New York Comic-Con 2017 is now officially history. On Thursday, October 5th, the Big Apple welcomed back the 4-day geek spectacular emanating from its home base at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. In recent years, NYCC has grown so huge that it’s spread to include the theatre at Madison Square Garden, Hammerstein Ballroom, and even the Stephen A. Schwarzman Library building. Hammerstein opened its NYCC run with a tour de force day which included the cast and creator of IFC’s Stan Against Evil. Creator and writer Dana Gould was joined by stars John C. McGinley and Janet Varney as they prepped fans for the upcoming second season, which debuts on November 1st.
John C. McGinley has been in movies and on TV for over 30 years. He played a small role in Oliver Stone’s 1986 Best Picture-winning Vietnam film Platoon and went on to act in several more Stone films. He is best known for his decade-long stint on the television series Scrubs (2001-10) as the easily irritable, human index of female names, Dr. Perry Cox. Last season on Stan, we met his newest somehow surlier character. Stan Miller is a guy who wants nothing more than to be left alone, but must spend his days dealing with annoyances from Sheriff Evie Barret, his daughter, and the 170+ demons haunting Willard’s Mill. We spoke to McGinley about Stan and his development in Season 2.
John C. McGinley: I love these things [press rooms], they only suck when what you’re talking about sucks; because then you have to lie. Because Stan is wonderful and fantastic and I believe in it, I’m a producer of it, it’s great because you don’t have to lie.
Question: What’s up with Stan?
John McGinley: Stan is full of love. But his wife of 28 years is gone, he was fired from his job, he’s a wounded beast. He’s just like Archie Bunker, and he’s cut from that archetype. Great writers can write damaged characters, and Dana can write Stan so well. Sure he’s an equal opportunity offender, but when he’s needed, in the bottom of the ninth, Stan’s actions don’t support his words. He will come and save the day. Against all odds, and just because he doesn’t want to f*cking hear about it he will save the day, which is a great way for someone to become a hero.
Question: How’d you get the role?
John C. McGinley: Dana sent over the scripts for the first three episodes. My only trepidation was that I wanted Stan, like Archie, to be grounded in his wife. The death of his wife grounds Stan. I said we have to explore Claire’s absence. Dana is such a nimble writer that he can move in that direction with great elan. When he did that I was in, because something had to ground Stan. What grounded Archie was Edith and what grounds Stan is the absence of Claire.
Geeks of Doom: I asked Dana this, but you’re the actor so I’d love your perspective. You talk about how Stan is grounded in his wife and loves and misses her. But the show is a comedy. So is it hard as an actor to balance these two contrasting emotions, one minute laughing, the next grieving your wife?
John C. McGinley: Dana is such a skilled writer that the jokes he writes for Stan, they’re so glib and sardonic and very complicated comedy notes. Having been on Scrubs where they wrote similar comedy without a laugh track, I can play to that. And the damage underneath that, her loss always resonates, it’s never not there. And the lens always picks that up. I always tell actors, the lens is like an x-ray machine. It’s like a lie detector test, so whatever your truth is, the camera is going to see it. Stan’s loss moves him through the script. And the camera gets it, you don’t have to put it on a billboard, the camera gets it.
Question: What can we expect from the new season?
John C. McGinley: We ended Season 1 on a cliffhanger. Janet’s character got sent back 600 years and is about to get burned at the stake. So Stan figures out a way to go get her, and what’s great about that is that armed with just that little bit of knowledge, he figures if I can get her, I can get Claire. So for the next 6-7 episodes after I get Janet back, Stan is figuring out how to get Claire back. And he’s not good at it, time travel doesn’t play to his strengths. He doesn’t even necessarily believe in it, but just the thought of maybe getting to see Claire, which he knows sounds nuts, sends him on this deliciously emotional arc. And the finale of Season 2 is something that truly dreams are made of.
Geeks of Doom: One of my favorite parts of the show is your relationship with Denise (Deborah Baker Jr.), your daughter. Since this whole season is about you going after Claire, how will your dynamic with Denise change?
John C. McGinley: That’s a great question. One takeaway from Season 1 is that the actress who plays Denise — Deborah Baker Jr. — is the female Jonathan Winters of her generation. She doesn’t need a role that is perfectly structured. She can self-generate. Some of us can’t. The janitor in Scrubs, Neil Flynn, you didn’t have to put him in a scene with anybody, he can just self-generate. And Denise this year is largely by herself and it works perfectly because she can just generate all of this stuff independently without any help. Some of us can’t do that. And we really play to that strength.
Question: Your two famous characters, Cox and Stan, are both very comedic. Do you enjoy that type of role or do you prefer more dramatic characters… will we ever see you play Shakespeare in the park?
John C. McGinley: You have to remember I started in Hamlet. I was acting at the Public for Joseph Papp when I got Platoon. And you didn’t want to burn that bridge, no actor in New York would ever burn that bridge. So I went to Mr. Papp, and he was Mr. Papp, and I said, ‘Oliver Stone has offered me this role, can I go do it, and will you still love me?’ He said sure and then told me, we’re going to do Hamlet again.
McGinley called the theatre the best thing he’s done professionally. He was the consummate pro, funny, engaging, and you truly feel like you just sat with an intelligent person who knows and studies their craft. McGinley returns to Willard’s Mill to battle more monsters and quest after his dearly departed wife when Season 2 of Stan Against Evil premieres on Wednesday night, November 1st on IFC.
[Photos by Dr. Zaius for Geeks Of Doom.]
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