Participants Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show with Bob and Dave, Breaking Bad), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Missi Pyle (Dodgeball, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite) got attendees in touch with Hollywood reality, if there is such a thing.
What was your first paid acting experience?
Mark Hamill: My first job was on the Bill Cosby show — the first one when he played a coach; mostly though I just worked with his stand-in.
Missi Pyle: I can’t believe I’m sitting next to Mark-frigging-Hamill. Well, the first show I got paid for was a summer stock musical about young Abraham Lincoln. I played two roles. If you’ve got 35 minutes I can sing the whole score for you.
Julie Bowen: My first job was a training video for Lady Footlocker showing employees how to use the new shirt folding machine. It was really exciting. We got to go into the mall after it was closed.
When did you know that you were famous?
Michael Jai White: I forget I’m famous. I go the market in the 'hood and I see a bunch of guys staring and pointing at me and I go, “What the hell you looking at?” And then they say, "Aren’t you that guy in that movie?” Then I have to say, "It’s cool."
Mark Hamill: Carrie and Harrison and I were arriving by plane in Chicago and I looked out in the lobby and there were all these people standing around. I said, “Look, there must be somebody famous arriving.” Then I saw a girl dressed like Princess Leia. It all happened so fast, none of us were ready.
Bob Odenkirk: People who know me from Breaking Bad don’t know me from anything else. I forget I’ve been on anything ever. When someone does recognize me I really know they are a true fan.
Mark, what’s it like to be a cult idol?
Mark Hamill: I don’t consider myself as that. I’m so old now I don’t even recognize the hosts on SNL. Rather, I think of myself as an ambulatory memorabilia enhancer. I autograph something and its value goes up 300 percent.
What about everybody else?
Bob Odenkirk: Well, it’s nice not to have to show ID with a credit card.
Missi Pyle: Lately, when I get to security at the airport, I hear, “Hey girl, you so cool, just go on through.” That’s nice.
Michael Jai White: My first breakout was the Mike Tyson thing. Now people yell “Hey, Spawn” or Marcus or Black Dynamite. It’s strange because I’m so non-violent.
What projects are coming up for you?
Julie Bowen: Nothing much. Mostly I see Missi in a movie and I think “Why didn’t I get that audition?” When I started staying home taking care of my kids, I tried writing, but writing is really hard.
Missi Pyle: I’m working on an Internet thing with Brooke Dillman. She’s great. She’s the unknown Carol Burnett. And John Michael Higgins and I are working on a series which is a kind of like The Thin Man or Heart to Heart
Michael Jai White: I’m working on “Part Next” of everything I already did — Spawn 2, Black Dynamite 2, Toxic Avenger 4. Oh, and there’s a Jamaican zombie movie, too.
Rant of the Day 1:
Bob Odenkirk: If you make something good it may get its ass kicked at first but eventually it will get recognized. If my show was good it’s because they gave us creative freedom and that’s rare. Carolyn Strauss of HBO gave us the money and told us “make it crazy.” But I knew that HBO was over when I asked her what she was working on and she said, “Sex and the City, but with four guys.” When you’re too successful you get stuck in keeping that audience. It’s so nice that you all came here and want to hear what we have to say but the people who do things are the executives. You can try to go the route like independent music the last five years, but you can’t make a TV show in a garage. Even if you call all your friends and call in the favors, you still can’t do what we do for nothing. I’m not going to not pay my editor and tell him to sit at a console for three months. I’ve got to get him $20,000.
Rant of the Day 2:
Mark Hamill: I have been trying to get this thing off the ground since God knows. It takes so long to get anything done in this industry. The thing I was pitching seemed like drama but it has dark humor. And never say “satire” in a room with people who have the money to make a movie; it scares them. This project’s based on a comic book I wrote, but sometimes it is better to try and do it yourself. You can do a lot without being at the top of the Hollywood food chain, because once something goes to a studio it’s hard to have an original voice, because then there is an assembly line of people telling you “change this, change that.”
Rant of the Day 3:
Julie Bowen: The top? I’ve been trying to sleep my way to the middle!