makes the most sense. For example, last week we had a scene where I kept blanking on one of my lines. After a couple of takes I realized that I couldn't remember the line because I was doing the wrong thing with it, and that was making my brain short out. I can't tell you the actual line, but I can tell you that the acting choice — which was wrong — was Make An Offer. When I realized that Make An Offer was wrong, and Look For Permission was right, the scene came together, and we were done in two more takes.

I also have to understand what's at stake in each scene. I need to know exactly what my character wants and needs, so I can make choices for him to get there. As I said on Twitter recently, I realized that Doctor Parrish's favorite thing in the world is "I told you so." Evil Wil Wheaton's favorite thing in the world is, "Ha! Gotcha, Sheldon Cooper." Cha0s' favorite thing in the world is, "I know something you don't know, and never will know, because I am so much smarter than you." Knowing these things gives me a place to begin in every script, just like "Don't Be A Dick" gives me a place to begin every day in my real life.

But back to today's work. I learned today's scene by breaking down the entire thing into beats, and then placed those beats within the context of the rest of the episode (In Eureka, something fantastic usually happens in the first few pages, and the bulk of the show — and the fun in each episode — is spent figuring it out and fixing it) so I know what the stakes are.

Some of the things Doctor Parrish is doing today:

  • Share scientific insight.
  • Correct them. Again.
  • Accuse him.
  • Solve the Problem. Easily. (Jesus they're idiots.)
  • Ha! I told you so.

It's easy, while doing television, to just learn the lines and rely on instinct and experience with the character you've been playing for a long time to bring it all together. We never have enough time, and some of us are working 12 hours a day, five days a week, so there are times when we're just so burned out and exhausted, we simply don't have the energy to really dig in and do more than that. While there are some great actors who can do that and deliver brilliant performances, I'm not one of them. I don't want to miss any beats. I don't want to miss any nuances because I'm relying on instinct instead of complete understanding of the scene. For example, the beat I mentioned above, where I share scientific insight, was originally Share a good idea, but while I was playing with the scene last night and again this morning, I realized that it was more specific, and stronger, and more interesting to share scientific insight. Maybe the difference between the two choices is too subtle to matter in the final cut, but it's a significant difference to me, so I made the change.

I guess I work a little harder than I have to, partially because I feel it's my responsibility as an actor to rise to the demands of the material and tell the story as fully as I can, but mostly because it's fun to break down a scene and find the strongest obvious and non-obvious choices that will tell the story the way it deserves to be told. The moments I live for — the moments I love — as an actor are the moments in rehearsal or during a take when I discover something about the character or the scene that wasn't aware of until the exact moment I found it … just like real life, which is what we're aiming to recreate whenever we make up a story, even a story that's all about nano[REDACTED] and hyper[SPOILER] [SPOILER].

it’s like winning the actor lottery

When we're on location for Eureka, Felicia Day is like my best friend and my younger sister, all at once. We give each other shit all day long, we hang out when we're not working, and we lean on each other when we have those days all artists have that make us question why we thought we could do this silly thing in the first place.

All of our scenes yesterday were together, with Neil Grayston (who plays Fargo). I adore everyone in the cast, but Neil, Felicia and I spent so much time together last season, we've formed a special bond (helped along by repeated viewings of clips from The Room between setups, Leeeeesssaaaahhhhgghhh.)

I can't discuss the specifics, but I had some major technobabble in one scene, and though I nailed it in the master and all of Neil and Felicia's coverage, when it was time for my coverage, my brain took a walk. It was really embarrassing, because it made me feel like I wasn't prepared, even though I knew the scene, and had worked on it precisely to prevent the sort of brainfreeze I found myself experiencing. Everyone was kind and patient (it happens to all of us from time to time) and we got through it, but I still felt like I jerk when the scene was finally done. Jamie Paglia (writer and executive producer) and Matt Hastings (director) both told me that we got the scene, and I knew that there were takes where I nailed it, but I still felt like a rookie when it was all over.

We broke for lunch, and the three of us ate together in Neil's trailer. We watched a bunch of YouTube videos that ranged from hilarious to so-bad-they're-good to so-bad-they're-bad-really-bad-no-seriously-turn-it-off. It may not seem like something worth mentioning, but I've worked as an actor for — holy shit — 30 years, and this kind of friendship, camaraderie, and genuine enjoyment of each other's company isn't as common as you'd hope for or expect.

After work, Felicia and I went to the comic shop, and while we were grabbing our pulls for the week,we stopped in front of the Dr. Horrible book.

"I can't stand here and have you looking at us from the cover of this book," I said. "That's weird."

"It is a little weird, isn't it?" She said.

Before we could move, a couple of guys walked over to us. "Can we take a picture with you?" They asked. I looked at Felcia, because I didn't want to say yes for both of us.

"Is that cool?" I said.

"Of course," she said, like I'd just asked the dumbest question in the world.

"Okay, it's fine with me," I said.

We posed for a picture, and when we were done, one of the guys said, "Are you guys here for The Guild?"

I love when people see me and tell me they watch The Guild. I'm so proud of it, and I love playing Fawkes so much, it's the coolest thing in the world to meet people who enjoy watching it.

I turned to Felicia. "Can you imagine having a budget to shoot on a location like Vancouver?"

"Yeah that's not going to happen," she said with a laugh.

"We're here for Eureka," I said.

"Oh! That's so cool!" The guy said.

We talked for a minute, and then we all went back to our shopping.

When Felicia and I were finished, we grabbed some dinner, and went back to our respective apartments.

While I was walking down the hallway toward my door, I thought to myself, "I would be incredibly lucky just to work on a series and have some financial security. I would be incredibly lucky to work on a series where I get to play a character I enjoy playing. I would be incredibly lucky to work on a series where I really like the other actors … the fact that I get to do all of these things on Eureka is like winning the actor lottery."