All posts by Wil

Author, actor, producer. On a good day, I am charming as fuck.

rest in peace, bob newhart

When I worked on Big Bang Theory, each episode involved a few days of rehearsal before we did camera blocking and the actual taping in front of the audience. Most actors go to our dressing rooms during breaks to relax, learn lines, grab a nap, and so on. But when I worked there, if I wasn’t in a scene, I’d stay on the stage and watch the other actors work. It was like getting to sit in on an advanced acting class, without ever having to stand up in front of the other students. I learned so much from that, I am a more fully-equipped performer than I would otherwise be, certainly when it comes to comedy.

When I had the extraordinary privilege of working in the same episodes as Bob Newhart, I stayed on the stage the whole time, just to watch him work. I mean, how could I not? He made it all look so easy, and holy shit he was so funny, even more than you think.

One day, he and I ended up sitting next to each other during a break in production. In the industry, we call it “taking a five” or “a quick ten” or something like that. Just a little break for everyone to catch their breaths. A couple of the writers were there, I think, and maybe one or two other actors. And we all sat there, while Bob Newhart told stories about his life and career. It was amazing. This legend, just talking to us like it was no big deal, sharing these incredible experiences with us. I knew then that I would never forget it, that I would cherish that experience for the rest of my life.

I just read the news that Bob Newhart passed away at 94, and this memory has come back to me, like it was yesterday.

He didn’t need to be kind. He didn’t need to tell us these stories. He didn’t owe us any of his time. And yet he did, and he loved it. Because he chose to do all those things, I have a gift that Bob Newhart gave me. I haven’t opened it in a while, but I took it out today, and I was grateful.

Rest well, Bob.

May his memory be a blessing.

look! an old man is talking again!

On my Tumblr thingy, someone asked:

I know it’s been a bit since you were in school, but as someone who is about to go to university, do you have any tips?

I wanted to share my reply:

It is such a huge privilege when someone your age asks an Old like me for advice. When I was young, I thought dudes in their 50s were lame and had nothing to offer. Now that I’m one of those dudes, I understand what a gift it is when you ask me to share my experience. I hope this helps you a little bit.

Make time to meet your professors during their office hours.

You don’t have to go have a deep conversation, just introduce yourself, tell them which class you are in, and thank them for their time.

You’re doing this because there will be a time in your future when you need an extra day for something, or a little extra help or attention, or something like that. When you go to talk to your professor about that, it won’t be the first time you’ve met them, and that will make a difference.

That’s on an academic level. On a personal level, you’re going to spend a LOT of the next few years figuring out who you are, what your values are, and how you want to live your life. Most of us try to be someone profoundly different from who we are, in our first year or two, because we’re on our own and trying out what it feels like to be an adult. The thing I want you to just remember while you do that is: you know who your are in your heart, and if you try to not be that person, you will draw people to you who don’t like *you* as much as they like who you are pretending to be.

It’s a long way of saying “be true to yourself. Know what your values are and live them consistently, so you find other people who share them.”

Finally, the advice I give everyone who asks me questions like yours:

Choose to be kind.

Choose to be honest.

Choose to be honorable.

Choose to do your best and understand that your best will vary from day to day. Don’t judge yourself when your best on Monday is not the same as it was last Thursday. Just do your best, consistently.

You’re at the beginning of a really great time in your life. I hope you get everything you want out of it, enjoy learning, and make life long friends.

Six unelected people forcing their unpopular christian nationalist agenda on a population of three hundred and forty million is not a Democracy. It is tyranny.

Josh Marshall writes:

Donald Trump threatens the entire existence of the American republic. He is able to do this because the Supreme Court he created is assisting him in doing so. It is a corrupt Court – on which more later. It overturned a central right for half of our population. It routinely mixes and matches rationales, jurisprudences, logics to arrive at the end point of transforming America into their extremist vision. We’ve heard that yesterday’s decision was a terrible decision, an extremist decision, that it changes the American experiment fundamentally. No disagreement with any of those points. Most importantly, in my mind, it’s a fake decision. Yes, it will now be controlling within the federal courts. But it doesn’t change the constitution any more than a foreign army occupying New England would make Massachusetts no longer part of the United States. That may seem like a jarring analogy. But it’s the only kind that allows us to properly view and react to this Supreme Court.

The rationale for the decision yesterday has literally no basis whatsoever in the US constitution.

Josh is correct, but I don’t think it matters. This corrupt, activist, fascist SCOTUS majority does not care that they just made up law out of whole cloth; they’ve been doing it for years. These six people who make up the majority have decided that the Constitution, 250 years of precedent, popular opinion, and the foundational ideas that have made America what it is since 1787 are what they say they are, fact, history, the will of the people and precedent be damned.

I live in a country of three hundred and forty million people.

In this country, six unelected christian nationalists, five of whom were placed on the court by presidents who lost the popular vote, all of whom are opposed by SEVENTY PERCENT of the population, are making up laws out of whole cloth because their power is unchecked. A country that allows six people to impose their regressive authoritarianism on an entire population is not a free country. It is not a Democracy.

America has not been attacked like this since 9/11. Six unelected people forcing their christian nationalist agenda on a population of three hundred and forty million is not a Democracy. It is tyranny.

In the pointless parlor game of “What can Joe Biden Do, Now That He’s Above The Law” (as if he ever would), everyone is missing the central message I took from yesterday’s ruling: SCOTUS is going to install Trump as dictator for life, by any means necessary. Somehow, after he loses the popular vote again, and after he’s even lost the Electoral College again, these six Fascists will invent a reason to overturn the will of the electorate, again, even if they have to invent law to do so. Every single one of their rulings this term have been part of their coup. Now, just line them all up and connect the dots. Don’t leave out Project 2025 or Agenda 47.

This is terrifying. We barely survived four years of Trump, when there were at least some guardrails around him. SCOTUS just tore those down and turned them to ash. I am terrified that we are four months away from the likely end of what passes for freedom in America, and once it’s gone, I doubt it is coming back in my lifetime.

ProgCore is Coming

For years, a whole bunch of my friends kept telling me that I needed to meet Todd Stashwick, because we would be fast friends who share a ton of extremely nerdy interests. Todd is the dungeon master for an ongoing D&D campaign a few friends are part of, and he runs these really great one shots set in a world of his own design, called The Dark Age of Theer.

Our paths never crossed, I think, because they are parallel to each other, and there wasn’t ever a reason that they would link up … until Todd was cast as Captain Liam Shaw in Star Trek: Picard. For Ready Room, I get to watch all the finished episodes long before they are released (I will now pause to receive your envy. Imagine my hands are on my hips and I am beaming) and from the moment Todd came across my screen, I was like “Holy shit this guy is incredible and I hope I get to interview him!”

I mentioned this to some friends, who happened to play D&D with Todd, and that’s when I realized that the guy so many people were telling me I should meet because we are spiritual siblings and the guy who I freakin’ LOVED in this show was the same guy.

Fast forward about a eight months, and Todd invited me to play a one-shot set in his Dark Age of Theer, at his house, in his Nerd Lair (which is almost identical to my game room, down to the arcade cabinets and vintage 80s nerd toys). It was incredibly fun, so when Todd asked me if I wanted to play another session with the same character in the same world, but this time we’d do it in front of a bunch of Trekkies on the Star Trek cruise, of course I said yes. It was super fun, especially watching Michelle Hurd discover and fall in love with D&D, in real time.

Todd’s campaign setting, The Dark Age of Theer, is

… a fantasy game world designed by Todd Stashwick and David Nett specifically for ProgCore-style play. It is built to feature the Three Pillars of Wonder, Mystery, and Danger, and to offer fertile ground for any fantasy roleplaying game, as well as stories told in other mediums. In this Dark Age of Theer, magic is rare and met with fear or wonder, the ruins of a majestic, ancient civilization mock all with their horrible grandeur and tempt adventurers with mystery, and dragons are terrifying symbols of the unknown. Its denizens live in wonder of the ruins of ancient power all around them, their lives are defined by all that is mysterious and unknown, and danger lurks around every corner.

The Dark Age of Theer is part of what Todd calls ProgCore Fantasy:

ProgCore Fantasy is a style of play, an agreement between players and game masters, that focuses on recapturing those breathless moments of early play. It’s about intimate, ephemeral experiences for players and characters alike. It’s about how you feel when you’re playing the games you love. ProgCore Fantasy is system-agnostic: it does not ask you to learn a new game, or switch from the game you love, only that you agree to pursue the Three Pillars of ProgCore Fantasy: Wonder, Mystery, and Danger. 

The ProgCore Fantasy style is grounded in the intimate fantasy of the 1970s and 1980s: movies like Rankin & Bass’s The Hobbit, Dragonslayer, Legend, Labyrinth, Ladyhawke, and more; books by Tolkien, LeGuin, Zelazny, Leiber, and others; the music of Yes, Styx, King Crimson, Queen, Rush, and others; the art of the Hildebrandts, Michael Whelan, Alicia Austin, Erol Otus, Roger Dean, Bob Eggleton, and others. We see ProgCore Fantasy as an opportunity to take what’s beautiful from this golden age of fantasy art and media, discard the systemic prejudices endemic to the era, and use it to tell stories from myriad perspectives. We’re putting new wine in old bottles.

A lot of these influences inspired me when I was developing Titansgrave (just add in some Thundarr the Barbarian) so you can probably imagine how excited I was to explore the lore and details of the setting. And if you can imagine that, you can probably imagine how excited I was when Todd told me he was planning to develop The Dark Age of Theer into something pretty epic, with a team of extraordinary collaborators, and would I like to contribute to it as a writer?

Fuck yes, I would! I get to write some fiction, develop some lore, and add it to the legends that shaped this world.

ProgCore: The Dark Age of Theer is “A Multimedia Fantasy RPG Experience: System-Agnostic Sourcebook + 5E Compatibility, Actual Play, Original Soundtrack, Animation, & more”. It’s a wonderfully ambitious project that I’m so excited to be part of. If you’re interested, you can find out more details, including how to back it, right here.