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Exclusive Interview: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara

November 2nd, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

He’s famous for such catchphrases as “serenity now,” and she’s famous for her sharp wit. The husband-and-wife comedy duo Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara saw their careers take off in the 1960s with appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show; Jerry later became a familiar face for his portrayals of Frank Costanza on Seinfeld and Arthur Spooner on King of Queens, while Anne starred on Archie Bunker’s Place and had recurring roles on ALF and Sex and the City. These days, you can find the couple on their web series Stiller & Meara, produced by none other than their son, Ben Stiller. To learn more about the show, which focuses on current events and pop culture, we spoke to them on Anne’s birthday in September, when they were on their way to honor F. Murray Abraham (“Amadeus”) at the National Arts Club. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

First, I wanted to talk about your new web series, and how it’s a family affair.
Yeah, it is, it’s good. We have doing it. Ben puts us at ease.

Jerry: He created it, which is kind of funny. One day, he just decided to put us on video, just a little test video, in which we sit down and the questions come up as to what’s going on during the course of the year or in front of us, and we try to deal with it in our own way, spontaneously and without a script. A lot of stuff comes out which is wild and crazy, hopefully. But Ben is not in the show; he is just the guy who’s created it for mom and dad, which is very nice for us.

It’s great, having him behind you guys and supporting you. Do you have any idea what is going to be asked of you when you go into these tapings?
You mean subjects covered? Not really, in the sense that there’s a blanket of subjects. You can take everything from the current culture if you want to call it that, which is like anything from Lady Gaga to Jersey Shore to Sarah Palin.

Jerry: You can pick up the newspaper and turn to Page Six, and everything is flying at you, you know. People who are in the news at that moment who are making it happen, like Justin Bieber, for instance, and then we start talking about Justin Bieber or Susan Boyle …

Anne: And he never mentions us.

Jerry: Yeah, it’s that kind of thing. So stuff flies and what comes out is spontaneous. Basically it’s true feelings, stuff that you haven’t monitored. You haven’t allowed it to go through a filter in your own mind, or tried to slant it your own way. It’s tough to talk about baseball, you know …

Anne: It is for me. I hate it!

Jerry: Teams like the Yankees, w hen somebody asks me about the Yankees, I tell them that I was a Yankee fan as a kid. I was also a Dodger fan. Now when I see the Yankees, all they have is players — their farm team is the whole American League. They pick a guy from the Chicago White Sox, they get a guy from Detroit, they fill in people. That, to me, is not even baseball.

Anne: Jerry, half of the people watching are like me! They don’t give a shit about baseball.

Jerry: I’m just telling you, you know. I get involved with the art of baseball, or the way it works.

Anne: I don’t want to talk about baseball anymore!

Jerry: Alright, you don’t want to talk about it, then. Do I have to talk about it then? Should I shut up?

Anne: Let her ask a question.

Jerry: Ask a question.

I feel like you guys could never run out of things to talk about. I see that there’s a Stiller and Meara Twitter account. What do you think of all this social networking stuff, things like Twitter and Facebook?
I’ll let Anne handle that.

Anne: I don’t know about the Twitter and Facebook. I guess it’s OK. With the help of people who work with us, we do that Twitter stuff. I like plain old email, but Twitter — you can find out who’s sort of honed into you. I guess it’s good for something you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to do a show. Because even though this is the two of us sitting on a couch talking, you know, ruminating on the things going on in the world, two altakakas sitting there, talking …

Jerry: We’re not altakakas.

Anne: Alright, Jerry. Live in your own world, whatever.

Jerry: We’re 85 going on 2.

Anne: Anyway, Twitter is good. You get immediate feedback from people. I don’t know what they do all day. I guess they just Twitter.

Jerry: I don’t know if I want people to be too much into my life. I mean, I would be swamped. I have a lot of fans right now — I’m at a point in my life where this is called rejuvenation, and I really am amazed by everything that goes on. But I really couldn’t handle Twitter if it came my way. As far as the Facebook goes, I was just recently … My daughter Amy was cluing me in on Facebook, and it sounds like I’m a little bit retro, but I am. It occurs to me, why would you want to contact people? My age, they’re all dead! I mean the ones who might get back to me are the ones who might hate me or not like me.

Anne: But you have to take that. Not everyone’s gonna love you, dear.

Jerry: Yeah, but if some woman comes in and says I had an affair with her 25 years ago and there’s a child …

Anne: Then you would be lucky.

Jerry: Well, I don’t want to become what a lot of actors have become, you know, hit with lawsuits for patrimony and alimony. One thing we’ve got going for us is we don’t have palimony. If she left me today …

Anne: Who are you talking about?

Jerry: I’m talking about you. The only thing we could split is a rug! That’s already laid down, so you’d have to cut it up into sides.
I saw on Twitter, actually, Anne, that you were commenting on the Jersey Shore and Snooki. You called her a troll of all things.

Anne: I did, I did. I feel very bad about that. She’s not a troll at all. She’s a little person. You know, she has that little bump on her head, that little hairdo or whatever, and she’s like a very tall, thin, sexy woman who has been squashed down by something. She dresses kind of like, I don’t know. I can’t watch them too long. I don’t think they have — not that I have …

Jerry: I have a lot of Italian friends and …

Anne: I’m not talking Italian, I’m just talking about them. The other guy goes around, showing his abs and his washboard belly. See, I gotta tell you: When someone says “Look at me, I’m sexy,” that immediately louses up the deal. The moment someone becomes aware of their sexuality or the fact that they’re hot for the other sex, or the other sex is hot for them, they become unsexy. So this guy, this Situation guy, is the most sexless person I’ve ever seen.

Jerry: She’s right.

But did you know anyone like the Jersey Kids back in the day — did people like this exist before?
: Well, I’m sure they did, but they didn’t become a “thing.” See, now everything becomes a thing. It’s labeled, it’s put on, it’s put in residuals, it’s syndicated, and people can make millions from it, so it’s an industry. When we were growing up, we had Jewish friends, Italian friends, black friends, Irish friends, all different.

Jerry: But you see, the whole nature of it, this was given birth from The Sopranos, and now we’re going to have another one called Boardwalk Empire from Martin Scorsese. Italians are becoming a piece of our culture today. In the old days, Italians were the people who were hard-working guys who came from the old country. They raised a family and lived on Mulberry Street. Now, with the Jersey Shore we forget these are the same people who were the great artists of the world.

Anne: Nobody on the Jersey Shore is a great artist, Jerry.

Jerry: What I’m saying is we’re missing out on Toscanini, we’re missing out on the great opera stars. These are some of the greatest people in the world, who have given us some culture. Some of the great doctors in this world were Italian.

Anne: But a lot of people watch this. It gets them off their own troubles. They say, “Gee, I’ve got more class than those people.”

Jerry: Yeah, but why do you always feel that it’s kind of labeled about Italians? My friend Danny Aiello, who I love, I asked him the question how he feels about all of this, I guess Danny being Danny, he said, “Why aren’t I in that show?” The thing is, Danny is a class guy. He wouldn’t be in that show.

Anne: Alright, can we move from Italy now?

Have you learned anything new about each other since working on the Stiller & Meara show?
Absolutely nothing.

Jerry: Not to interrupt Anne.

Anne: Absolutely nothing.

Jerry: Let her roll! Takes a few minutes to get her warmed up, but once she’s on it, the gems come out of her mouth, usually, and I just kind of stumble.

Anne: Nothing new, nothing new about Jerry.

Jerry: I tell you what it’s about, really. This is something Anne and I never really did, except for our personal appearances in clubs when we were starting out. So this is the first time we’ve done this in front of a hopefully national audience that’s going to be watching us. We talk like people …

Anne: Yeah, but we’re just talking on this show. Remember what Ben said? He said, “Just remember one thing: it’s a conversation.” That’s what it is.

Jerry: Nobody ever saw us converse.

Anne: Those that want to watch can watch. Those that don’t, the hell with them

Jerry: We might say something that’s valuable or intrigue you.

Anne: Or not.

Jerry: Yeah, it goes both ways.

Do you ever cross the line and hurt the other’s feelings?

Anne: Constantly.

Jerry: When we’re finished with this …

Anne: If you can’t hurt the other person at least once a day, then you’ve got no relationship.

Jerry: Listen, when this interview is finished, blood will flow. I mean, verbally.

Looking back over your careers, who are some of the funniest people you’ve worked with?
I thought Ed Sullivan was hilarious. He was such a block of granite. I really couldn’t stand him. Jerry liked him because he was afraid of him.

Jerry: No, Ed Sullivan …

Anne: Oh, you thought he was like the pope.

Jerry: No, you said he was the pope. I said he was the papal saint of our careers. But people who make me laugh? I’ll tell you who they are, and you might think I’m nuts. Patton Oswalt makes me laugh, because I worked with …

Anne: Patton Oswalt is very funny. He’s also very cerebral. Sarah Silverman makes me laugh. Wanda Sykes makes me laugh.

Jerry: Patton Oswalt has got a brain. Jason Alexander makes me laugh. He’s an incredible performer.

Anne: That’s right. I’ll tell you who we don’t see anymore. He quit his show, and he was brilliant. Dave Chappelle. What happened to him?

Jerry: I’ll tell you that people that I really adore, and I’m going to leave some of them out, are people like Jason and Michael Richards, who when I was doing Seinfeld, they literally turned the show over to me. They started feeding me, they started connecting. There was no air between us. Kevin James is another one of those people who I think is something between Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. He’s got a body that’s bigger than it should be, but he can move and say things and make you laugh. He’s a wonderful writer, and nine years with him was something special. And then there’s the old people who nobody on this show are going to connect with, people who have been nice to Anne and myself. People like Henny Youngman, who invited into his home.

Anne: Oh, you’re going to get into the deceased now.

Jerry: But they were great. These are the people that I would put up on a special plague.

I wanted to ask you, Jerry. How are you and Frank Costanza similar? Is he you? Are you him?
: Well, I’m always asking myself that. I think I’m channeling somebody, and I know who it is. He’s really my father, but not the way my father is as Frank Costanza. He’s what’s underneath the iceberg, my father. He’s the kind of man who, if he let it out, would be Frank Costanza. The kind of man who could talk to you and say,” Yeah, I’m in the world that has been pushed down, been suppressed, by life, by social values.” He goes into Christmas being commercialized, and he picks up on Festivus, which was an old Roman holiday, which actually did exist in the 1500s, with the masters and the kings.

Anne: Are you going to go through all the old Seinfeld shows now?

Jerry: No, I was asked a question.

Anne: I think Jerry was the real Frank Costanza. I think the real Frank Costanza is Jerry. They all say he’s so quiet and nice. He’s the good cop, and I’m the bad cop. In reality, he is Frank Costanza, screaming out of his mind.

Jerry: No, I’m not like that at all. Let me just interject. A couple of weeks ago, the Daily News wanted to go to the home, the Costanza home in Queens. They said would you want to go over there and make a comment about what it was like. We went over the bridge, road out to Queens, got to the apartment — it wasn’t an apartment, it was a little house. At that point, I suggested to the reporter that we go upstairs and say hello. I never in my life thought I could do something like this, but since I’ve become so free — that’s what Anne’s and my show is all about, freedom — we actually knocked on the door. There were these two people, their names were Bessie and Jack Lopipero, and they said “Come on up.” They were both in their cups, in their ’80s.

Anne: In their cups?

Jerry: Yeah, they were so happy.

Anne: When you say you’re in your cups, that means you’re drunk.

Jerry: With love.

Anne: Oh, OK.

Jerry: They went crazy, and we talked for about two hours. Not about Seinfeld — it was interesting how Seinfeld was the hinge, kind of the catalyst that brought us into talking about life. I guess that’s one of the nice things about this situation I’ve got in my later life, from being this character. It’s brought me in touch with people. I can’t believe what people say to me on the street, because I am this guy. “Hey, you want a piece of me?” and “Festivus for the rest of us,” and “serenity now.” I mean, these things go on, and I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s nice to be an actor. I mean nobody pays you for anything except for when you’re working, but here I am, getting paid every time somebody opens their mouth to pay me a compliment. I’m so needy, I’ll invite them over for dinner. Anne used to use that joke.

Anne: You’re desperate.

Both of you have worked with Ben on various projects, so I wanted to ask you: what’s it like working with your son?
Anne: I like working with my son. I like working with my daughter, too. She’s a very talented actress. Ben is a very wonderful director to work with. I worked with him on Night at the Museum, the first one, and I actually got the part through sheer nepotism, since I’m his mother — which I’m all for. He came looking for a job and I was the employment lady. It was a lot of fun. Well, he didn’t direct that one, but he and I did that scene together.

Jerry: He directed that movie we did, what’s that one based on a male model?

Anne: Zoolander. Oh yeah, I had one line in Zoolander. I threw an egg at Will Ferrell.

Jerry: Well, Ben … I can’t get over the fact that Ben can act at the same time. He directed me and was in the same scene with me. I was in terror, to be honest with you. I said, “My god, that’s my kid. That’s the boy I gave a Super 8 camera to when he was like 8 years old.” Now he’s a director and he’s pushing his father around. He was not an easy guy to work for, because he kept telling me to do it this way, to do it that way. Finally, the crew said “Ben, leave him alone. He’s your dad. He’s doing fine.” But he was also in the scene. I never asked him to be in any of his movies. I did another with him, which was Heartbreak Kid, and we did something years ago, which I thought was really wonderful, called Shoe Shine, which was a film done by a Columbia University student that got nominated for an Academy Award. It was a short subject about a guy who shines shoes — that was me — on the Staten Island ferry and each morning, I would pick up shoe shines as people came in. There was this one guy, and we talked about this and that. It turns out that he’s a stock broker. And who is he? He’s my son. Ben got me that role. They wanted him to be the guy, but they needed someone to play his father, so he said “Why don’t you take dad.” I’ll never forget that. It was a lovely piece.

Anne: You were the shoe-shine guy and Ben was the stock broker. This is like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Well, we’re looking forward to seeing the show. Thanks for talking to us — on Anne’s birthday, no less!

Last comment: Aug 14th 2014 1 Comment

Exclusive Interview: Chad Vader’s Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda

August 10th, 2010 by Jason Nellis Content Partner Manager

One of the best parts of the San Diego Comic-Con is the opportunity to meet the creators of various comic books, films and shows that we enjoy year-round. We often take for granted the huge efforts required to create and produce content, and seeing these authors talk about their creative process is a treat. It’s especially great when you meet folks whose shows you follow regularly. So you can see how excited I was when I found the chance to meet Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, creators of the hit web series Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager, which I follow closely. As they live and work in Wisconsin, it was a great chance for them to sit down with me for a brief interview, even with the loud din of the convention’s crowd. — Jason Nellis, Content Partner Manager

Hulu: You guys are, of course, the creators of Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager. For the benefit of our readers that aren’t familiar with the series, would you mind describing it for them?
Matt Sloan:
Chad Vader is about Darth Vader’s younger brother, Chad. He works at a grocery store. He’s the day shift manager.

Hulu: And you guys are now into the third season, correct?
Aaron Yonda:

Hulu: What are the challenges that you’ve encountered in doing three seasons of the show so far?
You know, the biggest challenge for me is that I have to wear the suit. [Aaron plays Chad Vader onscreen, while Matt voices the character.] That’s a big challenge. I think I lose a lot of weight that way.

Hulu: That’s a good way to stay fit.
I recently ordered an ice vest, this new technology where you wrap ice around your body and wear it. I’m looking forward to trying that out.

Hulu: How long are you usually in the suit for when you’re filming?
It can go upwards of five or six hours at least.

Hulu: That’s got to be pretty intense. When you’re acting — Matt, you’re providing the voice?

Hulu: So, are you usually on set giving line readings and then doing the voice over afterwards? How does that work?
I do both, yeah. I do the voice live, often. Sometimes that can get tough because we do drop it in during post (production), so you don’t want the live scratch track to bleed into the other audio. That’s a challenge, but I think we’ve got our process down pretty well by now.

Hulu: After three seasons, you must feel like you’ve got a pretty good system going.
Definitely, yeah.

Hulu: Do you find yourself getting ideas from your audience? Or do you find yourselves solely masterminding it from day to day?
For the most part, we come up with all the ideas, but we do get influenced when people suggest something. In fact, the very next new episode of Chad Vader that’s coming out in August is going to have a Storm Trooper in it, and that’s basically because the fans are just like, “when are you going to have other Star Wars characters?” We’ve resisted that up until this point, but there’s an opportunity for us to bring in some other Star Wars characters and there’s another big one that’s going to bring in another big one as well.

Matt: Well, we found a way to integrate it in a way that works for the world that we’ve constructed.

Hulu: So, serving the story rather than serving the fans?
Exactly, and I think the fans appreciate that. We get lots of great feedback from them, and it helps us keep the show fresh and motivates us to keep going.

Hulu: One of the things I really enjoy about the series is when you do take-offs or parodies of other YouTube videos , like Chad After Dentist or Chad and Obama Girl. How does that work? Do you go to those creators and say “We’ve got an idea, we’d really like to work with you?” What’s that creative process like?
A lot of times, if it’s just a YouTube video, like David After Dentist, we say “that would be really funny for Chad,” and then go ahead and just make it. We’ll usually contact them and ask if we can use the footage or idea. But the Obama Girl thing, we actually met Ben Relles (creator of Barely Political). He always wanted to do a collaboration, and we did too, so finally we got an opportunity to do a full-fledged Chad Vader music video, and we went out to New York and shot that with them.

Matt: Well, we had done an Obama Girl video before that —

Hulu: Right.
So that was our second one. But working with Barely Political and Next New Networks is a lot of fun and we’d like to work with them in the future.

Hulu: Have you see Chad Vader on Hulu? Have you had a chance to compare the audiences and their responses?
You know, what I like about Hulu is that people are going there looking for TV-quality entertainment, rather than just sort of a quick laugh. They want a series that they can get into and enjoy watching the characters develop. We see a lot of feedback that relates to that and about how people are enjoying that. We’ve always felt like we’re trying to make a mini-TV show, which is why it’s very cool that we’re on Hulu.

Hulu: Last question: You film locally in Wisconsin. What’s it like filming in the Midwest, and then coming out to a place like Comic-Con, which is part of the more mainstream, where you’ve got everybody from all parts of entertainment coalescing in one place? Do you find that there’s a level of celebrity-ism that you experience here, or do you find yourselves blending in more?
We tend to blend in. We’re nerds like everybody else here. It’s great being in an environment like this, because it stimulates creativity and gives me a lot of ideas about things we can do once we get back to the studio. It’s a lot of fun, and a great experience.

Watch the latest episode of Chad Vader here.

Last comment: Jul 22nd 2013 1 Comment

Interview: Harry Shum, Jr., Dishes on ‘The LXD and a ‘Glee’ Love Triangle

August 3rd, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Sue Sylvester may have called him “The Other Asian” last season on “Glee,” but we’re predicting that Harry Shum, Jr., who plays Mike Chang on the Fox series, will become a household name this year. After all, “Glee” isn’t Shum’s only project these days. He’s reprising his role as Cable in the dance movie “Step Up 3D” (in theaters August 6), and stars in and choreographs “The LXD,” a new dance series for the web directed by Jon Chu.

This week, Shum’s first appearance in “The LXD” hits Hulu, so we asked the actor/dancer/choreographer to tell us more about the series, let us know what’s it’s like going up on stage with Beyonce, and share a few teasers about the next season of “Glee.” Two words: Britney episode. Find out what he’s talking about below. — Rebecca Harper (rebecca.harper@hulu.com), Hulu Editor, for the Yahoo! TV Blog

Although you’re a co-choreographer on “The LXD” (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers), you make your on-camera debut in “The LXD” this week in an episode called “Elliot’s Shoes.” Can you set up the storyline?
Elliot’s Shoes is the story about your average, everyday guy. He’s not really involved in the arts. He loves watching it, but he feels like he can’t do it. And that’s the way it is with a lot of things in his life. He inherits this house from his grandpa who’s just passed away. He moves into this house and somehow knocks into the wall and finds these shoes hidden in there. He ends up putting them on and finds out that these shoes almost take over his body and allow him to do things that have always been inside him but have never been released. Elliot is one of those characters with something that lives in him that’s waiting to be unleashed. He gets a little help from these X7 shoes.

Elliot ends up dancing to a mix of songs in the episode. Did you have any input in the song choice?
Charles Oliver was the director on this particular episode, and it was really fun. Me and Jon wrote the script and we placed and left it open, you know, “we’ll do something with the shoes and let them control you.” And I’ve always loved to be able to have that physical comedy and also bring in dance as well, but in different styles, and have a lot of fun with it. A lot of the inspiration comes from the Steve Martin and his old movies. I put the mix together of different songs that inspired and Charles and I started placing them together.

When Jon Chu set out to create this series about these superhero dancers, did you have any idea it would get so much attention? After all, the LXD was asked to perform in front of Al Gore and Bill Gates at the TED conference, and then the Oscars.
All this really happened organically. Jon and I met on “Step Up 2″ and we had a friendship there. Then he had this idea to bring dancers to the forefront. What’s awesome about it is that we made the first four episodes so long ago, almost a year ago. We originally thought, OK, let’s make a show and then after that we’ll roll back into live performances. It kind of happened the other way around. Jeff Thacker [co-executive producer on “So You Think You Can Dance”] was searching for clips for the show and he was typing in “epic.” Somehow our group came up, and he’d never heard of The LXD before. Then he saw us and said “I’d love to see these guys translate what they do on film on the stage.” He hit us up, and that was a little challenge for us, you know, because we were so into just putting it on the screen. And the story started like that. We had to bring it on stage. From “So You Think You Can Dance,” it was the Oscars with Adam Shankman [a “SYTYCD” judge), and then TED called us on. It was a big surprise to us, but at the same time we knew it was something special that we had, and that we were part of. We’re just fortunate that everyone responded well to it.

“The LXD” highlights a number of different dancers, many specializing in a certain type of dance. As a choreographer, what’s the creative process like? How involved are the individual dancers, and how do you mesh all of their individual styles into one cohesive story?
When we put the episodes together, we kind of throw ideas to Jon in terms of what we’d love to do with dance. And Jon is a storyteller, so he’s able to put it all together and bring the story and the dance onto paper and also bring it to life. But it really comes down to these individual dancers. We look to specific dancers that we want to write an episode about, or we look to bring in certain characters for the story. Really, we’re looking for ways showcase what they do in an innovative way, but also raise it together with the story, so we have one cohesive episode and also a whole storyline that goes along with the series.
When we go in there, it’s about the dancers and how they move. We try and place certain things on them, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to what their unique style is and how they’re going to incorporate it into the scene or into the sequence.

Is it improvised then, or is it all pretty much strict choreography?
It’s a little bit of both. There are moments, especially how our shooting schedules are. We shoot an episode sometimes in one day. We have to all fit in one day, but we do have enough rehearsal time so there is a format and staging. We try to keep it where it’s choreographed in a sense, and that’s where we both collaborate with the dancers, me and Chris, but also there’s always room for improvising because that’s when a lot of the magic happens, especially with street dance. That’s where it came from. It really came people just improvising and free styling and doing what they do best, because sometimes as a choreographer, you might not know what that is. You’ve only seen what the dancer’s done, and sometimes they have more up their sleeve. You want to allow them to show that, as well.

You’ve said that your goal along has been to be an actor. Has your dance career helped?
Oh it’s definitely helped open so many doors. To be honest, when I moved [to L.A.], that was I wanted to do, to act. I didn’t know that there was a career in dance. You see all these past dancers-slash-actors like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire do both, which I always wanted to do, but I was just strictly dancing for a couple years. I was making a good living from it, so from there it opened up more opportunities as far as acting, and being able to do both, or just dancing or acting. It really allowed me to learn a lot about the business. I’ve done a lot of things that a lot of actors haven’t been able to do, in terms of performing with these awesome artists and traveling all over the world and teaching. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I feel like I’m so lucky and so fortunate.

Your character, Mike Chang, was pretty silent on “Glee” in Season 1. Will we see — and hear — more of you next season?
Right now, there’s going to be a little storyline, a little love triangle between Artie and Tina and Mike Chang. I think this season, as Ryan Murphy said, they’re diving into the characters a lot more. They’re trying to go into the characters and just see who they are. As far as Brittany, who’s played by Heather Morris, she’s getting an episode where she’s singing Britney, which is so awesome. Only time will tell. Hopefully I’ll get that opportunity, slowly but surely. Last season I wasn’t doing much and this season I’m doing a little more.

It seems like the fans would like that. I have to ask: if Brittany gets to be Britney, who would Mike Chang be if he gets his own episode?
Man, there’s so many different things I would love to be. I would say this, though, I would love to be Michael. That’s really, really hard to live up to on my part, but I think that would be a dream come true.

In the “Dream On” episode, you do some stage time with Jenna Uskowitz, who plays Tina, while Artie (Kevin McHale) sings “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Did you do any of the choreography for that tap dance number?
Oh man, I don’t think they even want my input on tap. I’d never tapped before, not until three days before the shoot. They gave us tap shoes and they put us in a room for about two and half hours and we had to learn tap. Jenna at least had some experience with tapping, but that was my first time putting tap shoes on. And it is so hard. I gained a new respect for tapping. You look at it and think, “Oh, I think I can do that,” then you start doing it and it is so difficult! Even though we learned it three days before, but we pretty much had three hours to get it before we had to shoot. In my sleep, I would try to pretend that I could tap the air. We ended up doing it, and I’m pretty proud considering how little time we had.

Have you sustained any injuries?
I’ve been very lucky. It’s been minor, you know, like your back is sore. Nothing has put me out of commission — knock on wood. It gets a little crazy as far as the stuff that we do. For the most part, they keep us pretty safe and make sure no one gets injured. I can’t say the same for Vocal Adrenaline. When they did “Bohemian Rhapsody,” oh, they were dropping like flies. Everything was safe, but that dance was so intense, with so many lifts and running back across stage and getting to the other side. I think it was all worth it, and I think the dancers would say the same, because that turned out to be, for me, one of the most awesome dances on “Glee.”

Can you share any upcoming surprises?
Specifics, I don’t know, but I can tell you after reading the first two scripts, the writers aren’t holding back. They’re so brilliant in writing for the show, that when I opened up the first five pages, I was like “Oh wow, they are going for it.” I don’t think it’s going to disappoint fans when they come out with the opener. They’re really going to get to know the characters a lot more and get into their home lives and find out what their backgrounds are. In terms of musical numbers: Britney. I think that’s going to be one to look forward to. It’s going to be done in a hallucinogenic way, Ryan said — whatever that means, I’m sure it’s going to be crazy.

What was more intimidating? Dancing with Beyonce or coming up with choreography that was going to be seen by Bill Gates and Al Gore (at the TED conference) and all of Hollywood (at the Oscars)?
[Laughs.] Two totally different worlds! As a nerd, you know, we heard that we’re doing TED and that we were performing for the likes of Bill Gates, Will Smith and Al Gore, and just the smartest people in the world. They’re scientists, so most of them aren’t really into dancing. So that was the harder crowd, because I didn’t know if they were going to appreciate us. But I think both are intimidating — and also, Beyonce, she’s like the queen of all that she does. Being on stage with her is intimidating, especially the first time. Both are, in different ways.

Check out Harry Shum in the “Elliot’s Shoes” episode of “The LXD” on Hulu Wednesday. Catch him in “Step Up 3D” in theaters August 6. Here’s a sneak peek:

Last comment: Sep 15th 2014 1 Comment

Interview: The LXD’s Jon Chu

July 7th, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

This week marked the debut of an all-new web series on Hulu: The LXD. Written and directed by Jon M. Chu, who also helmed Step Up 2 and the upcoming Step Up 3D, this online exclusive tells the tale of several ordinary characters who discover they possess amazing superpowers through dance. Choreographed by Harry Shum Jr. (who just so happens to play Mike Chang on Glee) and Chris Scott, it’s all about the adventures of a growing league of, well, extraordinary dancers. With two episodes up on Hulu now — each provides the back story to a dancer; episodes throughout the first season will continue to reveal each dancer’s special talents — we caught up with Chu just has he’d finished watching Step Up 3D one last time before sending it out, so he was feeling a bit nostalgic. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Hulu: Thanks for talking to us today, Jon. So tell us … what is The LXD?
Jon Chu:
The best way to explain it is it’s an online dance adventure. It’s sort of a superheroes web series but the story is told through dance. Their superpower is dance, but the best part of it is that there are no special effects. There’s no wire work. Their superpower is actually real, and they are actual real people doing their thing. There’s mythology behind every character and you learn the mythology of how they discover their powers and how they meet each other to become to the most elite dance crew in the world.

It’s such a changing thing because the series itself is so unique because it’s very balletic and sort of operatic. It’s a mythology. There’s magic, there’s fantasy, there’s a different world. There are bad guys, there’s good guys, and it’s all told through dance. The language of the story is told through dance, so it’s a hard thing to explain to people until they actually get to see it.

What inspired you to do this?
You know, the dancers themselves. When I finished Step Up 2 a couple years ago and became friends with a bunch of the dancers, I started going to their sort of underground clubs. We became really good friends, and the more people that I would meet in these clubs, the more they amazed me. Each one I met, the next one was even more amazing than the last one. And they were all so different. I had never seen this type of dancing before. Each one has their own unique style of dance. One guy would be finger cutting, one guy would be waacking, one person would be jerking, one person would be the most amazing roboter. You just didn’t see this stuff — or I didn’t see this stuff — on TV or in anything; it’s just in the background of music videos for pop artists. To watch them expressing themselves on the dance floor, it hit me emotionally. They told stories on the dance floor and it started from there. I was like “Wow, you can actually do a lot more with dance.” Things that I had grown up watching, like musicals, the way I felt when I watched Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly do a movement, and how graceful and beautiful and emotional it was. I could see this among these hip-hop dancers, and that’s not how it’s usually portrayed when they dance.

So I started writing these stories about the different unique dancers that I’d started to meet, like Mad Chad, a robot guy. I started to write a story about how he discovered that he had robotic abilities.Maybe somebody implanted a machine inside his body instead of a heart, and I gave him this sort of bionic feel. Then I started writing about a guy who had no bones and how he could slink into different places and hide from enemies. But as a kid, he’d grown up with weak bones, so at some point, they just removed all of them. All these stories started to become more crazy and sort of fantastical. I realized that the good stories connected, that they actually were telling a bigger story and that it could include some bad guys. So I started to write those things and that’s when it got really, really fun.

The inspiration also came from Michael Jackson. Growing up watching “Thriller” or “Smooth Criminal,” those videos told great stories through dance. It wasn’t cheesy; it wasn’t like they were all of a sudden thinking in song and dance — even though they were. It was cool, and they danced with a weapon. It was manly, and it was just a cool, cool thing. So I thought, what if all of Michael Jackson’s stories had a bigger story to them? That’s kind of where it all started.

A lot of people have done web series. How is The LXD different than the others?
I think our secret weapon is dance. When you look at the top viral videos of all time, the majority of them are dance, whether it’s the Evolution of Dance, or Soulja Boy, or OK Go. So we tell a story through that. There’s no language barrier because obviously the Internet is a global thing. Because our dance is such a mix of different cultures — hip-hop is such a mix of different cultures and traditions, too, in itself. We use very unique styles of hip-hop, so it all crosses over and we don’t need to translate anything. Also, at showings, guys love it. It doesn’t have to be something that guys have to be afraid of, to watch dance happen in a musical form or anything like that.

And I think that our production value — I come from a film pedigree, so that’s where I approached it from. I knew that the dancers and talent were going to bring it. They’re the best dancers in the world, no doubt. So I knew that to keep up with them, we had to get the best film team together. We got really daring filmmakers and we all got together and started telling these stories of how a modern comic book would be told through video. Not a motion comic, not anything that a comic book portrays, but really a come-to-life comic book where the images themselves tell the stories. I think that’s a big change for even music videos out there. So we got really strong storytellers to come in to tell the story.

How did you assemble the whole group? You mentioned the club scene, but there are also some familiar faces in there — people like Harry Shum Jr., for instance.
Yeah, I met Harry like three, four years ago when we did Step Up 2. We first cast him and a couple others in there. Some of them I met in the clubs. When Step Up 2 came out, Miley Cyrus called one of the stars of the movie, who was just 15. She was 15 at the time, too, and called and left him a message and said, “Hey, I really liked you in the movie, just wanted to let you know.” So he called me and asked how we could get her number — but I didn’t know how to get her number. She did have a YouTube page, and I have a YouTube page. I wanted to make a dance video, anyway, with all these dancers from the movie, so I was like, let’s make a dance video and challenge her to an online dance battle. We’ll say that the rules are no rules. We knew that she had dancers; we knew that she had people that could film it, so we decided to challenge her. So we did it. We got all these dancers together. I met a lot of our LXD members from that. Everybody just started calling everybody. So one Tuesday night, they all came to the studio and shot this video. We called Miley Cyrus and her friend Mandi up. Two days later, she responded and made a video of her own, which was really high production value and included Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan at the end, which was obviously a slap in our face, because he’s the star of Step Up 1. So then it was on — and these videos were getting a million hits within a week of each other. We released another one and we get Adam Sandler, Lindsay Lohan, Diana Ross, Amanda Bynes … a ton of people were part of it. And that went nuts, too.

In the last few months, you’ve done TED, the Oscars, the Glee Tour. What’s it been like, getting all this attention?
It’s been a crazy ride! We started this to tell a filmic story online. It’s even hard to say “web series,” because web series has a cheap connotation to it. But what we’re doing isn’t cheap. We have a really super-high quality production with high quality talent. It’s fun to get everyone together and do this.
We started to make the web stuff, and so when people started to see the trailer, we got all these calls. Adam Shankman invited us to do the Oscars. We got invited to do So You Think You Can Dance, and we got invited to do the TED stuff. It all came from our web stuff. We hadn’t really done live shows yet. So everyone was wondering, how do we communicate? We’re going to look crazy if we go onstage and show superhero dancers. So we really called upon our choreographers Harry and Chris to come up with what our live identity is. I think it was that performance on So You Think You Can Dance where we said, “Listen, we’re not a dance crew. We’re a cast of characters, so we can’t come across as just another dance crew from one of those reality shows.” We had to do something really, really different. We wanted to tell an emotional story with hip-hop, so they picked this great Coldplay song that was done by a string quartet. I think it was that performance that really broke us out and made us stand out as different from everything else that was out there. It was then that TED called us. To get that call was nuts. People like Bill Gates and Al Gore want to see us? It was pretty cool. It was really cool and really personal they way they invited us. We sat down all the dancers and said, I know live shows weren’t in the plan, but I think we have an opportunity to change not just online stuff, but the live show way hip-hop is shown, as well. Everyone’s been in it together, and it’s been a really fun ride. That’s a good feeling.

Well we wish you lots of success with the series. Thanks, Jon!

Last comment: Jun 24th 2017 4 Comments

Subtle Sexuality Drops Its First Track

October 29th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

If The Office‘s Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) could star in her own music video, you know it’d be fun, sparkly and full of not-so-subtle references to her workplace lover, Ryan the temp (BJ Novak). And that’s just what her girl group’s first music video is all about. “Male Prima Donna” features an awesome amount of gold spandex and a healthy dose of T-Pain-style auto-tune, but — besides all the awkward dancing by Kelly and her receptionist-friend Erin (Ellie Kemper) — our favorite things about Subtle Sexuality’s video may have to be the appearances of the Nard Dog and Mr. Understood. What can we say? Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) can really sing a bridge and Ryan can rap as well as anyone straight outta Lackawanna County. Here’s a look at the “Subtle Sexuality” webisodes from The Office. — Rebecca Harper ()

Creative Differences
Kelly may never officially reveal the inspiration behind “Male Prima Donna,” but she’s more than happy to let “The Office” cameras follow her around as she produces her first music video. The Dunder Mifflin break room is converted into wardrobe — as Oscar’s trying to eat lunch, naturally — so Kelly can do Ryan’s makeup (he likes a lot of blush and eyeliner), and the parking lot serves as an impromptu set for a scene involving a priest and a smoking bride.

The Replacement
While the SubSex girls may have lost one of their video extras, they soon set their sights on a replacement: Andy, a former member of Cornell’s “Hear Comes Treble” a cappella group. What can we say? He had us with his ode to a vending machine.

The Music Video
In the end, the video had room for all the key players: Ryan in a white top hat and cane as Mr. Understood, while the Nard Dog puts on quite the show in the Dunder-Mifflin warehouse. Meanwhile, Kelly and Erin tear it up as they get down to the chorus: “But I can’t help but want ‘cha / I’m an independent diva / But I still kinda need ya” in gold spandex, wedding clothes and pirate garb. Need a last-minute Halloween costume? We think you’ve found your inspiration.

Last comment: Apr 27th 2014 2 Comments