Comic-Con played host to the world premiere of The Sidekick, a short film about a career sidekick who finds himself sidelined by his long-time superhero partner. When Captain Wonder (Ron Livingston) kicks Max McCabe (Rob Benedict) to the curb, Max must go in search of a new purpose or risk being labeled a has-been for the rest of his life. If you missed our panel recap or the short’s hilarious trailer, check them both out here.
Just before the premiere, we had a chance to interview the cast and crew of The Sidekick in a series of roundtable interviews. They talked about how they came to be involved with the project, how it fits into today’s superhero culture, why Comic-Con was a perfect place to unveil it and what their plans are for the future of the show. Hit the jump for interviews with with Rob Benedict, Lizzy Caplan, Jordan Peele, Josh Meyers, Jason Ritter, Richard Speight Jr. and director Michael Weithorn.
Michael Weithorn: I’m the director and I produced it along with Rob Benedict, the brains of the operation over there.
Richard Speight Jr.: I, on the other hand, had a much smaller impact on the whole project. I was an actor in the film and, have you gone over what the film is essentially?
Weithorn: No, I haven’t started yet.
Speight Jr.: It’s called The Sidekick and I’m a sidekick but I’m not the sidekick. Rob Benedict is the sidekick.
Weithorn: And by the way, I want to say Richard had, actually, a much bigger role than that would suggest. He was incredibly instrumental. He had done a film … Rob and Richard were friends and Richard was incredibly helpful in helping us navigate the process, putting us together with people behind the scenes, crew and cast. We couldn’t have done it without him.
It seems very friendly.
Speight Jr.: No. God, no. [laughter] There was so much drugs and alcohol on that set.
Well, that’s friendly, right?
Speight Jr.: You would think. But what happens is, you get too high and it becomes about fighting, brawling and cursing. [laughter] And grabbing, there’s a lot of grabbing. It was a very nice group of people. You were there for the whole run, but I came in, because I was hanging out in the trailer with Sam McMurray, who’s just hilarious and awesome, and all these guys who I’ve looked up to for a while and enjoyed their work for years, everybody was so nice. But I think that is, the team you guys put together … you had a great piece of material. You and Rob sort of culled from your friends for crew and cast so that everybody was there because they wanted to be there. Nobody was there because they were collecting a paycheck. They were there because they enjoyed the material and wanted to be a part of it.
Weithorn: I had worked almost exclusively my whole career in network television and so to do something like this where there’s no budget and people are just doing it because it’s a labor of love and are there because they want to, it just changes the dynamic completely in a wonderful way. These guys all knew each other. I knew Rob, but I didn’t know a lot of his friends who did it, so just to get the chance to work with them, incredibly talented people who are just there to do it and have fun, there’s no agenda, there’s no prima donnas, everybody is just there to do it.
Did you guys decide that everyone gets to pick their own superhero look and personality?
Speight Jr.: What was the name of your costume designer?
Weithorn: We had a great costumer named Jacqueline Aronson who’s done a lot of big stuff, who just did this again because she liked it. She had a vision, an elaborate vision … when we first met with her, she had all these drawings of these characters and things that we hadn’t even thought of that just created a feeling. Richard plays a sidekick as well and he and Rob meet, each thinking the other is a superhero and they’re there to apply for a job. They discover they’re both sidekicks.
Speight Jr.: Two flunkies. [laughter]
Weithorn: So she came up with uniforms that they each had that weren’t identical, but similar enough that it made the joke work visually, that they’re both sidekicks. It’s so important to have people who are being creative on every level, especially with a comedy. So we were really lucky for that.
Speight Jr.: Yeah, she did. She was the brainchild behind all this stuff and it’s really funny. It’s a whole other level of comedy.
Did you guys grow up reading superhero stories? Did you have any affinity for it?
Weithorn: I read comic books at camps, Superman, whatever. I was a geek in other ways [laughs], not that particular way. This is Rob’s brainchild, to do it in the superhero genre, but it was fun for me to do.
Speight Jr.: I was more into … I was never a comic book reader, per se. I was more of a watcher; I would watch the old Spider-Man cartoons and Batman cartoons, the Aquaman stuff and the Hulk, I was infatuated with the Hulk, but I was a TV kid, so I was watching all this stuff growing up. It’s one of the reasons I thought the idea was so clever and why it attracted talent, aside from the fact that Rob’s likable and Michael’s likable, but if the piece stunk, nobody would want to do it.
It’s a clever idea. Sidekicks are limited in their power; they only have X number of skills that they bring to the table. Like Robin on his own? Not going to make a big splash, do you know what I mean? It was a clever conceit to go, “What does happen to these guys who, if they’ve been in the superhero world their whole life, they have no other tangible skills for the workforce, but they have nobody to follow around and assist?” I thought it was a very interesting idea.
When I was a kid … do you guys remember the Wonder Twins? Wonder Twins is a constant source of … how are they getting around? He can only be an animal, she can only be a form of water. [laughter] That’s very limited.
They were superheroes who were both sidekicks.
Speight Jr.: I kinda feel like they were both sidekicks.
Are there a lot of pop culture references for people over 40 in the movie?
Weithorn: Not really, no. In a general sense, it’s about what it feels like to be past your prime; not completely, not 20 years past it, but five years past it and not wanting to let go. It’s for people who’ve experienced that in any way and to take that and put it quite literally in the superhero genre was the conceit of the film.
Can you talk about bringing this to Comic-Con and, if this is your first Comic-Con, what has your experience been like so far?
Weithorn: Well, this is my first Comic-Con and we’re really excited to be able to premiere the thing here because it’s just natural. Obviously this has become a huge event and a lot of attention and publicity. We’re hoping just to start … the intention is to try to develop this as a series, either cable or internet in some way, so we’ve been waiting to do this and see how it goes over and see what kind of reception we get. So it’s great. After today, I’m just going to walk around and take in the freak show. [laughter]
Speight Jr.: It’s awesome. I came to Comic-Con last year for the first time. Rob and I also do … on Saturday, we do live coverage for Gamespot.com. Last year was the first year I did it. It’s overwhelming in an awesome way. I watch TV, I watch movies, I know a little bit about comics. There are some deep roots of heavy-genre materials and shows that I’ve never heard of that I’ve found fascinating. And the cosplay! Can we discuss the cosplay? That is off the hook!
Weithorn: I don’t know if I know what that is.
Speight Jr.: It’s the dressing up! He’s so new to this!
Continue to page two for interviews with Peele and Meyers. Our interview with Benedict, Caplan and Ritter can be found on page three.