Thinking (living, acting) Outside the box

She's got game: Fiery Felicia Day, who took her acting career in a different, risky direction, heads to Comicon

March 4, 2011 

If actress and Web video auteur Felicia Day ever gives up the entertainment industry, she always can try her hand at motivational speaking. A conversation with her can make anyone believe they'll be an Internet success.

“Don’t wait for the green light from other people to do it,” Day, 31, said in a phone interview from Los Angeles during a rare week off. She is a true believer and living proof of the empowerment of the Web. “That is exactly the definition of my life.”

The creator of the Web comedy series “The Guild” could have just sat back and continued with her TV acting career where she’s appeared on “House,” “Lie to Me” and “Monk,” and had a recurring role on the Syfy network’s “Eureka.”

“I could make much, much more money getting back into the mainstream. (But) doing things that have never been done before is very fulfilling,” she said.

Often cast as the quirky character in commercials or in the walk-on secretary role, she said she took a long look at her life a few years ago. “This could be my life or I could change it,” she thought.

A gamer since she was 5 years old, Day shook her “World of Warcraft” addiction and followed the old adage of “write what you know.” The first webisode of the gaming-themed “The Guild” was uploaded in 2007. It’s now an Internet phenomenon with more than 110 million views.

“Before (the Web), you didn’t have a conduit to get art to the people,” Day said.

She’s not saying the Web is a case of “upload it and they will come.” She said 90 percent of work came after the first season was shot, in the form of marketing and publicity.

“The Guild” centers on a group of misfit players in an online role-playing game. Day, who described herself as not traditional looking or acting, patterned her character, Codex, after herself. The players stumble through their lives where the lines between their real and gaming personas often are blurry.

Day said her multi-ethnic, multi-generational characters all function on the equal playing field of gaming. “We can all relate to each other in a way. We just need to overcome the age-old stereotypes.”

But that’s not to say Day doesn’t mine her characters for geeky comic gold. The lovesick Zaboo (played by the hillarious Sandeep Parikh) walks a thin line between neurosis and severe personality disorders. Another character continually neglects her two children in increasingly outrageous ways while gaming.

Despite some uneven acting and low-budget sets (“We still shoot in our living rooms”), it’s a smartly written comedy that’s groundbreaking in its subject matter.

In the first season of “The Guild,” Day, her co-producer Kim Evey and the rest of the cast and crew survived on donations. “We just barely paid camera rentals and food,” she said.

Now, Microsoft and Sprint are sponsors, but they have no creative control. That’s important to Day, who turned down buyouts from traditional media companies. That’s one of the reasons she’ll appear at this weekend’s Emerald City Comicon.

“My Web video projects wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of the fans. It’s extremely important to me to maintain that organic connection,” Day said.

Fans discovered her show and spread the word, she said. The storyline for season five of “The Guild” involves a gaming convention. “It’s going to be a full circle,” she said.

“The Guild” was one of the inspirations for the highly acclaimed Web series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” created by Joss Whedon. Day starred in the three-act series alongside Neil Patrick Harris. Like Day, Whedon didn’t start on the Web. He already was the successful creator of several shows, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” on which Day had a recurring role.

Day is a prolific tweeter with 1.8 million followers. Though she can’t commit a lot of time to gaming, she still has favorites: “World of Warcraft,” “Trials HD” on Xbox, “Magicka” and “Dragon Age: Origins.”

That last game is more than a hobby. It’s the genesis of Day’s latest project: a new Web series, “Dragon Age Redemption.” Day was asked by the game’s developer, BioWare, to create a six-episode series. Set in Ferelden, Day plays an elven assassin with pointed translucent ears.

“When else can I be an elf?” she said with a laugh.

While the series – set to release this summer – is dramatic, characters have a sense of humor. She says its tone is akin to “Buffy” and the BBC hit “Torchwood.”

“I wanted to have fun with it along with doing something that really stretched me as an actor,” Day said.

“Being in perfect gamer shape,” she said sarcastically, “I spent two months just getting into shape.” She then trained another two months for the physical demands of the role, which included dagger throwing.

Along with her TV roles, “The Guild” and penning a comic book, she wants to develop others’ work for the Web. “It’s the evolution of where people get their content.”

But one of Day’s proudest accomplishments, she said, is being a role model for female gamers. When she first released “The Guild,” “People said, ‘She’s faking it because girls don’t game,’” Day said.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, craig.sailor@thenewstribune.com

on the web

www.watchtheguild.com

www.feliciaday.com

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