Name actors are getting into web series in a big way, and it's adding legitimacy to a medium that has been looking to break out beyond a few isolated hits. The question is, "Why would any actor worth his salt want to do a web series?" Well, a panel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con (July 20-24) plans to explore this trend.
It's called, "For Big Talent, Multi-Platform is the New Multiplex," and it's being led by Vuguru, an Internet studio owned by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Vuguru is behind the web series Prom Queen, which debuted on MySpace, YouTube, and Veoh back in 2007 and in its first season took in over 15 million views. Vuguru just launched a new series called The Booth at the End on Hulu on July 11 and will have new episodes every Monday through August.
Character actor Xander Berkeley (24, Apollo 13) stars in The Booth at the End and will be on the panel. Also taking part will be Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings), who stars in Vuguru's upcoming online feature film The Millionaire Tour and also appeared in the first ever half-hour online sitcom called Goodnight Burbank. Another Millionaire Tour performer, Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, Reaper), will be there, who also appears in the upcoming Vuguru series Nuclear Family. Rounding out the panel will be former Lakers guard and actor Rick Fox, Nuclear Family creator Kyle Rankin, and Booth at the End creator Christopher Kubasik.
After watching the first episode of The Booth at the End, one can see the draw for any performer. This is the kind of cinematic, long-form storytelling that is normally reserved for cable series. It's mysterious and morally ambiguous. People enter a diner and sit down in a booth with The Man (Berkeley), who listens to these men and women's desires and tells them one task they have to complete to achieve that goal. The task often requires hurting others, and seems completely disconnected from the ultimate goal.
An actor like Berkeley gets to play a character with no discernible motives, but is still a villain (or is he?). By the end of episode 2, we know that at least a couple of the people who have walked in the diner are connected in some way, and that the tasks The Man has given them are in conflict with each other.
It's to be expected that what the Vuguru panel will be discussing at Comic-Con is how great stories are now being told on the Internet and good actors will always be drawn to good material. While many actors may be in the business to make lots of money, there will always be those that just want to be a part of something good and showcase their talents. This is why you see Hollywood actors gravitate towards Broadway or cable. Web series are becoming a new medium for actors to be artists.
And let's face it, Hollywood has been in a rut for the last decade or so. There are only a handful of truly artistic endeavors coming from major studios these days, and the best writers long began migrating to TV to tell their stories. There seems to be less pressure and more freedom to do great work, no release date in which to hurry, and people can be in an environment where their creations are uncompromised.
The "For Big Talent, Multi-Platform is the New Multiplex" Comic-Con panel convenes Thursday, July 21.