Scott Speiser and Michael Cerveris on Playing Villains in "The Tick" (Interview)

Photo: Jenevia Kagawa Darcy

The Tick co-stars Scott Speiser and Michael Ceveris play super villains on the series, thus keeping them somewhat isolated from meeting all of the cast during filming. But the upside of the impending release of the new episodes and all the promotion that comes with it meant getting to finally gather and get to know everyone.

Speiser: We all didn't really get to work together too much until towards the end. A few weeks ago, we all got together and watched the first four episodes which was really fun. We had all worked together for certain scenes so you might spend a couple weeks working with this one person then you might not see them again for a month. Then this past weekend, San Diego Comic Con was really great. I was excited to learn how much fun everyone else was. Being that it's a comedy and it's a fun show, it was really cool to actually get to learn the people you're working with are very fun.
Ceveris: I think it makes sense because the material is so fun and Ben is so particular about, in an oddly loose way, but still very particular about the tone of the show and the tone of the character. So I guess it's not really that surprising that the people that they've brought into this and the people that have gravitated to it share that kind of spirit of mayhem and fun and oddness. Also I think that's probably true that Tick fans are probably among the cooler kind of people and more fun people in general.

Playing villains has proved to be a fun experience for both actors, despite the delay in being able to bond with their other cast members. Ceveris portrays Ramses and Speiser portrays Overkill.

Ceveris: It is fun to play such evil. Basically I get to just finally do something productive with my natural evilness and get paid for it. I came to it through an audition. I had known The Tick comic book and I'd known the Saturday morning animated cartoon somewhat. I didn't really know the previous live-action incarnation as well. I knew of it but I hadn't really watched it all that much. But I grew up as a comic book kid so I was really excited to get to be a part of this world and that's just become more true. [Comic Con] was a thrill. It's not easy to get to Comic Con, period, and to have someone bring you there is kind of the best way to do it. It's been really exciting and constantly surprising for me. We started it and were working so hard to get the tone right and to figure things out and to make the show that it wasn't until this weekend that I think we started to understand what it is that we've made...
Speiser: ...and what it means to people.
Ceveris: Yeah, has meant for years and in this incarnation is really meaningful. When we got to screen it, we all snuck out. We were supposed to be in some holding room but as has become The Tick team pattern, we eluded our handlers and went out front to watch because we wanted to watch people watch the show cause you don't get to do that on TV. It was so gratifying to feel like people get it the way we hopes that they would.
Speiser: As far as the character, for me, what I thought about him is he's so angry and so fed up and so vengeful and frustrated. He has no patience or tolerance for anyone around him. I myself am a pretty easy-going guy but I have moments. When I'm on the sidewalk and a whole family is taking up the entire sidewalk, when someone's driving real slow in the left lane, or I find in this country, most people think the escalator is a ride when it's wide enough, stand on the right and people can walk up the left! If I've got somewhere to be, I want to be able to walk up the escalator. I'm lucky enough that I'm still in decent enough shape that I can walk up. So it's things like that that infuriates me and I have an internal thing where I just want to scream or something more and I'm not a violent person. But if I was Overkill and I had a history like Overkill had and I had the access to that many weapons and the ability to elude the authorities like he does than I could do the things that he's able to do. His name is Overkill yet for him there's no such thing as overkill. He can kill until he needs to take a break. So it's that ability to, when that whole family is taking up the sidewalk I just want to scream at them and I just want to punch some of them. Maybe the dad of the family, I don't want to punch the kids or the pregnant wife or anything. I don't want to do that but Overkill gets to do that and he goes much further than just punching. So I love that aspect about him. That's what's fun about him, it's a nice release for me.

After making these jokes about visualisation techniques to put him in the mentality to play Overkill, Speiser further elaborates on the character's wardrobe.

Ceveris: Scott doesn't even wear a costume, they just paint him black.
Speiser: Yes. That's all stuff I just brought from my closet that Ben Edlund and the costume-designers were like, 'Perfect!' I'd be lying if I said I had a lot of fight training. I have decent physical training so I was able to do some of it but there is a stunt double and he's fantastic. There are definitely a lot of parts where you're gonna see me look really, really cool and sadly it's him. As far as special effects, most of my fighting stuff is happening. Of course [with] anything there's gonna be special effects. I'm not gonna actually stab someone in the head, there'll be some special effects in there to make it look real. Some of it, I got to do. My eyes, I wear these contacts, those are real. I don't wear contacts in real life so that was a new challenge. They're big and they're thick and I don't see very well out of them. It's one of those [things] where you put those in and it changes everything. You've worked on a scene, worked on the character, you go in that morning being prepared and then you have to put all that stuff on. There's so many layers and there's like four people that have to help put all the gear and the armour and the shotgun shells and everything on. Then the contacts go in and then when it got to July and it's 80-something, 90 degrees out and it's humid and all of a sudden, you can't remember anything about what you've worked on and what you're supposed to do. You don't remember your lines. I've worn costumes in the past but this provided a new challenge. In a way, it probably helped the Overkill vibe, just so pissed off about not being able to breathe and being constricted, and not being able to see. You're like 'I don't remember my line, I'm gonna pull out the script which I have in my pocket. I can't read it because it's blurry because of the contacts and now I want to kill somebody!'

Next, Ceveris and Speiser shared about the inspirations they drew on to create their portrayals.

Ceveris: I would say that I based Ramses, to the extent that I based him on anybody in particular, I would say probably Yul Brynner in The Greatest Story Ever Told when he plays the pharaoh. Certainly my hairstyle, and also I think Ramses thinks he is Yul Brynner in that movie. I think it's apparent to the rest of the world that he's not and it's that disconnect that frustrates him and fuels his anger and his dealings especially with Ms. Lint who actually has a connection to The Terror and worked for The Terror. The fact that Ramses can now boss her around and has her under his thumb and she really just has to put up with it, I think that is endlessly pleasant and pleasurable to Ramses. If I had a super villain power, probably mind control to just make people do what you wanted them to do, like bring your pizza faster and drive better and not screw up the escalators for everybody.
Speiser: Thank you, thank you. I wouldn't say I based Overkill on anything in particular. Originally the character was called The Punishment so upon just reading that I'm like, 'Okay, so I'll learn a little bit more about the Punisher' in some crazy idea that maybe they're connected somehow. I looked into the Punisher a little bit but to be honest, there's no one in particular that I've based him on. As far as a super villain power, most of what drives me all day and night is food. So normally, like if I wasn't a villain, the power would be to make any food appear that I wanted at any time but if I was a villain I would turn that into just being able to take anyone else's. Like right now whatever somebody in Bangkok is eating, some delicious type of hot soup, boom! It's gone and now it's mine right in front of me. That would be the evil version of what [my] superpower would be.
Ceveris: That could totally be on The Tick.

As Overkill is a character that externalises much of his internal thoughts and emotions through violence, this creates its own challenges of how to play the calmer, quieter character moments.

Speiser: Overkill very much likes to be alone. He very much does everything on his own. He doesn't want people around him. The idea that he's thrust into this world with people like Ramses, people like this giant blue buffoon Tick creature that's showing up and there's nothing about that seems to connect. He's forced to deal with all these people that live in the same city that he lives. I found ways personally, [like] if I'm doing a scene with Michael I'd just come up with my own little thing of, everything Michael/Ramses says just scratches and is grating on my nerves. I would do that with every character that I'm in the scene with because that's how Overkill is. He doesn't want to have to talk to anybody. The dialogue too allows me to do that. I'm definitely dropping more f-bombs than I think my mom would [like]. I think when she sees this it's gonna be like, 'Oh. Why are you the one that's saying that word all the time?'

Ramses has his own impressive lair in which he gets to appear in many scenes, and often times can be spotted drinking from bottles of Vitamin Water.

Ceveris: I assumed that it meant that we were being sponsored by Vitamin Water. I think we're going to deli and buying every bottle of the Vitamin Water. Maybe they're hoping to get sponsored by Vitamin Water! The lair is as fabulous as it looks and it's actually the masonic temple on 23rd street which, I didn't know they even let people in there, much less with cameras. The art department on the show is so great and one of the things that's gonna be great for people is to go back once you know the plot of the episode to see all of the visual gags in the background. They do amazing work in general but pretty much, all they had to do was basically point the camera in that room and there was something fantastic and over-the-top and Egyptian everywhere. That's just what it looks like. The refrigerator was definitely a brilliant art-department move as was the stair-master which is not in the masonic temple. Between that and the gold velour track suit that I wear in the third episode with the Gucci tennis shoes, when you're an actor and that's your costume you don't need to even show up. Just put that on and the character is done.
Speiser: That's my favourite costume in the show is his gold track suit. I wasn't there that day when he shot that but when I saw footage of it I thought it was the funniest thing.
Ceveris: I am glad that that's not the go-to costume for him.

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


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