Brendan Hines and Valorie Curry on Playing a Wide Spectrum of Material on "The Tick" (Interview)

Photo: Jenevia Kagawa Darcy

Brendan Hines (Superian) and Valorie Curry (Dot Everest) co-star on Amazon's latest series, The Tick, a fresh comedic take to the superhero genre. When we begin our sit-down by finding out what drew them to the project, Curry offers some refreshing truths.

Curry: I think the truth always has to be said before everything else which is, actors like to work on things that pay them so there's always that, 'Yeah, that's a job! I'm drawn to that, I have rent to pay.' But for me, part of why I was excited to do this was, apart from the story and the property that it is, because I wasn't really familiar with The Tick beforehand, I was really excited to work on a comedy. I've spent most of my career doing some really dark, intense stuff, which I love but partly just for my own edification having the opportunity to work with these amazing comedians but also just having a nice normal character that wears jeans and gets a blowout and that's her prep, and is empathetic, and grounded and loving, that was really exciting to me.
Hines: Same, about the comedy. I was very excited to do a comedy and had been trying to do one for a bit. This coincided really nicely because I'm also a fan of this. I was a big fan of the cartoon and I'm also a big fan of getting to say very cleverly constructed linguistically stylised word salads that end in punchlines. I just love that and Ben's brain does that very well. It's so fun to be able to not just be in a comedy, but be in a really smart comedy that also is a pretty kind-hearted comedy. Those are all things that were very exciting for me and also I think I'm approaching the time where I was about to start aging out of being able to play a superhero so I think I made it in just under the wire.

Dot Everest is one of the most 'normal' characters on the series, as her character provides heart and family support to one of the two main leads, Arthur. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Superian borderlines on a caricature of the most old-timey versions of superheroes. His first introduction comes with not only heroic monologuing, but an opportunity for his character to be interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg (who portrays herself).

Hines: Whoopi was really good, so easy to work with her. That was the easiest scene I've probably ever shot. It was a very brief scene but, as written it's a three-page scene, but Whoopi and I just ad-libbed for about an hour and it was so easy and effortless. I love people who are great improvisers and really accepting and agree and heighten. She was a delight.
Curry: My relationship with Griffin is much like Brendan's relationship with Whoopi. It's really a similar dynamic. In terms of Griffin and I, we have just sort of, from day one fallen into a really easy chemistry for whatever reason. Having the intimacy and history established was just sort of there and that's just one of those luck of the draw things you get with actors. But in terms of Dot and Arthur, I think their relationship and sort of the divergent ways in which they dealt with the trauma of losing their father is really the heart and the nexus point of the show and the story. As we know, he sort of broke from it and has been dealing with the subsequent mental illness for his whole adult life. Dot, because he broke, didn't really have the luxury of doing so. Dot had to stop in where her mother couldn't and take on a parental role with him. She had to put aside her grief, her ambitions in life, to always put her brother first and to take care of her brother. So when she's faced with the possibility that maybe he doesn't need her or maybe he's not as sick as we thought or in the way that we thought, she has to then face what she was maybe avoiding or also what lingering resentment might be there and I think that's part of what informs the tension that they have. There's so much love and that's the default between them is this love and protectiveness. But they also both have these un-adressed resentments. On his part, because of her role in his treatment, institutionalising, things like that. On her part, the whole life she didn't get to have because she was busy doing his.

With such a heavy emotional component to the backstory of Arthur and Dot, Curry approached the material with an understanding that mental illness and trauma is not always played well in fictionalised content. We mention the stigmas that can often be perpetuated with misinformed writing and she is quick to jump in and share her perspective.

Curry: I completely agree, it's really not dealt with very well and it's something that I'm really sensitive to because, without going into a lot of detail, it's something that I have a history with in my relationships. It's part of what did draw me to the character and part of what informed the way that I play Dot, is treating that mental illness with the utmost seriousness. That is never the joke on this show. It's never the butt of the joke. It's always treated with compassion, with seriousness, in a way that I've never seen it dealt with, at least on a comedy. Also, one of the things we don't see a lot is, you don't see the effect I think necessarily that that has on the other people in the family. You don't see the person that's the caretaker and how any kind of illness but mental illness as well is sort of a shared experience. That's a really fascinating thing to get to investigate with her. Looking at trauma, looking at what happens with adults that end up as these sort of parentified children, not just with Arthur but also with their mom, and it's something that you see throughout the relationships as the world expands and the characters expand in the series.

Superian presents a unique concept for Hines to play, as the style of his dialogue and mannerisms holds a cheesy style associated with older versions of superheroes, but the approach to such material must be done in a purposeful way so as to fit in a modern series.

Hines: That was the thing that I was most challenged by when we were starting because I wanted to find the right tone. I feel like we've seen a lot of the hyper-stylised, very broad, cheesy versions of this character and I felt that I needed to ground him more and make him a person. He's not from this planet but he has been around people for a hundred years and surely has taken on some of their attributes and learned about their behaviors even if he doesn't necessarily default to them all the time. I approached him as somebody who, me personally, I am not a beloved and revered, God-like individual. For me, I had to start from a place of, I thought about who could be around for hundreds of years and have this love, this reverence that humanity would have for him. I thought of old movie stars, Gary Cooper types, old sports stars, quarterbacks, even old Presidents, back in the day when we revered Presidents. Those are the people that I thought about and even on a less grandiose but still really heroic level, firefighters, astronauts, that kind of thing. I wanted him grounded. I wanted him to be aloof and arrogant but also that come from a real place.

The actors also found that despite not being present for as many scenes as The Tick himself or even Arthur, they still enjoyed following the content, thus avoiding the stereotype of actors only reading through the scripts for the parts in which they are present.

Hines: We call that 'Bullshit, bullshit, my line!' I think there is always that temptation to do that, to do that 'Bullshit, bullshit, my line' thing. But one thing I was mentioning earlier is it's just nice to be on a show that you actually really love all of the jokes and really love all the characters and love where the story is going. I read it the way I do a comic book that I'm really enjoying and a story that I'm really loving seeing how it's unfolding so I read all of that. Plus they talk about my character a lot!
Curry: We're invested in scenes we're not necessarily in for other reasons. Of course I read the whole script and a lot of that is because I do just want to know what happens and also because it's just so funny. I want to hear the jokes before I watch the episode. But at the same time, I kind of have to read it and then let it go because Dot exists in a different place in this world and it is kind of compartmentalised. That shifts and that changes to a degree over the season but she's not privy to what's always going on and that does become a bit of a joke at times, that she doesn't know what's going on. Sometimes I have to remind myself, 'Does Dot know that? Have I heard this name?' It's like our little weekly serial strip comic that we get to keep up on every time we watch it or every time we read it. But then I love getting to see it come together as well. I love seeing the episodes.
Hines: That's the thing, it's a completely different thing when you're reading a script, a blueprint essentially, for something that is really novel and really tough to pull off and the tone of this, making it look cool is tough. I was really excited to see the first half of the season and see it finally come together, the stuff that I wasn't there for and the stuff that I was there for but that the effects needed to be added later and all that.
Curry: And to see which improv bits make it in and which don't because there's a lot of comedians on this show. There's a lot of improv that goes on, a bit to our show-runner's chagrin at times, and seeing how the actors' interpretations of a scene does inform how they end up. But at the end of the day, they're always sort of begging us to stay on script. [But] for me, any scene I'm in end ends when I break. That's kind of standard. There's one actor who will go unnamed that always has to have the last word and he'll keep on and keep on until I just lose it.

Hines and Curry were also operating on a fast-paced weekend, having just flown back into New York from a promotional trip to San Diego Comic Con. The experience was a positive one, as many fans of the property turned out to show their appreciation.

Hines: It was great. We did an autograph signing and then we did the panel. I was overwhelmed. I knew there [were] tons of Tick fans but it's just great when you see in person, the actual physical manifestation of how many people are excited about the show and feel passionately about it. I can't wait for them to see it. It was great to sit and watch them watch it for the first time too.
Curry: I love Comic Con. I love it because even though we're running around and we're doing press all day and that's what we're there for, at the same time that's not what Comic Con is at all. This is the space for the fans. It is about unbridled enthusiasm and love and they are the cool people and this is their party and we're the guests, absolutely. Especially with something like this where people do love it so much and they've grown up with it, I don't know about you but I felt very much like I'm just the caretaker for a character that they love. I'm just getting to babysit somebody that they have a very deep investment with. So I love getting to engage with them and see how we live up to those expectations.
Hines: That's a great point. They're the ones giving it the power. It is interesting to see what the response is like.

The Tick will be available for streaming on Amazon on August 25.


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