AICN COMICS Q&@ with Ron Glass on FIREFLY: A SHEPHERD'S TALE + a sneak peek at the artist's sketchbook!!!
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AICN COMICS: Q&@ is our new semi-weekly interview column where some of your favorite @$$Holes interview comic bookdom’s biggest, brightest, newest, and oldest stars. Enjoy this latest in-depth interview filled with @$$y goodness and be sure to look for more AICN COMICS as we gaze into the future of comics every week with AICN COMICS: SPINNER RACK PREVIEWS every Monday and then join the rest of your favorite @$$Holes for their opinions on the weekly pull every Wednesday with AICN COMICS REVIEWS!
Q’s by Optimous Douche
@’s by A SHEPHERD’S TALE’s Ron Glass!
Hi everybody Optimous Douche here, totally geek stoked to be speaking with the one and only Ron Glass, Shepherd Book, of Joss Whedon’s amazingly adored but shortly lived space Western FIREFLY. Ron’s here to talk about the latest chapter in the FIREFLY universe coming out from Dark Horse, A SHEPHERD’S TALE--a prequel Graphic Novel exploring the mysterious background of Serenity’s bedrock of morality. Oh yeah did I mention that Zeus…I mean Joss Whedon and brother Zack are writing with Chris Samnee on art? Yeah, this is going to be shiny as hell and twix my nether regions to last call. All right, on to Ron…
RON GLASS (RG): No, thank you it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to speak with the FIREFLY fanbase.
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): Ron, thank you so much for sitting down with us today.
OD: No doubt, since it’s been, what, five years since “Serenity” the movie was in theaters. So, how does it feel to come back to the FIREFLY universe for this origin prequel?RG: This is a great opportunity for me and I think it will be a thrill for Serenity fans. All of the questions they’ve been asking me at the conventions over the years will finally be answered. I know the fans are going to go crazy because this book will be packed with some really wonderful stuff.
OD: Before we get to the book I’d like to take a step back for a second. You’ve been a TV staple now for three decades; I remember watching you when I was a baby douche on my parent’s laps during the Barney Miller days. How does it feel being on a niche/cultish TV series like FIREFLY versus your past TV work?RG: It’s great, especially with this particular character. I was able to do and reveal things with the character of Shepherd Book that simply wasn’t possible when doing TV comedy roles. I’ve simply had one of the best times of my life playing Shepherd Book from a creativity, and collaboration standpoint. The man is truly multi-faceted.
OD: That’s interesting, because FIREFLY was one of your first forays into science fiction. I know I was drawn to the series because of its uniqueness. They always said STAR TREK was a Western in space, to which I reply bullshit — FIREFLY is a TRUE space western. What drew you to taking on the part of Shepherd Book?RG: It’s funny, I was always a little afraid of science fiction; I never got into it and just skipped over it. Star Trek, 2001, I just never paid much attention to them. I actually turned down a lot of sci-fi offers because I didn’t want to get involved with all of the prosthetics…make-up…and other typical sci-fi trappings. Fortunately though, one of my agents had the foresight to really insist I do one episode of Star Trek…ah but I digress.
OD: Digress away, please…RG: The thing that attracted me to FIREFLY was the story. It was the writing. It was the character of Book. When I read the pilot for the first time I was stimulated by the prospect of playing Book. There was just something about him that jumped off the page instantly; it was like meeting my fantasy role. To be able to use so much of myself to flesh out the character….OK I’m rambling a bit. In basic terms — it just excited me.
OD: That’s O.K., perfect segue into my next question. I was a theater major in college, and since I took six years to get my undergrad I had two years over my cohorts to spend time with Stanislavsky’s acting methodology. One of the tenets of the methodology is creating the “moment before” and the “character biography”. In light of the upcoming prequel, how much of Shepherd Book’s dubious past did you conjure in creating your character biography? And how in synch was it with what the Brothers Whedon have concocted?RG: Very little. Very little. And it turns out, as I have become more familiar with Book’s back-story in the upcoming comic, I simply could not have imagined this level of creativity. So, yeah very very very little. On the one hand it seemed at first like a real disadvantage to have this character so shrouded in mystery, especially in the face of the Stanislavsky method. But it was also a great benefit, because it allowed me to truly play the moment and the intention based on speaking with Joss to gain his inspiration on how to play a scene. Every scene was an adventure since I didn’t know Book’s history.
OD: I’m an amateur Google stalker, so while I was researching this interview I was able to uncover you are a practicing Buddhist. Wait — is that true before I go any further? I did spend six years in college after all, and when I said stalker I meant Wikipedia.RG: Uhhh…next question.
OD: Great my first phone interview and I offended the interviewee, time to rename myself Optimous Suck.RG: No, no I was just kidding. Interesting that you ask that question. Today is the 26th of February. I actually started practicing Buddhism and received my Gohundrom (SIC) 26 years ago today.
OD: Congratulations.RG: Thank you, this is a very significant day in my life and I consider it a privilege to talk about the graphic novel coming out that celebrates one of my most favorite characters of my career.
OD: I’m sure you knew prior to the role that Shepherd Book was a man of the cloth. So in creating that Stanislavsky back-story for Book, what tenets of Buddhism did you transcend into this future religion and the role of Book?RG: One of the Buddhist traits was certainly compassion. Another was to play the role with a humanistic quality. That was one of the character traits I wanted to have in the underbelly of the character. I mean on the surface he was a man of the cloth, but he could also kick your ass rather quickly.
OD: Yeah, Book is definitely no Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H!RG: Which really made it fun and exciting to do. I had a conversation with Joss about this very issue. I wanted to be a more clearly open about the logistic leanings of the character. Joss was very clear that he wanted to have Inara embody the Buddhist virtues and Book should be more of a Fundamentalist. In my own way I tried to straddle that line. When appropriate I was Fundamental, when appropriate I was more compassionate and humanistic. By the way, I’m not trying to indicate there is no compassion in Fundamentalism, I’m just talking about my interpretation as far as the character is concerned.
OD: OK, so let’s talk about why I was so lucky to get some of your time today, the upcoming graphic novel from Dark Horse. Let’s start with the title; the obvious choice is the Shepherd Book book (I sounded like a chicken), but I’m sure it’s more creative than that.RG: Actually it’s pretty clear: it’s called A SHEPHERD’S TALE.
OD: (Optimous makes a lame joke about shepherd pies which he has chosen to omit from the interview). Ain’t It Cool News is a heavy spoiler site. So what kind of insights can you give us on what we’ll learn about Shepherd Book?RG: Well actually in my travels over the years I was able to squeeze a few things out of Joss’ head about what the future would hold for the novel. I revealed a few things a couple years ago. Well all right there were four things. The first is that Shepherd Book found God in a soup bowl. So obviously that indicates at some point there was a profound appreciation for a bowl of soup.
OD: Like a clam chowder? A literal bowl of soup…RG: It was more of a space goulash I think. In my mind that indicates a “down on his luck” period in Book’s life. As we see in FIREFLY there were no remnants of that part of his life. The second thing is that he was guilty of identity theft.
OD: I never would have imagined Shepherd Book stealing credit card numbers, but OK.RG: Well no it wasn’t credit cards. What he did was take on another person’s identity, name…the whole thing. They were useful for something he needed to accomplish and that was how he came about his name and the great cause he was about to embark upon.
OD: That’s interesting because it has been alluded to in the series and the movie that he has a real inside take on the inner doings of the Alliance — how they think — how they operate. Is that why he performed the identity theft, to break free from the Alliance’s grip?RG: Uhmmm….
OD: It’s OK to plead the fifth if you need to.RG: I think it’s fair to say that Book did the identity theft in order to accomplish a number of goals, not just what you described about breaking free from the Alliance…I think that’s what you said.
OD: In my own convoluted way, yes.RG: I can match you on convolution, don’t test me.
OD: That’s awesome! That should thoroughly piss off AICN readers. All right, I’m sorry, I interrupted you, I’m overly verbose when I’m nervous or excited. You mentioned there were two more reveals.RG: Yes, part of Book is artificial. That was a hugely popular topic on the convention tour. There were no limits to the suggestions and ideas that what part of him might be artificial. So if you don’t mind I’ll just go past that.
OD: Well, I know where my mind goes, but you’re talking to a grown man that calls himself Optimous Douche. All right we’ll leave it at artificial body part and let the novel do the rest of the work.RG: The last thing is that his greatest accomplishment was also his downfall.
OD: All right — that whets appetites.RG: Again, had I put together Book’s bio prior to the pilot of FIREFLY, it would have been very different from what the brilliant Joss Whedon has concocted. But it is thrilling, it’s wonderful and I know that the fans are going to love it.
OD: Some of my favorite interactions in the series were between you and Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion. I viewed the two of you as very much opposite sides of the same coin. What was your take on the relationship between the two characters?RG: I like to let Nathan know that Joss actually offered me the part of Mal first.
OD: You serious?RG: (Ron just laughs) But I fell in love with Book, so I let Nathan play Mal (Ron laughs again – should I laugh? No). Now I forgot what your question was after that lie. (Damn it, should have laughed)
OD: It’s OK, the lie was actually more interesting, but my question was about the relationship…RG: Oh right…right…two sides of the same coin. Yes I think so. In many ways Book sees himself in Mal. Book sees it as his mission to guide Mal in a way that will be beneficial for his personal life. I think that relationship with Mal helps Book to realize part of why he left the abbey and went out into the world. As Book says, “if he’s going to be a man of God he needs to go where people need God,” not stay where the concept of God is so comfortable.
OD: It seems like the concept of God has evolved in the future, where God is not necessarily an overseer, but more just a part of the essence of life itself. Is that a fair assessment?RG: Well I think that I have to separate my own personal concept from the concept that is assigned to Book. I think Book as a character, his assignment of God is a fairly traditional view. Which is that God is an overseer, the director of events. Also, the power that God gives and forgives. Now, that’s how he feels in FIREFLY and SERENITY, how he feels in A SHEPHERD’S TALE you will see is different. GOTCHA!!!!
OD: I’ve always had a fascination with Abe Vigoda. Any cool stories about Abe from the Barney Miller days?RG: Abe was always very punctual. Most times he would be on set 15 to twenty minutes early. One day though he arrived a half-hour late. So I walked over and said, “Abe is everything OK?” He said, “Yeah, I had a doctor’s appointment today and it ran a little over.” Again I asked, “Is everything all right?” Abe said, “Yes, the doctor says I have the insides of a 35 year old man.” And I could only sputter “What did he charge you?” Abe wasn’t amused. It tells a lot about both of us.
OD: All right, this next one is kind of a slight because I am so vehemently pissed off about the cancellation of Joss’ newest brain child “Dollhouse”. If FOX actually knew how to schedule and promote a Whedon project for success and FIREFLY was entering its 8th season, how do you imagine Shepherd Book would have evolved?RG: You know, when FIREFLY was cancelled I was so personally devastated that I would not allow myself to have those kinds of visions. It was too painful. It would have been masochistic for me to engage in that kind of fantasy.
OD: All right, I don’t want to upset you. It must have been a thrill to come back to the character for the movie. Well, a bittersweet thrill once you get ¾ of the way through the script.RG: Well that was a conversation that Joss opened with, “Ron I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?” And I said, “Give me the good news first.”He said in one sentence, ‘Well we’re doing a movie and you’re in it, the bad news is you’re going to die.”
OD: Well at least it was work.RG: A couple days.
OD: While on the subject of Joss, he just seems to be one of the nicest guys in the sci-fi medium. Is there any dirt on this guy?RG: Oh, well I hope so, but I don’t know what it is.
OD: With all of the redoings of 70s and 80s TV shows it doesn’t seem like there’s an original thought in Hollywood these days, except from Joss. Given that, has there been any talk of a “Barney Miller” reunion or remake like “Starsky & Hutch”?RG: Many many many many times, but when Danny (Arnold) died it was his wish we not do any kinds of reunions unless they were presented as a trilogy of feature films. That never happened and his family has honored his wishes.
OD: Anything else to get off your chest about the prequel book?RG: Just people are going to love it. People always tell me that when they watch the series, they do it one sitting. They will feel the same about the book; they will read it one sitting.
OD: So, will see any of the other existing FIREFLY characters in this book?RG: You know, I really think it’s important not to know everything about the book, Rob.
OD: All right, I’ll let it go since you were kind enough to call me Rob and not Douche. So, any other upcoming projects you want to talk about?RG: Actually I did a movie a couple of years ago called LAKEVIEW TERRACE that was directed by Neil LaBute. Well, Neil just recently directed another movie that opens April 16th I believe, and it’s called DEATH AT A FUNERAL. It’s a remake of a British feature that was released a few years ago that Alan Tudyk (FIREFLY’S Wash for all you heathens) was actually in.
OD: Now it will be even easier to connect you guys to Kevin Bacon.RG: I’m not playing Alan’s part though. I’m going to a screening in a few hours to see if I’m still in it. I have my fingers crossed.
OD: Fingers crossed indeed! Ron thank you for today, it was a true honor (tons of fanboy gushing closes things out)!
Optimous is lonely and needs friends. Even virtual ones will fill the gaping hole, join him on Facebook or he will cry like a newborn kitten.
There you have it folks. Ron Glass— great guy. And I am now salivating to get my hands on A SHEPHERD’S TALE when it is released this Fall.
As a final political closer, remember kids, when money and demographics obliterate a great universe rife with limitless storyline possibilities, and it is loved by so many fans, comic books keeps it alive. Thank you Dark Horse.
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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March 5, 2010, 9:24 a.m. CST
by Rev. Artemis Prime
March 5, 2010, 9:25 a.m. CST
by Rev. Artemis Prime
I've never read any of Optimus Douche's work before, but Jesus, he is the worst interviewer ever. Really? Douche. I can't believe Ron Glass didn't reach through the phone and strangle this jackass to death. Ron was interesting though.
March 5, 2010, 9:35 a.m. CST
That said, if the best I can do to get Book's backstory is this, I'll take it. But I want some company to reboot Firefly...and by reboot I mean offer everyone originally involved enough money to come back and pick it up where it left off. Jesus, can't someone, anyone out there do this please? Instead of wasting all your money on the current shit heap of programming?
March 5, 2010, 9:47 a.m. CST
They'll never better the British version. Fact.
March 5, 2010, 10:03 a.m. CST
I felt the same way about THE OFFICE.<p> Those mere two seasons (and the special) from BBC still hold a special place in my heart.<p> As Gervais said at the Golden Globes, "quality, not quantity"
March 5, 2010, 10:32 a.m. CST
...I guess (usually dont read views) but now im reminded of two favorite shows that was canceled... and i think Firefly had the best ensemble cast ever, even beatin LOST
March 5, 2010, 11:08 a.m. CST
Very wise words indeed. There's just something special about the British version of The Office that wasn't captured in the US version. The British version was so much more subtle. That said *winks at Harry*, the US version is still funny, but I just treat them as two totally different shows that merely share a name. "If you want the rainbow, you've gotta put up with the rain. Do you know which philosopher said that? Dolly Parton. And people say she's just a big pair of tits..."
March 5, 2010, 11:17 a.m. CST
if they were just making a white family and 'americanizing' it, then it would be unnecessary.<br><br>but i could see it working with a black family. i think it's a smart choice to find a new audience with the remake.
March 5, 2010, 11:27 a.m. CST
My favorite moment will still be when Garret and David debate whether midgits are real.
March 5, 2010, 11:50 a.m. CST
Loved Ron Glass on Barney Miller, though.
March 5, 2010, 12:07 p.m. CST
I'm just happy he was able to get through the interview without hanging up on Optimus. Next time you need to do an interview, why not ask someone else, someone who might actually now how to conduct an interview without coming across like a sycophantic moron?
March 5, 2010, 12:30 p.m. CST
Everyone loves the answers, but not the questions.<p> How do you think you get to the answers??????
March 5, 2010, 1:05 p.m. CST
It's like the word "despite" doesn't even exist in your mental dictionary.
March 5, 2010, 1:12 p.m. CST
As logic seems to elude your mental prowess...A+B=C sport.
March 5, 2010, 1:16 p.m. CST
In the instant case, A.
March 5, 2010, 1:21 p.m. CST
Different questions, different answers...Righto?
March 5, 2010, 1:38 p.m. CST
And good to hear that Ron (and the Firefly universe) carries on. SOMEONE PICK IT UP! SYFY? NBC? SHOWTIME??
March 5, 2010, 1:46 p.m. CST
They could continue given the events of SERENITY?<p> Just throwing out for debate and pontificating.
March 5, 2010, 2:03 p.m. CST
Having the good fortune to be speaking with an intelligent and generous interviewee. Don't take credit for the responses. That's like an abusive father taking credit when their child makes good on their own.
March 5, 2010, 2:07 p.m. CST
When's this coming out?
March 5, 2010, 2:16 p.m. CST
Fall...it is still in the outline stages at the moment.
March 5, 2010, 2:17 p.m. CST
becasue talking to a person like another human being is the same as beating a child.../analogy fail
March 5, 2010, 4:02 p.m. CST
I had to stop reading for five mintes because I was giggling. Weird-ass chicken. And an "Abe Vigoda will outlive us all" shout-out. Funny interview, OD. Looking forward to reading this. Interview Patton when he finishes the next Wash comic.
March 5, 2010, 5:29 p.m. CST
I was just going through my more recent long boxes the other day and I was wondering why there hadn't been more Firefly comics. So color me happy about this news.
March 5, 2010, 6:09 p.m. CST
review Buffy S8 #33 with the big reveal?
March 5, 2010, 6:21 p.m. CST
You don't have to defend yourself, you gave us a great interview with a beloved Firefly crew member. Feeding the trolls by getting defensive only makes it look like you doubt yourself. And why don't you have a black box yet?
March 5, 2010, 7:03 p.m. CST
Just so much fun to play :-)<p> You're right though -- higher road, what not...<p> I'll tell you -- very different AICN world in the comic column each week...<p> Black Boxes solely for editors and the big dogs...I am just a mere speck in the great AICN machine.
March 5, 2010, 7:03 p.m. CST
I do not think we hit the latest Buffy no...when did it come out?
March 5, 2010, 9:10 p.m. CST
I've met every member of the Firefly cast except for Gina Torres, and while I was completely in Heaven posing for a picture with both Morena Baccarin and Jewel Staite, talking to Ron Glass at Gencon is my most cherished "Firefly" memory. <p> We chatted for 15-20 minutes about philosophy, karma, and of course, the tenets of Book. He became quite emotional as we talked, as did I when he apologized and said his soul was still on the mend from having to leave it all behind. <p> I was one of the lucky few who had seen the world premiere of "Serenity" a few weeks earlier at San Diego Comic Con, and asked him if he had any second thoughts of returning to Book after learning that the character would die. He paused and got emotional again, and said that he never had second thoughts - he was just pissed! Then we laughed and shook hands, wishing each other well. Wonderful man.
March 5, 2010, 10:32 p.m. CST
Far too long to wait for a story about the best character on Firefly.
March 6, 2010, 2:08 a.m. CST
I'm way excited for this. Be nice to fill in the gap in Book's story (I would really like to see how River's psychic reading of Book saying "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not - So where does that put you?" is something he said to a person. Possibly before doing something rather nasty. And Book looked nasty when he "said" it in River's mind's eye.) Also, I'm one of the crazy people who think Firefly wrapped up perfectly fine with Serenity and we don't need a post-movie sequel. But filling in the gaps in Book's story should be mega-fun.
March 6, 2010, 3:04 a.m. CST
Or the day before. Brad Meltzer script. The revealing of the "Big Bad" . Building up 3 *years* to get to this point.
March 6, 2010, 8:06 a.m. CST
the interview was fine except for the self-indulgent crap about your screen name. just don't do that. don't bring it up. don't put the interviewee off with your douche-name. to repeat myself, it just seemed self-indulgent and amateurish and didn't help anything in the interview itself. You might let Ron Glass know that you're posting under a pen name, and perhaps even tell him what that is, but DON'T make it part of the interview.
March 6, 2010, 10:25 a.m. CST
There were indeed some good questions, but there was also an evident lack of professionalism and respect. If AICN wants to keep getting attention from major talent, y'all should can the self-indulgent stuff, which ain't especially cool for the readers, either.
March 6, 2010, 5:57 p.m. CST
That was constructive advice.<p> Ron was made aware and we actually had a very good time with it, the audio is far more indicative of the shared joke.
March 6, 2010, 9:04 p.m. CST
I don't know. I liked Mal or Jane (bet I'm the only one, too. Right?), But he's definitely the one we NEED to know more about. I haven't enjoyed the Firefly comics as much as I'd have liked, hopefully that will change with this. And as for Season 8? I'm scared to death that Twilight (or whatever the Big Bad is called) will simply turn out to be a future version of Buffy. If that happens...I think I'm out.
March 7, 2010, 12:42 a.m. CST
by Bass Ackwards
Maybe it's explained in the interview, I did just kind of skim it. Did Ron Glass have some kind of creative role inthe upcoming comic?
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