Peter Serafinowicz, Valorie Curry, Griffin Newman, Ben Edlund attend Special Q+A for THE TICK
In a world where superheroes have been real for decades, an accountant (Griffin Newman – Search Party, Beware the Gonzo) with zero powers comes to realise his city is owned by a super villain called The Terror. As he struggles to uncover this conspiracy, he falls in league with a strange blue superhero, The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz – Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars).
From the original work of Ben Edlund, the Amazon Original Series The Tick will premiere in the UK on Amazon Prime Video on Friday 25th August.
During a Special Q & A moderated by Alex Zane, following the Premiere of the first two episodes in London, Peter Serafinowicz, Valorie Curry, Griffin Newman, Ben Edlund, Barry Josephson and David Fury answer questions about the eagerly awaited series…
I’m going to start with you Ben because obviously this is a character you created over 30 years ago, it’s been a comic strip, a cartoon in the 90s, and in 2001 a live action version. How does it feel to be bringing The Tick back to the screen in 2017? Because of the prolific nature of superheroes, The Tick is more relevant than ever.
Ben Edlund: Yeah that’s sort of what inspired it because we felt like The Tick got called back into action because there was so many things to have fun with out there. How does it feel? It feels amazing to be given the tools necessary to make this, you know with the dimension that I wanted to see it, this has action and comedy and all the pieces that maybe feel the most important to a depiction of The Tick that’s something.
I’m excited and happy, that’s how it feels.
Obviously we have The Tick with us this evening, and Peter taking on on this role, first of all how much did you know about The Tick before taking on the part? And also it does really feel the perfect role for your particular comedy sensibilities.
Peter Serafinowicz: I didn’t really get it (laugher). I really didn’t know that much about The Tick I had a sort very peripheral knowledge of it, I knew it was a comic book character, that it was a kind of superhero parody. The TV series with Patrick Warburton I don’t think that aired over here (UK) and the comic book I think I was vaguely aware of, I think I was getting it mixed up with something else I don’t know, but I didn’t imagine it was, first of all, so sophisticated and brilliant and so “up my street” comedy wise.
I’m really disappointed in myself for not reading it earlier and the once I read the script that was…you know some of these lines, Ben’s writing it’s so poetic, lyrical, profound and funny and I’d never read anything like it, that I got to read these words, as you know from Ben’s answer just now, Ben takes the same care and attention to his conversational sentences (audience laughs) I really admire that you know and yeah, so I quickly became aware of how beloved this character was and it was announced that Amazon was going to reboot the show and I had the fans going crazy about it online.
So yeah when I finally spoke to Ben when I’d read the script and he said he wanted me to be The Tick I was extremely flattered that he was entrusting his big blue baby to me you know.
I think we can all agree that you are a brilliant Tick (audience applauds). Did you think you share much DNA with the character, obviously he’s a huge character, but do you see similarities between who you are and the character of The Tick? Can you relate to him?
Peter Serafinowicz: Yeah, I mean I think I (laughs) you know after five months in that suit you know I had to be shown my IMDB page to be reminded that my name was Peter Serafinowicz (audience laughs) but I think that, yeah I’d like to think that I’m generally a kind of positive “can do” person and that my mind does wander and take detours, and what was the question again? (audience laughs)
It was whether you see The Tick and you go “that’s a lot like me”, without it wanting to sound offensive because obviously The Tick is a huge larger than life character.
Peter Serafinowicz: I think, I had never wanted to do a TV series, but Americans seem to be the only people who want to employ me (laughter) but it means spending time away from family, my wife and my kids which I hate doing, but I thought if that happened, if I were ever to do that it would have to be something special, and when I read this I realised that it was, my wife read it as well and was like “well this is the most ‘you’ part” (audience laughs) “I mean you’ve kind of got to do it” So maybe she just wanted to get shot of me (audience laughs) but yeah it was very special, it’s the part of a lifetime. So thanks Ben.
Ben Edlund: Thank you Peter.
I guess on the other side of the coin, you’re kind of discovering the character for the first time but Griffin…
Griffin Newman: I knew too much about the thing…
I find this amazing, I mean you’re a lifelong Tick fan?
Griffin Newman: Yeah
What’s it like finding yourself up for the role of Arthur, a character you’ve followed your entire life?
Griffin Newman: I don’t know if you know, I got the role! (audience laughter) I can’t believe it either I have to remind myself on a daily basis.
It’s very bizarre, it still doesn’t sink in, I have to purposefully block all of that in my mind because otherwise I’ll be too overwhelmed to actually do the job you know, I have to kind of like weirdly on a day to day basis just look at the script and treat it like it’s some part, but then I end up in these scenes with Peter and I’m Arthur and he’s The Tick and it’s a real thing, people are paying me to do it and it’s not a fan film. It’s very bizarre, we talked earlier today about how when I was at summer camp when I was 12 or 13 years old, they’ve heard this story too many times….
Peter Serafinowicz: It’s just such a great story…
Griffin Newman: I grew up with a very protective mother I was the oldest child and she wouldn’t let me watch anything, I couldn’t watch anything that my contemporaries were watching and I always just admired superheroes form afar and Tick always seemed like this more interesting, subversive version of the superheroes I wasn’t even allowed to watch in the first place, and the last live action series, the Warburton show, premiered when I had a little bit of a time when I could choose what I could watch and I was obsessed with it, I was absolutely obsessed with it and my brother who hates superheroes I would always try to get him to care about this stuff that I loved, he didn’t care, we watched every single episode together and they would change on the schedule every week, you had to put effort into watching it every week because you had to search it down, now it’s on every other Sunday, it’s two episodes but only in the afternoon, you had to pretend to be sick so you could stay home from school, so we watched it obsessively, and I bought this Tick doll, I bought a big talking Tick doll and when I went to summer camp that year when I was 13, I want to be clear too old for this (audience laughs) I carried that doll around with me everywhere every single day and I hosted my summer camp talent show.
Ben is laughing at me, I hosted my summer camp talent show with the Tick doll and did a routine where I held it into the microphone, because I’d memorised the lines it said and I did like a comedy routine with the doll.
It’s 100% true and now they pay me to actually be Arthur and do scenes with The Tick. (addressing Ben) You wouldn’t have hired me knowing that.
Peter Serafinowicz: The weird thing is I remember being there (audience laughs)
Griffin Newman: He was the only person in the audience, he thought “maybe I should play that doll” (laughs)
So I guess it’s fair to say you’re living the dream right now?
Griffin Newman: Yeah yeah, there’s no other way to say it yeah. I’m a life long fan of The Tick I used to work at a comic book store, 5 years ago I went to Comic Con in San Diego and pretended to be a journalist so I could interview people I liked with a phoney badge.
Peter Serafinowicz: Oh I didn’t know that (audience laughs)
Griffin Newman: Every element of this has been surreal. I know I’m a sociopath. I’m living the dream, it’s bizarre, I watched this I’ve seen the episode enough times that I’m neutralised to it and I’m able to watch it without hating everything I do onscreen, and I’m able to just view it as a show and I’m like “God this show’s so good this is like my favourite TV show” and then in a second I’ll go like “I’m the guy on it” It’s very strange.
Valorie let’s talk about Dot, would it be fair to say this version of Dot is probably the most fleshed out version of the character we’ve seen and what’s it like bringing her to screen?
Valorie Curry: Yeah that’s absolutely fair to say it’s funny how many people have asked me what’s its like to play a new character in the world over the last week or so.
Dot is actually one of the few characters that has existed in every iteration of The Tick along with these three and The Terror and one of the things that Ben said to me, of many wonderful things, first time we met was for coffee in New York was he really really wanted to create this character anew, you know, and she has existed in some previous versions a bit of like a device, a kind of negative, critical voice. Can I say that?
Ben Edlund: Sure
Valorie Curry: I’m sure I just did (audience laughs)
Ben Edlund: All the words work.
Valorie Curry: All the words they work somehow.
Peter Serafinowicz: Stop criticising Ben (audience laughs).
Valorie Curry: Yeah he really wanted to make this character, he wanted to make her a real person and he wanted her journey to exist also in sort of autonomous way from Arthurs and not just as an accessory, whether that is as the voice of reason or as a supportive character, you know, she contains multitudes, she is loving and protective and not cynical or judgemental of this in any way, of anything she has to say about what’s happening here is purely out of like protectiveness and love because they both came from the same sort of genesis event of losing their father because of the dangers of getting too close to “supers” you know what I mean, like her whole experience has been that we are collateral damage.
But the way that he (Ben) wanted Dot to exist and who he wanted her to be was really what drew me to it, Griffin and I talked a lot about how we got to rehearsals for that first episode that scene in the car expecting to be asked to play something different.
Griffin Newman: Lighten it up…
Valorie Curry: Yeah and you know even with my experience like looking on the page I was like “alright this is a sarcastic line and this is the dry line this is who she is” and they where like “oh now we want the opposite of that, we want her not to be what you have seen from a lot of these tropey dry female characters on these comedies” and we were like shocked to be really getting away with something and to be given permission to play that scene and to play this relationship in like a genuine and dramatic way and that is what really thrilled me about this, not just for me to do something that was new and reinventing this important female role like imbuing her with humanity but also being able to do that within the context of a show where we really shouldn’t be allowed to do it.
Griffin Newman: And the bet is that playing those scenes with that much integrity and seriousness then makes any time The Tick says anything funnier you know, makes any time that a gun is fired more dramatic, that’s to the credit of these guys
Ben Edlund: It’s a scary bet.
Griffin Newman: It is a scary bet, especially to be in the middle of it and juggle all those tongs.
I guess this touches on my next question I want to bring it out, Barry and David here because between you, you’ve been involved in some huge movies and TV shows, I mean just to read from a short list that I made Men in Black, Bones, Fringe, Lost, Buffy. In terms of the freedom, and Ben touched on this already, in terms of why Amazon was a great place to bring this series to the screen as opposed maybe to network television, what was the thinking behind that?
Barry Josephson: Well they where so receptive to Ben’s concept for this version of the show and we went out and pitched it to a lot of places and we where sort of hopeful that we might end up at Amazon, but honestly they really got it, they really got Ben, they really got the characters, they really got what we wanted to do with this new version. So for us it was just a no brainer and it was incredible to watch Joe Lewis watch Ben and to lean into what he was saying.
Ben Edlund: So many people lean away (audience laughs)
Barry Josephson: Yeah and I was kind of the producer in the room hoping that we’d sell it and listening to Ben talk for an hour and honestly a lot of it was so brilliant and I was just thinking “God I hope they get it”, and Joe really did, all he had was questions for Ben they just sat and talked like a conversation for an hour.
So it felt like this was the absolute right place, creatively they got it, they knew the history of The Tick, they knew the comic, they knew the animated show, they just really wanted to know what Ben wanted to do.
David obviously again from that list how does the experience feel for you bringing it to Amazon?
David Fury: Well I came in later after the pilot so all that heavy work had already been done. I just came in to drive Ben to work and handle the punctuation.
Really was that not it? Was that not my job?
Ben Edlund: The responsibilities have been expanded.
Barry Josephson: They are a great partnership and they have conceived what has been, it’s Amazons biggest order at 12 episodes and you know Ben and David have conceived the show together.
The first season and hopefully many seasons, they went back into Amazon to pitch out a whole season and nobody perceives until they know what they have and I think David and Ben did a great job at that. We really sort of have a good map of where we’re going to head, this seasons really shown that. I think one of the greatest things is just sitting up here with the cast because we can’t believe that we got everyone that we wanted.
Ben Edlund: Yeah that’s true.
Griffin Newman: I was waving my arms for years going “BRING BACK THE TICK Please!” (laughs)
Barry Josephson: But seriously, Amazon has a real hunger for this kind of thing they didn’t have, all the networks are covered with the Marvel shows and the DC shows and they didn’t want to just do that, they didn’t want to be another outlet for that, they wanted something new and fresh, so they went to something old (audience laughs) but with a fresh new take and now that’s one of the wonderful things was the enthusiasm for this world, this universe that Ben created.
It’s funny that you joke about something being old, but it leads on to this idea that, I think it’s fair to say this is, obviously we had the Patrick Warburton version, who is credited as a producer here from 2001, it seems that, I’m trying to choose my words carefully, it seems like this iteration of The Tick is set with more realism, it feels like for the first time in The Tick’s universe there are consequences. Would that be right?
Ben Edlund: Oh sure. As was abundantly proven at the end of the second episode when blood is shed in this series which is a very different arrangement, it’s generally been more of a comedy, less gravity to it and blood has very rarely dropped in this universe and now we have something that now has a life and death backdrop puts everything that Arthur goes through and everything the characters go through, Dot, Arthur, The Tick, they’re in a place where terrible things can happen and it’s proven that they have happened and I think that makes there interactions feel more familiar to us, because that’s familiar, terrible things. Yeah the Sword of Damocles we know what that feels like.
There are parts, gleeful darkness is the phrase I chose…
Ben Edlund: Really, I like that phrase.
Really, well from you that’s a real compliment Ben, thank you. The whole weaponised syphilis eating the Flag Five’s eyes is just horrible, it’s almost a line that could exist in Watchmen it’s so dark.
Ben Edlund: Yeah, I think the Watchmen is very funny, you know I think the Watchmen is hilarious by applying that reality to it. So I do see that those are two continents that are adjacent, that’s Pangaea, I’m part of a Pangaea (laughs).
No, I really do think that this darkness and having syphilis eat people’s eyes out or there’s a variety of just little windows into the blackest hell of comedy, I think we want to keep doing that, I think that’s important.
I think, I was just watching this show today, it’s weird it’s got a strange tone (audience laughs) I’m very intrigued to see what the world will think about this.
Peter Serafinowicz: It reminds me a bit of Friends (audience laughs).
Griffin Newman: A little less dark than Friends.
Ben Edlund: Friends with like a motif, an eye injury motif.
The One Where They Had Their Eyes Eaten by Weaponised Syphilis…
Ben Edlund: Yeah
Peter Serafinowicz: But I think that that particular example that you cite, there is so many like different tones that all come together, the show has its own unique tone that it can do that, that it can have this big blue cartoon character just barge in, but it’s all the same show and I just think it’s a testament to your writing and David and Barry, to, I don’t know how you arrived at that tone but it’s a real feat.
Ben Edlund: I mean, I think it was one of the earliest kind of conversations we had, tonal conversations where all we had because we were, those were the oars on our boat, I mean that was a strange place to go “Here we are everybody”. (audience laughs)
I guess the other important thing that obviously needs to mentioned is The Tick’s relationship with Arthur, which is obviously Peter your relationship with Griffin. How would you A: Describe that relationship? and B: How easy was it to find that chemistry?
Peter Serafinowicz: Ummm (audience laughs).
Griffin Newman: (laughs) We don’t like each other.
Peter Serafinowicz: Yeah I, go on.
Griffin Newman: We got really lucky with the chemistry because we got cast totally separately, you know, I was auditioned, Peter was auditioned, we met the night before the table read and we were staying at adjacent….(Ben interrupts)
Ben Edlund: Peter didn’t audition (audience laughs).
Griffin Newman: Peter was cast, I fought for months. Peter was begged, I begged. (audience laughs)
Peter Serafinowicz: Sorry I didn’t tell you. (audience laughs)
Griffin Newman: It’s fine.
Peter Serafinowicz: I always knew it was going to be you (audience laughs).
Ben Edlund: Griffin was our first, yeah
Griffin Newman: Well Valorie was the “first” first.
Ben Edlund: No that’s true. Valorie was the first of the pair of you, Valorie was the first person we cast
Griffin Newman: And then I was able to audition with Valorie which sold them that I could do the job and then Peter was, you know, hired separately. But the thing I’ve always said, it’s kind of like an arranged marriage because I can try to play Arthur well and Peter can play The Tick well, but it’s not going to work unless two characters are on screen together harmonises, because that’s what the fans….the core of this show is the two of them together adding up to something that’s greater than the sum of their parts and we felt like we had our interpretations of the character and Ben approved of them and Amazon approved of them but still we didn’t know what it was going to be like when we were in the same room, and we were in LA for the table read and we decided to go get dinner, and we walked around for like two hours before we settled on a restaurant.
Peter Serafinowicz: Holding hands (audience laughs).
Ben Edlund: Felt a little forced at first…
Griffin Newman: Yeah, sorry Sarah (audience laughs) But yeah we just have very similar approaches and tastes, we found weirdly similar reference points, a part of my mother being very protective of what I watched growing up means I watched the same things that Peter watched growing up even though we’re different ages (audience laughs) so we have the exact same comedy references, through accidental abuse from my mother (audience laughs) we have the exact same reference points and I think similar approaches to comedy and acting and all of that.
Peter Serafinowicz: The thing I noticed as well, if I can take over?
Griffin Newman: Anytime.
Peter Serafinowicz: Is that when, it was like on our first date, I was going to say date, day filming… oh no or was it that night, it was the night where in the pilot we were on the oil…
Griffin Newman: Sure that was your first day.
Peter Serafinowicz: Yeah, we, I noticed that we gave each other notes and suggestions and I think it was because we were in actual peril as well, because….
Griffin Newman: It’s a very narrow walkway as well.
Peter Serafinowicz: There was (laughs) steps going up to the oil tank thing, one of them broke while we were there and I was in these shoes that
Ben Edlund: To call them shoes.
Peter Serafinowicz: Yeah these shoes were not made for walking you know, and we were and I think that was something to do with the… but we were giving each other saying “why don’t you say this” and…..
Griffin Newman: That sounds like a nightmare to most actors if you say “oh your co-star is going to direct” (laughs)
Valorie Curry: I hate it when they do it to me.
Griffin Newman: But we just hit some collaborative thing where he would say “do you think it would be funnier if Arthur said this” and I’d go “what if the Tick did this in response”.
Peter Serafinowicz: That’s something that actors, like etiquette wise is just (a no-no?) I mean I tried it with Val and I won’t try that again. (audience laughs)
Valorie Curry: You’re suggestions are crap! (audience laughs)
Griffin Newman: The two of us as actors and these two characters have to kind of function as a comedy team, so it’s beyond just scene partners. We both take acting seriously it’s not just that we want to get “joke joke joke joke” but there’s some larger thing we’re trying to get at and it’s weird watching, we’re only watching up to episode two tonight and we’ve done ten more past this and the arc of the season I really feel it’s like a Hepburn-Tracy movie you know, we start out as these uneasy bedfellows and by the end of the season we really love each other, but the arc of the season really is learning to be one in everything but the physical sense (audience laughs)
Peter Serafinowicz: Wait till season 2 (audience laughs).
Griffin Newman: Definitely Season 2, but we got lucky that we got on so well.
What was the most challenging thing about playing the roles?
Valorie Curry: I guess for me the challenging thing was sort of, you know we talk about this multi tonal quality to the show, how it can switch on a dime between this very kind of grounded drama to this really like absurd comedy and then back again, and I guess the biggest challenge for me and I think its something we as a team learned to navigate and find the frequencies in the first two episodes with each other was kind of like maintaining my grounding while interacting with increasingly absurd people and it’s something I hadn’t ever really dealt with that challenge because as an actor when you’re working with someone especially if it’s a one on one scene part of what makes it work is you do sort of get on the same wave length, get on the same frequency and there’s like an intimacy in that and it’s how like chemistry works and how you find the scene together, my job was to like not do that at all (laughs) and even, we’ve done ten more episodes and watching, you know I can watch things and go “Dot got a little too sucked in by someone else’s gravity” and every moment where she didn’t maintain that real honesty and again I don’t (can’t make out) straight person so much as her reality’s different (laughs) the more I maintain that the more truthfully it resonates to me and also serves the comedy better, it serves the world better, so that’s kind of something that be really conscientious about checking myself about especially in like sort of one on one scenes.
Peter Serafinowicz: The costume (audience laughs).
Griffin Newman: I mean it’s similar to what Val said, but Arthur’s the character that has to bridge these worlds and and when I first met with Ben when he was considering hiring me, you know, in the way he talked mostly about tone he kind of explained to me how this character needed to function in order for the show to work and it was the audience had to root for this guy but they also have to be very very worried in every scene that he might not make it, the stakes have to be very real and palpable, the jokes have to land but he can’t feel like he’s becoming jokey and I’m a stand up, I’ve spent more time doing sketch comedy and stand up than anything else, I mean I take acting very seriously but more people have allowed me to do that; unpaid stand up basement shows than be the star of a TV show up until this point in my life.
Ben Edlund: Who is the gatekeeper of these basement comedy shows?
Griffin Newman: There are a couple, I could give you a list I know who they are and I message them regularly (audience laughs) but it’s trusting that the right thing to do is trust that I don’t need to overplay the comedy you know, that Arthur’s fighting a war inside his head all the time, he’s been fighting it for years and there’s a war going on around him and the stakes are very real and just trust in playing that as seriously as possible then the jokes will land. That’s tricky, you know, it helps when the scripts are great, its helps when the writing is there and you’re not having to make something out of nothing as is often the case but it still is scary because you’re instincts are like “should I do jazz hands with each line? Do people know it’s funny if I don’t do this?”
Ben Edlund: You’ll notice we cut all the jazz hands (audience laughs) .
Griffin Newman: You did, I did do jazz hands at the end of every take and you’re very smart about cutting them out.
Kind of related to that, you’re all playing characters that have existed in another form or another and I’m just wondering how you draw upon the previous iterations?
Peter Serafinowicz: I didn’t see any of that series at all, on purpose, I saw one clip actually, a little 30 second clip and I thought it was “wow this guy’s lovely, he’s so funny and adorable” and even now I’m sure that influenced me in some way but I thought “I can’t watch any more” I’ve got to do my own thing with it, you know, and I guess that what’s on the page and how me and Ben worked it out together and us as well, giving each other notes on the catwalk.
Griffin Newman: Giving each other notes on the catwalk?
Peter Serafinowicz: Yeah on the catwalk.
You touched on this already Barry but such a good place to finish. It’s obviously such a character driven show and between yourself, David and Ben, how pleased are you with the cast assembled for this? Because that is ultimately the most important aspect of the show.
Barry Josephson: The whole time I was sitting here I was thinking about the scene in (can’t make out) and I remember when we watched dailies of that and the first time that was cut it was just like “god these guys get it when they are together” and it was such an easy scene to put together. We’re really fortunate, we had the benefit of getting our first choice for every role, Valorie like you said was cast first because we her audition tape the empathy for Arthur and you know Peter was just the greatest thing that could have happened in terms of casting The Tick because he brought with him just a host of comedy and characters and experience that he brings to The Tick and he plays it so confidently (audience laughs)
Peter Serafinowicz: I was the tallest one (audience laughs)
Barry Josephson: Griffin is so special and this version of Arthur is really what Ben wanted.
Griffin Newman: The first thing Ben said when I met him was when we where meeting for coffee to talk about the part is (mimicking Ben) “First of all I love how small you are” (audience laughs)
Barry Josephson: David and I talked when we watched Jackie Earle Hayley you know play The Terror and Ben was so right there was no other choice it was going to be him.
Overkill character Scott Speiser you know everybody that we have was just like great. We’re the fortunate producers who have benefited from just a phenomenal cast coming together and they all seem to like each other.
Ben Edlund: So far so good, the chemistry…
Griffin Newman: Or we’re better actors than you know (audience laughs)
The Amazon Original Series The Tick will premiere in the UK on Amazon Prime Video on Friday 25th August. The Tick season 1 will be released in two parts of 6 episodes each. Part 1 will be available on Friday 25th August. Part 2 will be released in early 2018.