In recent years, serialized Web shows have matured from being a novelty to carving out a legitimate presence in the entertainment world. There is hardly a better example of this than the hugely popular web series, "The Guild," created, written by, and starring actress Felicia Day. Three cast members -- Jeff "Vork" Lewis, Sandeep "Zaboo" Parikh and Robin "Clara" Thorson -- participated in a panel at the Emerald City ComiCon Saturday to the delight of hundreds of fans.
The moderator kicked off the panel by asking the cast about their lives outside the Guild. Lewis responded with an off-the-cuff announcement that he and his wife are expecting a baby. Fans whooped and cheered this news, with Thorson later joking in her own introduction that she is "not married, and not expecting" to the audience's amusement. (Thorson's character Clara is memorable for neglecting her tykes to play The Game.)
Parikh discussed his non-"Guild" work as the creator/writer/director of the Comedy Central web series "The Legend of Neil," which follows the adventures of a gas station attendant who is transported into the world of "The Legend of Zelda" after drunkenly asphyxiating himself with a Nintendo game controller cord while masturbating to the game's fairy (played in the series by Day). "I hope your children have seen it," he quipped to laughs. Parikh also belatedly "confirmed" that a third season is in the works after having accidentally tweeted about it on the show's official feed.
When asked how they became involved with "the Guild," Lewis said that he, Parikh and Day met while they were members of the improv group "Being Humans" for many years. Day specifically wrote the roles of Vork and Zaboo for Lewis and Parikh. Thorson, like the rest of the cast, auditioned for her role and cheekily proclaimed that she "nailed it."
The fans of "the Guild" have been central to its continued existence from the very beginning. "The first season was fueled by donations," said Parikh. He attributes much of its success and resonance with fans to the "truth" in Day’s writing that is inspired by a two-year period in her life when she was addicted to "World of Warcraft."
"It was her life and real, and it's not like she's an actress who's hiring some ghost writer. It's really true to her person."
Parikh addressed a fan's question about how he landed his guest role as "Abed's Abed" on the NBC series "Community." He said that show creator Dan Harmon knew of Parikh from when he had created and starred in a number of 5-minute pilots that were featured on Harmon's Web site, Channel 101.
"He just remembered, 'Hey, who's that Indian dude that was always on? Because, we need an Indian dude that looks kind of like Abed.' It was an awesome thing."
When an audience member congratulated the cast for demonstrating that Web-centric video is a viable entertainment medium and asked what technologies they would like to see the "Internet techies" invent to forward progress, Parikh simply replied, "I want my computer to start spitting money at me." After some thought, Lewis added that he wanted a joystick that would allow them to control each other. Parikh, who has a degree in computer science from Brown University, followed up with a more serious answer, saying that he would like to see a way to provide more interactivity to viewers and allow them to affect the narrative structure of a web-based show.
The cast was asked how much of their characters' personalities they brought to the table as actors, as opposed to being penned by Day. Parikh said that Day was open to collaborating with them from the start and that she understands that an actor contributes a large part of themselves to the role.
"Like 80 percent is going to be them in some way. I'm 80 percent of the pretty fucker."
Lewis said that before this role he had only mostly done improv. "I'd never made long, extended, intelligent statements."
Building upon the laughter of the crowd, Thorson addressed Clara's "booze hound" tendencies. "I'm a method actor, guys."
Speaking (soberly) about the collaborative nature of "the Guild," Thorson said, "It's really good to be working in an environment where you're able to create and just work with your character." Parikh agreed, saying that the cast and crew make a conscious effort to block out time in the process for improvisation and "playing around."
The three revealed that due to the way the show is shot, they infrequently have a chance to act together in scenes as a full ensemble and that they look forward to the times when they can work face-to-face with their fellow castmates.
An audience question that elicited an appreciative "Ooooo" from the crowd was, "If you could have a special episode featuring your character, what would you like to see happen to them?" Thorson said that she'd love to see a "night out on the town" with Clara and the shenanigans that would ensue, "like finding a dead hooker."
When asked what it was like to work with Wil Wheaton, who plays Fawkes, the leader of rival guild "the Axis of Anarchy," Parikh responded in mock disgust, "Awww, he's such a d-bag!" After the laughter trailed off, he spoke more endearingly of Wheaton, saying that he's speaks the "language of nerds" and that he and the cast "gelled quickly."
Then came the obvious question: Does the cast of "the Guild" play World of Warcraft? Lewis confirmed that a group of them are in a guild on the "Zangarmarsh" server. Lewis said that he had never played WoW before the show, but decided that he should do so for research purposes while they were shooting the pilot -- he eventually got hooked. He also said that he is supposed to marry his wife, who also plays, "in-game," but hasn't had the opportunity as of yet.
The cast was asked about their viral-hit music video, "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" that has chalked up over eight million views on YouTube, as of this writing. Speaking of video director/song composer Jed Whedon, Parikh said that he was "unbelievable," as is the entire Whedon family (including Jed's brother, writer/director/producer Joss Whedon, who worked with Felicia Day in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and the final season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). Lewis and Thorson agreed that the experience of working with Whedon and the talented crew was "amazing."
In keeping with the spirit of the Con, one of the final questions of the session was, "If you could have a superpower, what would it be?" Lewis wanted the ability to pop every kernel in a microwave popcorn bag. Thorson wished that she could freeze time like Evie from the sitcom "Out of this World." Parikh had a different take on manipulating time to his benefit.
"Mine would be the ability to '80s montage' through anything."
As the panel wrapped up, an announcement was made that Parikh and Lewis would be special guests later that evening at the long-running improv show, Seattle Theatresports, demonstrating that in spite of the cast's current success, they still honor their roots as performers and artists.
And with deafening cheers and wild applause the ECCC audience said goodbye to the trio… at least until season four of "The Guild."