Following-up a blockbuster the size of The Avengers with a small passion project might seem like an odd choice. But that was exactly what Joss Whedon did by adapting and directing Much Ado About Nothing, which was released this Summer. Since the lead actors in the movie have all been in previous Whedon projects, it was a perfect topic for a discussion Whedon Universe track Saturday at 1PM in International DE (W).
Moderator Niki Veasey kept things moving along, first asking the panelists a question and then opening it up to the audience. The panelists included Kate Wicker, Jess Wilkie, Sue Kisenwether, and Laura Crawford, all self-professed Shakespeare geeks.
The first question Veasey asked was whether the panelists thought there should have been a different Whedon actor cast in one of the roles. The panelists agreed that they would like to see Anthony Stewart Head in Shakespeare anything. Veasey noted that Head was originally cast as Leonato, but when he had a conflict, Whedon brought in Clark Gregg for the part.
The discussion naturally flowed to comments about Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. One audience member commented that Fillion could do so much more than play the clown or the buffoon and would have liked to see him as Leonato or one of the princes instead. Much of the crowd disagreed, commenting that the acting choices Fillion made were perfect for the role. Personally, Fillion’s Dogberry is my favorite portrayal to date.
Veasey also asked the panelists if they saw any parallels between the characters the actors played in Much Ado with characters they had previously played. The answers thrown out by the panelists included Fillion’s Dogberry and Captain Hammer (Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog), Sean Maher’s Don John and the first appearances of Simon Tam (Firefly), and Gregg’s Leonato and Agent Coulson (The Avengers).
As the questions turned more toward the content itself, Veasey asked why it seemed like Shakespeare and Whedon are made for each other. One answer related to the kind of language Shakespeare and Whedon use including plays on words and puns. The panelists and audience members went on to discuss how Shakespeare was an entertainer of the common man but used an elevated language at the same time and Whedon does something similar with his material. Another popular answer was that in both men’s material everyone dies.
Everyone also agreed that the character of Beatrice is a very “Joss” character type: a strong, independent woman full of sass and snark. However, the conclusion the room came to was that if Beatrice had been written by Whedon, she would have found her own sword to take Claudio out.
Speaking of strong women, the panelists also talked about Riki Lindhome being cast in the role of Conrade, who in Whedon’s film is Don John’s lover. Veasey thought it was an interesting twist but one that made sense for the character as a possible explanation for why Conrad is so dedicated to Don John in the play. Wicker said that in her experience with the play, Conrad is one of the most frequently gender-swapped roles. Crawford, who works frequently in community theater, noted that often there’s not a lot of male actors to go around. It was noted that in Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed to be actors, so men played all the women’s roles, making it ripe for cross casting.
The only major complaint the audience members and the panelists had about the film was that it was hard to find a theater to go see it in. With the low-budget nature of the film and the Shakespeare element, the movie was in very limited release. If you missed it, though, there is some good news. The DVD will be released on October 8th. If you like Shakespeare or you’re just a fan of Whedon’s work, do yourself the favor of seeing this movie.