Zachary Levi (Chuck on the TV series Chuck) took over Jolt’n Joe’s Restaurant in San Diego’s Gaslight District and during Comic-Con weekend he sold tickets to the public to benefit Operation Smile, a charity that helps children born with cleft palates. Ultimately his “Nerd HQ,” along with selling nerd merchandising for Levi’s new enterprise, was able to collect more than $40,000 for the charity. Nice work!
Over the weekend, the small venue of about 250 seats hosted members of the casts of Chuck, Psych, and Firefly, including Dule Hill and Adam Baldwin, and chats with Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings, Lost), Scott Bakula, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek 2009, Heroes), and members of his new company, Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), as well as video game companies who co-marketed the event.
We attended the conversation with Scott Bakula and with maybe half the room filled, the intimate setting allowed for a lot of interaction. Unlike a lot of other panels with celebrities, Bakula was just plain fun. You could see that Scott was an actor who doesn’t take himself too seriously, yet he is serious about his craft.
Scott discussed his first major hit, Quantum Leap, and described the changes in special effects technology in that series versus today. Back then he said he would literally have to freeze in place while his co-star Dean Stockwell would run into place–all to create the image of Stockwell’s character seeming to beam into the frame from the future. Today, Bakula said that the director would film straight through and add the effects in later. He said for fun, if you watch old Quantum Leap episodes pay attention to the extras in the background and you will notice they also jerk to a stop as part of the then “cutting edge” special effects. The greatest challenge (and joy) of the show for Scott was working with an entirely new crew each week (since only he and Stockwell had a recurring role)–including literally thousands of actors–that appeared over the course of the series.
Bakula said he was proud of Quantum Leap and is glad a new generation can watch the series through technologies like DVDs and streaming media. His favorite episode? When he just played himself, going back and forth in time, including meeting his own father.
Similarly, Bakula said he enjoyed making the Star Trek series Enterprise. He said he believed that in any other franchise five seasons would be a successful series, but for some reason in the Star Trek franchise you’re not considered a success if you don’t make it seven seasons. He said part of the reason could be attributed to the tenor of the show in light of the post-9-11 landscape. Originally sold as a light-hearted exploration show, the producers did not believe the audience at the time wanted to see escapist entertainment. Instead the series became darker with more conflict. While it worked and was more appropriate to the mood of the country, Bakula believe it led to the cancellation of the series. He said ultimately “it hurt us” in terms of the longevity of the show.
Bakula appeared earlier in the day on a panel with William Shatner and other former Star Trek captains at a Comic-Con panel about Shatner’s new documentary, where each captain is interviewed about his or her experiences. Bakula said it’s a little hard not to pick up Shatner’s unique, abrupt dialogue timing after speaking with Shatner for an hour and answered the next question in Shatnerspeak.
Both Bakula and the audience had only just received word that Scott’s current series, Men of a Certain Age (co-starring Ray Romano and Andre Braugher) was cancelled by TNT. It was clear that even this audience of genre fans followed Bakula in his new series and were disappointed in the news. Bakula briefly explained how new criteria govern whether a show stays or goes, and that the days of following just one set of Nielsen’s ratings is long past. With the advent of DVRs and similar technologies, where viewers may not watch a current program for 7 or 14 days out, the calculation of a show’s success is more difficult and arbitrary and ultimately each network has its own criteria. He said for example, had Men of a Certain Age have aired on the AMC channel, it would probably have been renewed for another season. He said Men of a Certain Age was TNT’s first in-house drama, and that may have played a factor in the show’s cancellation.
When Zack Levi introduced Bakula, he mentioned Bakula’s most recent genre role, that of his father on the TV series Chuck. Levi noted the oddity of Bakula standing in the back of the room with Levi’s real dad, Daryl. This all led later on to a duet from the stage show Godspell (which both had previously appeared in) by Bakula and Levi, both hamming it up in stage show style.
Bakula noted that his first love was the stage, and stage acting was preferable to him over TV and movie work, and his favorite work was any role where he gets to sing.
Bakula’s advice for everyone, actors or not, was far-reaching: It’s important to stay passionate in your craft, even when your TV show gets cancelled. Find what you love about acting or what you do and concentrate on that–that the only part you can control is the performance.