Friday, October 29, 2010

Interview: Charlie Sanders on "Death Valley"

Charlie Sanders has been a UCB performer and writer at UCB since 2002. His sketch group Police Chief Rumble won Best Sketch Group at the Emerging Comics of New York awards in 2004. His other sketch group, Buffoons, went to perform at the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in 2007. Charlie's hit one-man show Minnesota Muslim garnered high praise from Time Out NY and New York Magazine. During his time in New York, he appeared in several national commercials and was a regular sketch actor on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

In 2009, Charlie moved to L.A. and bought the first car of his life – "a Ford Focus, not to brag." He performs regularly at UCBLA in Shitty Jobs and ASSSSCAT. He has landed roles in the feature films A NY Things, When in Rome, Freak Dance, and Cedar Rapids and has appeared on The Office.

Just in time for Halloween, UCB Comedy talked to Charlie Sanders about fighting monsters in his upcoming MTV show, Death Valley.

Can you tell me more about Death Valley and your character on the show?

CS: I can give you a real general description because they don’t want me to say more until the show airs. But in the Valley, in L.A., all of a sudden people start turning into werewolves, zombies and vampires. The city of L.A. has to make the undead task force -- the cops that go fight the undead in the valley. And I’m one of the cops that fights the monsters.

Are you a good cop or bad cop?

CS: I consider myself a good cop.

Do you have any crazy action scenes?

CS: Yeah. It’s awesome. The show is a really cool combination of action and monster stuff. All the monster stuff looks really freaky, really real and really cool, and the comedy is well-written, in terms of the dialogue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another show like it before -- which is what I’m so excited about this show. The way it balances truly scary stuff and really funny stuff is cool.

We had a fight choreographer come in and he’d teach us how to get hit and punch people and all that shit.

Have you been in any fights in your personal life that helped that process?

CS: I was in one... no, two fights in high school, but those were with humans.

When you were a kid did you prefer zombies, werewolves or vampires? Did you have a favorite?

CS: Zombies I got into later, like with the whole zombie craze we’ve been seeing in the past decade in Hollywood. But as a kid, my brother and I were completely obsessed with monsters, like Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula -- all those classic black-and-white horror movies. We owned every single one and watched them countless times over.

My brother and I wrote this comic book -- it was like a 300-page comic book, written in our notebooks, about a guy that would fight Frankenstein and Dracula. So this is really a childhood fantasy come real for me.

Did you and your brother watch MTV together?

CS: No, we didn’t have cable but my friends did, so I liked MTV. I think Beavis and Butthead was on when I first got into MTV. I remember I would go to a friend’s house and watch eight straight hours of Beavis and Butthead.

What the process for getting the role on Death Valley?

CS: I auditioned for the pilot back in late February or early March. I found out about it because my friend Eric Appel was directing the pilot. He and I had just collaborated on making that Funny Or Die video “Big Dog." We've known each other for years but “Big Dog” was one of our first times working together.

I think I did two callbacks, if I remember correctly, and then they had two or three of us come in and work on the cop roles. It was really fun because they let us do improv.

And then we shot it. We shot 12 minutes for a pilot presentation/proof of concept sort of thing over two days in March. A lot of time passed, like three months. And I figured it was over, you know, “These things come and go.” Then they called us up and said, “MTV likes it and wants us to shoot it, but they’re not giving the green light for a whole series." They wanted to shoot the remaining 10 minutes to make a full pilot. So we had shot these two different sequences and they had to figure out how to write around them to make a full pilot.

And then this guy Eric Weinberg, who was an executive producer for both Scrubs and Californication -- a very hilarious, cool dude -- came in and became the showrunner guy. He worked on that whole process of expanding the script for the pilot and we shot the rest of it in July. It turned out great! I was definitely wondering how they’d write around [the segments] to make a linear pilot, but they did a great job. Finally, I think around Sept. 15, my manager called me and said that MTV had ordered 12 episodes. That was really exciting.

When do you start shooting?

CS: I think late December/early January we’ll start shooting.

Any advice for up-and-coming writer/performers?

CS: The best thing to do is write and perform as much as possible. Create a show with your friends and put it up. I think an important thing to note is that performing a lot should not just mean being in a million improv groups. Improv is important and fun, and definitely do it, love it, and embrace it. But, from my experience, real career progress comes from writing and putting up scripted shows -- polished material you can showcase.

Check out a picture from "Death Valley" on director Eric Appel's Tumblr.

1 comment:

martin said...

Thanks guys!i am also the new coming of this blog. I like your articles and your blog.
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