Actor, writer, and producer Greg Grunberg is best known for his acting role as Matt Parkman in the award-winning TV series Heroes, and he recently reprised that role in the NBC series Heroes Reborn. He is also known for the role of Pilot Seth Norris on Lost, Agent Weiss on Alias, and Sean Blumberg on Felicity. Grunberg was seen most recently in Star Wars – The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams. He is also in Paramount Picture’s Star Trek Beyond in theaters now.
With all of that under his belt you can see Greg has a lot of geek cred. So it was only natural for him to team up with a fellow geek in the entertainment business in Kevin Smith to co-host AMC’s new show Geeking Out. This show will take a timely look at pop culture through a fanboy lens and feature talk, clips, celebrity interviews and out-of-the-studio segments. Geeking Out, an AMC and The Weinstein Company co-production, is produced by Matador Content in association with Bandwagon Media with Jerry Carita, Jay Peterson, Todd Lubin, Patrick Reardon, Brad Savage, Smith and Grunberg serving as executive producers.
I was able to chat with Greg about his new show, playing roles in Star Wars, Heroes, and Star Trek, his new graphic novel Dream Jumper and fatherhood.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your show on AMC called Geeking Out. You and co-host Kevin Smith explore everything in the geek and pop culture world. This show is a great fit for you both of you guys. How did this show come about? Was it something that you and Kevin were thinking about for a while now?
Greg Grunberg: I wanted to work with Kevin for a really long time. I have been a fan of his. He is so brilliant. He will take a subject or something with a lot of deep cuts and go deep in on the origins of Batman, Superman, or anything from comic books. Although you should be intimidated by it if you are not up on it, but he makes it accessible and fun. It is awesome.
I have always wanted to work with him. This opportunity came up because I was talking to AMC and The Weinstein Company. We were like let’s find something that is right in our wheelhouse. I think I got decent geek cred with Star Wars, Star Trek, Heroes, and my graphic novel Dream Jumper. It was the perfect time.
We decided to just do something where we sit around and talk with our friends, who are the biggest makers in the business, actors and see what they are geeking out about. Talk about their latest project and what influences them. So far man I have to say that it has been such fun. It is these conversations that we are having anyway along with some watercooler geeking out with these people that are very famous, but are passionate people. It has been great.
AE: For my fellow fanboys, fangirls, and geeks out there this show is a dream come true. For you being in a great show like Heroes and in the Star Wars and Star Trek films you would think that you get used to all this geeky stuff, but it seems that you are a kid at heart while filming this show. What is best part of filming this series? Is there one episode that you were geeking out more than other episodes?
GG: Any part? What are you talking about? This whole thing is a geek fest for me. (Both laugh.) I mean it really is. To watch Kevin geek out about stuff. He gets emotional about things. He really has been raised on this stuff. Me as well, but I am also a geek for food, cars, and sports. We really do show our passion and geek out.
We had J.J. Abrams on this week’s show. J.J. was on the steps of the Psycho house at Universal. He was talking about how Alfred Hitchcock has influenced him and about his new show Westworld that is going to be premiering on HBO, Star Wars, and my friendship with him. He is close friend. It is hard to geek out about my buddy, but I was still really into hearing those stories.
Then we got Matt Damon, who was auditioning for superhero roles. We got Michael Giacchino conducting the orchestra while composing music for Star Trek while my face is up on the screen. I mean how could you not geek out? It is crazy.
Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion are on this Sunday night. These guys are from Firefly and Serenity and Castle. Alan has a big role in Star Wars: Rogue One. We are just comparing notes and talking. It is a very unique show. I think everyone is really going to love it. It is late night on Sunday night on AMC. It couldn’t be at a better spot.
AE: I am guessing all the episodes in the series will be fantastic, but for you is there one episode that you learned more about a topic or genre or character that you didn’t know about until you filmed that episode?
GG: It happens all the time with Kevin. I will say I really like this. Then he will say, ‘Did you know in 1972 the dude wore this thing that connected this to that? These two characters had a love affair.’
Half of it I don’t really care about. I am like whatever. I am like how about Zoe Saldana? How about Margot Robbie? She is sexy. I am catching up. I think the majority of the audience will be as well. You can’t help but be incredibly hypnotized by Kevin’s knowledge of this stuff. He presents it in such an entertaining way. He is so articulate and smart. So it is really fun. It is a great pairing in the two of us.
AE: Talk about your book Dream Jumper. I am huge fan of the work you and Lucas Turnbloom have done. I can’t wait for the next one to come out. What inspired you to write this book?
GG: The inspiration is really the key to it. My middle son, who is 16 now, but when he was 12 he had a dream. He woke up and it was a nightmare. I told him to tell me about it as I was trying to put him to sleep. He said that it was like he wasn’t in his dream, but he was in his friends dreams and was helping them through their worst nightmares. He was like a superhero in the dream world.
I was like, what? It sounded like a TV show. I said don’t go to sleep. I am going to get my laptop and let’s pay for college. (Both laugh.) This is a book. This is a movie. This is a TV show. I mentioned it to a couple of friends and they all encouraged me to write a graphic novel of it.
That is exactly what we did. It turned out so well. I am so proud of it. I partnered with Lucas Turnbloom, who is one of the most talented cartoonists and storytellers. We wrote it together and then he illustrated it. Scholastic is putting it out. Again it just ups my geek cred for Geeking Out. It is cool to have a graphic novel that is so well received. Paramount bought it as a feature. So hopefully we will see if it gets made up into a movie. It is really exciting.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
GG: You are so proud and you are like hey it is my seed. (Both laugh.) I am passing on my name. None of that is real until you have that child. You and your wife, or you and your spouse or you alone; whatever it is; is just so incredible that you have this sponge. You can really shape a person as good as you want them to be and hope the world can be.
I am so lucky. I am so proud of my three boys. My wife and I work really hard. You know this. It is the single most rewarding thing in the world. It makes everything else not matter. I care about everything that I am doing. I am passionate about it, but when it comes down to it you can take away everything else and I am still richest guy in the world because of the family that I have.
We have been through some tough stuff. My oldest son has epilepsy. We are dealing with seizures. He is doing well now. I got a website called TalkAboutIt.org. We have partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation and this amazing company called Sunovion. Together we are trying to remove the stigma attached to epilepsy and find a cure. All of that gives life a purpose. I don’t wish it on anybody. I wish I was not in the club of someone who has a child with epilepsy, but I am a proud father. No matter what my kids are going through and what we are dealing with; we are dealing with it together. There is nothing like it as you know. It is the best absolute position to be in as a parent and especially a father.
AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill in your children as they grow up?
GG: Just to be a good person and to hopefully doing something for someone else without wanting anything in return. If you can do that in your life; take care of yourself and be a good person. I am always telling them I don’t care if you hold the door for somebody or start up a charity for a person. We are always concentrating on bettering ourselves. Getting this. Getting that. Possessions.
None of that really satisfies you until you really do something good for other people. That is the most rewarding thing in the world. My band, Band From TV is an example of that. We star in a bunch of different TV shows. We give ourselves to this band. We have been doing it for ten years. We raised millions of dollars for our charities. It is the most satisfying thing that we do.
AE: Going back to the show Geeking Out. You and your family must have a ton of things that you all geek out on. Did your boys help out with any topic ideas for the show?
GG: Oh for sure. They are tapped into what is current and what is playing well with their friends. There is a show called Stranger Things on Netflix. That show is unbelievable. It has got kids in it. I started watching it because of my son. My son, Ben turned me on to Daredevil, which is such an unreal show. I mean it is just awesome. I get a lot of that from them. Now I have to research everything, but I am always asking what they are into and what they are binging on.
AE: Yeah man. Daredevil is a fantastic show. I love The Kingpin played by Vincent D’Onofrio. He is crazy good.
GG: It is unbelievable. I love it.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie you guys like to watch together? Is it the new Star Trek film or maybe The Force Awakens?
GG: (Both laugh.) It was Star Wars, not it is Star Trek. Let’s put it that way. Whatever is out in the theaters man that is what we are excited about.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?
GG: Shining Star by Earth, Wind & Fire.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
GG: On a lake. I would say Cooperstown on Lake Otsego with a pontoon boat and a bunch of sandwiches.
AE: Favorite Star Wars and Star Trek characters are…
GG: Han Solo, by far. Hands down. Favorite Star Trek character is Mr. Spock.
AE: If you could be in the Marvel or DC film universe which hero or villain would you like to play?
GG: Dude, if I could play Luke Cage, I would kill. I am not black and I am not built like that. We are having him, the actor on the show. We just had Jeph Loeb one the show. He runs Marvel TV. That show is going to be iconic and amazing. It is a spin-off of Jessica Jones. I just can’t wait for it. That is a character I would love to play.