Felicia Day: The Nerd World Interview

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You might know Felicia Day from Dr. Horrible, or The Legend of Neil, or Buffy, or Dollhouse, or from the Web series she created, The Guild, which is now out on DVD. Or you might just know Felicia Day from Felicia Day — she’s a huge Web celebrity, basically for being smart and nerdy and pretty and a good actress, and genuine in a way that almost no celebrities, or for that matter non-celebrities, are.

That’s her there with the red hair:


Because The Guild is coming out on DVD, Felicia has to do publicity. Which means she has to talk to people like me. We talked about The Guild, and her gaming addiction, and my immortal literary oeuvre, and what it’s like having people debate your do-ability on the Internet.

Me: So why do a Guild DVD now?

Well, we have done a DVD before. But it was completely self-released. So basically it was me and my producer packaging DVDs in my kitchen. Like 1,000? Filling out customs forms on the floor? The cool thing is with this DVD, seasons 1 and 2 are combined, so people can catch up on the whole show. And it’s very nicely put together. It looks very professional.

You’ve become a big Web video pioneer. How did that happen?

Nobody sets out to break new ground. I think change comes when people have no other choice. Basically I was bored with the opportunities I was getting as an actress in Hollywood, and that just spurred me to start writing, and the thing I wanted to write about, gamers, wasn’t particularly salable in the Hollywood market.

Do Hollywood people have a good understanding of nerd culture?

I think Hollywood has seen what fandom can do for a project. You can definitely see that when you go to Comic-con. It’s so heavily saturated with mainstream content aiming toward that niche. They’re the most reliable supporters of content, if they’re passionate about it. I think the whole definition of a geek is somebody being passionate and focused, and being proud of saying that they’re passionate and focused, on a narrow range of subjects. I think they’re definitely courting that crowd, but I don’t necessarily know if they understand it.

I’m a very geeky girl, and if you look at parts that are written for more geeky characters, besides The Big Bang Theory, and other standout examples, they tend to be kind of cliche-ridden? And that was one of the reasons I wrote The Guild, was that — that’s not reality. In Hollywood the definition of content is pleasing as many people as possible with something, and they say, if something’s not necessarily the stereotype, well, that’s too narrowly niched.

Tell me about your character on The Guild, Codex.

I wouldn’t say that she’s autobiographical, but there are many similarities between what she and I went through at a certain point in my life. Codex — she’s definitely a lot more introverted than I am as a person. But I did have a very bad addiction to online gaming, and Codex is pretty much agoraphobic, in a sense, and she has a pathological phobia of confrontation.

Basically, her arc — it is a comedy, so we’re not making grand statements about personalities and stuff, but I do think all comedy is based with drama underneath, and the journey that she goes through is one of being self-empowered and being able to stand up for yourself. And I know that’s not a huge character arc, but for some people that is a huge thing: just to say no to someone is something that you have to learn, if you’re raised in certain circumstances.

[Seeing his opening, the interviewer strikes] Did you know there’s a book called Codex?

I read it! But it was years ago. But you know, Codex has been my online handle since I was like 7. It’s based out of the Ultima game series — it’s an old PC game series?

[All affronted at the suggestion that he doesn’t know Ultima] Yeah, I know. I know Ultima.

So that’s why I had that handle, because I was in a fan club for Ultima. Yes, it’s true! I was Codex — Codex Dragon.

[Unable to stop himself. Now! Do it now!] Did you know that I wrote Codex?

Oh, are you kidding?

Not even kidding.

You just had a new book come out, didn’t you? I think I just saw your name at Border’s.

[FTW! I should just hang up now. My life is complete.] Yes. Yes, that is right.

I just saw that at Border’s, and I was like, right, I have to buy that on my Kindle. Because I love my Kindle.

[OK, back to work.]
Can you tell me a true-life story of gaming addiction? How bad did it get?

I would literally skip auditions, I would drop out of acting classes. We would do a 6-hour raid, and I would actually be trying to plan a vacation, to see my mother for her birthday, or whatever, and I was like, my raiding schedule is too heavy this week. I mean for reals! I would go to bed after a 6-hour raid and think OK, I need to get up in the morning and farm 60 stonescale eel to be able to get the pots together for the raid tomorrow night.

If you’re a person who has kind of hole in their life, and you’re looking for something to fill it, you’re probably susceptible to any kind of addiction at that point. And for me, that was being unfulfilled by the kind of acting opportunities I was getting. So I filled that with Web video — every day I have 8, 9 hours of work on me. It’s not exactly an easy road I’ve picked. And it hasn’t necessarily rubbed off on mainstream jobs for me. But I find it fulfilling. And I guess that’s all that counts. And … then I game at night.

So The Guild and all that hasn’t raised your profile in non-Web Hollywood?

It’s very interesting. I still do commercial work as an actor, which I love, because it’s very quick, and it definitely pays my bills. But the funny thing is, when I go into an audition — I guess, in the back of my mind, it was probably part of the plan that I would get more jobs as an actor after basing a whole series around my character, playing the thing that I really love. And I’ll go into the waiting room, and all of the actors will know me, and some guy from accounting going through will be, oh my God, you’re Felicia Day!

And I’ll go into the room where people can hire me, and they don’t know what I’ve done. And if I say it’s a Web series, it’s like, oh, that’s sweet. Because they’re busy doing millions-of-dollar-shows, so why should they pay attention to Web video? Even though when I go to conventions, the line to meet me is as long as for anybody on a huge huge show. So it’s completely two different worlds.

But I’ve accepted that, because I enjoy what I’m doing so much, it doesn’t really matter to me. As long as I can keep the lights on.

Do you ever want to yell at them, I have 1.4 million Twitter followers! How many gorram followers do you have?

You know, sometimes I’ll get that impulse. Then I’ll read some negative comment on me. That’s the thing about the Internet, it will always keep you humble. You will never get an inflated sense of your writing, your acting, your looks, your behavior, because there will always be someone flaming you on some forum. Which you know what, that’s fine, I don’t ever want to be arrogant or too self-important.

I wish the Internet just kept me humble. The Internet keeps me, like, suicidal. I always find somebody saying the worst possible things about me.

Oh believe me, as a girl — especially after the “Avatar” video — I haven’t portrayed myself in any sort of a sexual way before, because that’s not really my thing, but the whole point of the “Avatar” video was to make us look more glamorous, and parody the whole meat market of music videos. But then, you know, some people take it completely seriously. And just having your face debated about — whether you’re hot, or do-able, or not — and have long threads of discussion about it is a surreal experience, let me just tell you. I feel a little sorry for all those girls who have to maintain that 24/7. It’s too much work.