The following is an interview with actor/writer/creator Chris Burns, who plays Hawkeye in the hysterical fan series Avengers Assemble! The Series. In this interview, Fanboy Comics President Bryant Dillon chats with Burns about his acting career leading up to Avengers Assemble!, the creative process behind the fan-created project, and what to expect from the next season.
This interview was conducted on May 16, 2012.
Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: You have quite an amazing resume! Can you tell us a little about your background in acting and how it led to Avengers Assemble! The Series?
Chris Burns: I started acting around the age of 15. I grew up in Flint, Michigan, which is a pretty rough town, and found myself involved in a lot of trouble as a kid. Acting and the theatre were the outlets that gave me an avenue to focus my energy and drive into something creative and not destructive. It really saved my life. I studied and have a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Interpretation. I’ve been working in the film and television industry every since for the last twelve years. Atlanta is a healthy secondary market for actors, but very rarely does a local actor get the opportunity to have a leading or starring role in a studio film or television product, even if it’s filming in Atlanta. So, that being the case, I’ve been very proactive with finding and creating my own projects to star and act in. Avengers Assemble! The Series is one such example.
BD: Before we jump too far into Avengers Assemble! The Series, I want to mention that you’ve also done a little time on The Walking Dead as a zombie! Can you share your experiences on the show with us?
CB: Ha! I worked on the first season of The Walking Dead in the Production Department helping to run the set. I had mentioned to Greg Nicotero, the SFX Makeup Designer for the show, that I would love to be a zombie for an episode. After initially talking to him about it, I kind of forgot about it until one day he came up to me and said, “You’re gonna be a zombie tomorrow, cool?” I was like “F— yeah!” Greg and Kevin Wasner both did my makeup, and after an hour and a half in the chair, I looked truly amazing. Unfortunately, in the edit of the episode, you only see the back of my head. That’s showbiz for you, right? It was still a great experience, and I had a great time doing it. The entire season was pretty epic. We were shutting down entire blocks in downtown Atlanta and would have like 300 zombie extras chasing Rick and Glenn down the street. It truly was a surreal experience.
BD: Alright! On to Avengers Assemble! The Series! Could you give us a breakdown of the main characters and how they may differ slightly from the Avengers with which fans are familiar?
CB: The Avengers are notorious for the constantly changing roster, so we chose those characters that have stuck consistently with the team over the years and that most comic readers would be easily familiar with. The team is lead by Tony Stark (a.k.a Iron Man) who, unlike his Marvel counterpart, our Tony has never stopped drinking and seems solely concerned with cutting cost and keeping his wealth rather than spending it to support the team.
Thor is here and he is unfamiliar with quite a few things in Midgard and is often confused by the strange world of mortals.
Captain America is played as if he actually walked out of the ‘40s, so most of his world view on women, other races, and nationalities is very offensive and outdated.
Hawkeye on our show is pretty much the same except his horndog nature has been ramped up from 10 to 1000. He’s pretty much an obnoxious oversexed nymphomaniac with one goal…piercing as many targets as possible with his “Arrow.”
We have the Scarlet Witch who has had multiple mental breakdowns throughout her comics history, so that, coupled with her jewish heritage, we made her neurotic like Woody Allen.
Rounding out our main cast is Ms. Marvel who is one of the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe. In Agamemnon, Cassandra had the gift of prophecy and could see the future, but was cursed by the Gods so no one could understand what she was saying. Ms. Marvel is the Cassandra of our show. She is the voice of reason that none of these other extreme personalities ever listen to or give her respect. They really treat her like a doormat. One day she’s going to get tired of it and kick a bunch of a–, ha!
BD: Since there have been so many different members of The Avengers at this point, how did you decide which members to include?
CB: Initially we looked at who we had as actors, and then looked at who we had available as Cosplayers (Costumed Players), since my wife and I have many friends in the Cosplay community. After the first two episodes, writer Brian Godleski and I take a look at actors we know and my wife Miracole and I will discuss the cost and difficulty in creating a costume for any characters we are considering writing on to the show. Based off of these factors, we shape the show and episodes around characters that we think we can cast and create costumes for while maintaining a high production value and quality on the show.
BD: Were there any specific inspirations for the series?
CB: Brian had written the first episode as a sketch and sent it to me. I fell in love with it, and wanted to shoot it. Being a huge comics fan, I wondered if we could give this more life than a one off sketch, so I suggested to Brian that we make it a web series. That’s when Brian and I would kick around themes or ideas, find some topical subject matter we thought we could mine, and then start working on scripting from there.
BD: Do you really think it is wise to mock the Hulk? Do you know what happens when he gets angry?
CB: Do I think it’s wise to mock the Hulk? Of course not! But, Hawkeye thinks it’s pretty damned funny. Apparently, he hates slug-bugs.
BD: Did you have any initial concepts that just didn’t work or ended up completely different than you first planned?
CB: Well, there are always things that come up that you have to alter or change. In “Episode 3: Oil Spill,” we originally had Namor walking in and slamming a dead otter covered in oil on the table. Seeing that we were borrowing the location, it would have been a nightmare to clean, reset, and create in the first place, so we ended up cutting that gag from the episode. In “Episode 6: Immigration,” BJ Winfrey who plays the Black Panther told us he had an accent for the character. I initially said, “No. Let’s just do it normally.” Well, we filmed it and it was working fine, and then I thought, “What the hell. Do the accent.” Well, we were all pissing ourselves, it was so funny. We couldn’t even use the first take because our camera operator was laughing so much. It was a brilliant choice on BJ’s part, and we almost missed it.
BD: Can you take Jeremy Renner in a fight? Can I tell him you said that?
CB: I’ve seen Renner in SWAT and The Town. I get the impression he fights dirty. I think it would get ugly fast…
BD: What you tell us about the rest of the creative team and how they are involved with Avengers Assemble! The Series?
CB: We have several members of the cast who wear multiple hats on the show. Brian Godleski is the show writer, is a producer, and plays Tony Stark on the show. My wife Miracole, who plays Ms. Marvel, also designs most of the costumes and does the makeup for the series. Matt Cornwell who plays Thor is also the show’s editor. Lara Leigh Stevenson who plays Scarlet Witch has contributed equipment and marketing materials, and Casey Edwards who plays the Hulk designs our opening credit sequences. It really is a labor of love. Everyone pitches in and helps contribute and fills in the gaps where there are needs.
In addition to playing Hawkeye and co-writing, I produce, coordinate the crew, schedule shoots, find and secure locations, build costumes, do makeup, AD and direct episodes, market the show, and develop the additional content like the website for the series. It really is a full-time job, ha!
BD: Crossovers are a staple of the comic genre. Just for fun, if you could have crossover episode of Avengers Assemble! The Series, who would the crossover be with?
CB: We actually have had characters from different teams on our show. Members from the Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D., Alpha Flight, Heroes for Hire, the Defenders, and the X-Men have all made appearances on the show. I would love to do a multi-episode crossover parody each issue of an event like Civil War, Secret Wars, or A vs. X. That would be a lot of fun.
BD: Great creators usually have great taste! Once our readers finish watching Avengers Assemble! The Series, what would you recommend in the web series, movie, or comic department? Do you have any particular favorites right now?
CB: I love Game of Thrones. It’s such a brilliant show. Everything about the show from the writing, locations, cinematography, wardrobe, editing, and score is first class, and the casting and acting on the show is nothing short of excellence. I’ve become a huge fan of Christopher Waltz, and I’m very excited to see Charlize Theron in both Snow White and The Woodsman and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Those trailers give me chills.
As far as web series go, check out Stan Lee’s World of Heroes. It’s his new Youtube channel with all new original shows.
Outside of the obvious suggestion of the Avengers, for comics I’d suggest Daredevil, it’s got a great team right now. For Walking Dead fans who can’t wait until Season 3 starts to air, they should check out the trade paperbacks, they’re beautifully brutal.
BD: What can we expect next from the series? Are there any upcoming announcements with which you would like to tease us?
CB: We have some exciting things in store for Season 3. Future Tony Stark is looking to reappear this season, and we have a pal who likes Breaking Myths that will be playing Kang the Conqueror in two episodes. We also have some great supplemental content planned in addition to our normal episodes that we hope everyone will enjoy.
BD: Where should our readers go to learn more about Avengers Assemble! The Series?
CB: They can go to the show’s website, www.avengersassembletheseries.com, where they can watch episodes and view tons of additional content such as Cast Appearances, Character Bios, Production Stills, and more.
They can also go directly to the Youtube channel and watch the episodes as well as behind the scenes videos and blooper reels at www.youtube.com/user/avengersweb