An Interview with Metagame, Part Two
Metagame is a web series about a group of quirky role-playing gamers and the DM who suffers their psychological hang-ups and neuroses. I enjoyed the series so much, that I knew I just wanted to get an interview with its creator and the principal cast.
Metagame is written and directed mostly by Matthew David, and stars John Rael, Leeman Parker, Sophie Green, and Jen Brown in addition to David as Tom the DM. They graciously offered their time to answer my questions. This is part two of the interview.
My favorite aspect of the series so far is how much attention you give to the dysfunctional qualities of Shawn, Terri and Doug. How do you come up with such well-layered idiots?
Matthew: I’ve got to say that Sophie, John and Leeman have done an amazing job bringing them to life! On the writing side, I owe their layers to rules on comedic character writing I picked up from John Vorhaus’s The Comic Toolbox. I took a personality I’d actually seen around a gametable at some point and exaggerated it as far as I could. Then I added in some sprinklings of humanity to give them depth, personality traits that would make them more than just cardboard cutouts. Mostly variations on insecurity.
Then it was just a matter of putting all the characters in a room in my head, coming up with a strong first line to kick off a scene, and write down what they said as fast as I could. Most of the time I had as little clue how a scene would end as a viewer at home would. I just let their voices carry the way.
Sophie, where does Terri’s slightly unhinged sensibility come from?
Sophie: It stems from a desire to be liked so much, [combined with her] sexual frustration and large mood swings. I’ve always loved how Matt wrote her as having a teasing type of sense humor. She’s one of the guys, but not at the same time.
John: I think it comes from Sean’s general naivete and therefore sexual inexperience/ignorance: He just really doesn’t understand and doesn’t even know how to pretend to understand. The character Terri is just as naive, but makes great efforts pretending not to be.
Leeman, from what aspect of yourself do you draw upon to channel Doug’s schizoid qualities?
Leeman: I am pretty lucky that Doug and I are pretty similar. This is good because it means I don’t have to act, which is good because I’m not a good actor. When John and Matt told me about the character they told me just to play it like myself. Now after getting through all these episodes and seeing what Doug is like I don’t know how I feel about people thinking that I act the same as Doug.
For all intents and purposes, Tom and Sara are the ‘straight arrows’ of the group. Now they are awkwardly drawn to one another in nerd romance. What’s that all about, Jen?
Jennifer: I think that the two characters are linked because they are the “normal” ones; they recognize the ridiculousness of the characters around them and that gives them a kind of kinship. The nerd romance creates extra tension for the characters, more than their wacky antics alone could do, and helps give the series a shape.
Jennifer and John, on top of your role as performers, the two of you also had directorial responsibilities. What was it like directing yourself in episodes like “Behind Their Backs,” “Nerdflirting,” and “A Long Time Ago”?
Jennifer: Directing was pretty surreal. It was my first time directing film, and I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, everyone is very kind and patient. Animating the episodes is a pretty big job, but I think being on set helps with the animations. A lot of them are from jokes during filming, or a funny idea that an actor comes up with.
John: For me, it was a blast, but I’m really glad that I had Matt and Karus [Marshall-Walsch, series cinematographer and editor] to help me with filming because I end up being a lot more focused on all of our performances and can tend to forget details like where the camera is pointing.
So, off-camera, do any of you happen to roll dice on a weekly basis? If so, how close is your tabletop persona to your on-screen character’s personality?
Jennifer: I played a bit when I was younger but then nothing until starting this series. Matt, John, Sophie and I got together a bit to play, and I really got in to it. My tabletop persona is a bit more hack-and-slash than my character’s persona; she’s always looking for the humanitarian response, and I tend to go in swinging.
John: The first time I played it was in high school; there was no board or figurines, and we had to spend most of the night creating our characters. I was frustrated by the random stuff our DM was ‘pulling out of his ass.’ Playing with Matt was much more fun, quick, and painless. I tend to get excited and bossy: pretty much the same way that most guys get when they play Halo.
Sophie: Terri and I are very different from one another. Terri loves being evil, I love being the good characters. I like battle characters, she’s all about magic. Terri also has an overt sexuality she brings to the game table, which makes me uncomfortable but you’ve got to love how bold she is as a player. I wish I was as dark as she was sometimes.
Matthew: I wish I had time for a weekly game. As it is, my weekly games quickly turn into either monthly games or yearly games. I gave Dark Sun a whirl last month with a group of my old D&D comrades, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to swing another one anytime soon. Too busy roleplaying with cameras to roleplay with dice. So sad.
Leeman: I still have yet to play D&D. I have been asked a few times to sit down and play a game, but I just don’t think I have it in me. Sitting around for a few hours a month pretending to play a game is enough for me.
What’s coming up next on Metagame, and what are your plans with regards to the show’s future? How many more episodes should we expect it to run?
Matthew: As you can see from Episode 8, we’re taking our crew of knuckleheads away from their regular environment of Tom’s table and seeing what’s it’s like when they run amok by themselves. Expect a couple more episodes in that vein. Season One is planned for 11 episodes. There’s still a big question as to whether or not there will be a Season Two. We’ve got different projects that we want to try and only so much time available to work on them.
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