Don’t say cooking with Eugene. I took it literally.
Don’t say cooking with Eugene. I took it literally.
Hey nerds! My amazingly awesome friend Luke (The Doctor here on Odysseynerds) got himself an e-mail interview with Jess Harnell (the voice of Wooton Bassett). Thanks to both of them!! Here’s the interview below.
1 First of all what is it like playing one of the most loved Adventures In Odyssey characters?
It is an honor and a privilege. I love Wooton as much as I think anybody does and I am very blessed to be able to play this guy.
2 If you had to be another Adventures In Odyssey character who would you want to be?
I think everyone else does such a good job playing them that I’m happy where I’m at. So unless Wooton suddenly gets a twin Wooton, I’m cool!
3 Have you ever been recognized in public for your voice?
Yes, sometimes people hear my voice and recognize it from one project or another. And then I was also in a movie about voiceover called, “I Know That Voice!” They interviewed me a lot in that movie so I get recognized for that quite a bit, which is always nice, because it’s nice to meet people who like what you do.
4 Have you ever decided to use your Wooton voice when you were for example buying groceries or talking on the phone?
Not buying groceries, but talking on the phone when I’ve made calls that were Wooton-related.
5 What was your first response when you heard that Wooton was gonna lose his memory in the latest album?
Nothing that happens to Wooton surprises me anymore! It’s always a joy to go through it with him and see what the writers have come up with, but Wooton could take off flying like Superman and I’d be like, “oh yeah, well, that figures!”
6 Besides Adventures In Odyssey, what has been your favorite audio drama, TV series, or movie that you played on?
I have been very blessed to make a living exclusively with my voice for a long time now, and every time I get a job I’m thrilled to do it. A couple of my favorites were Animaniacs, playing Wakko, because it was the first big cartoon series that I was on, I love announcing America’s Funniest Home Videos because families can watch it together and it’s a genuinely funny show. Lately I am bringing back the Cowardly Lion on a new Wizard of Oz cartoon. That’s a joy too, because he was my favorite character in my favorite movie.
7 What has been your favorite Adventures In Odyssey Episode that you have played in?
I like them all! The ones that I did recently stand out the most, and there was one we did where is was B-TV, and I got to do my Adam West impression as a Batman-type character, so I really had fun with that.
8 How often to do you listen to Adventures In Odyssey?
I don’t have a chance to listen to much of anything, but I know when I’m in the room recording with my friends I never get tired of listening to them do what they do.
9 What’s it like to play the comic relief? Have you ever wanted to play the bad guy again?
I’m always fond of saying that I have the coolest job in the world because I can go in and play the dad, the kid, and the dog, all at the same time, in one hour or less, and not have to change costumes or anything. I’m happy to be the comic relief. I love being a character that makes people happy (and it’s fun to be the bad guy too). It’s just fun to get to play!
10 Your house was featured on HGTV’s “Home Strange Home”, and it reminds me of Wooton’s house! Was your house the inspiration for Wooton’s or vice versa?
No, my house was completely separate. For those who didn’t see it, my house looks kinda like a spaceship. But it was fun to find out that Wooton’s house is crazy too because it’s yet another thing we have in common, in addition to both just wanting to be happy and have a good time.
11 And what was it like to be on TV rather than in an audio drama?
Well, I’ve been on TV for a lot of things before. It seems like whenever they want somebody to play a rock star or a pirate and they know me, they end up casting me for those things because I have the right hair cut for them. LOL. But voiceover is my first love because you can do it so much more quickly and do so much of it in the same time.
12 Your impressions are incredibly impressive, I’ve always wanted to know- can you impersonate Randy Newman?
Thank you for your kind words, I’ve worked on them for a very long time! As far as Randy Newman, a little insider trivia for you: in the first Toy Story movie, there is a Buzz Lightyear ballad called “I Will Go Sailing No More.” There was one note in that song that was a little too high for Mr. Newman, and they had me come in and imitate him. They mixed it in and nobody can tell the difference. How cool is that?
13 If you could meet any Adventures In Odyssey character (including yours) in real life who would you want to meet?
Obviously Wooton! We would hang out, we would go on a road trip, and we would do an Adventures in Odyssey episode all about it. I would love to hang out with Wooton.
14 Who is your favorite actor to collaborate with when recording a scene?
Man, I work with the most talented people in the business and I love collaborating with all of them! I love the energy between Wooton and Penny, and Kimmy is great to work with, but everybody on the show and the other shows that I work on are so terrific, I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
15 In your own words what is the gospel? What is Christianity all about?
Wow, that’s a bigger question than I have time for in this but I can tell you it’s about the peace that comes from knowing that you’re never alone.
16 Finally tell us more about your band “Rock Sugar“. How long have you been singing for it? And what inspired you to create it?
I have always been a rock singer, that’s how I got into doing voiceover. I love singing, and I thought, “wouldn’t it be fun if there was a band that took 80s metal and mashed it together with 80s pop?” So I did it with my best friend and we ended up getting to open up for well-known bands, and sing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It has been a huge blessing in my life. I love to sing!
Again, thanks to Jess, and Luke for making this interview happen.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc, drop us an email at Odysseynerds@mail.com! Or leave it in the comments below, or use the contact form on our site. This is Kungfunaomi (And The Doctor!!!) reminding you to come in and nerd out at Odysseynerds!
Hey nerds! Be PREPARED, for conversations about STAR WARS, CONNIE AND JASON, AND OLD TRICKS, among other things.
Huge thanks to Nathan for interviewing with me.
Just as an intro, I had always wondered why the hosts of interviews always sound like idiots. Don’t mock it till you’ve tried it. It’s like all proper speech leaves, and you forget everything you were going to say. So that’s why I sound stupid on this but whatever. You can listen to the interview below (SoundCloud), or you can read the GIANT transcript underneath that. How about I put the end of the post up here so that you can see it:
Huge thanks to Nathan for interviewing!! This is Kungfunaomi reminding you to come in and nerd out at Odysseynerds!
(I’m not confident that the interview is going to embed so here is the link for it): https://soundcloud.com/user-298179124/interview-with-nathan-hoobler
Naomi: All right, so yeah, so you have a degree in media communication, right?
Nathan: Yes I do, I actually started college as a journalism major and quickly realized that wasn’t up my alley as much as I thought it was, and media communication was much more where I was headed, and certainly more where I was headed with Odyssey.
Naomi: Aw, that’s neat! So, how did you get involved with the writing side of Odyssey then?
Nathan: Yeah, um, well I listened to Odyssey since I was young, since probably in the first year that it started I was listening, and, I listened all up through my teenage years and even into college, and then in college I started a fan website about the show, it’s still up and running if you want to take a look, it’s not updated anymore but it’s still up there, Adventures in Odyssey Headquarters. And, after I created that site, some of the producers, and writers, and sound designers of the show started contacting me, which was really fun. Very humbling and very exciting. And, one of the sound designers, by the name of Mark Drury, he and I started chatting at the time on a very advanced technology, called AOL Instant Messenger, which, I don’t even know if there is still an AOL Instant Messenger. But anyway, we started chatting back and forth and, at one point he said ‘You should come out here for an internship some summer.’ And I said ‘Why, yes, that’d be a great idea!’ And so, I came out the summer of 2000, I interned with Odyssey, and then they hired me shortly after that.
Naomi: That is cool. So, yeah, you mentioned AIOHQ, back when you were running that, you were reviewing a lot of those episodes that they were making, how has your perspective changed since becoming a writer of the show instead of a reviewer?
Nathan: Oh, good question. Well, in many ways I still am a reviewer because all of us read all the scripts, not just our scripts, but the scripts that everyone else on the team is working on, and so reviewing is still a huge part of my job, it’s something I’m doing even today. I’ll be making notes on the script, making suggestions, things that we could tweak, things that really work well, things that we could make work better, so reviewing, in a way, is still part of my job. But, it certainly does change your perspective being behind the scenes. Some of the things that I might have said “Boy, I have no idea why they do that,” then, I have some idea now of why we would do something. So, I still think- I love reading reviews of episodes, I love seeing what people think of it, but, I certainly understand more of the logistical behind-the-scenes challenges of working on the show. One thing I think that- uh, you don’t really quite completely understand, until you’re working on the show, are the realities of working in a show that has a lot of different pieces to it. For example, if you’re writing a novel, you have complete control of your world. If C.S. Lewis, when he’s writing the book for The Chronicles of Narnia, he can say ‘An army of centaurs charges forward.” And it happens, because, in a novel, you don’t actually have to create that army of centaurs. But on Adventures in Odyssey, if we want to put a character in a show, then we have to make sure that we can get that actor, that that actor is available, he- he or she, that they’re in town, or they’re not working on something else at the time, or- all those kind of things. You’re thinking about the actors, you’re thinking about the production, is this something we can actually produce? And so there are a lot more of those logistical cha- there are a lot more of those logi- logistical. Let me see if I can get that word out. Kinds of challenges with creating a show versus creating a novel, and that’s something that we think about a lot as we’re writing the scripts. Now we have a great deal of freedom with Odyssey, it’s very exciting to be able to work on something where you can say something like, uh- “We’re working on a Biblical show now,” and we can have an army of people in there, we don’t actually have to go and get a huge army of people and shoot it on video. Now, the Sound Production guys, they do a lot of work with creating that army, and they do an incredible job. But, it’s not- if we were working on the budget that we are with a video show, we wouldn’t be able to do nearly the same kind of exciting things that we can do with audio.
Naomi: Hm. So, you’re making this very convenient for me ‘cause you’re bringing me to my next question, and it’s- do they generally assign episodes to writers or is everybody kinda allowed to come up with their own ideas?
Nathan: Um, it’s both, more often though it’s people coming up with their own ideas. We just had a week-long writer’s meeting, strategy session, whatever you want to call it, where we talked about essentially the next round of shows, and people will bring ideas, we’ll talk about them, we’ll brainstorm them together, kinda outline some of them together, walk through scene-by-scene, and then the writers will take those ideas and go off and write them. Now sometimes, we do have an idea like the next step, say, in the Buck and Eugene storyline, and we’ll say “Ok, who wants to write this,” and then someone might volunteer. But more often than not, it’s someone’s brought an idea to the team, and then they’ll be the ones to write it.
Naomi: Ah, that’s neat. So- what is the difference between being a producer and director on an episode?
Nathan: Good question, well the producer- my role is Adventures in Odyssey producer. And, “producer” is kind of one of those ‘catch all’ words that can mean a lot of different things. If you watch a movie or especially a TV show that’s been on for quite awhile, you’ll see they have all kinds of producers on there, they have a story producer, consulting producer, an executive producer, a associate producer, and the list goes on and on. The longer the show goes on, the more producers it gets. And, so that word really can mean a lot of different things. What it means for me is just whatever job I need to be doing for Odyssey. That could mean working on- like I was mentioning earlier, reviewing the episodes, and making suggestions, it could mean re-writing a show if it- if the writer’s saying “I’m not quite sure where to go with this, could you rewrite it, could you polish it,” so that could be my job. Or it could be casting for the episode, figuring out who’s gonna be in what roles. None of these jobs are me alone, but they often can fall to me if it needs to on a particular episode. It can also mean some things on post-production, for example, getting a crowd together to record of those Biblical battle scenes, so getting a crowd of people and directing this crowd of people. Could mean voice editing the show, so going through the show line-by-line and choosing the best takes and putting all that together. So, “producer” can mean a lot of different things, “director”’s more specific, director means going into the studio for the four hours that we have scheduled to record, that’s how long it takes us to record an episode with the actors, and essentially telling the actors how we’re going to get this show put together. So, we usually go through a scene maybe two or three times, sometimes more, but you’ll read through it with the actors, they’re very used to this process because we’ve been doing it for awhile, but you go through the scene once and then you might say “well, I want this line to be faster, or this line to be funnier, or I love what you’re doing there, do it throughout the whole scene.” And just making sure that you get exactly the right performance for the episode. You’re also, as a director, very much like a time-keeper because recording an episode in four hours- four hours can sound like a long time but four hours goes by very quickly when you’re trying to record a whole episode.
Naomi: Does coffee have anything to do with this four hours?
Nathan: I’m not a coffee drinker, but I think for some people it is, yes.
Naomi: Sorry, I’m looking at my questions here, uh- so, let’s just go ahead and jump into the some of the episodes you’ve written- since you are my favorite writer, and you have written my all-time favorite episode Old Tricks.
Nathan: That’s you’re all-time favorite, wow.
Naomi: Yes. So, was this episode one of those ones that you just came up with, or was it more of a group effort?
Nathan: That one certainly was, well- and I should say that all of these episodes are a group effort. The team contributes to all of these, even though there’s one person’s name as a writer on it, that means that there was still a lot of involvement from the team as far as suggestions and brainstorming and tweaking, there’s- on some episodes there’s more than others, it depends. Some episodes come together in a shorter period of time or fewer drafts and some episodes require more. But, this was one that we brainstormed as a team, we did a rough outline of it at one of our writer’s meetings, we mapped it out on the- I don’t know if it was a whiteboard or a huge post-it note, we kinda walked through what the episode should be, the next step in Buck’s storyline. And then I got the assignment for the episode, I don’t remember if I volunteered or if someone said “Hey, you should write this one”, but I took the assignment and then wrote an outline, and then wrote a script, and then another draft, I think that one went through maybe two or three drafts, and then probably a polish. A polish is like the last step of the process where oftentimes our executive producer Dave Arnold will go through the script and make the final tweaks and changes to it, so- yeah, it was an assignment more so than an idea that I had right off the bat.
Naomi: Hm. So, was there anything that got cut out of the initial episode?
Nathan: Um-yeah, I’d have to think back through… I know there was. There was a lot of discussion about what Buck’s con should actually be with the professor at the college, because we wanted to make it clever, because we wanted to show that Buck is a clever con-artist, but not make it too complicated. And we also wanted it to be something that the professor could fall for, and not seem like a, y’know, complete idiot for falling for this con, but also be something that Buck could realistically pull off. So, we talked about that for quite a bit, I think that was one of the bigger discussion points of this episode, the discussion point was figuring out all the logistics of that con. And then, also, there were a few things that were cut now that I’m thinking about it, as far as specific lines on how far we were going to progress the father-son relationship between Eugene and Buck. How far Eugene should progress as far as really seeming like a father to Buck and how much Buck should progress in opening up and admitting that Eugene is a father to him, and that he has affectionate loving feelings for Eugene as a father-figure. So, in my earlier draft, probably the first draft, I went a bit further with that, I pushed that a little further. And we decided we were going to hold back on that for a little bit, there’s still some of that in this episode, but we weren’t going to take Buck three or four steps forward, we were gonna take him about one step forward.
Naomi: Man, you just- this was such a great one, and I really like it.
Nathan: Aw, well thank you, I appreciate that.
Naomi: However, some people on, like, The Town of Odyssey forums and such have criticized this episode for having Buck kind of slide back to his old tricks.
Naomi: My response would be that no one can change without Jesus Christ, but what’s your response?
Nathan: Yeah, I think I’ve read some of those reviews of the episode, and it’s only just desserts now for me, having reviewed epjisodes now to have my episodes reviewed. You know, I think that could be a fair comment, I mean, we think about the characters, we try to be fairly realistic with them. And so, if someone’s on a journey, and they’re making progress along that journey, anyone who’s gone on a longer journey, whether that’s actually, you know, a career, or schooling, or certainly anyone who’s like, had some sort of addiction in their life that they’re trying to get over, or some sort of habit, like perhaps this might be a habit for Buck, conning people, that’s just how he deals with people by default. Getting over that isn’t always forward progress. You’re gonna have places where you stumble and where you take a step back. And- I mean, we see that in the Bible, you see that in your own life, you probably see that in your friend’s lives, and so that’s what we wanted to show in this episode, is that Buck’s journey isn’t gonna be perfect, and there- that’s not realistic, that’s not real life, and so we wanted to show that he’s gonna have a few stumbles along the way. Now, I still think this episode ultimately was a step forward for them, for both Eugene and Buck. But there- Buck’s journey isn’t gonna be easy because of how, just, immeshed in his being this whole conning thing is, because he was with Mr. Skint for a long time and his whole worldview that Mr. Skint put into him is going to be hard to completely get rid of. And we’re going to see that in a few future shows, too.
Naomi: That is awesome. So, another recent episode that you wrote was Swept Away, for the Odyssey Adventure Club!
Naomi: My younger sister pretty much dying to hear the uh, the next part of the episode, you got a great cliffhanger. So was this inspired by the Oroville Dam Crisis, or did you write this one before that happened?
Nathan: Um, actually, refresh my memory, I’m very sorry to admit, when did the Oroville Dam Crisis- I read about a lot of different floods and problems with dams for this episode, but remind me when that one happened?
Naomi: That one was in February,
Nathan: February of this year?
Naomi: Yes. Oroville California.
Nathan: OK, yes, now I remember that, and I- actually, I think I remember when that happened thinking “Oh, people are gonna think that we did this for the episode,” but no, this episode was recorded July of last year. And so, it preceded that by a long time. However, that sort of thing did inspire the episode, not that particular incident, but there were several real-life stories that inspired it. The one that actually got me started on it was the hometown I’m from, that my parents are still- they still live in this town in Pennsylvania called Stoneboro, and, actually, a couple of little small towns, the one that this happened was Sandy Lake, and the town was- I don’t know that it was actually evacuated but it it was almost evacuated because there had been historic flooding of a lake that was up above the town, and the level of the water was so high on the dam that they were afraid that the dam was going to break and flood the town. And so they were just getting ready to evacuate people and then I think the weather had changed a little bit and they didn’t actually have to evacuate the town. The story there wasn’t hugely dramatic, but that got me thinking of “How many places are there in this country where there could be a flood?” Just a- you know, you think “Well, nothing ever happens in our town,” well, there could be if there was just the right combination of weather. And, reading about that online and so, and you find lots of stories of that, throughout the history of our country and also overseas of towns that either had to be evacuated or, in the real tragic situations, were actually flooded very suddenly. So I thought that would be interesting for Odyssey, especially because if you go back in Odyssey’s history to The Ill Gotten Deed, then clearly the town of Odyssey, that area had flooded before. And so, I thought “Well, maybe it would be interesting if Odyssey actually could be threatened by a flood, it makes sense with its history.” And so, that’s where the idea for the episode came from. It also came from some true-life stories of our alliance organization, Convoy of Hope, and what they do to help people after floods. I had read some of their stories and some of those also inspired the storyline of the episode.
Naomi: Aw, that’s real neat. I was gonna ask, this isn’t in my list of questions, but did you write in the Trickle Lake Dam for this episode or was it part of like, the Odyssey file, because it totally makes sense that’s how they got the place to stop being swampland.
Nathan: Yeah, I don’t think that we’ve ever actually said, and maybe one of your listeners can correct me, I don’t know that we’ve ever actually talked about a dam at Trickle Lake before. Now, I believe they talked about a series of, like, water diversion and water levies in The Ill Gotten Deed, and so in my mind I thought “Well, that could- one of those things they did to keep”- I think there’s a line in the episode where one of the characters talks about the little lake becoming a big lake when it floods, and so I thought “They could have built a dam at the lake”. So, in that way it’s not something that we have in our minds, “Well, there’s a dam at Trickle Lake, and we’re going to use it in a future episode”, we didn’t have that planned but it made sense to me that it could be part of it, it wouldn’t be changing the story too much to imagine that there could be a dam up there.
Naomi: Yeah, it really- it really does make sense. So, you got to direct the episode along with writing it, and you’ve already told us what’s the difference between a producer and director, but so, what was that four hours of directing like?
Nathan: In this case it would have been more like eight hours, because it was a two-parter,
Naomi: Oh, wow.
Nathan: But yeah, I really enjoy the directing part of the process, it’s very different than writing because writing takes a lot longer, and writing a two parter- this was a difficult episode and went through a lot of changes. The first draft of it was pretty different, it still had the flood aspect to it, but especially the second part of it and what happened when the town of Odyssey actually was evacuated changed pretty dramatically. And so, the writing part takes weeks, or in this case, it was over several months from the brainstorming outlining, writing first draft, writing second draft, and so on. So it’s a much longer process, a much more involved process in terms of refining and fixing all the lines, and getting everything just right, and then by comparison the directing part of the process just flies by. And one of the things I like about it is that it’s so, there’s so much energy in it, because you’re moving so quickly by comparison. And so, a scene that you may have spent weeks- not just on the one scene but on the scene you might have worked on back and forth for several weeks and tweaked the lines on, you record it in a few minutes. Or maybe, you know, twenty minutes. But the scene that you’ve worked on and worked on and worked on, it’s there and gone, with the recording. That’s certainly one of the things that makes it fun, is seeing all this work finally come to life and come to life very quickly. And also, I love to see what the actors bring to the script too, because you might have had something in mind for a line or a scene, like an approach to it, but then once you get the actors in the studio, then they have other ideas too, and they might take it a slightly different direction that’s even better. One of the things I think of in this show is the scenes with Connie and Penny where they get trapped in Connie’s garage, in particular the- I think it’s the last scene of Part 1, there’s a lot of action in there and there’s a lot of what we call “efforts” or “vocal foley”, where they’re climbing up on the ladder and opening car doors and trying to get, you know, the house door open, looking through their purse for keys, that kind of thing. And, that’s something we actually- we worked on quite a bit of the script to try to get the logistics to make sense and then we worked on even more in the studio with the actors and they actually had some ways they wanted to deliver those lines, and they wanted to add in terms of like, sounds of their voice and so on. So, that was a fun scene to get to do and I think it turned out really well in the episode, it had a real great, exciting cliffhangery quality to it I think.
Naomi: Yeah, the chemistry between Connie and Penny, too, that scene is just so great, where you know, Penny is like starting to freak out and Connie’s like, “I’m not gonna tell you that we don’t have the keys!” and all those, it’s great.
Nathan: Yeah, and I think that’s- that really speaks to the style in which we record, because we record family style with everyone in the room at the same time, and that scene- it might have been an OK scene if we recorded people separately like a lot of, you know, animated movies, TV shows do. But, it would not have had that same energy of the two of them going back and forth and just kinda one-upping each other with the excitement, so. I love recording that way with the actors together, it feels almost more like a play, in a way, because everyone’s in the same room and the story’s progressing about at the same rate that you would in real life, kind of like a play is, is that people are onstage together. Whereas, if you’re doing something more visual, it’s a lot slower process because you’re setting up the camera differently, you’re getting different shots, you’re setting up the lighting. We don’t have to do any of that, because we’re audio.
Naomi: Hm. All right, so one more episode kinda question, is ah- I’m gonna have you go way back to B-TV: Behind the Scenes.
Naomi: The 2014 AIOWiki poll showed that B-TV: Behind the Scenes was the most popular B-TV episode.
Nathan: Oh, really? I hadn’t seen that.
Naomi: So, was there anything memorable or anything about making the episode that you’d like to share with us?
Nathan: Um, a couple of things were memorable about that. One- it was one of the earlier episodes that I wrote, and it was inspired by an actual TV studio at college, and there was- I don’t know if I told this story in the official guide or not, but I was working on a TV crew for class in college, and we were shooting a show live, or at least it was being shot as if it were live, I don’t know that it actually went out on TV anywhere. But, when you’re doing things live, a lot of things happen differently because you can’t go back and fix anything. When we’re recording an Odyssey episode, we can say “Well, let’s go back and do that again”, and no one will ever know, at least none of the listeners will ever know that we went back and fixed that. When you’re doing something live, you can’t go back because it’s gone. The moment’s already gone out. And there was one moment specifically that inspired the episode and that is, we were- there was an interview with a man and a woman, the woman was interviewing the man, and she didn’t realize that she was almost out of time, and I was on the set kinda trying to motion her like, “wrap it up, we’re about out of time”, and then finally started to give her the ten count, like counting down on my fingers from ten, ten, nine, eight, and so on. And she realized, “oh, no! I’ve gotta wrap this up real quick!” and she looked down at her notes and she said, “My guest has been Jonah-whatever.” And she couldn’t remember what his last name was, and everyone on the crew was laughing pretty good at that, they thought that was pretty funny, even though they were also scrambling to do their jobs. And, so it was just a funny, silly moment and I wrote that down, just those two words, “Jonah Whatever”, and I thought “That might be an interesting Odyssey show where the characters are trying to put on some sort of live TV broadcast.” And then, it was probably months or even a year later that I thought, “well, what about a B-TV show? We always see B-TV most of the time, from like the viewer’s perspective, what’s actually going out on TV. But what if we went behind the scenes and saw what was going on in the studio and in the control room, and with the people who are putting B-TV together, because we assume that’s happening with B-TV, we don’t see it a lot, but we assume it’s happening.” And, that’s where that episode came from.
Naomi: That’s great. And I actually listened to a old interview with you on a different fan podcast, and you mentioned that writing for Edwin Blackgaard is your favorite, is that right?
Nathan: Yeah, Edwin’s not necessarily my favorite character, I love the character, but he’s definitely my favorite person to write for, I wish he was still around so we could keep writing for him.
Naomi: Yeah. Alright, so, we’re doing- more through the interview, yay. So, we’re kinda gonna stay on the topic of the Odyssey Adventure Club, so what do you do specifically for the Club?
Nathan: Well, Bob Smithouser is the producer of the Adventures in Odyssey Club, and I’ll have to try and avoid saying “Odyssey Adventure Club”, because that’s gotten very stuck in my mind now, as the name of the Club, but that’s not the name of the Club anymore. But, Bob Smithouser is the producer of the Club and so he’s very involved in the Club day in and day out, and so, he is involved in pretty much everything that happens in the Club, whether that’s the episodes themselves or whether it’s the video documentaries about the episodes, or whether it’s the web quests, the puzzles, the devotions, all that he’s very involved with. My involvement would be to assist him in any way that he needs, whether that’s on the videos, or, certainly I’m involved in the episodes in the Club, I’ve written some episodes for the Club, and, give notes on scripts, direct some episodes, work on casting, that kind of thing. So, for the most part my major involvement would be in the production of the audio shows, and we’d approach those very similarly to the way we’d approach a “regular Odyssey radio show”. So, we don’t really think of them differently, so our process is very much the same in terms of scripting, casting, recording, post-production, and I’d be involved in those the same way as I would a radio show.
Naomi: Yeah, so that brings me to my next question, are the Adventures in Odyssey Club episodes canon?
Nathan: Yes they are. Definitely. Now, that’s something that’s- they’re definitely canon, how we think of those shows has changed a little bit over the years, when we first were talking about the Odyssey Club, it’s like any big new idea. We weren’t quite sure what it was going to be, and our- I think the initial idea was that the folks in Odyssey, the characters were going to start this club and go on these various trips with these mission organizations, and these projects around town, and all the episodes in the Club were going to be those stories. That proved to be, just from the start, very limiting, to say “we’re gonna do twelve episodes a year where they’re going on these trips”, and so instead, what the Club stories became were some stories about trips but many of the episodes just more like regular Odyssey episodes, so, episodes that take place in the town of Odyssey. The difference would be that we wouldn’t progress a storyline from the radio show on the Club stories, they would be more stand-alone, or they might be a storyline that’s just in the Club. But for example, with the Eugene and Buck storyline, we wouldn’t have an episode in the Club that progresses that forward a lot. Now, Buck could appear in a Club story, I don’t know that he has yet, but he could appear in a Club story, but we wouldn’t have a major advancement of his story because it would be a Club exclusive then.
Naomi: Yeah. So, how many Adventures in Odyssey listeners are part of the Club?
Nathan: You know, we’d have to ask Bob Smithouser, and I don’t know that I have an actual number to give you here, but it’s impressive, the number that are in there. And, it’s certainly been a boon for Odyssey to have the Club.
Naomi: Do you know if the Club was at some point going to include a rewards points program?
Nathan: I know that’s something they’ve talked about, I don’t know when though. There are a lot of ways that we’ve hoped to expand the Club, and we have expanded it, in certain ways. But, in terms of like the “blue sky”, these are big ideas that we wanted to do, we have a lot of those. And, I think you’ll be seeing some of those in the coming days. That one, I don’t know- I don’t think it’s on the docket for the short term, like the next few months or anything, but it certainly is on the possibilities.
Naomi: And then one more question about the Club is that episode Angels in Horsehair,
Naomi: Was that documentary section of it filmed at the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch?
Nathan: You know, we’d actually have to check with Bob Smithouser, I’m not sure. So, it may have been, that ministry was our alliance partner for that story, but I don’t know that they- I think they may have filmed there, but I’m not actually sure if they did, so, I’ll have to give you an “I don’t know” for that one.
Naomi: That would be kinda creepy to me if they did because- I used to, for a very long time, I used to live about fifteen miles away from there.
Nathan: Oh, really?
Naomi: And then I would go over there to- we had a food co-op and Crystal Peaks would let us use their barn for it, and one time the truck bringing all the food was two hours late so I sat in the driveway- in the middle of the driveway and drew their International Harvester truck. So I’m just goin’ “wow, if the documentary was filmed there, that would be almost creepy to me.”
Nathan: Well, you’ll have to see when it comes out if you recognize anywhere, I wish I could say “Yes, I know exactly where that was”, but I’m actually not sure where that was shot.
Naomi: All right. So, now we’re gonna get into the more personal questions for you.
Naomi: Starting with, so, are you and your family going on the Birthday Bash Cruise?
Nathan: In fact we are, yes. This November, we’re really looking forward to that. I think it’s gonna be a really exciting time, I think the Odyssey Crew will probably be working most of the time, but, that’s OK, it’s work that we enjoy doing. Even apart from the Odyssey shows, I think it’s gonna be a great cruise.
Naomi: Yeah, so you’re working on the Odyssey show too?
Nathan: Yes, we’re- well, at this point Phil Lollar is working on writing the script, and the script is still in process, but there are a lot of other pieces to the cruise as well, I mean, there will certainly be pieces that we’re involved with, that I’m involved with, on the script for the live show itself, whether that’s figuring out logistics, or directing the- what I’ve done in the past on live shows has been a stage director and kinda giving people ques from the stage. I’m not sure if I’ll be serving in that capacity on this or not, every time we do a live show it’s always just starting something almost from scratch. Yes we’ve done live shows before, but none of them have been a lot like the previous one, it’s always been kinda shaking the Etch-A-Sketch and starting over, and that’s certainly the case with this one. But in addition to the live show, we also have some other events on the cruise like a trivia contest, and what we’re calling “kid’s theater”, which is… for lack of a better term, like an improv kinda show, it’s not exactly improv like you think of an improv show that you’d go to, but it’s along those lines, and then we’re also doing like, a story time at the end of the day, and there are a few other events too, that we’re involved with, so, it’s more than just the live show, there’s some other things that we’re gonna be putting together and I’ll be involved in all of those.
Naomi: All right, cool. So, this next question, you gotta be careful what you say,
Nathan: All right.
Naomi: Cuz’ this is like the- one of the most controversial questions I can ask you, OK?
Nathan: Really? OK.
Naomi: Do you think that Connie and Mitch should have gotten married?
Nathan: Well, I- this may be controversial, but it’s a very easy answer, and that’s no, they should not have gotten married. Absolutely not.
Naomi: OK, so how about Connie and Jeff Lewis?
Nathan: Well, I- I wouldn’t want to- Connie and Jeff are not something that we’ve talked about a lot, I mean I suppose there could be some possibility there at some point, especially because the actor who plays Jeff, his voice, I don’t know that will ever age, sorta like Katie’s. But we don’t- when we go into our writer’s meeting, Connie and Jeff is not something that we spend a lot of time talking about, or at the last writer’s meeting, any time talking about. So, I suppose I wouldn’t shut it down like I would with Mitch, there’s no possibility with Mitch. But, with Connie and Jeff, I suppose there could be some small possibility, but it’s not at the forefront of our minds.
Naomi: OK, so please, please, just announce that Connie and Jason is not a possibility either.
Nathan: Well, I- yeah. There are certain members of the team, and I won’t say who, that would say “absolutely not, that’s icky,” that there could be no possibility between Connie and Jason, and there would be other members of the team who would say “well, it’s not that weird, is it?” So, I don’t know that there’s really a serious possibility there, but I guess I shouldn’t completely and absolutely shut it down.
Naomi: That’s great, I mean, yeah there’s a lot of people who are like, “Ewwww, Connie and Jason! We all want Connie and Mitch!” And there are other people like, “No! Connie and Jeff!” So.
Nathan: You know, with the Connie and Mitch thing, it’s- this is one of those things, I suppose going back to earlier on in the interview, I understand better now being behind-the-scenes, and… I think it’s flattering that people are so excited about the two of them, that they really want to see them together, but I also know from a behind-the-scenes perspective that it would not be good for the show to have the two of them together. And that- I guess this is one that you’ll just have to take our word on it, that it wouldn’t be good for Odyssey or for Connie and Mitch. Especially for Connie, for the two of them to be together and married. So, Connie and Mitch will not be getting married, as strongly as we can say that, they won’t be getting married. And it’s one of the things that people are so attached to it, and again I think that’s cool that they get so attached to the characters, but when I’m- people will come to Focus and I might be giving them a tour, and one of them will ask “When are Connie and Mitch getting married?” And I’ll start to explain the reasons why we don’t want them to get married, and we think it’ll change Connie’s character too much, and we don’t actually think they’re the right match, and then I’ll get done explaining it and they’ll say, “Well, yes, but when are Connie and Mitch getting married?” Because they’re so attached to the idea they really want them to get together and just, again, you might have to take our word for it that not only is it not gonna happen, it’s good that it’s not gonna happen.
Naomi: Well, Mitch is married anyway, now, I guess everybody keeps forgetting about that.
Nathan: Well, we hear from a lot of people who say “Well, yes, but Maureen, she’s in the FBI so she could die. Or, she could go off a cliff or something.” And I suppose yes, that could happen but it’s not going to happen.
Naomi: OK, speaking of falling off a cliff.
Nathan: Yes, good transition.
Naomi: Me and my sister sent a crank call to you guys for the official podcast, about Buck and Jules, I don’t know if you guys got that or not.
Nathan: I did hear that one, yes.
Naomi: Yeah. I dared her to do that. (laughs)
Nathan: Yes, well, I don’t know that you heard the podcast that came out today but I know that one of your questions was in there, about the next album.
Naomi: Yes, I did hear that one actually yesterday, and that like wiped out half my questions I was gonna ask you, but that’s probably good. Um- so what’s your favorite Star Wars?
Nathan: My favorite Star Wars movie?
Nathan: Empire Strikes Back.
Nathan: I just watched those recently with my kids, we watched all the Star Wars movies, and I saw them a little differently, seeing them with kids instead of just watching them for my own benefit. And, definitely appreciated the- all the surprises in that. You know, if you watch enough movies, or see enough TV shows or whatever, it’s hard to be surprised because you’ve seen enough surprises and how they try to surprise you that you can often see it coming. But, I really appreciate in the- in Empire Strikes Back in particular, the number of surprises that they were able to pull off. Now, they’re not surprises to me any more because I’ve seen it before, but just the way in which they would craft not just the big twist that everyone knows, but just some of the ways that they would have little surprises in the story, whether that’s visually or little lines of dialogue, that are just- that really kept you guessing. And I think that’s hard for a movie to do these days and so, definitely appreciated it more this time through.
Naomi: Yeah, that’s…. is it harder now that Odyssey has had so many ideas done for it, is it harder to come up with fresh ideas?
Nathan: You know, in some ways yes, in some ways no. For me, I find ideas in continuing storylines, and so in exploring things that have already been set up about the characters. If you look at a lot of the episodes I’ve written, I haven’t created a lot of characters, I’m sure I have some, but I more enjoy using the existing characters and exploring things with them. So, in many ways, it makes it easier for me to write a character because you know how they’ll react already. You know what their character is because it’s been well-established in hundreds of episodes, in the case of many of our characters. And so, I think for some people, they might find that limiting because there are a lot of ideas we’ve already done, but I actually work a lot better with having constraints , and I think those constraints can bring out my creativity more, instead of having absolute freedom where you can just do anything. That’s almost too much, it’s hard to figure out “well, I don’t know what I want to do, there are too many options.” But when you limit those options a little bit by saying “well, here are the characters, and here’s what we know about them.” that makes it a little easier to write a story.
Naomi: Huh. So, when you were a kid, did you dream of working for Odyssey?
Nathan: You know, curiously enough, even though I grew up listening to the show I never really thought that writing or working on the show was a possibility. I don’t think it was even something that I thought about, it was just something I loved but didn’t really think about the behind-the-scenes process until I got to college, and then I did think about working on the show, and dream about working on the show, but when I was a kid, just didn’t really even realize it was a career path.
Naomi: Hm. Well, yeah, cuz’ when you’re a kid it’s just more magical, I guess.
Nathan: Sure, and even when I was a teenager and, you know, obviously was aware that “this is a show that’s created, it’s not a recording of a real town or anything.” But, even then it just didn’t really, I guess just didn’t really hit me that that was a career that would be up my alley, but it certainly has been.
Naomi: Hm. Um, so we’re getting to the last few questions here. So, is there anything else like, that you think is super-interesting about yourself that you think our rea- er, our listeners would like to know?
Nathan: Oh, boy. I don’t know that I’m- not to sound self-deprecating, I don’t mean it that way, I don’t know that there’s anything that’s especially fascinating. I don’t have a lot of- I don’t have a wide variety of interests, I think that I tend to get really… go really deep with my interests instead of broad. So, with Odyssey obviously, I’ve gotten pretty deep into that interest, I’ve been involved in it for a long time, and learning all the different aspects of the process of Odyssey has been real important for me. And, I like to hope that- being a husband and father, I try and get real involved in that, and not spread myself too thin with too many interests, I do have- if you’ve seen Facebook or my website then you see that I have an interest in mountain climbing and rock climbing. And I got pretty deep into that interest for quite awhile, and still am. But, beyond that, I don’t know that there’s too much about me that’s all that unusual.
Naomi: Where have you climbed?
Nathan: Well, I live in Colorado, so mostly in Colorado but I’ve traveled to different places, California, Washington State, Utah, and climbed there as well. But, just- it’s certainly a different kind of mindset than the kind of work I do for Odyssey, and in that way it’s also a relief that it’s much more physical, that my job here is much more mental, and mentally taxing, and generally not physically taxing, just mentally taxing. So, doing something that is- it still engages your mind, certainly, but is a very physical process is a good relief for me.
Naomi: That’s great. So, based on the earlier parts of the interview I’m not sure if you’re gonna know this, but this is our closing question: so, how many people per week are there listening to Adventures in Odyssey?
Nathan: Yeah, I don’t know that I have the latest numbers, for a long time we said the number of about two million people, because we had- this is years ago so the number may be outdated, but we had about somewhere in the vicinity of 1.7 million listening in on the radio, and then we had at the time about three hundred or a little more than that thousand listening to the stream on Whit’s End and the Focus media player. And so at the time we were saying “that’s about two million people”, but it is hard to get difficult- not difficult, it is hard to get accurate numbers for Odyssey, because of the- just the nature of the program. There’s a company that actually tries to measure the number of people listening to radio programs, but it only measures people over the age of twelve, and since our target audience is eight to twelve, most of our target audience wouldn’t even be measured. And so, I think we have gotten some good numbers over the years but, um, in spite of the fact that I just quoted a number that’s now dated, I’m not sure exactly what our numbers would be now. But, it’s a lot of people.
Naomi: Well, yeah, I mean regardless if it’s outdated or not, that is a big listenership.
Naomi: And ah, so thank you for using your influence over that listenership very well.
Nathan: Aw, well thank you. And thank you for being one of those people who listens.
Naomi: Yeah, you’re welcome. So that’s the end of our interview, thank you for talking to me.
Nathan: Of course. All right, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, I appreciate it, and it’s always fun to talk about Odyssey.
Naomi: It is very fun, thank you.