Julie McNiven On New Fandom-Flavored Show Internity – and the SPNFamily
I had the pleasure of chatting with Supernatural’s angel Anna, Julie McNiven, last week about her new project (Internity) which turns out to be entirely relevant – to both Supernatural and fandom! Although we’ve seen Julie at several conventions, we’d never had a chance to interview her – plus, Julie is one of the kickass women of Supernatural on board for the SPN Ladies Con (@LadiesOfSPN), so it was an extra special treat to talk with her.
Lynn: Bear with me, I need to set up multiple recorders. I’ve learned that technology is not my friend.
Julie: (laughing) You probably learned that the hard way.
Lynn: (remembering a certain afternoon with a ridiculously patient Danneel Harris chronicled in ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’…) You have no idea. So tell me about how you became involved with Internity.
Julie: Actually, how I got involved was kind of strange. So I was on twitter one night last week and someone tweeted, oh you should cast Julie McNiven as a guest star on this new series Internity – she also writes for another publication, her name’s Tracy Diane Miller, so I kinda responded in a funny way like hey, anything that Jim Beaver is involved in, I’m on board, let’s do it! Which is actually kind of true. Anything that he’s involved with, I will be like yeah, totally gonna do it, because I just love him.
Lynn: I totally agree. I would feel the exact same way.
Julie: I mean, I’ll read the script, but I’m probably gonna say yes.
Lynn: Well, he’s a smart guy and I trust his judgment.
Julie: And he’s just great to work with, he’s a wonderful guy. So it was kind of a joke, I wasn’t really thinking anything of it, and then I started tweeting back and forth with the Internity twitter, and they were like no, seriously, we’ll send you the script.
Lynn: (laughing) You’re kidding!
Julie: So I read the role and it was a very good fit for me, so that was a nice surprise, and then I read the script and it’s such a great mix of genres.
Lynn: Tell me a little more about the show.
Julie: It takes place in a hospital, so technically it could be seen as a hospital procedural, except it’s not. It has that aspect of serious drama and social issues, it has humor written into it, and then it also has all these dream sequences that Joey’s character [main character Joey Adams] has. They kind of provide that, well you know how sci fi is, anything goes? Whatever you can dream of, you can make it happen and we’ll all believe it.
Lynn: Ooh, that sounds interesting. So that lets you step out of just reality into a different plane.
Julie: Exactly. So you have the hospital dramedy, but you also have this magical segment or two each episode where the main character gets to work out whatever issues he’s dealing with using those dream sequences – like we could be entering, you know, another universe, or maybe he’s in space, and there are characters from Star Trek or Stargate or whatever.
Lynn: Oh, I see, I see.
Julie: Different people who are going to help him solve his issues for that episode. So it kind of has that Comic Con feel. People who enjoy sci fi are going to enjoy this too, because they’re going to see all these people they haven’t thought of in a long time. It’s got that magical quality.
Lynn: It seems like the main character, Joey, identifies as a fanboy then.
Julie: He definitely does. His desk is covered with Star Wars figures and he basically grew up watching these shows religiously and it kind of became a bigger part of his life than just watching a tv show, which I think a lot of Supernatural fans can relate to. Supernatural is something that people connect with on a level that inspires them to make change, that inspires them to get involved in their community in different ways, it’s not just a tv show.
Lynn: Damn right.
Julie: And Joey’s character has that aspect, and he daydreams these characters and they help him solve problems on a daily basis.
Lynn: This show is definitely a good fit for Supernatural fans. The new book I’m working on is all about that, how Supernatural has changed people’s lives in so many ways – changed and in some cases saved. Both the cast and the fans.
Lynn: So tell me about the character you play on Internity. The breakdown says she’s very driven.
Julie: So my character’s name is Sara Cohen and she’s a young intern who just moved into the Portland area. She grew up in LA and lived most of her life there and then moved to Portland, where it’s like raining every day, so she’s in a whole new world with a whole new group of people and she has to figure out how she fits in. She definitely has the best of intentions at all times, she’s very smart and she’s eager to be helpful. With everything, all the time, almost to the point where it’s like okay, relax!
Lynn: I can maybe relate a little…
Julie: So she kind of gets carried away with her need to do that, and sometimes causes more problems than is necessary. She has good intentions but gets carried away. So she’s a lot of fun. I’m excited to see where she goes as more episodes are written.
Lynn: So it sounds like the character has the potential for a lot of gravitas or she could be comedic, is it both?
Julie: It’s both definitely. In the pilot episode, I would say she’s a little bit quirky.
Lynn: That will appeal to SPN fans too, I think. Like Cas appeals to many of us because he’s quirky.
Julie: I love playing quirky characters, because honestly, it’s like I connect with that, I don’t know why, I love feeling that freedom in a quirky way. You know, nothing’s perfect, everything isn’t perfect. So as an actor, it’s really fun for me to go in and every time I get a quirky audition I’m like, yes, love it! It’s just so much fun.
Lynn: Those tend to be popular characters. We all have things we feel are different and quirky in our own way, I think. So we can relate to that characteristic. I think some of the most beloved characters are quirky.
Julie: I think maybe you can’t relate to people who are perfect.
Lynn: I definitely can’t. As anyone who has read ‘Fangasm’ will attest…
Julie: She has doubts and insecurities, she’s a smart woman but there’s things she’s not sure about and she’s trying to figure out where she fits in and she’s in a new town, so it’s a lot of that quirky energy and it’s gonna be a lot of fun I think.
Lynn: Have you gotten to work with Jim at all?
Julie: From what I know so far, I don’t think we have interaction in the first episode, but I’m not sure. But I’m sure we will down the line.
Lynn: Of course the SPN Family connection is already there, considering you ended up doing this because Jim was involved.
Julie: Oh yeah absolutely. That’s the main reason why I even read the script, I thought well if Jim thinks it’s good, it’s good! And if the character is a good fit for me, I want to do it.
Lynn: I’m so glad it worked out. The SPN Family has a way of making that happen.
Julie: And the business is changing, you have to make your own work now. We want to work, I want to work. I don’t want to wait around for that network pilot that I’m reading against movie stars to test for it. This is work that I’m working with people who I care about, who I admire, and it’s a great script. I’ve never gotten a role off twitter before!
Lynn: I love that! There are so many alternate platforms now for making content, you just need buzz so people will know what it’s about and that it might be something they’d like so that it can actually get made.
Julie: We do need that, because we want to make it good, we want to make it a quality show, and we’re making it for the fans, they would be funding us so we’re making it for them. So we want to make it good so they enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the CW or Hulu or amazon, there are so many ways to make quality shows now.
Lynn: I can tell you’re all very passionate about it.
Julie: Yeah we are, we really are.
Lynn: I’ve seen you at a few Supernatural conventions. What has your experience doing the cons been like?
Julie: Oh they’ve been fantastic. I did my first Supernatural episode in 2009 maybe and I didn’t even know that they existed, I had no knowledge of any sort of fandom with Supernatural. I was completely naïve of it. And I entered that world and it was amazing. I mean, it’s truly – and I know people say this – but it’s truly unlike any other fandom out there. I’ve never felt so much support. I feel like when you do Supernatural and the fandom welcomes you into their fold, they are the most loyal loving supportive crew of people. I’ve done projects that have had nothing to do with sci fi and they’ve supported them and come to see them and tweeted about them, and that’s not something they have to do. But they do it. And that just is amazing to me. They’re one of a kind.
Lynn: I totally agree. That’s why we wrote ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ and ‘Fan Phenomena Supernatural’, because we wanted to show the rest of the world just how special this show and this fandom are.
Julie: I did a few episodes of SGU so that was another sci fi show, but I can tell you that this fandom is just different. And I don’t know what it is – you’re the psychcologist, maybe you know. But it has definitely changed my life. It was like the first show too…I was cast at first in two episodes back to back, I Know What You Did Last Summer and the next one and then, the one where at the end I went back up to heaven.
Julie: And that was supposed to be the end of me. And I remember on the very last day of shooting, they said we want you back in January for another episode. And I was like, what? Yes! This is amazing! And I’d just come from New York to LA, I was shooting Mad Men out here and came out. Mad Men was an incredible first experience, and then to get this and be killed off basically and then asked back, all within two weeks of shooting it, and I was like, this is mind blowing! It felt so good that they enjoyed my work and my character and my chemistry that they thought, you know, we can do more with her. And then I came back a few more times and it was just really validating as an actor. And it was the first time it happened. Now I’ve been killed and brought back a few times on shows…
Lynn: (cracking up)
Julie: Now I’m an experienced…umm…die-er? I don’t know…
Julie: It happened again on Stargate, I was signed on for five episodes and then they killed me off and then they brought me back!
Lynn: That’s the great thing about sci fi.
Julie: I know! I’m just hoping that one day they’ll be like, we want you back on Supernatural. I’m like, I’m a pile of ash, how are you gonna handle that?
Lynn: But anything can happen on SPN. They are so loyal to anyone who has become part of…
Julie: Of the family…
Lynn: Exactly. Once they’re in the last season…
Julie: They’re gonna bring back everyone!
Lynn: I really think that’s what they should do, that’s what the fandom will want.
Julie: Exactly, and that would be so fun.
Lynn: Especially those of you who we feel like we’ve gotten to know from the conventions. One of the big differences with this show, with how popular it has become and how long it’s been on the air, is because they started doing cons and connecting with the fans. And starting with Jensen and Jared, they had this ridiculous chemistry that hasn’t gone away in eleven years.
Lynn: And then the brilliant casting agent (Robert Ulrich) just kept casting the most wonderful people. Which, I mean, not everyone in the business is an awesome person.
Julie: No no, absolutely not.
Lynn: But he just keeps casting awesome people. I talked with Travis Aaron Wade about this a little while ago, and he said he brought him a bottle of wine or something to thank him.
Julie: I said just today to someone, I became part of the show with Kripke and Robert Ulrich cast me and I think Kripke and Sera Gamble were in the room, and years later I remember saying to him, you have introduced me to so many incredible people who are my dear friends now. Amy Gumenick, she came to my wedding, we love each other.
Lynn: You are like family. That’s that life changing thing.
Julie: And I might not have met her had we not done this show, so there is something – Robert just has a really good eye, and the producers and the showrunner, they maintain the integrity of casting good people who are good people. I’ve been on shows in LA when I’m not as excited to be there – I’m always grateful to be working, but it’s different. When you’re on the Supernatural set, you are part of the family. Whether you have one line or whether you’re background, seriously, you are part of the family right away. And it’s amazing, when you go on, feeling that energy, you’re gonna do better work.
Julie: And sometimes, you know, on some shows the series regulars are not grateful anymore, and when they don’t really care, it’s harder to work with them.
Lynn: And then that trickles down. Robert Ulrich is still doing the casting. I really do need to interview him.
Julie: Yeah, I actually sent Robert a card and he called me just to chat and see how it’s going and he’s just so nice, you really should interview him. He’s done incredible casting, on Supernatural and other shows, he has such a good eye.
Lynn: It took me years to realize he’s one of the pivotal things. I’ve interviewed so many people who have been on Supernatural, you would expect to run into at least half a dozen assholes.
Lynn: But everyone is great and grateful and grounded.
Julie: And that’s another reason why the cons work really well too, because the actors who do them are grateful. If you were at a con and there was someone who looked like they really didn’t want to be there, it wouldn’t be as fun. It would be a different energy. Even though I haven’t been on the show in five years, I still feel like I’m part of the family, even though they killed me really really bad.
Lynn: (laughing) They did, that’s true. You’re right about how they are on the set too. The first time we went to the set, we were so nervous, just sitting off to the side trying to stay out of the way. But person after person came up to us, including most of the crew, to offer information about what they did on the show. Everyone was so proud of their part in making this show.
Julie: I know. And it’s also the crew, a lot of them have been there since the beginning and that makes a big difference too. The crew is such an integral part of getting the show made. They’re happy to be there and grateful to be there. It really is a one of a kind show. I’ve never felt the same way that I felt on Supernatural.
Lynn: Everyone says that. Jared and Jensen say that.
Julie: They are honestly two of the nicest guys. So generous. I didn’t even know when I got cast that I was going to have a sex scene. I didn’t really know that until I was getting fitted and they were like, and here’s your underwear, and I was like okayyyyy, why do I need underwear?
Lynn: OMG what a way to find out!
Julie: And you know, it’s always a little bit nervewracking to do those scenes no matter what, but Jensen made sure that I was comfortable at all times. And it was really nice to know that he was there looking out for me.
Julie: That if I was uncomfortable at all, that we would erase the take. He had them turn the video monitor around so I could see what I looked like to make sure I was comfortable with the shot.
Lynn: Oh that had to help so much.
Julie: It made me feel so much safer, because you do feel incredibly vulnerable. Even on a closed set, there’s still lots of guys around. It’s all guys. So it can be really nervewracking and he definitely went out of his way to make sure that I was comfortable with absolutely everything.
Lynn: That does not surprise me.
Julie: No, it doesn’t surprise me either. But he didn’t have to be that way, and he was, and that shows even more what kind of man he is.
Lynn: It does. It’s surprising in the business as a whole that the lead of a show would be that considerate – Jared and Jensen seem very tuned in to how guest stars, even visitors, are doing. I guess it’s another of the things that makes the show so special – and so long lasting!
Lynn: Is there anything else you wanted to share about Internity? I’m really hoping it gets made, it sounds awesome.
Julie: I don’t know what kind of crossovers Supernatural fans have with Star Trek.
Lynn: Definitely some.
Julie: So Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn [from Star Trek Next Generation] are involved. I grew up watching Star trek with my dad, who was a huge Star Trek fan and even had a whole Star Trek unit in his fourth grade. Like the last week of school every year, he did a Star Trek unit, and if you ask anyone who went through his class when they were seniors, what was your favorite week of school ever? They will say the Star Trek unit.
Lynn: OMG that’s so awesome!
Julie: It was. So the last week of school we still did spelling and all the units but they all were Star Trek related. The words we were spelling were Star Trek words and the math problems had to do with it and it was just so fun. So I grew up with Star Trek around me all the time, so it’s pretty cool to be able to work with Michael.
Lynn: You really grew up a fangirl, no wonder you’re really enjoying Internity.
Julie: So I think any crossover fans are definitely going to enjoy the little salute to Star Trek and just watching their new roles.
Lynn: I’m excited about that, I love Next Gen! Also tell your dad that the exam I just gave my grad students was all Supernaturalized. The case study is all about the Winchester family, and my students have to come up with ways to help little Sam and Dean after their mother’s tragic death.
Julie: (laughing) That is so funny and so great, I love that! Hey, you gotta do what you love too, and you’re making it work. I’m right there with you.
Lynn: I think you might be involved with the SPN Ladies Con too, is that right?
Julie: Yes, I’m on board for that.
Lynn: Me too.
Julie: Oh, awesome! I don’t know, but I think it could be pretty cool – they could really switch up the style because it’s going to be all women, they could make it a little more intimate and not do it the way Creation does it, they could do their own style and get pretty creative.
Lynn: Yes, exactly. We wouldn’t need it to be quite so boundaried and hierarchical.
Julie: Yeah, like some of the international cons I’ve done, you could run a discussion on the 30 page paper one of your students wrote for class. Like on the social impact of the show.
Lynn: Exactly. I would love that.
Julie: That would be really fun. I really hope they get it off the ground. (More info at @LadiesOfSPN)
Lynn: I do too. And I really hope that Internity gets funded, because as a fan, I really want to see it!
Julie: It’s really hard asking people for money, and you can’t give money to everyone. I think the cool thing about Internity is that, there are so many Supernatural fans, you don’t have to give a lot. If everyone gave a dollar, we would make this very easily. But it’s a hard thing to ask for, we definitely need everyone’s help, if they can reach into their couch cushions that would be amazing.
Lynn: That would be amazing, definitely. Keep me posted!
Internity sounds like the sort of show that most of us would like. Jim Beaver is passionate about it, Julie is passionate about it, and it’s a show that gets fandom and appreciates the creativity and inspiration of fandom, so I’m all for it! If you’d like to see it too, grab the change in your couch cushions and make a contribution and snag one of the great perks. The page is here –
And here’s Jim Beaver’s “Super(Un)Natural” promo for Internity too!
“Super(UN)natural Starring Jim Beaver:” http://bit.ly/1KQspQ2
You can keep up with Internity here:
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