At this time last year, Alan Tudyk was debuting his new web series Con Man following a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign. Now, as the actor heads into the second season of the show, premiering in November on the Comic-Con HQ streaming video service, he wants fans to join him in playing the long con with Con Man: The Game.
Created by Tudyk, who also writes the show and executive-produces it along with fellow Firefly alum Nathan Fillion, and PJ Haarsma, Con Man raised $3.1 million through Indiegogo. Set in the world of comic book conventions, the meta comedy series follows Tudyk’s character Wray Nerely, a genre actor from the Firefly-esque show Spectrum, a sci-fi show canceled before its time.
The first season of the show revolves around Wray’s journeys through the con circuit and his attempts to get respect as a “real” thespian. The second season continues the story with Wray working with his former co-star, A-list actor Jack Moore (played by Fillion), to both gain legitimacy – and get a Spectrum movie made.
But that’s not what Con Man: The Game is about. Instead, the free mobile-platform game, developed by Frima Studios and Haarsma, and available now on the iPhone App Store and on Google Play, invites fans into the world of the comic convention and allows them to create and operate a con. Running the gamut from setting up toilets, food stations, vendors and celebrity booths, the game also challenges players to book big-time celebs like Jack Moore – not to mention deal with streakers, rats, illness and invading aliens.
Appropriately, I caught up with Tudyk backstage at a con – Dragon Con in Atlanta, to be precise – at a launch party for the game. In the following conversation, we discuss cameos within both the show and app, the verisimilitude of Spectrum, the arc for Season 2, and how Wray’s story could easily border on darkness and tragedy.
Check it out, and come back tomorrow for part 2, where Tudyk talks about his role as K-2SO in Star Wars: Rogue One, and living the life of a droid.
Within the game, when you have to build your own con, there are rats, illness, aliens. Have you seen all these things at a con?
No, I have not.
This game is a sham, Tudyk!
It is a sham! It is not a reflection of reality. Actually, the only thing I have seen at cons that appear in the game are aliens, but they were cosplayers doing really good aliens. But who is to say?
Kevin Smith is a security guard within the game, and Joss Whedon is a janitor. Are there more cameos to come?
Most of the actors and characters within the game are from Spectrum – I’m sorry, are from Con Man the series. As it grows, that’s where we want to go next. Once the game proves itself, then we can go out to other people and say, you should be in the game.
That little slip of Spectrum vs. Con Man: You have the Spectrum comic, so have you had to flesh out that world so much that you sometimes forget this is a supporting material, a made up show within a show? Do you ever think, “Oh yeah, I was in that project Spectrum”?
I haven’t gotten that far. I have referred to Serenity as Spectrum once, and referred to my character Wash as Cash, the character in Spectrum. Because they are similar and Spectrum plays off Firefly, and the dynamic there, I started to confuse those.
Is there an overall theme for Season 2?
The main driving action is, in the first episode, Wray and Jack [Nathan Fillion] strike a bargain. Wray promises to do Spectrum: The Movie if Jack will help him get a legitimate job. So, that’s the deal. Jack puts him in touch with the director of Doctor Cop Lawyer, a huge procedural show that’s going to go the following year. And Wray starts going around to all the cons to get everyone excited about Spectrum: The Movie, and keep their excitement up to put pressure on the studio.
This show could be so dark. It would be a tragedy if it wasn’t a comedy. Do you ever hold back from getting too dark?
I don’t think so. There is one scene in Season 2 of Con Man. Stephen Root, a great character actor, and he plays Wray Nerely’s agent. He has a series of agents, and they keep getting fired, and more intensely awful. The final one is Stephen Root’s character. You know the movie Network with the famous “You will atone” speech? It is that level of cruel and real about the entertainment industry. I was excited to put that in.
Other than that, any dark storylines with characters, like alcohol abuse or some things maybe I see at cons, we haven’t gotten there yet. I pick up on things that are absurd and funny to me. That’s what imprints on my mind. When I go to right, that’s what comes up. They tend to be ridiculous and funny things instead of dark.
Is the show essentially over once he finds contentment? He seems doomed because he needs it so much, despite the love of fans at the cons.
Wray, like a lot of people who don’t appreciate what they have, on the way to understanding how great what they have is, they have to lose everything. So I think Wray has to go there, and lose it all. He has to lose the fans, lose the support, lose it all before he goes, “Oh no, that was amazing.” Then he has to start to grow them back, and how does he do that? We will string that out, but I think there is a certain point where the fans and everyone will go, “You know, you don’t want to be here? Great, we don’t want you here.” I think that will be fun.
Has there been a caricature of a real con personality where it was too revealing and you had to pull back because it wasn’t flattering?
There have been things, my own unflattering crosses to bear, where I just want to preach and get bitchy about. Those are things I pull back on. I go, “too much!” Nobody wants to hear that position on the world and my jaded opinion about things. As far as people represented, it’s always after the fact that I put it out and go, “Oh, I wonder if they’ll be upset about this because they’ll figure out it was them.” But I just put it out there. If it is about a character, and it’s funny, and happens to be true about somebody, I’ll put it out there. I really value humor, and I think it’s admirable to make funny things.
When you do a show like Con Man with meta characterization, I’m sure you get suggestions on who to have on next. Who are you hearing a lot? I have heard Bruce Campbell.
Well, Bruce Campbell. He is somewhat in our show. His name is Bruise Camp Bell, and he was on Spectrum and played Dr. Mitney. But he is lost at seas, and presumed dead. So absolutely we need to get him on the show, because people who are presumed dead in fiction are never dead! They come back, and they have stories to tell. It doesn’t happen this season, unfortunately. I would love the rest of the Firefly cast. We haven’t been able to get Morena Baccarin on – almost this season. I would like Jason Momoa to be in it; he was almost in the first season, and he’s another busy one, so he’s tough to nail down. I already have a script in mind for him. Possibly some wrestlers; I don’t know who, but you see wrestlers at cons, and I’d love to explore that.