Having recently surpassed two million views, super-villian centric series Super Knocked Up (the brainchild of writer/director Jeff Burns) has firmly established itself as one of the most popular comic book related web series on the net. Last month the comedic series launched its heralded second season with the episode, “Welcome to the Family,” introducing super-cute Jourdan Gibson in the starring role of villainess Darkstar (a.k.a. Jessica James) that Natalie Bain portrayed last season.
Having already interviewed both Jourdan and showrunner Jeff Burns about Season Two’s pre-production last summer, we touched base again last week for NerdSpan to discuss the new season and their fun Google+ hangout series, Super Geeked Up, which entertainingly kept the creative team connected to fans and fellow super-geeks during the series’ hiatus.
In case you haven’t seen the super-cool series up till now, I asked Jeff to describe the show’s premise and to compare Season Two to Season One? “Super Knocked Up is an action/comedy about a female super-villain who gets knocked up by a womanizing superhero and has to raise the baby with her nemesis. It’s about these two totally opposite characters who can’t stand each other forced into this super-awkward situation of having a baby together, which of course is a ton of fun to watch! Season 1 sets the stage while Season 2 really focuses much more on the relationship between Jessica (super-villain Darkstar) and Michael (superhero Captain Amazing) and also on Jessica being introduced to Michael’s hero family and being caught in the middle of these two worlds: the heroes and the villains. We really raised the bar on everything in Season 2, and I think people will love it.” Jourdan agreed, “Season One was so good, but I think Season Two is just bigger. It has bigger laughs, a bigger cast, more special effects, more heart, more emotion, more complexity and more storyline. In Season One Darkstar was still 100% villain, in Season Two she’s a little more affected by the changes in her life and by the new people who come her way. She’s conflicted and angry and touched. It’s complex, funny and sweet all at the same time. I’m a pretty big fan of this season.”
Jourdan won the series’ lead role via video audition and didn’t actually meet Jeff until arriving in New York to begin filming. I wondered if their first in-person meeting went as well as Jeff had hoped it would and whether or not shooting with Jourdan was as fun as their online rehearsals promised? “It was beyond amazing working with Jourdy. Her talent is off the charts. It’s always nice when you pick someone up at the airport, meet them for the first time in person, and they immediately start making fun of you. You pretty much know then it’s the beginning of an awesome friendship. She is one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met. So being around her is a total joy. Oh and awesome bonus, she has super-impressive geek cred! Shooting went even better than rehearsals, performance-wise, because once I was working with Jourdan and Mark (Pezzula) in person their chemistry went through the roof and raised everything way beyond what we did in our Skype rehearsals.” Was the experience equally rewarding for Jourdan? “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” she exclaimed, “It was crazy. I met some of the most wonderful people. Our crew and cast – I LOVE these people. I’m really looking forward to working with everyone again! It far exceeded my expectations in many ways – how fun it was, how hard it was, how rewarding it was. It was definitely an incredible month of my life that I will forever cherish.” How did you like finally meeting your co-star, Mark Pezzula who plays Captain Amazing, in person? “Ugh, what a diva. Seriously. Just kidding. I love that guy. When initially talking over Skype I could immediately tell we would hit it off. He’s just an easy-going guy who’s really stinking nice. And around 4am on set after 16 hours of filming it helped to have someone as hilarious as him to goof off with. And, if you get a chance, tell him how good he is in SKU! He hasn’t yet realized how gifted and natural he is at this whole acting thing.”
What do you believe you brought to the Jessica James character for this new season, Jourdan? “Jeff and I talked about how to handle changing the lead actor after a season, and we decided that I should apply my personal interpretation of her, and not try to imitate last season’s Darkstar. I feel that wouldn’t have been an honest performance. Fortunately, Darkstar has a basic character and personality description, so she’s still the same person…there’s just a new twist on her. Also, this season she’s is dealing with a lot more emotional drama and uncomfortable scenarios. So, my version of Darkstar is a bit more vulnerable at this stage of the story.”
Darkstar’s sexy new costume for Season Two was first teased through Super Knocked Up‘s twitter account and later unveiled in a Super Geeked Up Google+ hangout. I was curious as to Jourdy and Jeff’s thoughts about Jessica James’ updated threads? “Last season,” Gibson explained, “the costumes were more like civilian street clothes but this season they’re full-on Superhero and Super-Villain costumes. Jeff and I came up with a blended version of our two favorite Superhero costumes – Black Widow (from The Avengers) and Elektra. Also, we had two amazing costume designers on set this year in Marah Chabot and Melissa Rao. They really know their stuff, were really creative and highly organized. They’re very cool girls. I hope to work with them again. We really upped our game with costumes this season!” Burns concurred, “We really took the costumes up several notches this season, especially with Jourdan’s Darkstar costume. For Season 1, it was basically me and my sister going around to stores trying to find stuff that could kind of pass as superhero and villain costumes. Jourdy, Carly (another one of our costumers), and I talked a lot about how Darkstar’s new costume should be kick-ass but also sexy. We both love a lot of the same superhero costumes from movies and both really dig the Elektra costume worn by Jennifer Garner and Black Widow’s costume worn by Scarlett Johansson. Both of those were inspirations for the new season’s costume and we think it came out great. We had four amazing costumers this season and Jourdan also did costuming, putting together most of her costume herself.”
Who came up with the idea of doing the weekly Super Geeked Up hangouts? “After I was cast as Darkstar, Jeff asked me to do some videos introducing myself to the audience. He named them “Super Jourdy”! I did about four of those, and they were fun, but I really didn’t want to have a Jourdan Gibson show, which is kind of what it felt like. So, we brainstormed for a bit, and he came up with the Google+ Hangouts that would incorporate all of us. It was such a great solution! It gets the fans involved, and we have guests on to talk about their shows. Lots of fun cross promotion.”
Jeff, how would you describe SGU for the uninitiated? “The Super Geeked Up shows are a ton of fun. They’re live video shows we do through our YouTube channel where Jourdan, Mark, and I talk about geeky stuff and answer fan questions. It’s a great way for us to really connect with our amazing fans. We wouldn’t be anything without them. And it lets the fans see us geek out and just have fun and shows them how much we all love working together. We also have guests on from other web series so it’s a cool way to introduce our fans to these other great series and fans of those series to our show.” I know you’ve featured guests such as Victor Solis (showrunner of web series Generic Girl), super-talented married couple Tara Platt & Yuri Lowenthal (stars and creators) of Shelf Life, and, your most viewed entry focused on fun and provocative superhero cosplay. Have you had any favorite moments or episodes so far you’d like to tell us about? “Episode 9 featured amazing actress and cosplayer Brieanna Brock,” Jeff relayed, “I loved that episode because we got to display a bunch of Brie’s amazing cosplay pics and showcase her talking about them. We also previewed the picture she did for our Super Vixens Magazine that you’ll see later in Season 2. She looks amazing in it! Plus she’s just a ton of fun to talk with. I also loved Episode 10 with Tara Platt & Yuri Lowenthal. They’re so ridiculously fun and geeky and cool. I wish we lived in the same town so we could hang out. A highlight of that show was Tara saying she wanted to be a gnome and us coming up with an awesome show idea called Sydney & The Gnome where Jourdan plays Sydney Bristow from Alias (Jourdy is famously obsessed with that show – and for good reason) and Tara plays her gnome sidekick. Comic brilliance right there. You’ve interviewed Tara before [read my past interview with Platt about Season 4 of Shelf Life: The Series here], you know how cool she and Yuri are.” Jourdan wholeheartedly affirmed, “I also loved the one with Tara and Yuri. They’re a fun, goofy time.” “In terms of favorite episodes though,” Jeff confessed, “I can’t even choose. We do something ridiculous and super-funny in every SGU show, so I think people should just watch them all!”
When I interviewed Jeff last summer for Super Knocked Up (read it here) he was gearing up for a Super-Fundraising Party taking place that night wherein key casting took place for Season Two. Did that work out as well you’d hoped, Jeff? “Yes, the fundraising party was a blast and really helped us get Season 2 made. We asked actors to bring their headshots and resumes to the party, and I actually cast quite a few of the new Season 2 roles from that night. In fact most of the new heroes and villains you’ll see in Season 2 came from actors who submitted their headshots and resumes at that party. And that’s pretty awesome!” At that time you mentioned plans to include more action sequences this season, you hoped to shoot it all within two weeks time, and that the average episode’s length would grow from approx. 5mins to 8mins per entry. Did your plans all come together? “Yup! Our shortest episode will probably be just under seven minutes and the longest just over ten, so around eight is a pretty good average for Season 2. We shot for two weeks in October and got virtually everything done, though we did do a couple pickup shoots in November to completely finish up. So shooting’s been done for a while and it’s all just post work right now. The number of action scenes is pretty similar to Season 1 but we definitely raised the level and coolness of those scenes. Jourdan kicks ass in them! And there’s a ton of other stunt work Jourdan does for comedic effect rather than all out action.”
Jourdan, in our previous interview (viewable here) you mentioned wanting to use your legal education and experience to aid Jeff in your duel-role as series producer. Did that prove to be the case? “I sure hope I’ve been a help to him! We’ve had lots of contracts come our way and I’ve been able to put on my lawyer hat and review/re-draft everything. I’ve also drafted various contracts for music licensing, etc.” Adding, “Jeff is great to work with and I think we make a pretty good producing team. He has a ton on his shoulders with this show, so I’m happy whenever I can relieve the pressure in any way.”
One bombshell bit of news Jeff broke the last time we talked was that he’d be re-filming the iconic first fight scene in which Darkstar takes on multiple security guards from the series’ initial scene from its very first episode (relive it here). The key difference this time, of course, being that Jourdan would be doing the fighting with baby on board. I couldn’t end this fun interview without asking Jourdy and Jeff to describe the experience of recreating that significant, fan-favorite sequence. “It was awesome but also super-challenging.” Jeff recalled, “For me, it was probably the most challenging thing we shot in Season 2. Staging fight scenes takes a lot of time and work, especially because we wanted to raise the bar on the fights this season. It came out great, and I was thrilled to see that Jourdy absolutely LOVED doing those scenes. It’s what she was most excited to do. I love working with actresses that are excited to kick ass and do their own fight scenes.” No stranger to combat choreography, Gibson gleefully shared, “That was SO much fun! Professional stunt choreographer David Bunce trained us during my first week in New York. It was a blast learning fight techniques, and seeing what I was capable of. I love, love, love things like this, so I was on Cloud 9. Filming that scene was 18 hours of stunts; a pretty intense, long night. But, we survived! And, I can’t wait to see how it turned out. The whole cast and crew were tremendous troopers that night. It was a real bonding experience!”
I also can’t wait to see how it turned out! With just four more episodes left in this season there’s still time for you to get entirely caught up, even if you haven’t seen any of Season One. Do yourself a favor and see why Super Knocked Up has been enjoyed over two millions times by fans of superheroes and super-villains alike. If you’re new to the super-fun series you can start at the very beginning with Episode 1 here, and if you’re already up to speed you can enjoy Jourdan’s arrival to the series with Season Two’s first episode below. True believers will want to get fully onboard by following Jeff, Jourdan and Super Knocked Up on twitter, frequenting the show’s official site and by liking their Facebook page as well. And don’t forget to catch each week’s new Super Geeked Up episode and new Super Knocked Up webisodes every other Wednesday! Season Two’s 2nd episode debuts next Wednesday (3/13)!!