Interview date: 06/09/2009
Run date: 06/17/2009
“Reaper” is dead. Well, probably, anyway. As of this writing, the show’s fate is technically still in flux, and it certainly can’t hurt for fans to continue to show the series the same support they always have, but to read the comments by two of the show’s stars – Bret Harrison (Sam Oliver) and Tyler Labine (Bert “Sock” Wysocki) – about the future of “Reaper,” it’s fair to say that neither actor is overly optimistic about seeing a Season 3. That’s not to say, however, that they wouldn’t be up for the idea of returning to their characters if they were given the opportunity to do a proper two-hour “Reaper” film. As you’ll soon read, the guys were mostly pleased with Season 2 of the series – now available on DVD from Lionsgate – and would be excited to further explore the events which were set up in the finale. Just as long as there’s no further exploration of Sock’s stepsister...
Tyler Labine: Hey, Will!
Bullz-Eye: Hey, how’s it going, man?
TL: Good! How are you doing, man?
BE: Not bad!
Bret Harrison: Hello!
BE: Hey, Bret, how’s it going?
TL: I’ll tell you the rest of the story another time, Bret.
BH: Okay, man.
TL: (Laughs) And it’s a good one, too!
BE: (Laughs) Well, it’s good to talk to you both again. I guess I should probably first start by talking about the season finale of the show…and probable series finale.
TL: Sure. Bret, take it away!
BH: Uh, yeah, I… (Laughs) …I don’t remember.
BE: Well, my wife thought it was a very nice spiritual conclusion, basically saying that, although the show’s been all about evil, good will win out in the end.
TL: Yeah, I think that was kind of the idea. And it had to be kind of ambiguous at the end, you know, because we didn’t know if we were going to be picked up or if we were going to be canceled. I think maybe there was a little bit more of a cliffhanger-y type ending initially written, but I think they ended up having to sort of pull it back because we weren’t sure what was happening. But, yeah, I mean, that was the whole idea. It was, like, “Well, we can’t give a big cliffhanger, but we can’t give you a definitive ending, either, so let’s at least leave you feeling like you could use your imagination to carry on what would happen to Sam Oliver and Sock and all of them in the future without leaving you feeling completely robbed.”
BH: But while playing a serious game of Quarters, obviously.
TL: Yeah, that was kick-ass.
BH: I got really, really good at playing quarters.
BE: I was going to ask you if you had a talent for it already.
BH: Well, now we’re all good at it. (Laughs)
BE: Well, I have to tell you that a lot of people over on our blog site, Premium Hollywood, were not nearly as positive about the ending as my wife was. It was more like, “Oh, my God, this is the biggest gyp I’ve ever seen in my life!”
TL: (Laughs) Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of that, too. It’s…
BH: You know, I don’t know how they could’ve…I mean, I guess they knew it was the ending. They didn’t know it was the ending ending, but…
TL: All in all, maybe it could’ve been a better ending for the season, regardless of whether it was the wrap-up or not, but like I said, you have to understand that there are a lot of hands in the pie, I think. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen by the end with, like, where you have to leave it. There were a lot of notes coming down from on high, and I think things just get a little bit scrambled at the end of a show that’s on the bubble, technically. I think we have to give the writers a little bit more credit, but, yeah, I think we were all… (Hesitates) Well, I guess we can speak freely. The show’s canceled. We weren’t super happy with the ending of the show, I feel. But that’s just me. I don’t know. What about you, Bret?
BH: No, no, I wasn’t happy. But I was excited that I got to play Quarters.
TL: Oh, yeah. We all were.
BH: But, no, it wasn’t the best ending.
BE: So how serious were the talks about continuing the show into syndication, and were you guys involved in the discussions, or were you just sitting on the sidelines, waiting to hear what happened?
TL: Well, Bret’s not jumping in, so I will. (Laughs) I think what happened was that, initially, we knew that The CW had said “no,” basically, and that Touchstone was still involved, I think, for a little bit with Mark Gordon. And then they said “no,” and the syndication talks came out, like, a week after I found out that I had a show that had been picked up on Fox. So I was kind of heavily involved with just a melee of phone calls, like, “Are we officially withdrawing?” And I had to find out what was going on with Bret, and I needed to know that I wasn’t going to be the guy who just didn’t come back, or whatever. So I was sort of heavily involved, but not in the decision-making at all.
BH: I think everybody, for that matter, was kind of like…we were certainly on the bubble, and we were not hearing good things, that it was not coming back. And about a week before we were officially canceled…well, we’re still not officially officially. That’s not until June 30th. But Tara and Michelle had their deal that collapsed, and they went over to Fox to do a new deal, so it was all kind of unraveling.
TL: Yeah, and it just didn’t feel like…
BH: You weren’t the only one, Tyler. Don’t worry.
TL: Oh, no, I know. I just…I can’t speak for anyone else, but I did get the general vibe that, after Tara and Michele went to Fox, and then we were talking about syndication, it just felt like it was a very clear indication that, if we ever did come back and make the show, it was going to be a shell of the show that we had all come to know and love. So, yeah, it was kind of a death rattle for “Reaper,” a last grasping at straws. But, yeah, I feel like Bret and I and a lot of the other cast members were sort of in agreement that, if it did come back in any way other than being an actual 3rd season pick-up on The CW, we were all kind of like, “Okay, I think this is kind of the end.”
BE: Well, I think that, when Tara and Michele left, it was, “Okay, the writing’s officially on the wall.”
TL: Oh, yeah, exactly.
TL: And it’s hard not to feel that way, you know?
BE: The latest rumor I’ve heard floating around is that Sci-Fi is in talks to pick it up, but I don’t know if there’s any merit to that or not.
TL: They were, but they passed.
BH: Oh, really? I didn’t even hear that! I mean, I heard that they were after Sci-Fi, but I didn’t know that they had officially passed.
TL: Yeah, they officially passed.
BH: The thing is, though, that even if…here’s what I never understood: even if the Sci-Fi Channel, or there were talks with ABC Family or whatever, if one of those networks was able to pick it up, I still don’t feel like it would necessarily work, because half of the budget would be cut, and like you said, it would be a shell of a show and it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t be the same.
TL: Yeah, most of our staff writers would’ve been gone, too.
BH: And you would’ve been gone…
TL: Yeah, me and Bret would’ve been gone, pretty much. (Laughs) We kind of withdrew a little while before. But, I mean, it wasn’t anything disparaging towards the show. We both love the show. It was just not going to be the show that we liked making anymore. So we were both just looking out for ourselves and trying not to put out…I mean, no one likes to watch a show slowly twitch and die, you know what I mean? It’s, like, just go out and stay out. That’s it.
BE: But it does sound like you love the show enough that, if someone decided to finance a proper two-hour wrap-up movie, you’d be behind it.
TL: Yeah, I probably would. I don’t know, Bret, what about you?
TL: Yeah, I think I’d go there and do a two-hour movie. Why not?
BE: Well, as far as Season 2, since we’re talking about the release of the DVD, how did you guys feel it went as a season? For me, I felt like there was movement, but there was also some standing still at the same time.
TL: Definitely. But I agree with Bret: all in all, for a second season, I thought it went well. We introduced some cool characters. But I can officially go on record now as saying that I was not happy with the storyline with me trying to fuck my stepsister. (Laughs)
BE: Oh, good. So I wasn’t the only one, then.
TL: No, that was…believe me, you were one of many who was, like, “Sucks! Sucks! What’s going on? This storyline is bullshit!”
BH: (Bursts out laughing)
TL: It just sort of ended up becoming exactly what they didn’t want it to become; they wanted it to be kind of charming and sweet. I’m, like, “How the fuck do you make a storyline about trying to sleep with your stepsister sweet?” And they’re, like, “Oh, don’t worry, we will. You can do it.” I’m, like, “I don’t know,” and then I watched it, and I was just, “We have got to get rid of this storyline! This is not working!” It felt like it was on a different show at times. And, you know, I had fun working with Eriko (Tamura, who played Kristen), and I’m not saying anything was wrong with her. She was great, and she’s beautiful. I think the idea was that they thought they could push a character like Sock anywhere, just make him do anything, and people would still like it. And they were wrong. (Laughs)
BH: I think they…yeah, I think your storyline kind of declined, but I felt that Ricky and Jenny’s characters (Ben and Nina) got boosted quite a bit.
TL: Oh, they were great.
BH: I felt like they had the best storyline going.
TL: I thought Rick and Jenny stole the second season, to be honest.
BH: Yeah, because it was, like, Nina was like any of these species, or “Encino Man” or any of these things where…
TL: Fish out of water.
BH: Yeah, you’re talking to an alien and they just don’t quite get it. A lot of comedy comes from that.
TL: “I’m just a caveman!” (Laughs) They don’t quite get things. Yeah, it was good, and I really enjoyed watching them. I also felt like the progression with you, Bret, with the Devil…it started going places that I think I really liked, and then it seemed to ease up a little bit before hammering it home a bit more towards the end. But I guess that’s something maybe you should comment on and not me.
BH: I don’t know. To be honest, I felt like the relationship between Sam and the Devil was pretty consistent. I mean, we certainly had good episodes and bad episodes, but the cool thing was what they’d kinda started to do with the mythology of Hell, like with Sam sending his father to Hell. I thought that was really cool. They were taking it to a really interesting place, and we were starting to play with the idea of characters like Nina going to Hell to try and find Sam’s dad. That, to me, was really cool. They were showcasing that there was this other world out there, and that Hell isn’t just talked about, it’s real. We actually got to see, on the 75th floor, the Gates of Hell.
TL: I really liked that episode, man. I thought those were some of our best effects, with them coming out of the elevator. You and Morgan, who I thought was another great character, played by Armie Hammer. You guys having that whole thing with him trying to sabotage you in this contest with the Devil. I thought the way it wrapped up was cool, it made a great impact. I liked a lot of that.
BH: For me, overall, I kinda think Season 2 maybe was even a little bit better than Season 1, just because I felt like it didn’t rely so heavily on catching the souls and the standard week-to-week thing. I thought it got a little more soapy and got into our characters and our relationships, and I certainly thought it was more fun to play as an actor. It took the audience into some strange places. (Laughs)
TL: I agree. I watch the show every week…or I did…and I thought it was great. I liked Season 2 better than Season 1 myself. It was more consistent, I feel like. I think we wrapped up Season 1 really well, and in the last few episodes, people were, like, “Oh, this show is really going somewhere!” And in Season 2, we stayed a little more consistent, and hopefully people agree with the way we unraveled the story a little bit more.
BE: I definitely felt like the storyline with Alan Townsend (Sean Patrick Thomas) as the guy who got out of his deal with the Devil was great. I think that was my favorite part of the season, actually.
TL: Oh, yeah, that was cool
BH: Yeah, and that was supposed to go even farther. I don’t really know what happened. Again, it was politics, but…
BE: Well, I got that impression when I talked to both of you guys during filming. In particular, Bret, you’d really talked up his character, and it sounded like he was going to be the thrust of the season.
TL: Yeah, and we thought he was!
BH: He was supposed to be. I think they were planning on leading him to be kind of part of the finale, from the little bit I heard them talking about it, but deals don’t work out all the time, and I don’t really want to get into too much detail, but…it just didn’t work out, for whatever reason.
BE: Like you were saying about Morgan, I also felt like he worked well as a character. Yeah, he was a complete douche, but I didn’t feel like they overused him.
BH: He was really fun to have scenes with, because I felt like we were such opposites, and we had our own things going on. It was fun to have somebody else in the scenes with Ray Wise – the Devil – and I. I wish Tyler and Ricky could have gotten in there.
TL: That was the bane of our “Reaper” existence: that we never got to go and film a scene with Ray Wise. That kind of sucked. But, you know, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, right? I think that eventually that would’ve come to fruition, but…
BH: Oh, absolutely. And, again, I know we don’t love the season finale, but they were trying to get it so that the Sam and Andi relationship wasn’t having to be so “what are you doing, why are you doing it, what’s happening” anymore. She was going to be on the same playing field. She would’ve been a reaper.
TL: Yeah! And I think that’s kind of the thing about the finale that is being overlooked a little bit. If you actually take it and dissect it a little bit, it’s kind of complex, and if we’d been able to come back and tell the story in Season 3, Andi would’ve been a Reaper, there could’ve been a whole new rebellion with Michael Ian Black as Sam’s guardian angel now, basically, and a full-scale battle between Heaven and Hell might’ve actually started to go on. It would’ve taken a whole new turn. So it is, as you put it so delicately, Will, a gyp… (Laughs)….because we didn’t get to elaborate on it. But I think it would’ve potentially been a really good opening-up of the show if we would’ve been able to come back and expand on that story. But we didn’t. So fuck it. (Laughs)
BE: All the more reason for an epic two-hour movie!
TL: Yeah! Oh, and, y’know, I did want to mention one other thing about Morgan. Bret Harrison and Armie Hammer…I don’t know if I ever got to tell you this, Bret, but one of my favorite scenes of the whole season was when you, Armie, and Ray were at the diner, and Ray leaves, and you and Armie have that whole long talk where it’s, like, “Is that really how he sees me? As a puppy dog?” And you guys have this really nice honest moment. I just loved that. I felt like Armie was great and you were great, and it was sort of a turning point for that character.
BH: Absolutely. I know what you’re talking about.
BE: True or false: it’s a complete crime that Ray Wise never got nominated for an Emmy.
TL: Crime. True.
BH: Crime. True.
TL: For sure. He totally got overlooked.
BH: And, believe me, he knows it, too.
TL: (Laughs) Oh, yeah. We all feel like we were robbed…
BH: …but he’ll tell you it was a crime! (Laughs)
TL: I still feel like the show should’ve been nominated for an Emmy.
BE: Absolutely. Okay, we’re down to our last question, so I feel like I should ask you about what’s coming up next. Tyler, I know you’ve got “Sons of Tucson,” which is coming up on Fox…
BE: …but what have you got in the pipeline, Bret?
BH: I’m just developing. I’m working on some show ideas with some producers in town, and hopefully the next gig will have something that I get to produce on as well.
BE: And, Tyler, can you kind of sum up what we can expect from “Sons of Tucson,” as far as maybe some points of comparison?
TL: Sure. Not to pigeonhole the show or anything, but it’s produced by some of the folks from “Malcolm in the Middle” and directed by Todd Holland, who was the resident director on “Malcolm in the Middle,” and it’s a half-hour single-camera family laffer, if you will.
BH: (Laughs) I like that.
TL: Yeah, right? (Laughs) But I play this deadbeat, half-assed con-man who’s trying to cobble together a living, and these kids proposition me for a couple of hundred bucks to pretend to be their dad and sign them up for school. And through a series of crazy antics, we realize that it’s mutually advantageous. They can help me, I can help them, and they put me on a retainer for a hundred bucks a week, basically, and they let me live in their toolshed. And that’s where we pick up after the pilot.
BE: Nice. All right, guys, it’s been a pleasure talking to you both…
TL: Can I just mention one other thing?
TL: Just a quick shameless plug: my movie, “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,” will be coming out in the fall, with Jason Sudekis and Will Forte. I just wanted to put a little plug in there. That’s a thing that’s in the pipeline that’s coming out soon.
BE: If there’s a website, I’ll link to it.
TL: Oooh, thank you.
(Writer’s note: sadly, there isn’t one yet, nor is there a trailer. But if you want to know more about the film, there’s always the film’s IMDb listing as a fallback position.)
BE: Alright, guys, thanks again!
BH: Thanks, Will!TL: Take it easy, man!