I got brains but they ain’t doing me no good



I’m sitting in my hotel in Atlanta, waiting for my breakfast to arrive. My clock says it’s 1045, but my body thinks it’s 745, so I’m a little squishy in the brains. I also had epic and endless nightmares last night, the kind where I wake myself up and don’t know where I am, and then calm myself down by reminding myself that it was just a dream.

I haven’t had nightmares like that in a long time, since I started Operation Reboot, and I hope it’s just my brain and body dealing with the travel, jet lag, and uncertainty of playing a new character in a new show.

Maybe that’s why I had all these stress dreams and nightmares last night. I don’t know this crew, I barely know this cast. I have a pretty good sense of who this character is, and I’ve prepared my scenes and broken down everything into actions and beats, and I’ve done all the basic preparation and homework, but I’ve only lived in his skin for a couple of scenes, and I still don’t really know him, the way I will by the end of the day today.

Strangely, I sort of feel like being an actor is outside of my comfort zone, at least at the moment, because I’ve been putting myself into a writing head space more and more for the last several weeks. Because I’m American, I’ll use a baseball analogy to explain.

For me, being an actor is like being a shortstop: there’s no time to think, you’ve just got to be totally prepared, relaxed, and ready for whatever comes at you. You’re at your best when you’re honestly and naturally reacting to what’s happening, even though you know that you want things to go in a certain direction, and can reasonably expect plays to unfold in a particular way.

Being a writer is like being a pitcher: you get to decide when the play starts, and you have a tremendous amount of control over what happens up until it does. You have time to think, to reflect, and to observe everything that’s happening around you. It’s slower, more methodical, more precise.

Once the camera rolls, I have to be completely focused and present and out of my head. I have to be connected to the other actors, and totally committed to what my character wants, and honest in how I react to what he’s getting. I’m an experienced actor, so that’s not particularly difficult. In fact, it’s rewarding and fun to play make believe, and there’s nothing better than discovering something unexpected within a scene, and making it live inside me.

But as a writer, I’m a few beats behind everything around me. I’m thinking all the time. I’m in my head and processing everything, cataloging it, seeing how everything fits together, and looking for the hidden levers and strings that hold everything together, so I can mess around with them and make something happen.

Monday, on the set at Big Bang Theory, I struggled like crazy for the first time since my first episode, because I just couldn’t get out of my head (Meisner actors will know precisely what I mean by that). I was thinking too much, carefully measuring everything too much, and not just existing in the moment. Luckily, the director (who is amazing and massively experienced) got me through it, and helped me get out of my own way. Eventually, the scenes we shot were very funny and very real, but the entire time I felt like I had never worked before, like I wasn’t prepared at all, and like I was ruining it for everyone. In fact, the writer in me was hard at work making notes about the whole thing, so I could recall it later. That wasn’t particularly helpful.

I just heard from the set that the rain has stayed away long enough to allow them to shoot more exteriors, and my call time has been pushed into the afternoon. That’s great news, because I can do this writing thing right now, and then go over my scenes for today (I wish I could share a picture of my notes, my actions, my motivations for the various beats, but NDA), so I’m ready to take the field and go wherever the play takes me.

that time i hosted blizzcon



I’m sitting in Phoenix, hoping that I get on a flight that leaves in an hour, because the flight that should have put me home twenty-five minutes ago was cancelled after many delays. I’m on standby, and I’m cautiously optimistic. One way or another I’ll get home tonight, but I hope it’s earlier than later, because spending five hours in an airport isn’t my idea of a good time. Also, Fallout 4 is waiting for me.

Anyway, now’s a good time to catch up on some stuff.

First: Blizzcon. I was terrified. I thought I was prepared, but I just couldn’t shake the voices in my head that insisted the people who were going to hate me no matter what were right about how much I suck at everything. The stage was bigger than I expected (even though I expected it to be big), and the audience was enormous. At over 12,000 people, it was tremendously difficult to keep them all engaged at once, and even when I had around 7,000 people responding to what I was doing, I couldn’t think, “Wow, 7000 people are enjoying this!” all I could think was “You suck, Wheaton. Half the audience hates you.”  For the first part of my hosting, my IFB was turned up way too loud in my ear, and I could hear myself cranked up to 11 in just my right ear. It was very distracting, and it really threw me off. I couldn’t take the IFB out, either, in case the director needed to say anything to me. Which he didn’t. Yay.

I thought I was … okay … but the feedback I got from everyone there, tons of people online, and everyone at Blizzard was very positive. In fact, other than the people who were always going to hate me, and the people who are determined to be angry about all sorts of things, everyone seems to feel that I did a good job.

If I were grading myself, I’d give myself a solid B. I made some embarrassing mistakes, like saying it was 2016 several times (I blame my brain for being excited that the next day was my 16th wedding anniversary) and for saying “Etcetera” when I was supposed to say “E T C” during the talent contest. In my (weak) defense, I didn’t (and still don’t) know who ETC was, which I guess will confirm that guy who was all “WIL WHEATON IS NOT QUALIFIED TO HOST BLIZZCON” so congratulations to him. Maybe they’ll find that guy and hire him for net time. To further defend myself, I read what was on my card, which said “Etc.” and not “E.T.C.” which probably would have saved me some embarrassment and some hardcore WoW players consternation.

The stuff I wrote, though? It seemed to work out mostly well. I asked Ryan to help me write some journal entries from the point of view of a character we called Boogers the Boggit, and while I felt like it died in most of the room, a ton of people have told me they thought it was clever and funny. I’ll repost it here in the next few days and you can decide for yourself if I’m the worst thing, ever.

Blizzcon itself, though, was incredible! The enthusiasm and passion and excitement was infectious, and I honestly feel sad for anyone who loves the Blizzard games who can’t embrace that sense of community because they need to be mad about stuff. The gatekeepers are really missing out on something wonderful.

After Blizzcon, a bunch of us went over to Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel, and we had all the flaming drinks until it closed. I may have been partially responsible for giving Randi Harper one of her first hangover, but I’d never admit to that. The next day, Anne and I celebrated our anniversary with some of our friends at Disneyland and California Adventure. It was incredibly fun, and Chris Hardwick and I posted a bunch of dumb pictures of us being silly while we were there. They’re on our Instagrams if you want to see them.

Monday, I flew out to Atlanta to work on Powers. I can’t say anything about it, but maybe I can after the episode airs. I guess that I can say that my day started at 430am, which was 130am as far as my body was concerned, but I was wrapped by 1pm, which is good because I was approaching an exhaustion I haven’t felt since we wrapped on Eureka and I went straight form an 18 hour day on the set to Dragon*Con without going to sleep.

I wasn’t prepared for how excited the cast of Powers was to meet me and to welcome me to the set, but I’m looking forward to going back next week to work with them again … right after I do another Big Bang Theory! Tomorrow, I start a few days on an episode that also features Bob Newhart.

Holy shit, I can’t believe that I get to meet Bob Newhart! I’m going to do my best not to go all When I Met Henry Rollins on him, but I will say that there’s a non-zero chance that, in the future, I’ll be doing a bit in my stand-up set that’s Bob Newhart’s agent taking a call from him about meeting a nerd who was embarrassingly excited to be there and made it really weird.

Okay, they’re about to start calling the standby passengers for my flight. Cross your fingers for me.