Greg Grunberg, one of the hosts and executive producers of AMC’s Geeking Out, talks about working with Kevin Smith, his first geeky loves, and what makes the show different from anything else.
Q: How did the idea of doing this show first come about?
A: I wanted to make something really organic to who I was, something that I could really be passionate about. I have this ferocious appetite for stuff that’s molded my career: Star Wars, Star Trek, Alias, Heroes and all these things I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play. I love the idea of talking about this stuff, and the people that are involved [in making it] are just as fanatical as I am — just as geeky as I am. [AMC] brought the idea of Kevin Smith, and I thought, “Yeah that’s a great idea but there’s no chance he’s going to do this.” I’m such a huge fan of his passion, his creativity, his honesty, and he has no filter. He’s so interesting and unpredictable, and just a brilliant guy, and I don’t mind going toe-to-toe with him. Lo and behold he felt the same way that I felt about him and he said, “I’m in” right away.
Q: What is the dynamic like between you guys on the show?
A: Kevin has so much deep knowledge; he knows the origins of things. I am just the bandwagoner. A lot of that bulls–t doesn’t mean anything to me. I am just along for the ride. So, I am much more of the crazy fan, but he has that side too. When we go off on stuff, it’s like two giddy girls talking about the really hot guy in high school. And when we’re disagreeing on things, I don’t mind cutting him off and he doesn’t mind cutting me off. We have a really good dance together. Honestly, it’s not something you can rehearse. We’re just in there winging it.
It’s like I’m on a trapeze and I’m doing the best I can to make it look interesting. But when I run out of stuff to say, I’ve got this big, bearded goofball to catch me every time I run out of funny things to say and vice versa. We’ve got other correspondents, we’ve got other points of views out there, but there’s nobody better to share a show like this with. He’ll hate me for saying this, but I kept catching myself watching the show while I’m on it with him. We’re sitting there discussing something, and I’m laughing at him cause he’s so brilliant and so funny, and then I realize he’s been on for 15 minutes and I should cut him off now. I absolutely love working with him and I hope the audience responds to it and we’re able to do this for years and years.
Q: What was the first thing you remember “geeking out” over?
A: I have to say Batman and Robin on TV. I was watching it on the screen like, “When you hit somebody, does it actually say ‘Pow!’?” I really immersed myself in the visual. I wasn’t a huge reader, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Willy Wonka — those were the things that I absolutely loved to escape into. I wish I could say I collected baseball cards or I collected comic books as a kid. I didn’t, but I built up an appreciation for the entertainment value and being able to sit and watch The Six Million Dollar Man and going, “Dude, that’s crazy! I’m going to cut off my arm tomorrow, and maybe I’ll get a fake arm!” I love all that old TV. Wonder Woman, Batman is what kind of molded me and then Star Wars. Going to see Star Wars, that was the first time that — and we talk about this on the show — you were talking about characters and their lives outside the of the movie. We were talking about the lore, the history, where these things could go. Who the hell would ever do that before this?
Q: Fandom culture has never been hotter. What do you think contributed most to this genre’s dominance in the overall pop culture landscape?
A: I think people want to escape. People really want to live that fantasy at least for the hour or two that they can watch something. When I was a kid, my parents weren’t into Batman and Superman. I didn’t go see Star Wars with my parents, but now these titles have come so far. The new Star Wars did so well because it’s multigenerational. You had the new audience loving it and old audience appreciating and loving the fact that it came back and was bringing back old memories and reviving these characters that they care about. The world is just a crazy f—ed up place right now. That’s why people are gravitating towards being able to watch and escape into something that’s another world, other characters. Superheroes save the world.
Q: Given that there is so much interest in this space, what will Geeking Out offer that other shows won’t?
A: I think Kevin will satisfy the hardcore geeks out there and he’ll provide information, knowledge, and passion that goes much deeper. Me, I want to make it so that my parents or anybody out there can watch a show like this and get it. For people that are not hardcore sci-fi nerds, sometimes it’s very off-putting and you can really alienate people. That’s what I think our show does not do. I think it opens it up to everyone.
Q: This show is meant to explore pop culture as it’s happening now, but will you devote any time to celebrating and revisiting classics of the genre?
A: I don’t think an interview with Stan Lee is ever going to go out of style. There’s an appreciation that we all have for what got us to this point. Honoring that and featuring it is always going to be interesting. But at the same time, you’ve got to be very topical. What movie is coming out this week? What show? What episode just aired? So, it is a balance. But this is not your mom’s Entertainment Tonight. This is much deeper, much goofier. It’s what’s molding us at this moment. Why are we so passionate about this? Why is this show working right now where others aren’t? How do you market a film like that right now? It really is going to be a tightrope because people do want to talk about what they just saw and at the same time there’s so much more out there.
Q: What kind of guests can we expect in the first season? Do you have a dream wish list of people?
A: We’re tapping into all of the friends we have and very quickly we are realizing we don’t have too many friends. [Laughs] Both of us have worked with so many great people that have gone on to build their own little empires. From Damon Lindelof to J.J. Abrams to Matt Damon, Ben Affleck — we are really going after the big fish. These are interviews that you normally wouldn’t see. They’re not red carpet stuff, let’s put it that way. Some of the guests are people that you may not know right away, someone that was a comic book artist that was ultimately responsible for a movie that you fell in love with. There’s a guy who’s a fan of Futurama and spent $3 million making his own fan fiction film. I want to interview that guy! There’s another guy who collects more memorabilia from TV than anyone else in the world. So, we have makers and we have huge, huge geeks that have taken it to a level people can only dream of.
Geeking Out premieres Sunday, August 14 11/10c. Sign up for the AMC Weekly to get the latest news and exclusives delivered directly to your inbox.Read More