Tommy Wiseau, Space Case
As Mark said in The Room: Wake up, man! What planet are you on?
A lot of the interviews you read in magazines are edited, usually to keep the story on point, and for reasons of length and clarity. As anyone who has ever attended a screening of his simultaneously lauded and derided cult classic The Room with Q&A can tell you, however, such would be beside the point with Tommy Wiseau. The star of Machinima's The Tommy Wi-Show - in which he's sucked into space and forced by an alien to play new video games, badly - is frequently elusive, evasive and occasionally incomprehensible in his answers (he claims to be American, though his unidentified accent isn't), and that's precisely why audiences love him. So when we got him on the phone, along with show creator Brock LaBorde, who occasionally offered clarifying remarks, we did our best to get down exactly what he said.
The following interview has been edited only for length, and in some minor cases, coherence. Tommy in anything but his own words would be no fun at all.
GeekChicDaily: We've been really enjoying the show...
Tommy Wiseau: At least somebody's enjoying themselves!
GCD: Are you not enjoying the show?
TW: I always enjoy myself.
GCD: How did the show come about? Were you part of the creative process, or did they come up with it on their own and ask you to be a part?
TW: I, uh, what's your first question?
GCD: How did the show come about? Were you part of it early on?
TW: No, no no, you can quote my name, let's give the credit where the credit is due. Brock's the most, Bruce is our assistant director, and I think it was excellent idea, yeah, to be honest with you. Because video games, as you know, started to be very popular, and I think that they push you to play a little...three-dimensional, I call it. Definitely, that was his idea, and when he approached me, I said sure, I'll try it, and we tried it and I like it, actually I enjoy myself tremendously and hopefully we will be doing stage 2, which is TV. Some of the producers are open to the idea of it. Move on, next question.
Brock LaBorde: Would you like me to qualify?
TW: You're right, I quote you, at least responding to...I forgot, you were on line too, haha.
BLB: That's okay. So, essentially what happened was we did a short called "The House That Drips Blood on Alex" with Tommy last year for Comedy Central. After we worked on that with him, Tommy came to me and said "Brock, I would really like to work with you again, I really like you guys," and we kinda just started talking about other ideas and one of them was for Tommy to have his own talk show, where he's behind the desk interviewing celebrities, talking about stuff. I had been trying to get that off the ground for a while, and then finally we met with some people at Machinima and they said, "we're huge fans of you guys; do you have any show ideas?" And we said well, what if we did this Tommy Wiseau talk show, but we geared it towards video games, since Machinima's heavily involved with video games. They liked the idea and then we just kind of took it up a notch and made it in outer space with aliens, just kinda weirder from a normal show, and that's where we are right now.
GCD: How much of the show is scripted versus genuine reaction?
TW: Maybe a percent.
BLB: Yeah, most of it. The beginning and end when T.W. is playing the games, that's all his reactions. He gets in parts with the alien that aren't scripted during those moments, but the rest of the show is scripted. But, you know, Tommy has his little improv and embellishments.
TW: Right, don't give him away too much, I'm sorry.
GCD: Do you enjoy doing improv, Tommy, or do you prefer scripted?
TW: I like both, if you ask me. But definitely the more I remember, to respond to your question, the first one, yeah, that's correct, you know, what he's saying. But the idea about the alien and the games definitely was...That was your idea, or your team?
TW: To come up with the idea of doing the set the way you guys prepare everything.
BLB: Well, it was me and my team's idea to set it in outer space. But the main designer Greg Aronowitz, who is the production designer for our show, I kinda told him a little bit of what I wanted the set to look like, and he just surprised us with a really cool set.
TW: Yeah, he did a great job. So, because I just wanna have record straight, because when [GCD's] gonna publish whatever, you know, just so you people don't get confused, that's all. But definitely, I enjoy the show. I'm sorry, I interrupt your question. What is your question?
GCD: You pretty much answered it. Our next question would be when you're doing it, do you see and hear the alien, or are you looking at a green screen?
TW: Well no no no, with the alien I have a picture there and I visualize the alien, and what you said about scripted, you know I like both, according to the producing gig, you know. So we have a little sometimes rehearsal, but they're happy, I guess. I would say we gonna do maybe 20, 40 per cent.
BLB: I'm actually the guy in the alien costume, so I'm reading lines with Tommy the whole time. He's essentially talking to me.
GCD: Tommy, were you much of a game-player before this, or is it all pretty new?
TW: Well, you know what, I did have my first PlayStation 2 to play. For me, to be honest with you, I did play games but I'm not a pro, but seems to me, the alien you are teaching me, so every day I do the show I leave doing better job! And that's again, you know, to be honest I'm just learning right now, but I don't know if Machinima and the producer of the show realize that just because of the show, they actually spread the good words about the games - any game. because see, my take is this way: I don't know if you guys know, but this is my take and it's been proven, Psychology 101. If you concentrate on the game. Whatever game is, you improve for example vision, reaction. You can be a better driver, I mean, so many different obstacle. And they're proving this, they been proving this for many, many decades, but I think the consumer - a little of this you probably knew - consumer, but essentially all the generations, then to me, sort of, they don't say pleasant words about games, because they think games is always violent. I prefer people to be violent with a game than says on the street, that's my take on that. Okay, again, I'm pro-freedom, so into all of that.
GCD: What's your favorite video game right now?
TW: Are you asking me?
TW: I will not tell you.
BLB: He's keeping that a big secret for a while.
TW: That's right, I have a few games I really enjoy. I already talked to the producer, I like to play some of his games, just asked him recently, but hopefully he will not talk about it. We will see in the next show. Move on, next question.
GCD: Have you played the fan-made video game based on The Room that's online?
TW: I did not, to be honest with you, but my costar did. I approve because that was a tribute to The Room, so yeah, officially give them blessing, but I did not. I did not play yet. Eventually, may be enough to - you know we were going to produce actually a game based on The Room. Hopefully people be involved, I'm not sure yet. So I didn't play.
GCD: Between all your projects - this, The Room and "The House That Drips Blood on Alex" - you're drawn to roles playing a man who loses control of his life, but you seem like someone in person who's very much in control. What is it about that kind of character that draws you to it?
TW: Great question. You see, I, me as an actor, generally speaking, I like space for example. My take on this is if I give, if I create a smile in any person who's watching anything what I do, I did my job. And maybe there's stuff, probably a line sometime, which is secondary, and take a couple or a few years to upset me. So basically, you know, I'm just as an actor and we are part of entertainment, what we are doing.
GCD: But how do you relate to a character who feels like things are so out of control? Is that something you've felt in the past, something you can easily put yourself into?
TW: When you're referring to the show, the character I play - T.W., actually, my initials - at the same time, I like the sort of differences. I'm also a designer, I design clothes. We are starting doing next year, but never mind about that. In response to your question, I'm looking for a script that I see from the producer of the show, The Tommy Wi-Show, and I'm looking at the guy who doesn't know how to play the games and he's learning.
Speaking of aliens and third dimension, I don't know if people believe or not, but I think some are there. Personally, the situation, say, Mars, planet Mars, and other evidence where we humans concluded that certain books we learned at school, they adjust to the situation, you know? I'm thinking about Mars for example, they found evidence-slash-water, oxygen, whatever else they are finding. And to me, when I was a little kid, disbelieving, I said, "Wait a minute, I don't believe a sentence." It was on the book, it's got lies, the planet, et cetera. This, in the show we are doing, I think it just explores certain possibilities, even though you may say, "Oh, this is just a show." But what if, you know? It's the question we can ask ourselves and I think it's a great show, and I hope gives people dimensions, different dimensions of TV and more people will be watching.
GCD: You just said that you're a clothes designer. Can we buy your clothes in stores yet? Are they available?
TW: They are definitely starting next year. We are done working on the distribution and as you probably know, the story in Entertainment Weekly makes a mistake. They say I import, but you can look it up, I've been designing clothes. Little by little, I'm trying to correct some of the misstatements, because sometimes people ask me on Q&A similar statements, completely off the wall. I'm not talking about your article right now or whatever you will write. I'm just telling you some of the stuff that's been written about me, we're trying to correct people. Correct, I have many years skills about design; I have different skills as well.
GCD: Can you tell us if you'll be doing clothes for men and women, or is it all secret for now?
TW: I like to do both. The basic stuff, you know? And I think the show, maybe me and the producers will present some of the stuff, I'm not sure yet, that's the direction where I'm going. It's just the basics, you know? I grew up poor, and I traveled a lot, back and forth, some of what comes out I say wait a minute, I should have this stuff in my own store, you know? I cannot buy it, so I... We're living change in America, as you probably know, so that's why the show, I think, people should really watch it. To respond to you, though, definitely, both, clothes for men, women, girls, guys, whatever.
GCD: Have you talked to Machinima about possibly doing The Neighbors?
TW: I did, actually. I sent it. It's good question, my God! Maybe talk to Mr. Brock.
BLB: Well, they take things that are related to video games, and they get into a little bit of sci-fi and horror stuff, but I don't think they've ever done a strictly sitcom comedy type thing, so I don't know if that's on the table or not.
TW: I mentioned to them the time we had a meeting. Maybe that would be a good idea to give them a copy, because I did the pilot as you probably know, 22 minutes. One of the networks approved but I decided not to do it because one episode is not enough. I mean, give me a break, one episode. But definitely, I still want to do The Neighbors. Move on, next question.
GCD: Well, you've also talked over the years about doing a vampire project, which might be a better fit.
TW: Well, if they ask me, but I'm not pushing my material. The fact is I'm working currently on two additional projects, vampire and a feature movie relating to the economy. I'll try to complete it this year, but we need a lot, so...I'm always open, you know? You know well what happens.
GCD: So right now, with The Tommy Wi-Show, how many episodes have you guys done and how many episodes are you going to do?
BLB: We shot eight episodes, and then a lot will go on this video that's coming out. We wanna just keep doing them. Machinima wants it to be kind of a regular, weekly show, and assuming that we keep our audience up and we get the right opportunity, we'll keep it going as long as possible. In particular, we want to expand to different alien races. In some of the later episodes that we've already shot, you'll see some different aliens start coming in, and we even want to take him to different planets and spaceships. The set will be changing as well in the future; we want to expand the universe of what's going on with T.W.
GCD: You probably get this a lot, but were you inspired by Mystery Science Theater 3000?
BLB: People have compared it to that. I'm a big fan of Mystery Science Theater, I'm a big fan of Space Ghost, I'm a big fan of just weird cable TV shows in the '80s and '90s, so that's what we wanted to do with this show. We wanted it to be weird puppets and practical visual effects. It's gonna be pretty goofy.
GCD: Tommy, you've gotten a lot of attention as an actor recently. Do you have anything on deck as a director?
TW: Well, you know, yes, I did just recently have, I did onstage play, as you probably know, of The Room. As well, I'm doing other projects. People have asked me to direct; I'm always open for it. But I like to be in the stage, and I like it when people give me orders, like this project, The Tommy Wi-Show. So we changed the territory, you know what I'm saying? Definitely I enjoy it. I've just come from Vancouver, on the stage I was involved with certain projects. I really enjoy directing, but I've changed my mind the past two years because I notice that I really enjoy myself.
To be a director, I always say, the more skills you have, the better, and trust is always learning. And keep in mind that I learned this, I don't know if you know my background, but my background is as an actor, on the stage actor. My teacher was Jean Shelton; she's a pioneer of teaching in America. She was an understudy with Stella Adler, that was actually pioneer of schools, New York, Los Angeles, many, you know, Marlon Brando came out of her school. I'm very proud to...she actually opened acting for me. I had done many schools, acting. She still lives, she's like, I believe, 85 or 90, and she was excellent teacher. She opened acting for me, otherwise I don't think you'd be talking to me. [laughs] Maybe you would, because I'm always gonna be correct for entertainment.
GCD: When can we expect The Room on Blu-ray?
TW: Oh, that's a good question. Definitely Christmas 2011.
GCD: Will it have a lot of new stuff on it, or be the same stuff mostly as the DVD?
TW: We have some extra, I don't want to give it away. New interview, we may have a couple of the actors interviewed, I'm not sure, but it'll be from the new sponsor people. We'll have a new tour: we'll call it The Room Blu-ray tour, starting probably Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, etc. Slightly different from typical Hollywood Blu-ray release. We'll be available all over.
GCD: Are you nervous about Greg Sestero's book, or do you think it'll be a good one?
TW: I don't know. I'm all ears: he's my friend, he decided to write a book - we'll see what happens.
GCD: What's next for you as far as acting goes?
TW: Well, like I say, I'm working on different projects. The economy film, the movie I'm working on will probably be a shocker, and believe it or not, I'm trying to get The Room on Broadway.
GCD: Would The Room on Broadway be a musical?
TW: Absolutely. Keep in mind, The Room has always been a play, originally. I invested a lot in research; it was supposed to be a play. It's a movie because the number of people that go to see it in the cinema is much more than the number who go and see a play. I worked on it as a play long time ago, it was in the theater 12 years ago if you ask me.
Check out The Tommy Wi-Show - and some hilarious outtakes - on Machinima's Youtube channel.