How would you feel if you were a busy working actor but all anyone remembered of your work was a show you were in more than a decade ago that was cancelled unfairly?
This is the premise of Alan Tudyk’s “Con Man,” a thirteen-episode series crowdfunded by fans who remember his turn as “Hoban Washburne” — a.k.a.– “Wash” from the hit series Firefly and its movie, Serenity. The show is Tudyk’s love-hate letter to the fans and the fame garnered from Joss Whedon’s sci-fi western.
“It’s Complicated” would be the best way to describe the relationship, but Tudyk does an excellent job balancing the “I’ve done more work since then” and “It’s amazing that we’re still talking about this show we all love” dialogue between himself, the cast, and the viewers.
Alan Tudyk is a phenomenal actor, able to turn into a likeable pilot or terrifying killer in seconds. His turn as “Alpha” in Dollhouse was chilling, while his role as “Tucker” in Tucker & Dale Versus Evil was hilariously adorable. He played a pleasantly ignorant “Pastor Veal” in Arrested Development, worked with Disney and Pixar on several features (including incredible voice work for Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, & Zootopia), voiced characters for such games as Halo 3 and Injustice: Gods Among Us, took turns on Broadway as “Sir Lancelot” in Spamalot and “Peter” in Prelude To A Kiss, and more.
The trouble, as we see in “Con Man,” is that Tudyk, despite his fantastic range, is only known for one thing, a sci-fi show that went off the air before it even got a chance. Since then, he’s been hounded and pigeon-holed by both Hollywood and the “Firefly” audience, to both revisit his “Firefly” character and continue playing characters in sci-fi, which rarely ever provide the affirmation that Tudyk’s too-close-for-comfort character craves: the recognition that sci-fi (and his work) is valuable and worthy of praise (and awards).
The brutally honest scene between Wray (which is Tudyk’s middle name) and his assistant Karen (played by Felicia Day) right before he walks onstage at a convention to answer questions he’s provided answers for a million times seems to be the crux of the issue: Tudyk, in his forties, feels like every chance he gets to do something else might be the last.
While this may at first seem bleak, the hilarity that ensues as Wray runs from his booking agent, his old pal Jack Moore (Nathan Fillion) now turned A-List actor, and fans ensures the tone maintains its goofy, geeky vibe. It’s a good-natured poke at Tudyk himself, the show, the fans, and the friends he’s met along the way.
I binge-watched the entire thirteen-episode season, provided on Blu-Ray and DVD to those of us who took part in the crowdfunding on IndieGogo (we raised an impressive amount, over three million dollars). The discs also came with extras like bloopers, behind-the-scenes footage, and commentary.
Perhaps the most telling thing about the series is the commentary (provided by Tudyk and Fillion), in which the two spend the majority of the time laughing while Tudyk ‘fesses up on what he’s based off of personal experience and which jokes he wished were better.
Alan Tudyk’s honest appraisal of himself and the culture surrounding storytelling in Hollywood and beyond is both refreshing and enlightening. It’s something to keep in mind as we venture to meetings with people like him, who are responsible for helping to create the stories we love most.
I’ve had a few opportunities here and there to talk with actors from some of my favorite shows, and it’s always a good reminder that they’re human – they deserve respect and they work hard for what they have. They’re like us, only thrust into the spotlight so that we see every crack in their veneer.
If you’ve ever seen Alan Tudyk (his role as “Wat” in A Knight’s Tale is wonderful), loved a character he’s performed, or you’re curious about the convention circuit, then do yourself a favor and head over to Vimeo to watch “Con Man.” For ten dollars you can watch the entire thing, and if you’re a sci-fi fan or geek at all, you’ll love the story Tudyk tells.
Or, you can always head over to your local comic book shop on Free Comic Book Day (May 7) and see if they have a copy of Spectrum #0, the comic book based off the show Tudyk’s character “Wray” was in on “Con Man.” Trust me, you’ll want a copy. If nothing else, it will remind you of your love for “Firefly” – and a certain spaceship pilot.