Tag: interview

Varys Actor Conleth Hill ‘Disappointed’ With Last Few Seasons

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Varys actor Conleth Hill provided his thoughts on his time on Game of Thrones and not all were positive. Hill revealed he was ‘disappointed’ with the final few seasons of the show, and was upset about Varys’s death, specifically, he was saddened that Varys did not get to have a final scene with Littlefinger, as Littlefinger had been his nemesis.

Hill said he ‘kinda dropped off the edge’ after Season 6, noting Varys himself was also pushed to the sidelines and had not been focused on as much. Hill was frustrated by this but understood that, as a show about a great number of characters, he understood that not everyone could hold the spotlight. He said that though the last few seasons were not the best part of the experience, he thoroughly enjoyed his time on the show, over all.

 

Image via Game of Thrones wiki

He noted his favorite Varys scenes involved talking with Tyrion as they traveled in the cart together across Westeros, but commented that he was “dismayed”  that Varys seemingly dulled a little in the later seasons, making mistakes he would not have previously made.

Still, Conleth Hill did say that his inclusion in the show was perhaps the high point of his career, saying it was surreal to be working on such on a huge show. His favorite moment was when they shot at Fair Head in Ireland, which is coincidentally where Hill grew up and where he first dreamed of being an actor.

Game of Thrones will air its final episode this Sunday at 9pm ET on HBO.

 

Featured Image Via Deadline

GRRM talking on 60 Minutes

George R.R. Martin Talks His ‘Bloodthirsty’ Reputation on ’60 Minutes’!

Winter is here and the final season of Game of Thrones has finally arrived! While most are clamoring about the first episode (and rightly so), there was also another large event last night in the lead-up to the premiere, interviewed by George R.R. Martin. George R.R. Martin was interviewed on a special segment of 60 Minutes, where he talked in length about the series, his attitude toward killing characters, and his thoughts on the show overtaking his own source material.

To highlight a segment that doubtlessly everyone is curious about from CBS George R.R. Martin talked about his infamous reputation for killing characters. George R.R. Martin noted his reputation for being ‘bloodthirsty’ but thought it was being a little unfair. He noted (technically) that Star Wars or Star Trek kill more characters than he does but the difference comes from those deaths being a statistic, happening to unnamed characters that the audience feels nothing for. So, they become statistics instead of truly affecting the audience, which George R.R. Martin hopes to avert with how he approaches killing off characters.

 

Several GOT characters stand around in the infamous Red Wedding massacre
IMAGE VIA ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

George R.R. Martin noted he always tries to make his death scenes ‘important’ and ‘unexpected’, both taking the audience by surprise while really making them feel the impact of what happened. On deaths like Ned Stark or the Red Wedding, Martin noted the audience assumed these characters were safe because they were the heroes and the heroes can’t die. On choosing to kill off the assumed main characters, Martin hoped to truly shock the audience and take his series in a direction that other works of fiction simply didn’t go in. However, he revealed writing these scenes wasn’t easy for him, as the characters were so real he felt truly awful when he wrote their deaths. In fact, George R.R. Martin wrote A Storm of Swords around the titular Wedding first because it was so hard for him to truly commit to creating the act itself. We can certainly sympathize, George!

 

George R.R. Martin further commented that he always planned to have The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring done before the series was over but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Martin said it was quite a ‘blow’ when it did happen but went on to say he was very happy with how the television series has adapted his work, considering it immensely faithful and predicting the ending won’t be much different from his own. He did note that of course the series was different but all adaptations differ from their original work, using the example of how Spider-Man has changed across different mediums from Stan Lee’s original superhero.

 

George R.R. Martin talks with Anderson Cooper on 'Sixty Minutes'
IMAGE VIA CBS NEWS

The most exciting part of the interview (for us, anyway) was when Martin revealed what writing the first chapter was like. He said he was writing another science fiction novel at the time and the first scene of Game of Thrones just came to him. The first scene he put down into words was where the Stark family found the direwolf pups, banging it out over three days. He went on to note that the scene ‘haunted’ him, with its characters seeming so real him. The world sprung forth from ideas he crafted from this scene, such as the concept of the world’s seasons that could go on for years and the kingdom around the North. He went on to flesh out the lineage of the kings and even drew the map that he had a concept of the world.

An excerpt from the full interview with George R.R. Martin can be found below:

 

 

 

Featured Image Via CBS NEWS

John Green

Exclusive: Man Who Proposed at John Green Signing Reveals Real Life Love Story

John Green made dreams come true at his book signing in Cincinnati. While touring for Turtles All the Way Down, Green did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) reddit thread in which fan Kenny Schutzman asked for his advice on a future marriage proposal. Green said that it could be done at his upcoming book signing! Well, the proposal went great and we got the chance to ask Kenny some questions about the event and his relationship with now-fiancée, Amy.

 

Witness the proposal yourself right here!

 

 

Tell us the story of how you two met.

 

My friend Tom Beck asked if I wanted to go to John Green’s book signing at the Cincinnati Public Library in October of 2012. I originally told him no because I had class that night but for whatever reason I tweeted John Green asking whether I should go to class or go meet him. He responded “Go to class! Education is more important. You’ll meet me another time.” His response solidified my decision to go to the book signing. I responded “lies! Sorry Green. If Gus traveled to Amsterdam while dying, then I can travel 15m to see U. What would Hazel do?”

 

It sounds corny but I appreciated his work just as much as Hazel did Van Houten. Tom and I got to the library and it was packed. Tom later saw Lauren, a girl he knew from high school, and Amy whom he did not know. He proposed that we go talk to them. We all got in line together and talked about John Green’s books until we reached him. Amy went up to John Green with all of his books in her hands to get signed. He did a great job at being excited to meet every fan individually which I’m sure was exhausting. He signed all her books and complimented her voice saying she had “no vocal fry.” Once she was done I walked up and told him that I was sorry that I skipped the class. He laughed and jokingly pretended like he was upset with my decision. My brief interaction with him was one of those rare events where your expectations of someone you looked up to were perfectly met. After hanging out that night, I took the next step and messaged her on Facebook a couple days later. After talking about Disney Channel original movies for a whole week we finally went on a date. We carved pumpkins at her place and then spent the rest of the night talking and looking at the stars. I ended the night with a hug and a kiss on the cheek and the rest is history.

 

couple

 

Tell us something about your relationship

 

A couple months ago we were fighting so I went to the living room. I thought space and time would remedy it but she messaged me saying that she wanted me to come upstairs because she needed to vent to me about her boyfriend. We talked until we remembered what was really important, which is that we support each other. We make sure that love and friendship aren’t absent from our relationship.

 

What made you agree to propose at the book signing? 

 

Nerdfighters! The comments and direct messages they made were the most overwhelmingly heartwarming messages I’ve ever received. It convinced me that doing the proposal with them could be something special for all of us. I would NEVER have done it in front of any other group of people. Nerdfighters are unabashed nerds and romantics that never forget to be awesome!

 

 

Did you have any private conversations with John Green before the event?

 

No! He left me completely in the dark. It was funny when John Green said I wouldn’t know when on the reddit page, but it was terrifying in practice. I sat in my seat with my mind racing the entire show until he called our names. A small price to pay for the amazing experience I had, though.

 

couple

 

How did it feel to have such a positive response on reddit?

 

Reddit is crazy. It gave me so many laughs, which really helped with my anxiety from it all. One comment said, “let it be known that i witnessed this and shared in your happiness.” I don’t know why but I laugh every time I see that comment. A lot of people wanted an “OP delivers” video so I spent two hours sending the video to all the people that commented on the reddit saying “I DID THE THING.” They all must think I’m a madman. One person DM’d me saying it had been a shitty week but seeing the AMA brightened his/her week. One couple messaged me saying they’re an older couple but they love John Green. They wanted to see the video so they could watch and cry together. It’s all those messages and comments that are really the icing on the cake. No it’s better than that. It’s just more cake on top of the cake. 

 

couple

 

How and when were you originally planning to propose to Amy?

 

I was ready then, but decided to wait until December. Proposals around Christmas are fun. Right? The thought of a public proposal never entered my brain. To me, public proposals seemed cliché and only looked good in the movies. I knew I wanted it to be private but had no idea on how to do it. That’s why I asked John! 

 

Was Amy happy with the way it went down?

 

She was very happy! She is more introverted than I am, so I knew she would always want a private proposal and I felt the same way. Luckily she said this was the one exception because it couldn’t have been more perfect. The opportunity to have John Green help me propose was once in a lifetime. 

 

Tell us the whole proposal story from your perspective. 

 

It was all I thought about for eight days straight. I would go back to reddit and read the conversation multiple times a day. I am usually good with crowds, but I spent the whole week being nervous. I felt like I was emitting heat from how nervous I was during the show.

 

John and Hank were in the middle of answering preselected questions and unexpectedly stopped. To the best of my memory he said something like, “Y’know Hank. We were here five years ago.”

 

Amy whispered to me jokingly, “I wonder if he remembers us?!”

 

John continued, “I don’t remember it, but I looked back and it definitely happened.”

 

She then said, “Guess not” and laughed.

 

“I do know that two people met then though. Is there a Kenny and Amy in the crowd?”

 

I shouted, “Right here!”

 

He responded “Is there something you would like to ask her tonight?”

 

I said, “It’s a little packed in these seats, can I get in the aisle?”

 

Hank Green could tell I was nervous and shouted for me to come on stage. Everyone started cheering very loudly as we walked up. This is when I entered a state of shock and have a hard time remembering everything. I apologized to John for storming the stage. He said, “That’s alright!” and handed me the mic. The first thing I said to everyone was how I tweeted John five years ago and he told me to not come to the book signing. John laughed and said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t listen to me.” I then thanked him for being such a great writer because it lead me to the love of my life. I also asked for his “Nerdfighter blessing.”

 

Poor Amy was standing beside me the whole time incredibly nervous. I finally turned around and bent the knee. She said yes and then we hugged and kissed. John and Hank came over to give us hugs. I really wish I was more prepared because I couldn’t think of what to say to John at that moment. I said “You are amazing, John” and that was all I could muster. I was very nervous still and couldn’t look at John or Hank in the eyes. Regrets!

 

We walked off stage and the theater was very loud with cheers. I waved and smiled like a dork as we walked back to our seat. Once we sat down just about every face was turned to us and smiling. We were getting congratulated from all angles. I told everyone that could hear me thank you and I genuinely meant it. Their collective embrace made it special. Everyone was very happy. There was about an hour left so Amy and I sat there smiling, but it somewhat felt like torture! We wanted to talk about everything but remained in our seats quietly. I could not pay attention to the rest of the show because I still felt like I was in shock. John Green brought us up a couple times after that.

 

To the best of my memory, someone asked him about hope and cynicism. He answered that “I have hope in people like Kenny and Amy.” He also later said “Everyone. Look to your left and look to your right. That could be your future spouse.” John finished the night by wishing us the best with our marriage and walked off stage. All the Nerdfighters were incredibly enthusiastic about our proposal for the whole show. Coincidentally, we were seated right next to the middle side exit which ended up being the only exit. We didn’t get out right away because I was giving my email to the person seated next to me so she could send me a picture of the proposal. This resulted in just about everyone in the entire theater congratulating us as they walked by. They were just as excited as we were so it was a very awesome experience. The walk back to the car was a lot of friendly smiles and quick conversations with other Nerdfighters. It was the best night of my life to date. 

 

Congratulations to the beautiful couple and thank you for sharing your story with us all! 

 

All Photos Provided by Kenny Schutzman 

Feature Image Via Buzzfeed 

notes

Q&A: This YouTube Series Is Lit AF

We recently talked with The team behind multi-platform media brand Wisecrack about one of the crown jewels in their burgeoning online empire: Thug Notes. Centered around the literary exploits of certified ganster/Ph.D Spark Sweets, the series has helped out many struggling students and attracted countless fans from all walks of life. Below is the full Q&A with Mendeloff; you can read our longer article about Thug Notes here.

 

1.     Where did the idea for Thug Notes originate?

 

It was a combination of things. Jared, who created and directs the show, was waiting in line to see Barry Lyndon at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. He was jokingly comparing Barry’s rise to power to that of Scarface, which is a widely appreciated film in hip hop culture. A woman overheard his comparison and suggested that he clearly didn’t understand the film. But, upon further reflection, he realized that just because the language didn’t match the rather “stuffy” demeanor of a classic film didn’t mean he was wrong. It struck him that almost anything, no matter how “elevated,” could be broken down in slang. Also, when Jared was in high school, he didn’t want to go home and read classic literature like his teacher required. He wanted to watch Chappelle’s Show instead. 

 

So he figured: Why not mix the two?

 

2.     How do you choose which books you want to cover on the show?

 

We mostly go by commenter requests and books that are on high school reading lists.

 

3.     What are some of the best responses the videos have received? 

 

We’re fortunate enough to have fans who say that we’ve rekindled or even created their passion for reading, and in certain cases, changed the way they view the world. On a few occasions, we’ve had fans who write us saying that Thug Notes inspired them to pursue an education or to make a positive change in their life. The true gift of literature is giving people new perspectives and new ways to view the world, and whenever a fan reaffirms that message, it makes it all worth it.

 

4.     What are some of the worst?

 

As you can imagine, we get some pretty reactionary people who are offended by the portrayal of a racial stereotype. But truth be told, these people are few and far between. The vast majority of messages we get are overwhelmingly positive.

 

5.     Has there been any blowback to your decision to discuss literature the way you do?

 

Not in any significant way. A few individuals have been offended, but we think because we treat the books with such reverence and put such care into each and every episode, people respect that we’re doing justice to the literature.

 

6.     How did Greg Edwards (AKA the notorious Sparky Sweets, PhD) get involved with the series?

 

Greg was a personal recommendation from a comedy writer Jared had worked with in the past. Jared talked with Greg about the project, and the rest is history. Greg has always been working in both education and comedy so it was kind of a match made in heaven. He used to do educational theater, and currently, while doing stand-up, is also working with special needs kids in an educational setting.

 

7.     Take me through your process for crafting an episode: how long it takes to write, when do the animators get involved,  Edwards’ role in bringing Sparky to life, etc.

 

The first thing that happens is the book is read cover to cover. This role has jumped between different people depending on scheduling, but for the most part its been two individuals that have been in charge of reading the books. After that, a research document is crafted that includes key passages from the text, various academic discourse, and a breakdown of themes, symbols, etc. From there, Greg and Jared collaborate to turn the research document into a script. We usually film 4 episodes in one day. So it takes about 2 months to get all the research/script writing in the can to prepare for one intense day of shooting. After shooting, we annotate the scripts with illustration notes and send it off to our illustrator who brings the narratives to life.

 

8.     One of the most memorable aspects of Thug Notes is the crude yet extensive animation used to describe the plot of each book. Why did you decide to present it like that?

 

Well the real answer is because we had no money when we were starting and needed to find an approach that distinctive and cheap. Actually, the original idea was that it was just going to be Greg the whole time. There were originally going to be no animations. Remember a couple years ago there was a Funny or Die video of Michael Shannon doing a dramatic reading of a sorority girl freak-out monologue? Well, that was going viral by the time we were developing the first couple episodes of Thug Notes, so we figured if that worked, it could work in this format too. But after we filmed the first three episodes, we realized in post that we needed some kind of animations to help guide the audience through the narrative.

 

9.     To your knowledge, has Thug Notes ever been used by teachers as an educational tool?

 

Absolutely. We get emails every week of teachers, students and parents praising the show for allowing them to FINALLY understand a book they had been struggling with for a long time. We also get a lot of teachers asking for cleaner versions of Thug Notes that they can share in the classroom – though we do bleep curse words. Though there are “cool” teachers who use it in the classroom anyway.

 

10.  Some of the books Sparky discusses deal with some pretty touchy subjects (rape, racism, etc.). How do you navigate those issues while staying true to the series’ comedic tone?

 

That’s a pretty significant challenge. Obviously we do our best to add levity where appropriate and add a tinge of seriousness when dealing with sensitive things like that. Basically, we’re not afraid to set the comedy aside when necessary. Then again, if racism comes up, Sparky saying something like “ain’t that some shit?” is both humorous and sensitive to people’s plight.

 

11.  Are there any books you wouldn’t touch? Why?

 

Infinite Jest, War and Peace, and Ulysses. The episodes would have to be about 45 minutes in order to do justice to the texts.

 

12.   How has Thug Notes evolved since its premiere in 2013?

 

More than anything, Greg’s performance as Sparky has changed a lot since 2013. He’s been doing the role for so long now that he’s really comfortable with it and really found his sweet spot. Also, after doing about 80 certified classics, we decided that we’d try some more contemporary stuff too, so we’ve done Gone Girl, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and have an episode coming up on Steven King’s IT.

 

13.  In your opinion, why is Sparky Sweets such an enduring character? 

 

It has a lot of it has to do with Greg’s magnetic performance. He’s just really good at what he does!

 

14.  Wisecrack has built itself a reputation for producing highbrow content in a funny and accessible way. Where does Thug Notes fit into that equation? 

 

In many ways, Thug Notes is the epitome of the Wisecrack brand – taking highbrow literature and breaking it down in a fun, easy-to-digest manner while still maintaining the integrity of the most revered academic discourse on these texts. 

 

15.  What are your plans for Thug Notes and your other brands going forward?

 

It’s a dream of ours is to take it to Thug Notes to TV, with reenactments similar to Drunk History.

 

Featured image courtesy of Wisecrack.

sparky

Straight Outta Dickens, ‘Thug Notes’ Is Changing The Lit Education Game

 

Let us set the scene: a dimly lit library in the vein of Hogwarts or Beauty and the Beast. Rows upon rows of musty old books fill the shelves. Light classical music plays gaily in the background. And in the middle of it all, a man in a leather armchair, reclining and intently reading a book. But the personage who owns this library is not some, as one might assume, a monocle-wearing, tweed-loving, tea-drinking old white dude. But you would be mistaken. The proprietor of this library is none other than a fellow named Sparky Sweets, Ph.D. He is young. He is black. He wears a do-rag and talks in slang. And he wants nothing more than to share and discuss the greatest world’s greatest works of literature with “well-read ballers” like you.

 

sparky

Image courtesy of Wisecrack

 

Sparky, played by comedian/educator Greg Edwards, is the host and narrator of Thug Notes, a wildly popular YouTube series from the millennial media brand Wisecrack. Since 2013, the congenial Dr. Sweets has been putting his own personal spin on almost every literary classic imaginable, delighting legions of students, teachers, and internet wayfarers in the process. The way Sparky tells it, Jay Gatsby is “a rich playboy with dat mad Mitt Romney money”, Ebenezer Scrooge “the coldest honkey you ever seen, and the the fundamentalist Christian America of Margaret Atwood’s the Handmaid’s Tale a “wack-ass future for women.” Accompanying it all humor are a series of crude animations of the book’s characters acting out the action with stock photo heads and manic googly eyes against paper cut-out backgrounds—a style that initially came about from lack of money, but has quickly become one of Thug Notes many hilarious trademarks.

 

scarlet

Image courtesy of Wisecrack

 

Though the decision to rely on the persona of a “thug” may strike some as offensive, Wisecrack asserts that Thug Notes goes beyond crass novelty and cheap racial stereotype. “We get some pretty reactionary people who are offended by the portrayal of a racial stereotype. But truth be told, these people are few and far between,”  they told Bookstr. Most viewers, they say, respect “that we’re doing justice to the literature” by refusing to take the usual academic elitist bent characteristic of most intensive literary discussions.

 

The very genesis of Thug Notes, in fact, arose out of co-creator Jared Bauer’s desire to prove a cultural snob wrong. Waiting on line to see the highbrow historical drama Barry Lyndon, Bauer found himself chewed out by a fellow moviegoer when he compared Barry, the film’s hustling anti-hero, to Al Pacino’s Scarface—a popular character and film in hip hop culture. “A woman overheard his comparison and suggested that he clearly didn’t understand the film,” Wisecrack said. “But, upon further reflection, he realized that just because the language didn’t match the rather “stuffy” demeanor of a classic film didn’t mean he was wrong.”

 

Seeing the possibility of reaching like-minded kids like himself who “wanted to watch Chapelle’s Show” rather than do their assigned reading, Bauer decided to “mix the two” into the project now known as Thug Notes. Enlisted into the effort were co-writer Joseph Salvaggio and Edwards, a comedy writer personally recommended to Wisecrack COO Todd Mendeloff. “Greg has always been working in both education and comedy so it was kind of a match made in heaven,” Wisecrack said.

 

reddit

Image courtesy of SAYS.com

 

Though Thug Notes has evolved significantly over the course of five years and 106 episodes, the production process has more or less stayed the same. “The first thing that happens is the book is read cover to cover,” said Wisecrack, and “a research document is crafted that includes key passages from the text, various academic discourse, and a breakdown of themes, symbols, etc.” After this, the writing team and Edwards turn the research into a script, eventually filming 4 episodes in one day. All told, “it takes about 2 months to get all the research/script writing in the can to prepare for one intense day of shooting,” they reported—and that’s before annotated scripts are sent off to animators to work their harebrained magic.

 

 

The ultimate dream, they stated, is to turn Thug Notes’ internet success into a well-funded TV show like Comedy Central’s Drunk History. In the meantime, however, Thug Notes has been expanding beyond classic literature, covering works like Gone Girl, V for Vendetta, and an upcoming video on Stephen King’s IT. But there are still some books that the creators admit they just won’t touch, particularly behemoth tomes like Infinte Jest, War and Peace, and Ulysses. “The episodes would have to be about 45 minutes in order to do justice to the texts,” he said.

 

 

From its humble beginnings, Thug Notes has become “the epitome of the Wisecrack brand”. “We get emails every week of teachers, students and parents praising the show for allowing them to FINALLY understand a book they had been struggling with for a long time,” they stated.

 

greg

Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/2taLXdD

 

“We’re fortunate enough to have fans who say that we’ve rekindled or even created their passion for reading, and in certain cases, changed the way they view the world.”

 

In addition to the Wisecrack YouTube channel, Sparky’s wisdom can be accessed via the Thug Notes book. A full-length Q&A with the Wisecrack team can also be found here.

 

Featured image courtesy of Wisecrack.