James Kopp x The Local Artistry
If you’re into zombies, vampires, or don’t believe that The Big Bang Theory is a show about real geeks, then Geeks-vs-_______ is the web series you should watch. Actor and creator of “Geeks vs. Zombies”, 37-year-old James Kopp, talks with The Local Artistry about how this play/web-series got started, his acting career, and when we should expect the next episode to come out!
thelocalartistry: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
james: "I was born in Rockford, IL, and my family moved to Bakersfield, CA when I was five…I live in San Jose Ca. where I’ve been for the last 3 years."
thelocalartistry: Most people recognize Geeks vs. Zombies through Youtube, but how did Geeks vs. Zombies start out?
james: "Short version: David Rock and I wrote a play. We got our talented friends to help us stage it. After it went up 3 times, we decided to do more with it. [We] got other talented friends to help us make the web series, and we are still working on it."
Want the long version?
Now the long story……so here it goes: I was hanging out with Thor Reese (Wallace in the Geeks vs _____ web series) and I told him the 3 plays I was thinking of writing next, and he said “you should do that zombie one”. The idea for the zombie play was simple: “what if me and my friends were in the zombie apocalypse?” That’s it, that’s really all I had. Next I was talking with David Rock (Blair in the web series, and co-creator) and he wanted The Empty Space to do a horror play in Oct. of 2010…I told Rock what I had, and he offered to write it with me. I said “yes”, because Rock is a great writer and we would need to have it done in 4 months. Having a co-writer and co-creator is the best way to go. We kept each other on track, we had someone to bounce ideas off of, it worked really well. In writing the play we also decided that it should be celebration of all the zombie works that came before it. We also thought it would be funny to have our “heroes” talking about how cool they thought zombies were while fighting them off. As far as casting, I wanted to use my same cast from 'Super Villain!!', I thought we all worked well together, and I wrote the parts with them in mind. While Rock and I were writing the play, Bob Kempf (Milo in the web series and the Artistic Director for The Empty Space) told me that Oct. of 2010 was ours, and they would support us in putting it up.
Bob said “that play has money written all of it”. That was a great push, it let us know that we weren’t the only ones that thought this idea had legs. Also around this time John Morrison a long time friend and artist I have worked with many times, asked how he could help. After some emails back and forth we decided to co-direct the play. Also in emails, we were calling the play Geeks vs Zombies as a joke, but Morrison and Bob thought that was a great name so we kept it. [It also had] a run in LA with some of the cast and crew of the Bakersfield staging. So many people worked on these stage plays it would take a full page to name them all. Just know that this work has never really belonged to just Rock and I. It would never have seen the light of day without the work of many, many talented people. Episode 1 was shot in late January of 2014, all in Kern County, in 8 days, for a cost of $4,500. That’s with music rights, copyrights, and everyone taking a huge pay cut. So many people helped us, donated money, time, and their homes. It was one of the best and longest weeks of my life. If you have ever seen the film 'Ed Wood' by Tim Burton, it was a lot like that."
thelocalartistry: How did you get involved in acting?
james: "I was a bit of a 'class clown', and acting felt like a way to put that to good use. Since high school I’ve been in over 50 productions. After a while you stop counting. I like making people laugh, and I love telling a story. Get me drunk and I will never shut up. Now that I think about it, [I] never really shut up."
thelocalartistry: As an actor, how do you prepare for a role?
james: "It’s different for every role, but the older I get, [the] more I rely on emotion than character. You know when you go to a movie and Jack Nicholson is in it, and he is just playing….Jack Nicholson. That’s because, I feel, after a while, doing a voice or wearing a wig and a fake nose is not what you are after. If you are lucky enough to get cast in a role with a real emotional part, and you are talented enough to show the audience a raw emotion. They will think about you for the rest of their lives. And the few actors that are character actors with emotional arcs, well, those guys and gals are just too talented."
thelocalartistry: Macready is a Comic Book Geek; what kind of Geek are you?
james: "Comics and movies. I love and hate them both. I once didn’t buy or read a comic book for two years after the whole Spider-Man clone saga in the late 90’s. I was so upset by this horrible storyline that I was done with comics. Sounds silly, I know, but it’s truly how I felt. And I just love stories, so going to the movies is one of my favorite things to do. For ten bucks and two hours you can watch someone else’s story play out in front of you."
thelocalartistry: What similarities do you and Macready have in common?
james: "We have nothing but similarities. The only difference is that his name is Macready, mine is James Kopp."
thelocalartistry: We’ve seen episode 1 and 3 of Geeks vs__, but what happened to episode 2?
james: "That is the question I get asked most. And here’s the story: Episodes 1 and 2 are one big episode. And when we started to look at cost it worked out this way. Episode 1 will cost about $4,000 (in the end, without promotion we spent about $4,500) and episode 2 would cost about $20,000. Why so much? Let’s just say, it’s a huge undertaking. We would need make up, effects, a cabin we can pretty much ruin, and a celebrity from the zombie/horror world, ect. And that number is with everyone taking almost no money. So instead of just stopping we just moved on to the next episode."
thelocalartistry: When can we expect to see episode 4?
james: "I hope by Aug-Oct. of this year. The script is done, the storyboards are being worked on, and we start shooting this month (May 2015). But even when we are done shooting, it takes about a month or two for the editor to get it done and things could get pushed back at any time."
thelocalartistry: Quick Would you Rather: a) Would you rather fend off zombies or vampires?
b) Would you rather act in theater or film?
james: a) "Zombies. Vampires have some magic powers. You don’t want to fuck with magical creatures. Yes, zombies are magical sometimes as well (see Return of Living Dead)."
b) "Theatre. Film acting can reach more people, but nothing is better than a theater filled with people that are all there to see what you can do. They have giving you their time and money. That is most you can ask of a stranger."
thelocalartistry: Advice for young actors and actresses?
james: "Just go do it. I know it’s an old cliché, but it’s true. Take any part at first, no matter what, just to get any stage or screen time. I have played leads and roles with no lines at all, and I tried to play them all as well as I could. After a while people will find out what you are good at and start to use you the best way they can."
thelocalartistry: Social Media?