VH1 - BEHIND THE ROLE-PLAYING: TECH INFANTRY
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
— L. Frank Baum, The Wizard Of Oz
You see it every week. It invades your lives, slowly taking over, like an infectious disease spreading over your mind. You know it's happening to you, but you can't stop it, because the addict needs his fix. From the opening quote to the painful ending, watchers all over the world are fixed on their screen, discovering the wonderful world called "Tech Infantry."
Six months have passed, turning this sci-fi entertainment audience into wild fanatics. What happened? What transformed this show into the phenomenon that it is today? Well, tonight, we go behind the scenes at Megadodo Productions, discovering what it takes to make Tech Infantry a success.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER & DIRECTOR: Marcus Johnston
"So, Mr. Johnston, how did it all begin?"
"That's easy. It started as an idea under the direction of then-producer Nathan Bax. The idea was to use the popular White Wolf universe and transform that into a sci-fi setting."
"White Wolf universe?"
"Yes, um... vampires, werewolves, mages..."
"Running around in the future."
"A dark future, yes. The first couple seasons really went in depth about humanity fighting a losing war against the Bugs, a corrupt Federation, drafted mages and werewolves fighting a war that no one knew how to win. Very... um, what's a good word for it... creepy universe. A more realistic universe in a sense. A future that no one wants to live in."
"You said the first couple seasons. How many seasons have their been?"
"Well, currently, we're in Season 4.3. There's been a season one, two, three, four, and five."
"But we're currently on four-point-three."
"Would you mind explaining that?"
"It's the third attempt at a fourth season. Bax came back for Season Four after the previous producer caused the show to drop in the ratings. However, they had lost enough of the fan base that he was only able to fund two episodes."
"Then I was brought on board for another try at it, and at first, it did pretty good. However, we were quickly overcome in the ratings by..." (grinding teeth) "...another show, and the network didn't renew our contract after seven episodes."
"That wouldn't happen to be Spectrum Wars, would it?"
"Why do you think that SW had a bigger fan base?"
(moan) "I don't know."
"Do you think that that genre appealed to a greater..."
"HEY! Do you wanna talk about Tech Infantry or what?!"
(pause) "Sorry. So TI was brought back again."
"I managed to bring on some sponsors for this attempt, and with the lack of... other competition..."
"You mean Spec..."
(SMACK!) "...we were able to get our fans back and then some."
"So," (spitting out the blood) "how would you describe TI as... an art form?"
"I would call it tragedy. No character comes out of the story clean; they're all scarred by it and are left in a worse position in the end... if they survive. Yes, definitely tragedy."
Just as in Shakespeare's time, a good tragedy is still very popular. Even if the drama in question takes place in the future. Instead of riding horses into battle, these futuristic warriors fly spaceships. Instead of nationalities setting them apart, often it is a question of species. But don't listen to us, let's hear it from the show's creator, Nathan Bax.
PRODUCER & CREATOR: Nathan Bax
(Gun leveled at the cameraman) "Get out of my office!" (BLAM, BLAM, BLAM)
MR. BAX'S ATTORNEY: Johnny Cochran
"What Mr. Bax meant to say was that he has the honor to produce the greatest sci-fi series in the history of television!"
"Really? Most critics and fans are quick to point out how much the show borrows form already-famous sci-fi series and novels."
"Resembles, the show resembles previous sci-fi works."
"Isn't that just a semantic difference?"
"Not in the eyes of the law."
"Speaking of which, hasn't the show been on the receiving end of numerous copyright infringement lawsuits?"
"Ahem… well yes, yes it has. But those people were just jealous of what the good writers and producers here have come up with. Besides, every one of those lawsuits were dismissed."
"How many lawsuits are we talking about?"
"Okay then, can you tell us a few examples of the things people were accusing you of stealing?"
"Resembling, and yes, I would be glad to. Now the White Wolf people were contacted at the very beginning and given their cut, no problems there. Those guys are some freaky freaks anyway. They were glad to get anything. The real problem was with some of the show's technobabble."
"Yes, it's an industry term. The wording we use to describe futuristic technology that doesn't really exist. Now granted, if someone starts copying your stuff verbatim, you got copyright infringement. But these fellas were trying to sue us for things like 'gravity drive' and 'point defense system'. A few of them tried to sue us for the physics equations we used. One of 'em even tried to copyright the term 'cee-fractional strike'. It's ridiculous when you think about it."
"What about the suits that involved some of the character's names?"
"Mr. Cochran, do you watch the show?"
"Yes I do, young man, every night."
"It's only syndicated once a week."
"Oh yeah. I mean… I tape the episodes and watch them every night."
"Wow, what a fan you must be. Who's your favorite character?"
"That Russian guy played by the Australian guy who gets all the chicks…"
ALISTAR SOLDATI DIMIYE: Russell Crow
"So Mr. Crow, what made you want to do TV?
"Well, mate, I fell in love with the script when I read it. Normally one of my assistants reads scripts to me while I keep my incredible Australian body in shape. But I was stuck on a plane from LA to Sydney with nothing to read. It was fate."
"I see. So it had nothing to do with the piles of money the producers threw at you?"
(Sitting atop a pile of money) "What money? This is television, mate, I don't get paid squat compared to what the movie executives usually dish out." (Looks right at the camera) "I'm doing this for all of my fans." (Applause ensues)
"If you weren't getting paid well, then why are you sitting on a pile of money?"
"Oh, this money? This is just my sitting money, you can't spend sitting money."
"I see." (Rolls his eyes) "Do you find it difficult playing such a complex character such as Dimiye?"
"Are you calling me stupid?"
"NO! No, no, no. I just meant that… he's a complex character, it must be hard at times."
"You would think so, but its not. I just act gloomy and snarl a lot. Whenever I have a question about the emotional motivation of the character, I just start yelling at people. And when in doubt, we cut in a combat sequence. It's a snap, really."
"For such a talented actor such as your self?"
"No. I'm convinced that a trained circus chimp could do my job. Failing that, they could always get Garry Coleman. But I'm what puts asses in the seats. Uh, you're gonna edit this part out, right?"
(smiling) "Of course we are."
"Good. I wouldn't want to give the wrong message to…" (Looks at the camera) "…all of my loyal fans." (More applause)
"Mr. Crow, one last question. What would you say your greatest achievement has been to date?"
"Besides going home every night and fucking Meg Ryan, I'd have to say… no, that's it."
MALACHI SPYDER: Joaquin Phoenix
"Oh, that guy will screw anything that moves! I remember when we were on the set of Gladiator together; every time an extra playing a slave girl walked by, the shot would get ruined."
"Do you think he's an addict?"
"Maybe. The guy loves to fuck. But then again, he's Australian. But he's nowhere near the sex fiend Michael Douglas is. Or Nicholas Cage, for that matter. I'm not even gonna tell you what those guys are into."
(Begging on hands and knees) "Please?!"
"No. Next question."
"All right then. What's it like being a sci-fi hero?"
"I wouldn't know. I usually get stuck under Dimiye's command and over-shadowed. It sucks being a sidekick. But at least I'm the only person around that guy that doesn't end up dead at the end of an episode."
"Like your brother River?"
(Pulls out a gun and levels it at the interviewer's head) "Say my brother's name again mother-fucker!!! Come on! Say it again!!!"
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"Next question!" (Puts the gun away)
"Okay… what made you decide to do a sci-fi TV series?"
Oh man… doing TV is sooooooo sweet! It's like half the work of shooting a film, and being a film star gets you all kinds of percentages when you drop down to TV."
"So you're in it for the money?"
"Shit, yeah! I mean, if the show sucked, I'd leave. But the whole thing has been so lucrative. It's like there's this big pie of royalty money and the producers save a big slice of it for you. Mmm… I sure could go for some pie right about now…"
(Looks closely at his eyes) "Are you high?"
ABDUL JOHNSON: Danny Glover
"That boy's high all the time! He was so high during the assault on Avalon, we had to scrape him off the ceiling! It was like doing a scene with a flying kite!"
"Does this drug problem ever get in the way?"
"Well, he is a good kid, and a talented actor. I don't want to give the impression that he's some out-of-control junkie like his brother. He's just chronic, that's all."
"But does that infringe on his acting ability?"
"Ya know, now that I think of it, he's probably the most mellow, easygoing actor I've ever worked with. Who cares if he smokes up? Hell, I was 'high & mighty' all the time myself when I was his age."
"Mr. Glover, does his drug use impede his abilities as an actor or not?"
"This reminds me of the time Mel and I were on the set of the second Lethal Weapon movie, and he had this camera…"
(Grabs Danny by the shoulders) "Danny! Is Joaquin too stoned to do his shots?!"
"Uh… not really… why do you ask?"
(Buries his face in his hands) "No reason, sir. One last question: Do you like this show?"
"Well… yes, yes I do."
"Thank you, Mr. Glover."
"That's M. Glover."
"Of course it is."
"Hey, aren't you gonna ask me why I decided to do television again?"
"No, we pretty much know why already."
WRITER, ASSOCIATE PRODUCER, & STYLE CONSULTANT: Frank D'Antuono
"We really wanted to get Morgan Freeman for the part of the Grand Council Chairman, but he had too many commitments. And after hiring Mr. Crow and Mr. Jackson, we just couldn't meet his salary. But we are hoping to get him on in a few guest spots. Then again, half of Hollywood wants a guest spot on this show."
"I'm sorry, Mr. D'Antuono… forgive my ignorance but… what the hell do you do here?"
"I'm the show's Style Consultant."
"Yes sir, but, what the hell does that mean?"
"It's a position Marcus and I created for me. I was writing and doing some producing, but I needed more to do. So I first started to write a spin-off called…"
"Yep, that's mine. I crated the first twelve episodes, but then I lost creative control of the project in a poker game. Then I stopped writing for the show… job burn-out."
"I was doing great for money, with royalties from the two shows lining my pockets. But I got bored quickly. I thought about writing for the show again, but Marcus had replaced me with his cousin and the writing team from Will & Grace. I saw that I wasn't needed, and I hit the bottle pretty hard."
"So how long have you been an alcoholic?"
"Oh, I'm not an alcoholic! But I started drinking Coke like there was no tomorrow. The sad part of it was, I got them as sponsors on the show, so I was paying six cents for a two liter. I was drinking a 64 oz of the stuff every hour on the hour. One time, I couldn't sleep for like eleven days! We can't be exactly sure how long I was awake because I couldn't read my watch after the fourth day."
"And then what happened?"
"I saw God, man! Later I found out what I thought was God was really a Hooters billboard, but faith is faith. I quit the drinking and became the show's Style Consultant."
"And that is…"
"Oh, sorry. I have input on every aspect of the show, from costumes to the ongoing plot line. 'Above all else, it must have style!', that's our motto. Marcus will come up to me and ask 'Hey Frank, what do you think of this?'. Then I'll give my opinion, which he usually ignores. Then we'll go to lunch and talk about the show. It's a great job."
"It sounds like it." (rolls his eyes) "One last question… you've given up drinking Coke?"
"Yes, I have, thank the Lord."
"Then why have you been sucking on that 64 oz beverage?"
"This is filled with Mountain Dew, our new sponsor. Thanks to you-know-who."
"You're a very well man, Mr. D'Antuono."
WRITER, ASSOCIATE PRODUCER, & TECHNICAL CONSULTANT: Martin Hohner
"Oh, he's got problems alright… scary problems. We found him one day in the copier room trying to create an army of stick figure soldiers so he could take over the world. His eyes were all bloodshot and crazy. You'd look right into his eyes and could tell he wasn't the one driving. After making his billionth soldier, he explained his plans for world domination to us over the next couple hours while he was coming down. The scary part was… it all made sense after a while. Some of those major ideas made it into the show later on."
"Is he getting the help he needs?"
"That's the problem, he's a psych major! He can fake it really well."
"Mr. Hohner, what's it like being the show's technical consultant?"
"I look at the script and make damn sure no one tries to 'fuck with physics'. That's my main job and I love it!"
"But doesn't this universe involve the heavy use of magick?"
(stares menacingly at him) "All that magick crap only makes my job harder! Not a day goes by that I don't argue with the writing staff about that. I wish they'd phase it out of the show completely."
"You're still a member of the writing staff?"
"Yes. I also handle all the technical aspects of Earth Fleet—that's the space wing of the Federation. I get to design all the ships and decide what they do."
"Do you work with the computer graphics team?"
"No, they don't like me much. Say that my designs are too 'That 70's Ship'… whatever that means."
"What I'd really like to know is, as one of the starting members of the show's creative team, which character you created?"
"Oh, I'm the father of Erich Von Shrakenberg."
"Would you call him a tragic figure?"
"No, I don't go in for all that mushy, feelings crap…"
ERICH VON SHRAKENBERG: Casper Van Diem
"Yeah, tragic for my bank book! Look, I admit, I wasn't getting any roles... well, apart from whatever Aaron Spelling could get me, but hey, after Starship Troopers, I was pretty good! I mean, I've done sci-fi before." (taking a drag of his cigarette) "I think I proved that. So anyway, I try out for this captain guy, and I think... yeah, Kirk-like guy, surrounded by hot women, boning everything that moves, shooting everything that doesn't? What happens when I get on the set? This 'Wackenberg' guy is the most upstanding, model citizen of the Fed, and all that bullshit! You know, I haven't gotten laid once in this entire series? I've been playing this role for two seasons... well, attempts at seasons, and I haven't seen sight one of poontang. Anywhere! I mean, I go to conventions, and all the hot chicks go to that Dimiye shmuck! All I get are some dumb-ass fat guys who want to know the 'thrust-impact ratio of an ion drive!' Like I the fuck know... come on, I just need some sweet ass!"
"So you have difficulty with women?"
"No, I mean, on Melrose Place, I was banging the actresses left and right! It's this fucking role, I tell ya!"
"So there's no truth in the rumors that you're impotent?"
"NO! Where did you hear that?"
"Or that you prefer female llamas to the human variety?"
"Where the hell did you..."
"Is it not true you own a llama ranch outside LA?"
"I'm saving the llamas, man!"
"They're not an endangered species."
"They should be! They have been…"
HEX: Haley Joel Osmant
"Casper is a nice guy, but not too quick on the up-take. The first day we were on the set he came up to me and said, 'Hey. little guy, what are ya drawing in your coloring book?'. So I opened my physics binder and said, 'A dissected diagram of a heavy deuteron atom, you asshole!' He shut up after that. But we became friends even though he's jealous of all the female fans that approach me at conventions. I mean, he's the only guy on the set that will play Sony Playstation with me. I also like his llamas."
"Haley… about the llamas…"
"I know what he does with them, so keep quiet. Kids might be watching this, for Christ's sake!"
"Uh… okay? How's your character progressing?"
"It's very slow progress, man. For the first half of this season, Hex didn't really do anything. He just went from place to place with seemingly no agenda. And I thought to myself, 'I'm playing Wesley Crusher, I got put a stop to this!'. So I met with Hex's writer and kicked him square in the nuts! As he was lying on the ground wailing, I told him, 'Hey! If I go down, you're coming with me, asshole!'. After that, I got a lot more input on my character during the writing process…"
WRITER: Andy Wooden
"The little bastard kicked me right in the nuts! Security was standing right there and didn't lift a finger to help me! Then I got a long talk from Marcus about letting him sit in on the writing sessions. I told him I'd walk… he told me I was hanging on by a thread. It's all politics, man!"
WRITER & POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris Yarwood
"While the show isn't all politics, it's still very politically driven. We feel that that's one of the many reasons our viewers tune in to watch."
"What are you reading?"
"Uh…" (Taking a pull from his 40 oz) "nothing…"
"Okay, what other aspects of the show besides politics make it so great?"
"Well… we got some kick-ass characters! And the fight scenes and the space ships and the magick… they're awesome! (Looks down at his paper) Not only does this series offer high-fi thrills in an action-packed futuristic setting, it also isn't afraid to explore the human drama, especially during a bloody civil war involving an entire universe. Then you have the plethora of multi-cultural and multi-racial influences…"
"Excuse me, but… are you reading that off your paper there?"
(Sighs and drops his papers) "Yeah…" (Pulls off his 40 oz)
"Why are you doing that?"
"Well…" (Chugs the 40 oz) "Oh man! Marcus is gonna be so mad at me! He wanted me to sound good for the interview, so he wrote down some things for me to say before… uh…"
"Uh… before I got drunk. Ha, ha, ha, you want some man?"
"No thank you! Mr. Yarwood? Mr. Yarwood!"
(Puts down the 40) "Yeah?"
"Am I correct in saying that you write the Andrea Treschi character?"
(Stares in disbelief) "How is that possible?"
(Chris shrugs) "I just do. Hey, you ever watch The Black Stallion?"
KRISTEN VORHEIS: Whoopie Goldberg
"Oh, his little punk ass better not have called me the Black Stallion! I'll smack that little pale mutha-fucka back into puberty!"
"No, Ms. Goldberg, he just kept asking if I'd ever seen it."
"Oh, that's better… continue."
"Well, my first question is obvious. Your character on the show was originally written as an albino woman. What happened?"
"That's a really good question. I got so used to being on Star Trek that I needed my sci-fi fix. So I contacted the producers and told them I'd be willing to work for less than usual."
"And they just said yes?"
"No, at first they gave me all this, 'Sorry Whoopie, you're not what we're looking for' crap! But what they really meant was, 'Sorry black woman, we don't have any black woman parts for you in our white male dominated world! Go back to Hollywood Squares, black woman! We'll call ya when we need a black woman boost in the ratings!' So I called Al Sharpton and Jesse, then I got on the phone with the Golden Globe people. The next day, that pasty white girl had herself a makeover and I got the part."
"With so few strong female roles in television and film, did you feel bad at any time? Maybe you ruined the chances for young albino woman actors trying to start a career?"
"I don't understand the question?"
"Never mind. How does it feel to play such a strong female role?"
"It feels great! I wish they'd give me more screen time, but what are ya going to do? Maybe when I get promoted to Marshal, Kristen will get more close-ups. Yeah, Kristen would really like that."
"Whoopie, did you just refer to yourself in the fourth person?"
"Are you a racist, young man?!"
"No! Sorry, didn't mean to offend you! Uh…"
CASTING DIRECTOR: Mary Jo Slater
"Sure, we've had difficulty finding good quality actors to fit these roles. Then again, this is sci-fi, the viewers are used to getting B-grade actors, so I have a lot of leeway from the director in my choices."
"What are some of the difficulties you face?"
"Well, to start, I get the NAACP and NOW pounding down my door because our cast is not 'ethnically and gender diverse'. I've gotta fill whatever roles the writers give me. Is it my fault that the writers are all white boys? Some of them are even whiter than I am! We've even got that English faggot who writes those damn comic books. He's so white, I lost him in the sheets one night. So most of the characters end up being… guess what, white boys! I'm not an artist. My job is just to get bodies on stage."
"So you feel that the show is not well-balanced in its cast?"
"Look at the main characters… Von Shrakenberg, Spyder, Richter, Caleb… all white men! Sure, the writers try to cover that up with the supporting roles, but there are few good female roles in this series! Dunmeyer, dead. Johannes, dead. Brigette, dead. Ingolfsson, pointless. Tess… well, you get the idea."
"What about Tess?"
"Nothing against the actress, mind you, but the character was just more T&A. That's what the audience responds to. Tits and ass."
DAMIEN RICHTER: Dolph Lundgren
"Look at my butt. It's nice and firm. THAT'S what attracts the ladies."
"Right… You know, Mr. Crow feels he's the resident male sex symbol on the show."
"He can feel how he likes, but my body is much better than his. Don't you think so?"
"I'm really the wrong person to ask about…"
(Grabs the interviewer and pulls his head near his buttocks) "Look at my ass, damn you!"
(Feeling his butt) "Oh my God! It's… it's so firm yet supple!"
(Releasing him) "Thank you. You may continue your interview."
(Fixing his hair) "Do you find that your character is too… two-dimensional?"
"Do you feel that your character doesn't have a personality?"
"Oh… no, he has a GREAT personality. Like me." (smile)
LWAN EDDINGTON: Temuera Morrison
"Now if you talking personality, that's my character. I was really thrilled I got this break into the American market."
"The Lwan character was really a gamble on the part of the original creator of the show. I mean, having a Maori actor as one of the main characters was something different to American TV. I'm glad they did, though. For two seasons, they put my character through all kinds of hell, but he became an established personality and rather popular among the fans."
"What happened during the Third Season?"
"Well, the producer that season originally started out with a kind of 'Tech Infantry: The Next Generation' concept, but it fell apart."
"At which point, you and the other characters from the first two seasons began to dominate the series."
"Hey, I didn't mind. I mean it was work. However, I did notice that it really hurt the series as a whole. Besides, it allowed a storyline which my character would have never been able to accomplish before."
"So you continue to make the occasional cameo?"
"If you call three episodes occasional."
"Are there any plans for Lwan to reappear in this season?"
"Anything's possible. But the director told me he doesn't wanna use me that much, avoid the whole third season thing from happening again."
"So what are you doing in the meantime?"
"Oh… I'm rather busy. I've got movie offers…"
"Like Speed 2?"
(stare) "No comment."
COMPUTER GRAPHICS SPECIALIST: Brandon Renkes
"That's what I say about Mr. Hohner. No comment."
"You're responsible for creating the special effects for this show. What are some of your difficulties?"
"Well, my team's been having to work overtime with this entire 'Battle of Avalon' sequence, and last week's 'drug trip' had us almost turning to some weed. Of course, there's the other thing…"
"You mean the technical consultant?"
(pointing to the door) "You see that? He comes through there every hour on the hour, telling us that our ships aren't properly aligned, or gives us some new script change at the last moment, and we have to dump two days' work!"
(Martin comes through the door) "Hey, Brandon!"
"See what I mean?"
WRITER: Tim Reynolds
"I understand why people get frustrated easily with people on the show. I was just brought in on this project and I'm already getting flak from the other writers."
"I wanted to take a closer look at the Christian Federation. It's an amazing concept, but the Righteous Army is rather primitive in comparison to the other powers in the war. So, I thought…"
(sigh) "Mobile suits, yes. I mean, they're not going to have the production capability to make suits for ALL their soldiers, so what about powerful individual troops in BIGGER suits? Guys who can punch through enemy lines and let the rest follow through."
"Like in the French Revolution?"
"Exactly. It's a neat concept."
"But don't you feel it's a blatant rip-off from Gundam Wing?"
ATTORNEY: Johnny Cochran
"Resembles mobile suits from Gundam Wing. You can't say that the Crusader and Archangel suits are exactly like those found on Gundam Wing. After all, Robotech used the same concept."
"Robotech IS Gundam Wing."
(smile) "Not in the LA courts."
XAVIER POLLOS: Robert Downey, Jr.
"I'd rather not talk about the LA courts, if you don't mind."
"Then let's talk about your character."
"Alright. Xavier Pollos…"
"You mean Mark Smith, right?"
"No… remember, Mark changed his name to Xavier after he did his makeover."
"Now that's when you took over the character?"
"Adrian Paul played the role before, right?"
"Yeah, he decided to go do another season of Highlander or something."
"Which pays better than Tech Infantry."
"No shit! But hey, this is a paycheck, too. I'm glad to be here."
"Since you started playing the character right after you left rehab…"
"HEY! I said I don't want to talk about it. I get enough of that from Joaquin."
(clears his throat) "So, getting back to your character?"
"Right. Xavier Pollos is a brilliant assassin, caught up in events he can't control."
"Events like the writers?"
"Yeah, like the writers. Sure, I loved training with the swords, and the fight scenes were great, but the entire 'Quest to Kill King' got a little repetitive after a while."
"Is there any truth that during a violent flashback, you accidentally killed one of the stuntmen?"
"Accidents happen. That's why we have insurance."
"But isn't it true that the stuntmen's union have actually prevented you from doing your own stunts, due to, and I quote, 'excessive enjoyment in inflicting pain'?"
"Look, if the weapons aren't safe, it's not my fault. I just had to use them."
WEAPONS WRANGLER: Seth Thomas
"Our weapons ARE safe… in the right hands."
"The right hands?"
"Well, we try to train all our actors and extras how to use the equipment on set, but sometimes things happen."
"You're saying these accidents that have happened on set are a result of negligence by the actors?"
"No… well, let me put it another way. In the TI universe, if you strap a trooper into a power armor suit, he's gonna be trained for it. You put an actor into one, who hasn't been trained for it, and… bad things'll happen."
"Wait… you're saying you have working power armor?"
"Yeah. We stole it from some government weapons facility, added a few doo-dads, and voila… hi-tech power armor!"
"Isn't that dangerous, though?"
"Nah! It's fine as long as some dumbass extra doesn't point the spiker gun at the camera. We lost a whole crew that day."
"Why don't you just use mockups instead of real power armor?"
"What? And have the director down on my ass because it's not realistic enough? Listen, buddy, I've got a job to keep! Hell, you should hear how badly Marcus reams out the lighting guys for not making Whoopie Goldberg's skin complexion light enough."
RASHID KING: Samuel L. Jackson
"Don't worry about it, Whoopie Goldberg automatically thinks all young white men such as yourself are racist. She's just got a short fuse, what with living homeless when she was young."
"Boy, do I feel bad about the whole thing. Do you think I should apologize?"
"No, I think you should concentrate on interviewing me."
"Sorry about that… this is your first major villain role, correct?"
"That's right… and it's about mutha-fuckin' time!"
"May I say, sir, that you're playing the mutha-fucka of all villains?"
"Ha! That's a good one. Yes, King is a truly excellent antagonist for the series. Even though he eventually perishes, his reach continues to foil the exploits of the main protagonists. I've read so many scripts with sub-par, mediocre, and at best psychotic villains. But give me an intelligent, near omnipotent master of manipulation any day of the week, and twice on Sunday."
"Mr. Jackson, what happened to your ghetto slang?"
(Stares at him) "I'm a Julliard graduate you know."
(Fumbling) "No… I… uh… didn't know that."
"And Dolph Lundgren has a degree from MIT. Didn't know that, did ya!?"
(Sweating) "No… no, sir."
"Yeah, you TV boys just got everybody figured out, don't ya?"
"Wait a minute… if Dolph is so intelligent, then…"
"Why did he act like a moron during his interview? He's contractually obligated. He can't get dramatic roles due to his size, so the producers want people to think he's a big dumb ape. You know… for congruency."
"Man, that is so unfair."
"Life isn't fair, young man. But it will get better once the glorious revolution beings."
"What revolution, sir?"
"I've said too much already…"
PROPS WRANGLER: Paul Alferink
"The revolution can't happen until all the extras have their props. That scene… which… you haven't seen yet… oops…"
"Ah, screw it! Anyway, when you have hundreds of extras charging towards the capitol building, each of them have to have something. Torches, signs… you name it, they've gotta have it. So I take care of their needs."
"Do you find your job difficult?"
"Hell, yes! Look, when your story follows eight different plotlines, each in a different part of the universe, each dealing with different people, they've all gotta have their special items. I've got three assistants just going out and finding this stuff! We're swamped."
"What do you feel is the hardest character to provide props for?"
"That's easy, Xinjao. Despite our over-charged account to Radio Shack, do you know we have an adult bookstore dedicated to this show, simply to provide carefully edited porn, so we can show this on prime-time television? And, of course, the writers demand different mags for different scenes, so there's another couple hundred out the window! Who knew that one red-headed Chinaman would be that much of a pain?"
XINJAO O'REILLY: Leo Wang
"You know, there's not much demand for red-headed Chinese actors in Hollywood these days. Usually I have to dye my hair black just to get a part! So, when I went to the casting director, naturally I kept my hair black. I mean, who's going to believe red hair on a Chinese man?"
"So what happened?"
"I walk in, read the bit, and then this chick says, 'Sorry, but we were looking for an asian with red hair.' I tell her, 'Wait a minute, I do have red hair!' She doesn't believe me at first, despite my pleading, so I take off my belt, drop my pants, and BAM! I get hired!"
"Weren't they shocked at you taking off—"
"Hell, this is Hollywood! I could have shit on her desk and she wouldn't have blinked an eye."
"Hmmm… would that work?"
"I heard someone did do that for a role in Planet of the Apes, but that's another matter. Suffice it to say, this was the role I was literally born for."
"So do you enjoy the O'Reilly character?"
"Of course! I mean, where else do you get to jack off and get paid for it?"
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: John Pokay
"Well, it beats McDonald's."
"So you're saying that…"
"I'm saying that I appreciate the chance to work on such a fine show. Sure, I'd like to get backing for my own films, but for now, I still get paid to do what I love. That's what's important."
"What scene did you like shooting the most?"
(pause) "I think it had to be when the Dead Boys were shooting their prisoners. I used a crane shot which started on a close-up Dimiye's face and then zoomed out to see the entire unit firing into the pit of dead bodies. It was truly an effective, but gruesome sight."
"Many people commented about the brilliant fight scene between Clarke and Luther. How were your cameras able to follow the general's movements without any takes? People are saying it'll go to the Golden Globes."
"Nothing amazing. Since we knew where the actors were going to be, we simply built a track to roll the camera on, then timed their movements to mimic the camera's movements. What you didn't see is the second track, carefully wiped away from the final film. The actor playing Clarke set up his final leap to correspond just before that point. So, in the end, it looks flawless… which was the idea."
"How interesting." (Yawns) "Why were you picked up this season? What happened to the previous director of photography?"
"I had just been downsized from my previous job, so I asked my buddy Frank if I could get a job on the show. Apparently Marcus was having problems with the previous guy… and… uh…"
"He made us fight to the death for the position."
"Sadly, yes. I'm a Kempo Master, so the other guy never had a chance. When I asked him why we had to do this, he told me with a man's life on my hands… I'd produce better."
"Not really. It's just a simple trick… but that's what I do anyway. Work with simple tricks and nonsense."
COSTUME DESIGNER: Heather Fleming
"What I have to work with for a budget is sheer nonsense!"
"Why is that?"
"After Xinjao's porn bill, Crowe's prostitute charges, Downey's legal costs, and the fabulous buffet the actors get every day, pretty soon it adds up. They had to cut somewhere, and they decided to cut my department to make ends meet. What I have to do to cover that gap is ridiculous."
"Take a careful look at the extras in the background. A lot of them are wearing what they came in with off the street. Most of the time, for those people we can't hide, I've gotta make do with what I can get. Many of the secondary characters are wearing just modified medieval outfits. It's ridiculous… it's like we're working in Britain."
"I understand what you're saying, but many in the cast say you only got your job due to knowing someone on the cast."
"Yes, one of the writers is my husband…"
"Whatever… the point is that I do a damn good job, despite the fact that Marcus pays me almost nothing, and gives me nothing to work with!"
"And your fiancé has nothing to do with it…"
"Go ahead! Ask him about it!"
WRITER: Ed Stasheff
"I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I might get hurt."
"So you're saying that nepotism is not rampant on this show?"
"I'm not saying anything. I'm not saying that Frank's friends dominate the backstage, or that Marcus smokes cigars like a chimney, or that Matt's joining Joaquin and Robert Downey in their regular heroin shoot-ups."
"What else can't you say?"
"I can't say that the show's on the verge of bankruptcy because the actors keep demanding more expensive sets. I couldn't say that Frank's developing a God complex or that Chris keeps annexing Czechoslovakia, even when it doesn't exist anymore. I can't tell you about Martin moving his office inside the prop cage to have access to O'Reilly's porn collection… or that the CG department has put a hit out on him. I can't tell you that Bax has spent next year's budget already on his dream ranch in Hawaii. And I really can't tell you what happens with Mr. Crowe and Mr. Lundgren in the shower room. I can't tell you any of that."
"Can you tell us if the director is actually dating the actress playing Stacy?"
"I couldn't tell you anything."
STACY JOHANNES: Laura Flynn-Boyle
"After I broke up with Jack, I needed a man in my life. I don't like to be alone."
"So you started dating Mr. Johnston?"
"Yes. Soon afterwards, I left The Practice and started working on this show."
"Did your relationship with the director have anything to do with that?"
"I'm not going to insult your intelligence… no, no it didn't."
"You do know what 'don't insult my intelligence' means… don't you?"
(Stares at him blankly) "Aren't I pretty?"
HORADRIM: Bob the Alien
(mutters something unintelligible)
"There's a rumor that you're under investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for being an illegal alien. What do you have to say about that?"
(garbled angry sounds)
"How do you feel your character has been portrayed on this show?"
(more unintelligible sounds)
"Can we get a translator in here? Please?"
HERBERT GERGENSTEIN: John Cusack
"It's simple. The focus of an actor is his ability to comprehend the character he's portraying, then act on his interpretation, to translate as it were, a name on a page to a face on the screen."
"Is that what you did for Gergenstein?"
"I tried. Mind you, I wasn't given much at first. Ex-TI, weak mage, secondary character who played a weapons officer on a naval ship. I interpreted that as a man with a powerful burden on his heart. Picture it: here's a mage who survived the Tech Infantry, gets through the Fleet Academy, and is still treated horribly by most of his fellow officers. I tried to portray that in my interpretation of the role, but there's only so many ways you can say, 'Weapons locked'."
"Well, I kept after the writers to give me more for my role. They made me O'Reilly's friend, and I could work with that, and I was able to slip into a comfortable position in the script. When I asked for more, they laughed at me, because I was a secondary character. Then I talked to Marcus about it. Next thing I know, I'm the head of InSec!"
"Do you feel that the writers ever resent your success?"
(The interviewer suddenly flies into the wall) "What do you mean by that?!"
"Good! Never underestimate me, damn it! Never underestimate me!"
WRITER: Josh Wooden
"I made the mistake of underestimating him… once."
"We were at lunch. He usually eats with the writing staff. I told him, 'Dude, your sister is hot! Boy, I'd like to…' And the next thing you know, BOOM!, I'm in the hospital."
"Wow, who knew John Cusack had such a temper. Or such incredible powers!"
"Oh yeah, he gets all kinds of extra cash by creating special effects for the show. Only the stuff he does on screen is real!"
"You're kidding, right?"
"Not at all. In fact, John has recently taken me under his wing, like a mentor."
"Come on, all that magic stuff has to be just cleaver tricks and sleight of hand."
(Gets thrown into the wall again)
MIRO CREED: Ryan Philippe
"I was sick of all the pretty boy parts I was getting in Hollywood, so, I jumped at this. I tried to break away from the cutie boy look in a few films like Home Grown and The Way of the Gun, but it didn't take. I thought Antitrust would do the trick, but that didn't take either. The audiences were mostly teenaged girls hoping to see my naked ass."
"How does your wife feel about that?"
"Reese likes that I'm doing TV now. She really liked the Miro character. Occasionally, she dresses me up in the outfit and makes me pretend… I shouldn't be talking about this."
(On hands and knees, begging) "Please?!"
"Sorry, we have an agreement."
"Well, at least show us your ass."
"Come on, Dolph Lundgren showed us his."
"That's because it's in his contract."
"Really? Man, who's that guys agent?"
"I don't know, but I'm glad he doesn't work for me."
MR. LUNDGREN'S AGENT: Ron Jeremy
"I keep telling Dolph that I work exclusively in porn! My reach in the other aspects of Hollywood life is limited. People mostly hook up with me when they want to date my actresses. I told him that, but he doesn't seem to care. As long as I keep him well laid, I'll be his manager."
"So you get women for him?"
"No, I get the hottest women for him."
"Do you do this for any other actors on the show?"
(Counting his money) "Heh heh, what do you think?"
"Doesn't that make you nothing more than a pimp?"
"Johnny! This guy just called me a pimp!"
ATTORNEY: Johnny Cochran
"Now none of the lovely ladies that Mr. Jeremy, who is a very good friend of mine, brings to the set get paid for sex. They're just fellow actresses who happen to be fans of the show."
"So these girls aren't getting paid for sex?"
"Absolutely not, and I'm offended at the suggestion."
"Then what are these ladies getting paid for?"
"Right, no comment."
"Listen, do you really think we have to pay people to sleep with big stars like these?"
"How about the supporting staff?"
"Listen, we don't give these women any money, if you want to know the truth."
"So you pay Ron and he pays them?"
"Ron's business is just that… Ron's business. If Ron came up to me and said, 'Johnny, who're you paying to do what and why?', I'd tell him, 'Ron, it's none of your damn business!' That's what I'd tell him. So I'd never ask him something like that."
"What do you pay Ron for?"
"Networking. He's one of our talent scouts on the casting team."
WRITER & CASTING AGENT: Andy Bauman
"You're one of the casting agents?!"
"You're just a kid, for Christ's sake!"
"Big deal. We've got a warehouse full of underage migrant workers making props for us. Marcus showed it to all the writers. He thought it would help motivate us. Said it cuts costs big time, too."
"You understand you're saying this on camera?"
"Who cares! I'm underage and have nothing to do with our monstrous neglect of child labor laws. In fact, I'm one of the children being abused by the process. If it ever gets out, I can sue! Not that I'm planning on it or anything, but its nice to have a backup plan."
"Oh man, this is gonna be the greatest behind-the-scenes ever!"
"Nothing, nothing at all. So, what else goes on around here that Marcus doesn't want us to know about?"
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER & DIRECTOR: Marcus Johnston
"He told you what?! That's insane! I do not pay underage runaways with red hair to have sex with me!"
"That's what he said."
"I can't believe your even repeating that garbage. It's totally untrue."
"Okay, how about the fact that you've been dating Laura Flynn-Boyle for almost a year and haven't even kissed her yet…"
"That's a lie!"
"…even though you've been living together for the past three months."
"Lies, all of it… lies!!!"
"Or that you and the producers allocated over a million dollars for illegal drugs for some of the show's stars."
(Head buried in his hands) "How much of this made-up junk did Andy tell you?"
(Shows him a big stack of paper) "Mr. Johnston, this isn't a phone book."
WRITER: Mathew Hutchinson
(Verifying the last page of the large tome of gossip the interviewer has given him)
"Yep, every single thing in here is true. But he forgot to mention the Jurvain's third eyes are real. We swipe them from donor banks that store them for the blind."
(Interviewer walks up and kisses him) "Thank you, Matt. Now I can leave my show and write a book. I'm gonna be rich!"
"Yeah, right! Now that you know all this stuff, Marcus will never let you leave."
"What do you mean?"
"He's got a whole dungeon full of reporters who know too much underneath the studio."
"No way, you're just making that up."
(Security) "Come with us, sir."
(Being taken away) "Matt! For Christ's sake, help me!"
"Sorry, man, I warned ya." (Waving off camera) "Hey! Rob, Joaquin, wait up guys!"
INTRODUCTION MUSICAL SCORE: ZZ Top
(New interviewer) "You guys haven't recorded in awhile, how did it feel to get taken out of moth balls to cut a track?"
"Moth balls?! Listen man, our last album came out only three years ago!"
"Four years, actually."
"It couldn't have been that long ago… ZZ Top huddle!" (They huddle) "Yeah, I guess it was over four years ago. So, in answer to your question: Yes. It was great to get together again and jam."
"Who approached you to do the project?"
"That was Mr. Johnston. He contacted our manager/agent. What he was looking for in the intro music was a more classic rock feel, but not something archaic. That, and he wanted someone who would work cheap."
"Really, was he specific on what he wanted?"
"No, but Mr. Bax was. He ended up writing the lyrics for it. He isn't a very nice guy to work with... musically speaking."
"Oh yeah! First day in the studio, he turns to us and then to Mr. Johnston and said, 'This is all you could get? ZZ fucking Top!!!' We were right in front of the guy, too."
"Really, are you happy with the end result?"
"Yeah, I mean… yeah! We had some reservations about the techno synthesizer stuff he cut into it, but it's a good tune in the end."
"I'm sorry, but I have to say that I don't recognize you guys without the big fluffy beards. What made you shave?"
"That was Mr. Bax again. He made us shoot a video, but didn't want us to look like 'old fogies from the bronze age of rock and roll'. So we got a Metallica make over."
"Man, it would have been so cool if they'd done the soundtrack!"
"That is it! We've taken enough of your crap, boy! Let's get 'em fellas!"
HEAD OF SECURITY: Gary Coleman
"You've gotta be able to take a lot of crap to make it in this business. I tell that to everyone. I mean, look at me. I was the biggest star in the world at one point. And now, I'm a security guard."
"I'd like to thank you once again for saving me from ZZ Top."
"Don't mention it. Now, like I was saying, this is a tough business, it's kill or be killed. For every one person that makes it, a hundred others don't. And I'm one of the people that made it."
"Is it true your parents stole all of your money?"
"Yes. What they didn't piss away on luxury or bad investments, they hid from me. I barely got any of it back by the time I was an adult. And I had to sue them for that."
"Boy, that's so sad…"
"I'll tell ya what's sad! None of the alien extras will sleep with me, that's sad! They look like some horrible freaks of nature, and I can't get to first base! If it wasn't for Howard Stern, may God bless him, I'd still be a virgin."
"Do you get along with the other members of the show?"
"Not really. All the crew members hate me, I've busted many of them for stealing and inappropriate activities in the workplace. But the executives are very nice to me. So is most of the main cast. I guess I'm a constant reminder to them of how fleeting fame is. I especially like Russell."
"Yeah, he's my boy. We eat lunch together once a week."
"You are aware that he compared you to a trained circus chimp on camera?"
"What you talking 'bout, Willis?!"
BEST BOY: Willis Hicks
(Waving, confused) "Uh…hello…"
HEAD WRITER: Warren Ellis
"No, my last name is Ellis, not Willis, mate."
"Oh, terribly sorry. So, what have you written besides Tech Infantry?"
"Really? You don't know?"
"Sorry… I've never heard of you."
"Oh really… fair enough. In the States, I'm known for writing several Vertigo Comic series. That's DC Comics, FYI."
"I know that."
"Sorry, gov, you don't strike me as the reading type. Anyway, I wrote the Sandman series. I also did Preacher… Transmetropolitan? Any of this ring any fucking bells!?"
"Yes, sorry about all the confusion…"
"Stop groveling and get on with the fucking interview!"
(Grabs his arm) "Watch it, you corporate whore monger."
(Wetting himself) "Okay, do you enjoy the challenges that writing this kind of series offers?"
"You have no idea how challenging this job is. If I'd ever known how bad it would be, I never would have taken the position in the first place."
(Surprised) "You don't like the show?"
"I didn't say that. I just mean that it's more trouble than it's worth."
(Sighs) "I took this gig with the understanding that I'd have a full staff of writers under me and that it'd be a matter of simply cleaning up the story here, editing a bit there. It was a generous offer, I figured they mostly wanted my name in the credits to attract more viewers. It sounded almost honorary, which was good; I'm still writing for a few DC plot lines. But Mr. Johnston sorely overestimated the competency of his writing staff."
"What's wrong with the other writers?"
"EVERYTHING!!! First of all, they have no sense of the word deadline! We'll have a script half-written hours before they need it on the set, and they'll start bickering about where to get lunch for an hour and a half!"
"Yes, really! Most of the time, I'm typing up the final draft of the script on the fucking set right before shooting happens. This is all if they're not late, or bother to show up at all that day! We have an entire week to pump out each episode, and do you know what they do? They squander most of it 'talking Tech!' Not writing about it, just talking… not a care in the world."
"So, they're not very professional then?"
"No, no, no, mate; it's not just that. They're also completely incompetent!"
"All of them?"
"ALL OF THEM!!! I'm constantly amazed by the fact that in this day and age, with technology designed to check their grammar and spelling, the pure drivel they come up with. So I told them to keep it simple. They could just give me rough outlines or drafts for their characters and I would write the story for them. I figured they'd have the whole weekend to work on it, and that would give me ample time to finish it. Guess what happened?"
"They start coming into my office Thursday mornings with one page each! And do you know why?"
"They were 'talking Tech' the whole time?"
(Nods his head up and down while sobbing uncontrollably into his hands)
ANDREA TRESCHI: Gary Oldman
"I personally have no problems with the writing staff. Then again, I don't see them much."
"Don't you ever collaborate with them?"
"Only with Chris… and then usually over a few pints down at the pub. He writes for my character, you see. So we'll go down to the pub every now and again, get pissed as drunken fish, and talk about what Treschi will do next."
"About Treschi… isn't he supposed to be Italian or something?"
(In a bad Italian accent) "Wadda ya talkin' about, I am Italian! Hey Mario! I took care of that thing for ya! Hey Vinnie! How's Marie doing?"
"That's very good, Mr. Oldman."
(Reverting to his British accent) "Thanks, I turned down a part in The Sopranos to be on this show. They said my grasp of hit men mentality was amazing."
"Do you ever regret turning that down?"
"Well… sometimes, yes. This is a great show, and I get to be a villain and one of the heroes at the same time. But I would be a lot wealthier if I'd taken the Sopranos gig. Then again, I'd be playing a worthless daego with an IQ of three."
(Shocked) "Mr. Oldman!"
"It's okay, I'm Italian! Hey, Tony the Tuna, how's the diet going…"
ATTORNEY: Johnny Cochran
"Mr. Oldman isn't a racist of any kind, he's just a very spirited actor. Why, I went down to the pub, or whatever his people call it, one time, and he told me, 'Johnny, your people are alright by me.' In my opinion, the man is practically color blind. Seeing as he's British, people get the wrong impression about him. We really are two peoples separated by a common language."
"What did he mean by 'your people'?"
"Am I supposed to be a mind reader or something? I'm supposed to know what everyone's thinking all the time? Sorry, that's not my job, sonny. I can't look at you and know what the next question you're gonna ask is going to be. I'm not a mind mage, and if I was, I sure wouldn't be talking to you right now."
"Fair enough… what did you think he meant by it?"
"Either lawyers or black people. But probably black people; he hates most lawyers."
"I mean… no comment."
"Shouldn't you be saying African-American?"
"Baby, I'm black and I'm proud! I'm not from Africa, I was born in Detroit! If anything, I should be called a Black American. I don't got nothing to do with Africa."
"Actually, all humans originated from the African Continent."
SERGEANT-MAJOR LUTHER: Forest Wittiker
"After the whole Battlefield Earth fiasco, I couldn't get any work. Then Mary Jo called my agent and said that Marcus was interested in me playing something called a 'were-bear'. I didn't know what that was, but I jumped at the chance. It saved my career. This… and my movie Ghost Dog."
"Dude, that movie was so cool."
"Thanks, man, it kept me out of the poor house."
"So, what now… seeing as your character has died on the show?"
"Hey, no bitterness here. I knew it would only last four acts. I've got other things on the horizon."
"You're not seriously thinking…"
"Yes, I've signed on to do Battlefield Earth 2. Hey, it's a lot of money that John and the Scientologists are throwing around. Plus, with all the make-up, most people don't know it's me."
"Like who? Who is that stupid?"
"Well, movie executives for one…"
PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE: Roger Corman
(Holds up a crayon drawing on a piece of construction paper)
"This is the script to my new film! And I made it all by myself!"
So there you have it. Love, drama, sex, war, death, drug
use, depression, insanity; these are only a few of the ingredients used to make
the hit series known as Tech Infantry. With sci-fi fans all over the
world desperate for the product, no matter how bad it may be, this show has the
promise of being on the air for years to come. That is… if they all don't get
busted first. Tune in next week on VH1: Behind the Role-Playing when we
take a look at TSR: Death of a Tyrant.
Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston & Frank D'Antuono. All Rights Reserved.