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New York Comic Con 2017 Interview: John C. McGinley, Janet Varney, and Dana Gould Talk Stan Against Evil


New York Comic Con 2017 Interview: John C. McGinley, Janet Varney, and Dana Gould Talk Stan Against Evil

Stan Against Evil NYCC 2017

(L-R): Actor-producer John C. McGinley, creator-writer-executive producer Dana Gould and actress Janet Varney attend the New York Comic Con 2017 press room for the second season of their IFC horror comedy, ‘Stan Against Evil,’ which was held on Thursday, October 5 at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Unwilling to disconnect from your past can irrevocably influence not only your own person future, but also the trajectory of the lives of the people who are impacted by your decisions and actions. That important lesson is a notable and harrowing theme of the acclaimed IFC horror series, ‘Stan Against Evil.’

Creator, writer and executive producer Dana Gould has launched a surprisingly relatable show with ‘Stan Against Evil,; which showcases how even the most improbable situations can ultimately emphasize such realistic emotions as wanting to reunite with loved ones who have tragically died. Actor John C. McGinley, who portrays the title character, also serves as a producer on the comedy. His equally quirky and passionate portrayal of Stan powerfully highlights how a character, who has become the epitome of remaining stuck in the past, can impact the future of everyone in his life.

Due in part to McGinley’s identifiable representation of his title anti-hero, ‘Stan Against Evil’ has become one of IFC’s most popular and viewed original shows. After the horror series launched to a record-breaking number of viewers on Halloween 2016, the cable network renewed the show for a second season, which is set to debut on Wednesday, November 1 at 10pm with two back-to-back episodes. The 8-episode season will air weekly on Wednesdays, with two episodes airing consecutively at 10pm and 10:30pm. Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now available to watch on such platforms as Hulu, iTunes and Amazon.

‘Stan Against Evil’ follows Stan Miller (McGinley), a perpetually disgruntled former sheriff of a small New England town, who was forced into retirement. Stan initially has trouble relinquishing his authority to Evie Barret (Janet Varney), the tough and beautiful new sheriff in town. However, the two eventually form an unlikely alliance when they both begin to realize things are not quite right in their quaint New England town. Together, they valiantly fight a plague of unleashed demons that have been haunting the town, which just happens to be built on the site of a massive 17th century witch burning.

The second season picks up where the Season 1 finale cliffhanger left off. Stranded in the year 1692, Evie has been accused of being a witch and is about to be burned at the stake. Despite his best attempts to never leave his recliner, the disgruntled Stan must begrudgingly solve the mystery of Evie’s time-traveling disappearance. That way, the unlikely team can continue to battle against the unconventional demons that are trying to take over their town in the present, which continue to pop up in every size, shape and animal form.

In honor of ‘Stan Against Evil’s upcoming Season 2 premiere next month on the cable channel, Shockya was generously given the opportunity yesterday to participate in interviews for the horror comedy’s second season at the Hammerstein Ballroom during New York Comic Con 2017. Gould, McGinley and Varney all participated in individual press roundtable interviews, and discussed reuniting for an additional eight shows after the horror comedy’s break-out debut eight episodes, which premiered on Halloween last year. Shockya participated in the roundtables during the convention, after we were generously given the opportunity by IFC to attend a set visit in Atlanta for the upcoming sophomore run over the summer.

IFC’s hit horror comedy was created by Gould in part because he loved genre movies while he was growing up, and was determined to conceive his own unique projects. “I also wanted to be in horror films, but I didn’t want to be the star; I wanted to be the goofy weird guy! I thought, how can I get into show business?,” the producer revealed.

“My natural proclivity is being funny, so I became a comedian and writer. I I thought I could write my way into movies. My manager, who’s a very talented and smart guy, said the best way to have a solid career is to be the person who hires you; don’t wait for someone else to hire you,” Gould explained. “If you want to act, you should write, produce and then cast yourself. It only took me 30 years in the business to follow that advice, but that’s what I ended up doing,” he added with a laugh.

The scribe also revealed that the tonal blueprint for ‘Stan Against Evil’ is ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ Gould previously worked with the horror comedy film’s director, John Landis, on the 2012 documentary, ‘Beast Wishes.’ Gould described Landis as being “so smart. He realized that if you tell a traditional horror story, but have the characters behave normally, and not in a stylized way, they’ll naturally be funny…So I used that method on this show, and describe it as a sitcom trapped in a horror movie. This is a show that I would watch if I didn’t work on it.”

Varney revealed that she appreciates that Gould created such a strong and natural female protagonist in Evie. “It’s a total gift and privilege to get to embody” such an enduring character on a television show, the actress noted. “As a girl who liked superheroes growing up, and wanted to have more examples of female superheroes on screen, this show is amazing.

“It’s so reassuring that with all of the great television series that are on now, the characters that the writers are creating are so complex. There’s no longer the thought that we’ll put women in tight boots, and they’ll kick some ass. Female characters are so complicated now, and that’s great,” the performer pointed out. “These women are complex, and don’t know what to do with what they feel, or what they can do. I think there’s something really appealing about that to the people who are watching, because that’s how they feel.”

In addition to playing Evie on ‘Stan Against Evil,’ Varney is also known for her recurring portrayal of Becca Barbara on the FXX comedy-drama show, ‘You’re the Worst.’ She explained that “In a way, I approach playing both of these strong women in the same way. I’ve heard people say that in some ways, the best villains believe that they’re the heroes. So there are similarities between all characters, despite how different they may appear on the surface.”

The actress added that “While Evie has a good heart, is straight-forward and is always trying to do the right thing, Becca is sure that whatever has happened in the world, it’s not her fault. So they both think that they’re okay people, and they’re grounded in that belief, which makes them more fun.”

Continuing the theme of characters who are viewed as being villainous, but internally feel as though they’re doing the right thing, McGinley shared that he believes that Stan is like Archie Bunker in some ways. “I got to check off one of the things on my bucket list recently. Two weeks ago, I was on Norman Lear’s podcast. I went in, and with no small degree of trepidation, told him I unabashedly take from Carroll O’Connor’s archetype while I play Stan. I said that in the most flattering way that I could, and he took it that way…He then proceeded to tell me some of the coolest Carroll O’Connor stories in the world,” McGinley divulged.

“I then wondered if I should have gone full-on Archie for this season. But then I thought no, because Dana wrote Stan to be more heroic this year. During the finale of Season 1, Janet’s Evie is sent back 600 years, and is going to be burned at the stake,” the actor reminded the interviewers. “While Stan is an Archie Bunker equal opportunity offender, (Stan’s) actions don’t always support him defaming people.

“So he does do heroic things. With his limited brain space, he figures, if I can get Evie, maybe I can get his wife, Claire. So Dana wrote this amazingly heroic arc for these eight episodes of Stan plotting and planning on how he could get Claire back,” McGinley revealed.

“While Stan has a thick skin, he is also wounded. He only cared about his wife and job, and now they’re both gone,” the actor noted. He added that one of the strengths that Gould wrote into ‘Stan Against Evil’s first season is the fact that the title character “is damaged. The missing piece in his life now is Claire, and that has to be acknowledged. Stan can’t just be a jackass, because viewers will change the channel. There has to be something redemptive about him, and it’s Claire.”

Throughout the eight episodes that are set to air throughout ‘Stan Against Evil’s second season, Gould revealed that there will be some experimentation with time travel, as he’s always been fascinated by it. “Stan’s journey begins in the beginning of the pilot, during which his wife passes away. He discovers that she’s been protecting him from demons. Then throughout the course of the first season, Evie gets a time travel device, and trades places with someone from the 1600s, and gets trapped there,” the scribe noted.

Big spoiler alert!,” Gould then announced with a laugh. “Evie doesn’t die, as over the course of the first two episodes of Season 2, Stan is able to save her. But when she comes back, something’s wrong. Throughout the season, Stan is also running a side game, and he’s trying to use the device to go back and save his wife’s life. But he doesn’t tell Evie about it, because if he saves his wife’s life, he wouldn’t have met Evie. He also has to make alliances with people he wouldn’t have normally would be fighting, in order to get this done. But the ultimate theme of this season is the Law of Unintended Consequences…But these these things never work out the way the characters want!”

In addition to Stan trying to bring Claire back to life throughout Season 2, the couple’s daughter, Denise, is also having an intriguing arc of her own. “Evie will have more girl time with Denise, which Deborah and I were so hopeful for throughout Season 1,” Varney revealed.

McGinley also called Denise “an independent satellite who’s floating somewhere around Mars,” which garnered laughs. “We played off of Deborah’s strengths, which include improv. She doesn’t need to play off of anyone; you can put her in a room with hangers, and she’s going to create something. So we don’t need to spend time structuring all of these well-crafted scenes, because Deborah’s stunning at improvising.”

The actor also complimented Varney on her acting ability. “What we found last year with Janet is that she can drive the scenes with screwball comedy. She’s the smartest female on the show, and really drives her scenes. You have to have someone as agile as Janet to execute screwball comedy, because it’s really difficult,” McGinley noted. “When we let Janet do that, then Stan can fall in line behind Evie, and be a reactionary. That’s the tone that Dana found, and it plays to Janet’s strengths.”

“What John and Janet brought to the characters for this season is amazing,” Gould revealed. “The characters are now so much more flushed out because of them, as opposed to what I had written on the page. These actors force me to be a better writer, because I have to write up to their performances. John infused Stan with so much humanity that wasn’t in the script.”

Varney also shared that “There are some neat things that happen to the individual characters; everyone has these moments where they’re off having their own adventure, and then they come back together, which I really like. Evie and Stan also go through some pretty intense things together.”

The performer garnered laughs when she added, “I walked away from this season feeling really emotionally drained, but in a great way. I really felt like an actor! This season is some of the most emotionally grounded and dynamic work I’ve ever had the honor of doing, but it’s also the most wacky show I’ve ever been on!”

Photo ofDana Gould, John C. McGinley and Janet Varney,
Dana Gould, John C. McGinley and Janet Varney,
Job Title
Creator-writer-executive producer, actor-producer and actress
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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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