John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman
are part of one of the most famous nerd ensembles in entertainment history -- the cast of the hit series Big Bang
Theory (Bowie plays Sheldon’s rival Kripke, and Sussman is comic shop owner
Stuart). But they’re not faking their love of sci-fi and superheroes. It’s who
they are, and their influences run deeply through Dark Minions, the show they’ve created for Amazon.
“Make no mistake -- we are on Big
Bang Theory because we are authentic nerds," Bowie said. “High-functioning nerds -- more Leonards than Sheldons -- but nerds nonetheless. Kevin worked at a comic book
shop. I watched all the Star Wars DVDs one New Year’s Eve as an adult.”
We asked Bowie and Sussman about
their show, their inspirations, and what the Big Bang Theory characters might
think of Dark Minions.
How do you describe Dark Minions?
Kevin: It’s about two
regular guys, Mel and Andy, who get jobs onboard an evil space station. Maybe
in a better time they’d take a principled stand against working there, but
Mel’s got alimony and Andy doesn’t have a college degree, so they’re willing to
lower their standards just a tad. It’s a workplace comedy that deals with corporate bureaucracy, inter-office politics, and the deluge of
paperwork involved in enslaving various alien species.
What made you want to
tell this story with these characters, in this world?
Kevin: We’re fans of
the genre. We set out to do a straight up sci-fi thriller, actually, but
neither of us could refrain from giving the villains silly names.
Are any of the characters based on real people?
John: Mel and Andy are loosely based on
Kevin and I. Before we knew each other, we both worked for huge, rather
nefarious companies in the late ‘90s and though a lot of the work that was
going on was unsavory -- mass firings, circumventing environmental regulations -- Kevin and I needed the jobs. It was not unlike working for an evil space
What does the stop motion bring to
John: It brings a weird realism -- the
puppets have textures, and they cast real shadows. The story is so fanciful
it’s nice to have the most tangible form of animation to tell it.
What were your
inspirations for this, and what are your inspirations generally as actors and
Kevin: Star Wars, of
course. And Goldman Sachs. What happens if you give a fund manager the ability
to destroy an entire planet? And more importantly, what would that action
figure look like? As actors growing up in the '80s, we really didn’t have
much of a choice in terms of inspiration: DeNiro, Pacino, Hoffman. Not a lot of
sci-fi there. It’s hard to do a convincing Jedi with a thick New York accent.
“What did I just say? These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
What have you learned
for working on Big Bang Theory, and with Chuck Lorre in particular?
character, character. All his characters are so well defined -- yes, they’re all
nerds, but they’re all very distinct, and regardless of how whacky the
situation gets, they always stay true to themselves. Chuck is a perfectionist
about that kind of thing. There’s an episode where the guys are stranded on the
highway dressed in Star Trek uniforms, and they do a kind of dance. Sheldon, as
Data, dances, and it’s not just a funny dance, it’s “of course that’s how
Sheldon would dance as Data.” I think it’s the funniest bit in the episode, and
I was not surprised to discover that Chuck was the one who choreographed it.
What would the
characters on Big Bang Theory think of Dark Minions?
Kevin: They would hate
it. We get so many sci-fi details wrong. They would absolutely watch every episode, but there would
be a lot of complaining.