If you're a "Whedonite" (the moniker given to fans of Writer/Director Joss Whedon) then you probably know Fran Kranz from his role on Whedon's "Dollhouse." But Kranz' credentials go far beyond his stint as "Topher" on the short-lived sci-fi series. His filmography includes roles on "Frasier"; M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village"; "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules"; "Cabin in the Woods"; and most recently Joss Whedon's modern interpretation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."
And yet, with so much experience in film and television, Kranz doesn't hesitate to lend his talent and presence to a web-series like "JourneyQuest." JourneyQuest tells the story of a band of adventurers and their trials as they go on an epic quest. There's Perth (Christian Doyle) a "terrible wizard" who has been charged with carrying the Sword of Fighting (voiced by Jeremy Spray) a sentient weapon with a cutting wit. Perth is accompanied by Nara (Anne Kennedy) an elfmaid who's deadly with a bow; and Carrow (Brian Lewis) a priest and healer who struggles with his faith.
You also have Wren (played by the scene-stealing Emilie Rommel Shimkus) a bumbling bard-in-training who is mistakenly given the task of chronicling the greatest epic ever. And of course you have Kranz in the role of Silver Tom, an affluent bard who is charged with taking Wren's epic from her.
(The most recent JourneyQuest season, "City of the Dead", can be seen online at the JourneyQuest site, or on the YouTube Page. Read the interview then see how you can win a FREE COPY of the JourneyQuest DVD.)
Kranz took time out of his schedule to talk to Geek To Me about working on JourneyQuest; how the show compares to other shows like The Guild and Legend of Neil; not being cast in The Avengers movie; and how he feels about sequels and crowdfunded movies:
Geek To Me: What led you to take a role in JourneyQuest?
Fran Kranz: I loved the show. I was approached by Matt Vancil through a mutual friend about playing a role in the first season but couldn't because of a prior commitment. When I finally saw the finished product I was jealous I wasn't able to be a part of it. I reached out to Matt to congratulate him and shamelessly ask for a part in a later season. The guys offered me this great role Silver Tom. I see him as a brilliant lothario Bard but whose arrogance can be costly and humorous. A qualified and actually talented Guilderoy Lockheart.
Also I'm a big fantasy fan so it was all kind of a no brainer. All the characters are so fleshed out and interesting at this point that I'm really excited to continue with it. I hope I get a chance to interact with a lot of them though as a Bard I'm not supposed to.
It's a super dysfunctional world but also very sincere. Matt Vancil and Ben Dobyns really created a perfectly balanced atmosphere of comedy and adventure. It's captivating. There is plenty of satire for the genre and self awareness but it's not a spoof. There's good drama and action. As an actor that wants to do both comedy and drama that's satisfying. The world and characters have great range.
Geek To Me: How do you think JourneyQuest compares to other similarly-themed shows like Legend of Neil and The Guild?
Fran Kranz: I respect The Legend of Neil and The Guild too much to spoil their story lines with comparisons to JourneyQuest. JourneyQuest is better? JourneyQuest has no peers? JourneyQuest and who? Just kidding I love Felicia Day.
Geek To Me: Your fellow Dollhouse alum Felicia Day is also into gaming, do you two ever talk about the hobby?
Fran Kranz: I just mentioned her! I don't believe we have but I certainly will now. I'm getting too old to play Link in a movie though, so the whole gaming world is becoming a sensitive subject for me. That being said I am really an NES/SNES guy, so I may not be able to keep up with the kids these days anyways. Final Fantasy though, I'll come to days later with a restraining order for trying to put a green wig on girls and call them Rydia.
Geek To Me: You have a role in Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" but no appearance in the Avengers movie, dude! What gives?
Fran Kranz: We actually stopped speaking after The Avengers. It made filming Much Ado very difficult. "Could you please tell the pre madonna playing Claudio to move to his left and learn to emote?"
Honestly I am very thankful to be in his black and white artsy Shakespeare adaptation and not his giant superhero franchise crossbreeding behemoth. Did I say 'thankful' I meant poor.
Seriously though, stop joking, Fran. I don't mind at all. I am so thankful and grateful for the work Joss has given me. He bought my home. He's made my career in many respects.
Would I like to be in the Avengers 2? Of course. I've asked him if I can be an anonymous foot soldier and get killed by Thor. I love Chris Hemsworth. But I guess he thought I was joking.
On the other hand I'm not a big super hero movie guy anyway. I really think we should stop these franchises or be very picky about our sequels. There's far too many.
The idea of the Avengers movie didn't excite me until it was Joss'. If it wasn't for him I probably would not have seen it or at least I would have been dragged there by friends.
I like originality, granted the Avengers was the first of it's kind. It's the 9th appearance of Iron Man in 5 movies, or whatever, that bothers me. Robert Downey Jr. is far too good an actor to be stuck playing Tony Stark for this long. I'm all for super heroes being reinvented but continuing the same way episodically doesn't interest me quite as much.
Geek To Me: Has Joss been in touch about future projects?
Fran Kranz: No. I don't want to rock the boat so I wouldn't ask. I know he loves Hamlet. Hamlet, mmm... He is a very loyal person and obviously draws from a group of actors he likes but he is also very specific. I was surprised to be offered Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing but he has a unique vision and now after seeing the film I see why everyone was cast the way they were.
If I am lucky enough to work with him again I am confident it will be something both challenging but fitting. It's just another reason he's a joy to work with.
Geek To Me: How does working on a show for online broadcast compare to working for network television?
Fran Kranz: Well, there's large and small projects but quite honestly I approach it all the same. I try to just tell the story as best as I possibly can. This really means pay attention to your actors, director and camera. You try and block out all the other noise on set. Given that film is broken down into scenes and setups anyway the length of the project tends not to matter as much during the process.
A web series can be three scenes or pages and a television show can be 50 but you're going to film it all the same way for the most part. So much of film has to do with solving the problems or challenges the scenes present when you lift them from script to page. This plays out similarly on all projects I think.
Also, these days content is watched differently. It's no longer "cable cutters" but "cable nevers". All content can be watched on tablets so the web series is no longer defined by small or cheap or independent.
I just shot a webseries pilot with friends and felt as strongly about it's potential success as a lot of movies and television I've done. This transition is only beginning as well.
The real separation between television film and web content will be blurred even greater or matter much less. It's exciting.
So to answer your question again, or to try and speak english and not ramble so much, there is little to no difference technically and theoretically. That's exciting and should be inspiring to all aspiring artists.
I've been asked so many times for advice and now I really believe great advice is just do do do. Nothing is too small if it can make it online. And as we all know some really worthless stuff is online.
Geek To Me: What do you think about Zack Braff getting funding for his "Garden State" sequel on Kickstarter?
Fran Kranz: I didn't know that. See my remarks about sequels. I like Zack Braff a lot. He does a lot of theater and writes and directs and admire that greatly but I am not interested in a Garden State sequel.
Hopefully he will surprise me. Kickstarter on the other hand is amazing. I've done a lot of projects on Kickstarter. I recently completed a movie called Lust For Love funded by Kickstarter and it's very humbling to be produced by fans and people with genuine interest. Oh and money.
I heard the Veronica Mars movie raised 3 million dollars in a day or something. It's kind of scary in that you find out what you're "worth" on there but it's been so helpful to so many projects. Just don't offer too much. I would never use it as a director or producer because I wouldn't want to be beholden to so many people. I should never say never though.
Geek To Me: What's next for you?
Fran Kranz: I am currently filming a movie called Murder of a Cat. Sam Raimi is producing and his wife Gillian Greene is directing. It stars Greg Kinear, JK Simmons, Blythe Danner, Nikki Reed, Leonardo Nam and a bunch of other great actors. It's going very well. I think it will be something special.
After this I'm not sure. I did my first professional play two years ago and it was life changing. I fell in love with acting doing plays in High School and College but somehow forgot that or how passionate I was about the theater. Getting back on stage reinvigorated me and opened up a whole new world to me when I was already so happy. I felt incredibly lucky to rediscover so much potential. It will remain a serious part of my life and career now.
Geek To Me: Where can your fans follow you on social media? (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.)
Fran Kranz: Facebook I don't use as much anymore. I'm on there and it's me and fans talk to me but it's become hard to navigate. I have a twitter account, @frankranz. I'm getting better with it. I have instagram, @instafrankranz. My friend is going to sit me down and help me with a website, www.frankranz.com. But it's like teaching a brain dead already dumb thing. I'm an idiot with computers. It's sad.
But anyway, I'd rather people follow my work than any of these things. A thousand more twitter followers has nothing on one person liking me in a movie. That performance is more likely going to be a more genuine expression of myself than a tweet anyway.
Geek To Me: Thanks!
WIN A COPY OF JOURNEYQUEST ON DVD! Send me an E-MAIL (redeyegeek[at]gmail.com) with the words JOURNEYQUEST CONTEST in the subject line, and your name, address (and Twitter handle if you have one) in the body. Everyone who e-mails will be entered into a random drawing for a copy of JourneyQuest: City of the Dead on DVD. Deadline for entry is Friday, June 14th, 2013. Winner to be notified via e-mail.
Elliott Serrano is a Redeye Special Contributor and Chicago's Top Geek. One day they will write a ballad about him.
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