Kevin Pollak has been a very funny stand-up comedian for many years and a respected actor, having appeared in such acclaimed films as L. A. Story, A Few Good Men and The Usual Suspects. Since 2009 Kevin has hosted his own talk show, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, which is streamed exclusively over the Internet and recently won a Streamy Award for Best Live Production in a Web Series. This year, Kevin co-created with Jason Antoon a new web series called Vamped Out, which started airing in April at Babelgum.com. In anticipation of the season finale streaming Monday, I spoke with Kevin Friday afternoon via phone about the genesis of the show and where it might be heading.
POP CULTURE ZOO: Starting off with the inevitable first question, what lead to you and Jason coming up with Vamped Out?
KEVIN POLLAK: Well, my girlfriend Jamie and I were going to have lunch with Jason and now-fiance Seana Kofoed, who plays Marie in the Vamped Out series. On the way there we saw a billboard for a TV show called Vampire Diaries with the hilarious tagline “Love Sucks.” We sat down at lunch bemoaning and griping about this ridiculous billboard and show and all the vampire shows and movies and how annoying they are. Then, Jason Antoon said with all these vampire shows, movies and books, could you imagine being a real vampire right now. And then we laughed and laughed and he said also being a vampire who couldn’t get hired to be in any of these movies and TV shows because he’s not skinny and handsome and tired looking. And then we laughed more and Jamie said, “Kevin, that would be a great bit for your act.” And I blurted out that no, that would actually be a good web series. I don’t really know why I said that because I wasn’t searching for an idea to do as a web series. I mean, I have been doing my talk show online for a little over a year and having tremendous freedom and creative control and I’m sure that fueled the idea of doing a web series because I felt the idea that Jason had thrown on the table was so great that I didn’t want the “networks” to add water to it. So I said let’s do this as a web series and I’ll direct it and Jason said alright and then about five weeks later we had about six readable scripts and here we are a mere five months later and it’s found an audience.
PCZ: Did you go out then and actively recruit friends and remind them they owed you something or was everyone ready to jump in?
KP: I gathered all the photographs I had of my friends with various farm animals, I keep a collection for just this thing, and I told them it was time, I’m calling in some markers. No, you know, I’ve been joking that in Los Angeles being asked to be in a friend’s web series the new jury duty. But once I told everyone the idea, before they even read the scripts, everybody was kind of really into it, but of course I didn’t shoot for the moon and call Bruce Willis, but, you know, once we had written scripts we sent them out to people and everyone responded immediately. Like I said, I wasn’t shooting for all the giant, famous people I knew, I went after the most talented people I felt I had a shot at getting. They were all unbelievably supportive and open to the idea of working for nothing.
PCZ: Hopefully you at least bought them coffee and donuts or something…
KP: Yeah. People ask what the main difference is between independent films and studio films and I always answered craft service. Then the difference between web series and independent films would be “what craft service?”
PCZ: Have you gotten any responses from people that have checked out Vamped Out expecting another Twilight or Vampire Diaries and been appalled at what you’ve done?
KP: Not really. We did as good a job as I felt we could about getting the word out about what people should expect. The trailer did pretty well and the PR campaign has been pretty solid about letting people know. You’re right, it was a concern that they would expect one thing even though the title, to me, suggests something else. Speaking of titles, in the first episode our guy Alowisus auditioned for a TV show called Vamp Stamp. I just saw a poster for the new season of True Blood and they’re using the fucking phrase “Vamp Stamp.” I’m not laying claim that they got the idea from us, but I am awfully happy that ours came out first.
PCZ: And yours is much funnier.
KP: Well, ours is [funny] by design, for sure, thank you.
PCZ: I was wondering if, much like Al, have you encountered any actors that are much bigger characters themselves than the roles they play?
KP: Oh yeah, people are always considerably more drama-filled in their real lives than anything that is given them in a script. The idea here was that the humor would come from real life experience and not jokes. The humor would come from story and characters and their quirks and bizarre behavior as opposed to ever being a parody or satire. “Play it real” was always the mantra. By doing that, yes, we’ve taken advantage of people’s lives and how ridiculously messed up we all might be.
PCZ: And that’s what I think is probably most funny about it, it’s played absolutely straight, which makes it absolutely hysterical.
KP: Well, thank you, that was indeed the exact design and it’s nice to hear it appreciated in that way.
PCZ: Ok, so, is six episodes it or can we hope to see some more Vamped Out down the road?
KP: I’m not at liberty to say, but I will tell you that the network has expressed interest, rather intense interest, in doing a second season. It was always our design to do a second and a third season. Unlike Lost we have it planned out ahead of time. The only reason I can’t really say is it’s not official yet, but when it is we’ll make a big announcement.
PCZ: And of course the finale is coming up on Monday. Do we get a definitive answer one way or another on whether Al really is or isn’t a vampire?
KP: Oh, that’s such a great question! You really are the perfect audience for this. You get all the reasons it’s funny and you have the exact anticipation and desire going into the final episode. I will say, as a way of not giving anything away, you won’t be disappointed.
PCZ: Fantastic! So, apart from this and the talk show are there any other web series you are looking at developing?
KP: Actually, yeah, Jason and I have another idea that we’re pretty excited about. We’re setting up meetings right now, but it’s very early stages so I can’t say too much about it. After doing my talk show, or I should say my 2010 Streamy Award winning talk show, I’m hooked 100% in the world of online original content and the creative freedom and control that comes with all of it.
PCZ: It sorts of seems that the Internet is where everyone is turning for a creative outlet now.
KP: Yeah, I mean, the future is here and slowly but surely it seems as though all the forms of traditional media have, over the last two years, been carving out their own piece of that pie. It seems to be widening and broadening. It’s awfully exciting also because the Internet is a place where new people and beginners can start. Spielberg has told stories that when he was a kid he would just pick up a super 8 camera and start making his own movies and now kids are doing that and putting them on the Internet and getting an immediate audience. It’s an incredible way to experiment when you’re first starting out and are learning as you go and self educating. Now, for people who have been around traditional media for as long as I have to be able to find this home that offers all the creative freedom and control that I only had as a stand-up comedian is like nirvana, quite frankly.
PCZ: So, where else can we see you in the coming months?
KP: On my website there is a list of stand-up dates and there’s also some announcements of films that I’m doing. This summer I’ll be co-starring in a movie called Middle Men with Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi. I think August 6th is the release date on that. I wrote a movie with that same director, George Gallo, great writer and filmmaker, called Columbus Circle. Then I’m about to start a new movie next week, actually, a big comedy called The Big Year with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black.
PCZ: Great! Well, that is all the questions I have for you. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.
KP: No worries, my pleasure!
Thank you very much to Kevin Pollak for taking the time to talk to me. Watch all six episodes of Vamped Out right here!