NerdLush Asks~ You really aren’t supposed to stick firecrackers on G. I. Joe

5 Mar

Last year, I had the great fun of doing an interview for Action Flick Chick in preparation for their season 3 release, as well as their IndieGoGo campaign for season 4. And since then, we at NerdLush have stayed in touch with the lovely Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal… which gave us the opportunity to snag a quick interview with the duo on the eve of Shelf Life, the series, season 4. Let’s see what’s new with our fav tiny superheroes-

Shelf Life!

With the 4th season about to drop, what has changed the most as the series has grown and aged?

T- I think the biggest change has been with our understanding of the show and the characters as creators. When you start a show, I think likely for any show, you have only the tip of the iceberg and as the show develops and the actors breathe life into the characters, the amazing layers start to reveal themselves. And if you are lucky you listen and let them unfold. That and all the shiny new things like costumes, new characters, and taking the show off the shelf, quite literally.

Y – Yeah, despite the show up until now being one-off episodes, the characters and the world have developed whether we liked it or not. We felt that we owed the audience this expansion, not only of the world, but the story. You’ll still be able to watch the episodes as one-offs, but if you stick with us for the whole season, you’ll get both individual character and story arcs that pay off at the end of the season.


Last year when we spoke the Kickstarter (IndieGoGo, actually) (dammit, I knew that) campaign was just about to start- you were successfully funded. What were the goals for the funding? How has that changed season 4 in comparison to previous seasons? And talk about the experience of indie fundraising in this manner- also, how did it feel to succeed?

T – Yeah, we had never run a crowd-funding campaign before, and let me tell you it is work. Amazingly rewarding work, but it is definitely an undertaking – kind of like going into production of a sort (a fundraiser production). Our IndieGoGo Campaign was intended to bring in $30K in 30 Days and we were thrilled to not only hit our goal, but surpass by more than 10%, bringing in $34,759 in just a month. That fan-support allows us to go bigger and better for the season, taking the characters off the shelf, putting them in fun new locations, getting new costumes and adding a slew of new characters into the world. We even were able to shoot on a real soundstage for a weekend, and one day I think there were 60 people on set, including cast & crew, which is huge for us. Not to mention the way that something like being able to fully fan-fund something feels: it is so rewarding to realize that the fans of a show have a voice and actually mean the difference between something happening or not, because honestly, without that support, the show wouldn’t have been able to tackle such large (pun intendedJ!) things this season. Every dollar is up on the screen, which is also fantastically rewarding, and we look forward to hearing from the fans and funders about their experience of the new season once it starts airing! And how empowering, to vote with your dollars for what you enjoy/care about; it is a turning point in entertainment with where we are with new media, fans control the airwaves and that is so exciting.

Y- Definitely. With the online entertainment market being what it is, that our fans would actually pony up money for us to continue the series is quite possibly one of the most gratifying things that’s ever happened to me. I know of so many shows that start free and then ask their viewers to start paying at a certain point (because you can’t foot the production bill yourself forever) and their audience just pulls up stakes and leaves to find some other free content. These are people you would have called rabid fans, and yet when asked to actually pay for a product that a lot of care and work and blood and sweat and tears and sanity has gone into, they vanish into thin air. Maybe it was the way we approached it, by inviting them to become a part of what we do. Or maybe we just have the best fans in the world, I don’t know. Yeah, I’m gonna bet probably that.

What kind of whacky surprises can we expect from the new season?

Hero Man, Hero Lass, Bug Boy and Samurai Snake venture into the big world, and have adventures in fun new locations. They are in a bathtub, in the backyard, there is a saloon to which action figures go to drown their sorrows, and even an old suitcase where toys go to attend support group meetings. There are so many new characters that the main cast get to interact with, which is an adventure unto itself. Plus the new costumes will be fun for fans to see in addition to the great set locations and fun props. Five foot shark, check!

Shelf Life is such a labor of love for you… what if someone came in and offered money to produce etc but wanted control?

T – That would be really hard. I think that is always the creator’s dilemma. You want to see your show have a long– pardon the pun –shelf life… but you don’t want it to suffer the fate of so many shows that get sold and the passion and life goes out in favor of the cheap shot and watering down of content. I would love to say that we would turn it down, but the truth is we love this show and idea and I would genuinely like for more folks to get to experience it, and someone with more money would be able to take the characters on larger adventures and give the show a push to a wider audience, which I believe the show deserves. To be honest, if we can’t bring in some more money after season 4, we will likely have to wrap it up in Season 5, since labors of love are great but drain the bank account and there are other projects we can’t start ‘til this has resolution. Let’s keep our fingers crossed a wealthy sugar-daddy falls in love with the show and gives us tons of money to keep producing it. Or better yet just falls in love with us and the money can be used for our various exciting ventures.

Y- Yeah, like Tara said, this show is constructed entirely out of passion and life and love for the show. Nobody’s getting rich off this, but we all keep coming back because we love it and believe in it and want to see more of these characters and their world. But to keep the great production value of the show it takes money. Honestly, if someone came in with money but wanted creative control, we’d probably say no, and try to pitch them something different.

Tara, we’ve spoken about the creation of characters (specifically those that are crazy), but now I’m curious about what you take away from characters- what part of Hero Lass is in you? And what part of you is in her? Yuri- same questions.

T – I love that, like you refer to, an actor can learn from his characters as well as breathing life into them. Many characters offer you as an actor a chance to do something differently than you would in ‘real’ life – since consequences are what is fun to play out with drama, but not always in life – not paying your bills as a character could result in humorous adventures with the law in a great comedy, but not so much for your personal life. Hero Lass is a guy’s girl, which I am a bit of too, but she gives as good as she gets, and I learn a different sense of play when I put on HL, and I love that.

Y – Believe it or not, I get to experience a little more vulnerability on the show than in real life, and part of that is thanks to the direction the directors have taken the show. And the flipside is that I get to make fun of people more than I would in real life, because in the show, I always get my comeuppance for it. Like Tara said, in real life there are consequences.

Building on that- how do you not take stuff home? For instance, if playing a “crazy” (let’s say diagnosable with a disorder, for arguments sake) what do you do to keep yourself from taking in any of that character- or can you?

T – Well, every actor has his/her own method. I tend to let it all fall away when I am done working, since work is using your imagination, but I love returning to my own experience and life. I wouldn’t want to live in character for months at a time. This isn’t to say that with dark characters you can’t get into a funk, thanks to the powerful ability of the brain to not separate reality from your imagination, going to dark places in acting can have a physiological and psychological effect on you in your personal life. Which is why I think you shouldn’t take home the positive as much as you shouldn’t take home the negative: teach your body to leave the toys at work either way, to allow your sanity to reign.

Y – Yeah, I just try and take the good stuff home with me: the lessons, the stress-release, the libido.

Can’t remember if we talked about this, specifically, last time but- now that you’ve produced your own film and web series, talk about the differences. And what’re the differences between doing it yourself and working for someone? Pros and cons of each.

T – Well biggest difference, when you are working for someone else, you aren’t responsible (financially, emotionally, and physically) for keeping everything running, you only have to worry about yourself. And that can be a huge relief and release, just getting to play. On the other hand with great responsibility– thanks Spidey –comes great power, and the power of creating and producing your own project is unlike anything else. Film and web are only different in the sense that the scale of things is different, the calendar and time line. But the basics are the same – wrangling people, prepping, getting equipment and crew, and going through post.

Y – Yeah, it’s weird. Producing your own stuff is hugely stressful, and I always long for the day when someone else can take care of it for me, yet when I’m on someone else’s set I find myself pacing in my trailer while I’m waiting, wondering if I should be out shooting behind-the-scenes stuff or making sure that catering knows when to show up. Producing is like an abusive relationship. She keeps beating me, but I keep coming back to her.


If you could go back to before season 1, what would you change, if anything?

T – I know we have learned a lot, but that was because we were going thru the process, so I don’t think I would have changed anything really. Well, maybe getting someone to help us promote the show so that more folks were aware of it

Y – I’d kill Hitler and invent the iPhone.

T – Hahahahhahha. Leave it to my better half to be funny. Where do you think much of the great writing on the show comes from: his twisted, amazing mind!

What’s your favorite thing about ShelfLife, take an outsiders view.

T – Eeek. So hard to be an outsider. Perhaps the silly sense of irreverence, the play that the characters have. Ooh ooh. Hero Man!

Y – Getting to see what I always imagined my action figures do when I’m asleep or at school. I’ve got kind of a dark & dirty mind.

What is something you would love to do on the show, but due to budget/time/etc will never happen? What’s the wishlist?

T – Well, luckily we have been pushing those boundaries budget/time be damned. Getting them off the shelf was huge. I guess one episode that I still haven’t cracked is the head/part switching episode, where the kid has stuck HM’s head on BB’s body, or HL’s arm on SS/etc. I think that some really fun things could go down, but I don’t know how to accomplish that without some serious cash and time!

Y – Never say “never!” It’s funny, I wrote all my scripts this season without censoring myself for budget, thinking “Oh, the directors will kibosh this idea or that idea because it’s impossible,” but they didn’t! So we were stuck with figuring out how to make it happen and we did! I thought for sure they’d veto the massive zombie attack in the season finale, but NO…

How about a musical episode? Possible? Yes/no? Oh come on! You know you wanna! 

T – You have no idea. Yuri even wrote one, but it is still on the wish list… perhaps for Season 5?

Y – Big fan of musical episodes. Yeah, I wrote one, but it used an existing song that we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to get the rights to, so we nixed it due to legal concerns. But it’s not out of the question. The season starts off with a music video, though! That kinda counts, right?

Share a fond memory from one of your projects.

We’re still stunned by how the creative community pulls together on projects to make them happen come hell or high water. And we’ve had both hell and high water and worse, so it ain’t easy. If it were, everybody’d do it. But for our first feature, Tumbling After, the genesis was finding out that we’d be housesitting for two weeks in this really cool big house a week and a half later. We dared each other to shoot a feature there and so we did, writing, casting and shooting it over the next three weeks. It’s true, pressure cookers do cook things faster. It was like all those films where the parents are out of town and the kids have a party while they’re gone, and there’s always the constant threat that they’ll come home and the jig’ll be up. Only instead of having a party and trying to impress the cheerleader but ultimately realizing that the nerdy girl was the real one for us, we were shooting a feature film. With a porn star in it.


The famous random question round!

3 things on your bucket list-

T – Visiting Egypt, Bali, Angkor Wat, err. Travel, that’s one (I have a map at home with pins in it). Producing and starring in my feature film and screening it at Sundance or Cannes Film Festival. OOOH, I can’t think of a third.  Oh oh, be interviewed by Ellen on the Ellen Show – I love her!

Y – I’ve already surpassed my bucket list. I’m living the dream. Everything from here on out is frosting. Mmmmm…. frosting….

What food would you recommend to someone to try even though you know there is something about it that would squick them, but you know they will actually love it?

T – Quinoa. I still am amazed at the number of folks who don’t know what it is. It is so yummy and so good for you!

Y – Brussel sprouts. Beets. I didn’t eat them growing up because my dad hated them, but now they’re my favorite. You just need to have someone prepare them right.

If you were forced to, who would you want to trade places with for 24 hours?

T – Hmm. Maybe Einstein, so I could feel how he thought – no no, Carl Sagan, so I could see how he viewed the universe.

Y- Tara, so I could finally understand how I tricked her into marrying me.

What is the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned?

T – Being myself if the best thing I can be, but I’m still working on that!

Y – When you kill a man, in a way, you have to carry him around for the rest of your life.

T – Should I be worried? And refer to your previous question’s answer?? Hahaha!

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

T – Being relaxed and calm while resting with my loved ones nearby, preferably while watching a wonderful sunset.

Y – Sitting in a dark movie theater, the movie about to start.

Your favorite virtue?


Y – Relentlessness

What is your favorite color?

T – Bright turquoise blue. Or red.

Y – Blue

What is your favorite flower?

T – Gerbera daisies. They are so happy.

Y – Orchids. Nasty things! Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.

Who are your heroes in real life?

T – Besides my parents, I think people who devote their lives to making the world a better place – researchers, investigators, students of life.

Y – My dad. And Sean Roberts.

What is your present state of mind?

T – Happy, and thankful.

Y – Stressed, but grateful.

What is your motto?

T – Just do it.

Y – Be relentless. Also, Tara, you should expect a call from Nike’s lawyers.

Did you pass your driver’s test the first time?

Both – Yes

Do you consider yourself a well-read person?

T – Yes and no. I am well read in the sense I love to read and I devour books, but I’m not well read if there is a list of must-read books, I like what I like and tend to not read the rest

Y – Yes.

Childhood ambition –

T – When I was little it was to be a neurosurgeon, then I switched and decided to be an actress.

Y – Honestly, I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up.

T-  Really, Captain Bat? Really?

Fondest memory –

T – Watching the first VHS video of me as a little kid and emphatically saying “I didn’t do that, that’s not me,” despite the proof being there, playing out in front of my eyes.

Y – I have a lot of fond memories. But John Perry Barlow telling me that my father was a hero ranks somewhere near the top.

Soundtrack –

T – Wait, do you mean like a movie soundtrack? Amelie.

Y – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Retreat –

T – Yoga, Desert Hot Springs, or Red Rock Arizona Spa.

Y – What Tara said, although I’ve always wanted to buy up one of those old abandoned missile silos. I hear they’re a bitch to maintain, though.

Wildest dream –

T – Well every night I have pretty wild and crazy dreams, which I tend to regale Yuri with in the morning while he laughs at rhinos painting or me escaping ladders in an upside-down adventure, but my dream as a kid, and still is, is to win an Oscar – which is hard to say, since there is such a vulnerable thing about being honest about what you really want, I guess as much as I am learning to be ok with me as I am, I still want recognition and accolades for being talented and good. Ah well, life is a process, right? 

Y – Wait, this isn’t a dream?

Gotta say, those two crazy kids are some of my favorite people to chat with. Big thanks for the BTS photos- credit to Rosalind Helfand. Wanna see the pics from the premiere party?

Oh, and by the way- Happy Birthday, Yuri!!

2 Responses to “NerdLush Asks~ You really aren’t supposed to stick firecrackers on G. I. Joe”


  1. If I can just have 5 minutes of your time ~ Shelf Life | NerdLush - June 1, 2013

    […] Is that enough? I don’t want to say too much. Honestly, the episodes are nice and short, but that makes it hard not to overshare when talking about it. Let me put it this way- no topic is too taboo for this show. Don’t believe me? Well… go read my interviews with Tara and Yuri- here, here, and here. […]

  2. Highlights of 2013, a NerdLush year in review | NerdLush - January 13, 2014

    […] nerd gods & goddesses. We chatted again with Tara Platt & Yuri Lowenthal in regards to Shelf Life (which sadly announced the end of its run later in the year), which led to growth in the […]

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