Caotica attended, asked questions and recorded audio at the Nobility panel at Comikaze in Los Angeles on November 1st, 2014.
Transcribed below is part one of two, containing panelist answers to the moderator about the series, their characters and their love of scifi. The second part will be put up in a few days transcribing the audience Q&A portion of the panel.
After viewing a short teaser (available at their official website), the following panelists spent 45 minutes entertaining the crowd:
E.J. De la Pena – Creator
Neil Johnson – Director
Charles-Henri Avelange – Composer
Torri Higginson – Cdr. Eugenia Pikeman
Darren Jacobs – Eujin Liaison, Sirius Halud
James Kyson – Navigator Bob Takashima
Ellen Dubin – Col. Theia
Christopher Judge – Admiral Sontar Nev
Miracle Laurie – Alethes Halud
E.J. De la Pena: I think the best way to describe Nobility, obviously you’ve all heard the description Firefly meets The Office and I’m seeing a lot of Firefly t-shirts and whatnot out there which is awesome, but it really goes deeper than that. Well we do have a really strong comedic aspect as you can obviously see, it really is about these wacky characters having a reason for being the way they are, and watching them overcome the tragic circumstances that drive them to these wacky behaviors in order for them to rise from the challenges that are put before them during the course of the show, ultimately these are real people existing in a real world with consequences for their actions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a lot of fun on the way. One thing I would like to do is, and that was my intent while I was creating it, while I was writing it, but I’d love to hear what a lot of the cast has to say about that as well as Neil our director in reading the script and performing their roles. I’d love to hear what their interpretation was, if I may.
Neil Johnson: Starting with me. My feeling about Nobility and what it is, I’m a big lover of shows like Red Dwarf and Doctor Who and stuff like that, and it’s kind of got that same sort of humor that same sort of fun, but the other side when you look at all these shows it’s still got a real science fiction edge to it. There’s real situations, real characters having real problems, which happens to be fun as life often is. For me, Nobility is funny but it’s also a really great story and a great characters interacting with each other which is what I really love. It’s not slapstick which will make it much more of a long-term type thing. Star Trek was funny sometimes and it’s kind of in that same vein, it’s carrying that humor-esque aspect through the whole thing.
Torri Higginson: What he said. (laughter from crowd) I think what attracted me to the script was that to me what I like about comedy is when it is based on something real. And so these characters are sort of tragic and what makes that, the humor comes out of something real, it comes out of the scars that made them tragic and it comes out of the situation they find themselves in. I felt when I read it that there was a strong dramatic line, a science fiction line, and then there’s a wonderful sort of playfulness around that and seeing people that kind of can’t cope somehow coping and that’s what appealed to me about this show.
Darren Jacobs: Similar to Torri, what she was saying there, a lot of drama and a lot of comedy comes from having great characters put in situations so it’s how all these defined characters that are not perfect in this situation when they’ve got the most powerful starship in the galaxy and they really shouldn’t be in control but they are. And I think that’s a great situation that we built on and I really was attracted to that and I got a great character so that was another thing as well.
Moderator: We actually are joined by Charles, he’s the composer of Nobility.
E.J. De la Pena: So that awesome music you heard during the confessional we just showed, all him, guys, all him.
Miracle Laurie: For me, honestly Adrienne Wilkinson is a good buddy of mine and she’s in the cast, she’s not here today unfortunately and she’s the one who invited me to come play. To me, the whole cast was pretty much established when I got asked to come on board and that was honestly one of the most appealing things. There must be something really special going on if you have all these beautiful people on stage with me plus everyone that’s not here like Doug (Jones) and Cas (Anvar) and Chris (Judge) and Adrienne (Wilkinson)…
Torri Higginson: …And Walter (Koenig).
Miracle Laurie: And Walter! Hello? Chekov! My God. Is that impressive? So to me that was the most appealing the fact that it’s good characters, good script, good story and just a lot of fun. And I think everyone really likes each other and that helps and we just have a good time doing it. I’m very pleased to be a part of it.
Ellen Dubin: What she said (crowd laughs) A great chemistry, a great cast and I’m grateful to Cas Anvar for bringing me on board and I went to a reading and I liked what I did, and I happened to really connect with this interesting unique character that three of us and Adrienne Wilkinson were all part of a different race of people… that’s all I can tell you. We’re all very intelligent, we like to help humans along the way and teach them things, that’s all I can really say and keep it on the quiet.
Miracle Laurie: The DL.
Ellen Dubin: The DL. The down low. But the cast attracted me I’ve been a huge fan of his (points to another panelist) for a long time and when someone says Walter Koenig and Doug Jones, all of you would run and do it as well. I love the script, I love the conflict, and there’s a lot of dramatic stuff in it as well as the comedy, and as an actor all of us love to teeter that edge between comedy and drama. I’m going to pass you to the beautiful James.
James Kyson: Aw, thank you. Beautiful beautiful. I love the title first of all, I have the word nobility written on my wall in my place I have writings all over my wall and that was just one of the things I had up, way before I met EJ so that was weird. I actually met Cas on a game night, a board game night. He’s my next door neighbor and we jus got talking and he introduced me to EJ and it was just really easy energy. We had this meeting and I just loved his enthusiasm and of course his story was great and so I really hope we do have a Halloween episode though. I could put this costume to use! (crowd laughs.)
E.J. De la Pena: Done! Oh boy. Well I already gave my answer, so Charles-Henri if you want…
Charles-Henri Avelange: Well I met EJ at the American Film Market and basically very quickly we connected with each other because we’re both big giant scifi fans, the whole eternal discussion was so do you prefer star wars or star trek. Coming from France, truth is Star Trek was never really, it was kind of hard to watch Star Trek in France, for whatever reason, France is the one European country where watching scifi is actually kind of hard. They don’t obviously put it at the right times and you know, when Next Generation was on there I was very little so there was no way my mom would let me watch the thing at 11pm. So, after meeting EJ I actually had to do a lot of catch up and Netflix really helped a lot. And so I’m very proud to say I just finished The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space 9. (crowd applauds).
E.J. De la Pena: One of the really funny things about this project is that Charles Henry was saying, I’m a ridiculous Trekkie — I’m getting some thumbs up over here, awesome! But Neil is a die hard Star Wars fan so we’re kind of ya know, got some rivalries going on. But it also goes to show ya, you’ve got a little bit of everything in the show and it has shown appeal to a lot of different folks especially because of our cast.
Moderator: This is a veritable powerhouse of scifi actors. What is it about the scifi genre that attracts you to it and keeps you coming back to doing scifi as a genre?
E.J. De la Pena: Me personally?
Moderator: Everyone. What about the scifi genre led you to create something like Nobility?
E.J. De la Pena: For me when I’ve always ever, since I was a little kid have been fascinated with is the ability for scifi to not just take you to another world but to allow you to turn around and look back at what we’re doing in our own lives and then learn something from that storytelling. Plus, a lot of really cool VFX doesn’t hurt.
Darren Jacobs: Scifi’s really interesting because it’s one of the few platforms on television where you can question social aspects and economic aspects because it’s in a made up universe or a made up situation, so I think it’s really good because it’s very current even though it’s in a fantastical world. I especially like Star Trek, it was one of the things that would question those aspects that are going on currently at the moment. Like, procedural dramas on TV. They don’t really do that and if they do, like David — he did Picket Fences — David E Kelly. They kind of cut him off as soon as he starts getting in the swing of it. But with scifi you can go down that road, you can question it, and it’s kind of allowed and I think that’s great for this current climate and situation. And that’s why I like scifi as well. But I’m a huge scifi fan as well.
James Kyson: I feel like it represents possibility. It’s like our future projected, ya know, on to the present. My fiance told me this story. Someone was channeling, you know, like those people who channel aliens or whatever, and they asked the alien, hey, what is the closest thing to an ideal future and I think the alien was like, the closest thing that you guys have to an ideal future is science fiction. And I thought, wow, it’s like the best of our imagination projected on to the present.
(unknown panelist): …we’re going to have to talk about that alien channeling thing.
Moderator: Which is what we’re going to do on this panel, we’re going to channel some aliens.
Ellen Dubin: But you also, I hate to follow that because it’s so beautifully put, there are so many genres within this genre. There’s scifi shows where you can be a villain and over the top, and then there’s scifi shows where you can be a villain and not over the top. What I really like about scifi is the possibilities, also the fact that it questions relationships, love, power, conflict, all the stuff that goes back to us being human beings and even though it can be in a far out world or a crazy world or with special effects, it all comes down to me about human behavior and relationships and as a woman I have to tell you that the parts are more, generally multi layered and I hate to use the word strong woman but they allow for a more ballsy, more intricate, more layered kind of writing for women. For some reason, the writer on scifi give us characters – and it’s getting better for network television but the characters for women seem to be a lot more layered. So I really, as a woman, love that.
Charles-Henri Avelange: As far as I’m concerned scifi is the reason I’m even here. If it wasn’t for scifi I’d probably have just a little job in France and have a normal life…
(Christopher Judge enters room to applause and cheering, and the panelists start getting up to rearrange seating)
Unknown panelist: Do we have a chair?
Torri Higginson: We’re not opposed to lap-sitting, Chris Judge.
(panel rearranges their chairs)
Torri Higginson to crowd about the interruption: Isn’t this fascinating? Chair moving?
(panel talks amongst themselves)
Christopher Judge: …really? seriously? The traffic.
Christopher Judge: Hit the ground running! I enjoy doing scifi, it’s the smartest genre out there. And even to kind of spout the dialogue suggests that there’s some sort of intelligence in the actors. Seriously, when Stargate ended, like we all do we look for jobs. I did some guest spots on procedurals and it’s boring. I don’t enjoy even the process of making that kind of stuff. I enjoy making scifi. Surely it’s just what interests me as a person. That’s kind of the long and short of it.
Moderator: I’d like to ask everyone in the cast to talk a little about each of their characters. Why don’t we start with you, Torri?
Torri Higginson: Sorry, I’m still stuck on the other question. The character I play is a woman called Cdr. Pikeman who is strong, she knows what she wants, she knows what she doesn’t like, she isn’t afraid of expressing what she doesn’t like, probably not so open to express what she does like. She has a lot going on but she sort of sits on it, but she gets the job done. I like her.
Darren Jacobs: I play Lt. Sirius Halud, I am Eujin, there’s somethings I can’t say but I will say this: Four hundred years ago parts of humanity split off like the Pilgrims and decided to go their own way to better themselves by using eugenics and selective breeding, and in seven hundred years they come back to humanity, to earth, and I’m one of those people and I join the crew of Nobility as the liaise officer who is very strict, very formal, military aware and I come on this ship with all these people who have no idea about anything.
E.J. De la Pena: From his perspective!
Darren Jacobs: From my perspective. So that’s my character.
Miracle Laurie: I play his sister back at home base, basically and there’s a lot to be determined and revealed about my character and I think that’s all I can say.
Ellen Dubin: And I’m also part of the same race. The Eujin, E U J?… I N. Yes. And I play Colonel Theia, and I come on board Captain Cern played by Cas Anvar’s ship to observe. Thank you.
James Kyson: I play Lt Bobby Takashima, he’s the pilot of Nobility, so I’m the navigator and I also have an old airplane called the Betty that I get to fly around. I guess it used to be a cargo ship? Renovated into a cool, I don’t know whatever you want to call it but it’s my little pet. He’s very cowboy, very western-inspired, so he loves all things cowboy — boots, country music, hats, rodeos, y’all name it. He likes it.
Ellen Dubin: Y’all!
Christopher Judge: I play Admiral Nev, who uh…
(Chris’ phone rings)
Unknown panelist: You’re getting a call.
Christopher Judge: It’s the kid watching my car, saying “It got towed!”
Christopher Judge: He is as un-Teal’c like as possible.
Christopher Judge: He speaks…
Christopher Judge: He’s conflicted, and I don’t know if he has uh, can I say what sort of what his relationship is with Cas here? Kind of? A little bit?
E.J. De la Pena: A little bit, I wouldn’t say exactly what it is but I would go ahead and talk about how there was a falling out and hurt somebody in the past.
Christopher Judge: So there has been a falling out between he and the captain. Apparently I can’t get too specific.
E.J. De la Pena: Watch and see!
Christopher Judge: And I’m still lobbying for him to be a cross-dresser.
E.J. De la Pena: You’d look great in a muumuu.
Charles-Henri Avelange: Musically the interesting thing for me is all these characters as you’ve heard have their different background and personality, the challenge with Nobility is to blend that all together and how do you make it sense musically? The main frame of the music is orchestral which is another reason why I love this project. Bu like you hear Takashima loves country music, and so all of his themes have country music elements. He’s gonna have banjo, he’s gonna have you know some guitars and stuff, harmonica. And yet, when action comes in and stuff, the orchestra gets in but there’s you can still hear that banjo playing in the background cause it’s Takashima. Same thing with Walter Koenig, he’s not here today, plays also the engineer and he’s Mooney, it’s very Irish, so he has some sort of Irish theme but since he’s also the engineer I use some sort of metal, I’ve been use mechanical tools to make percussion with it and I kind of blend all that together. All these characters, they really, they have definitely, you know — he wants to be a cross-dresser right here, and…
Christopher Judge: No, my character.
E.J. De la Pena: Which is inspired by?
Christopher Judge: I already AM a cross dresser!
Unknown panelist: But it’s okay if you do.
Ellen Dubin: We don’t judge.
E.J. De la Pena: So next panel you’re gonna show up in a bikini, right?
Christopher Judge: I’ve got one on now.
E.J. De la Pena: Let me just say, finding a Frenchman who knows what to do with a banjo? Gold.
Charles-Henri Avelange: I’m the most American Frenchman you’ll ever meet.
E.J. De la Pena: So you’re gonna give us a yeehaw?
Charles-Henri Avelange: yeeeEEEEE HAAAAW!
(whole room applauds)
Charles-Henri Avelange: You can thank James for that because he does it a lot in the show and I’ve learned it from him right there.
E.J. De la Pena: I went ahead and gave myself a small role, I play the ship’s medical doctor and he’s this very, he’s one of those people who doesn’t have a lot of real world experience, it’s all book knowledge and so that leads to some very interesting interactions between him and his patients who don’t quite trust that he knows what he’s doing. So that’s that.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Nobility Panel, where the guests take questions from the audience and Caotica. Follow @CaoticaMedia on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss it!