As Heather states in her recent feature on Erin Karpluk, Tahmoh Penikett is a TV Goodness favorite. Over the years, we’ve seen him bring the drama as Helo on Battlestar Galactica, Paul Ballard on Dollhouse and, more recently, as the angel Gadreel on Supernatural.
Well, get ready to see a whole new side to the actor. In Riftworld: Chronicles, Penikett shows he can also bring the comedy. In it, he plays Alar, a time-traveling Wizard from another dimension who finds himself trapped in Toronto after one of his spells goes wrong. His mission is to find a way home. However, his latest quest forces him to depend on a journalist (Karpluk) who’s a bit reluctant to provide the aid he needs.
This eight episode web series originally started as a short film called The Portal. After receiving a great fan response as well as a healthy showing from the subsequent Kickstarter campaign, Riftworld: Chronicles materializes before our very eyes today.
We talked to Penikett about taking on a comedy and working with Karpluk, one of his longtime friends. He also opens up about the freedom that comes with doing a web series and talks about being part of The Hillywood Show’s recent Supernatural parody as well as the Battlestar Galactica fandom.
First thing you need to know about Riftworld: Chronicles: Penikett is really funny in it. The chance to exercise his comedic skills is one of the biggest reasons why this project appealed to him.
Tahmoh Penikett: I’ve rarely been given the opportunity professionally to do comedy. I mean I haven’t even really auditioned for it much. I think that because how blessed I was early in my career and all the work that I did, I think maybe that the industry very much pigeonholed me in a certain area and never saw any examples of it and hence has never really seen or given me the opportunity for it. So when I had this opportunity come up, I jumped on it.
Another reason he jumped at the chance? The opportunity to work with Karpluk.
Tahmoh: We’re really good friends. We’ve actually even been roommates before in Los Angeles. We went to acting school for a couple years together when we were both kids. So I’ve known Erin for a very long time. I’m a huge fan of her work.
Surprisingly, the Canadian actors have never starred opposite each other before.
Tahmoh: We’ve worked on the same shows, numerous shows. We both worked on a show called, Glory Days, with the leads Eddie Cahill and Poppy Montgomery and that was like 13-14 years ago. But we never shared a scene. She had a recurring on it, I was only a guest star. And then she had a brief appearance on Battlestar Galactica but, again, we were in the same scene together but we didn’t actually really communicate. So for us it was long overdo.
After the success of The Portal, Penikett had no qualms about signing on for more, especially after reading the scripts for Riftworld.
Tahmoh: They were so well done. I think Erin and I both agreed. We were like this is the perfect time to shoot it. We shot it over December in Toronto. We got it done in three weeks. It was a blast.
The character he plays finds himself in a classic fish out of water situation.
Tahmoh: [Alar]’s used to a certain status. He comes from a place where, according to Alar, he’s a well-respected Wizard. He has martial prowess and capabilities. He’s a warrior, he has magic. He’s someone who’s held in high regard and someone who has a lot of status in his world. And so he kind of conducts himself that way in our world — the Riftworld — and there’s a real comedy to that. And on top of that he’s walking around downtown Toronto in minus 30 with basically no shirt on and just the looks and the stares that he gets — it’s hilarious. Playing Alar, playing this character who’s so out of his element and trying to figure things out and basically needing to get back to his world, it was a challenge but it was fun.
It was also a liberating experience.
Tahmoh: Erin and I were having a blast. We were having so much fun. And we were working hard. We had a very limited budget on this. It doesn’t look like it has it. I thought they did an excellent job shooting it. But we had a limited budget so we had to work at a specific pace. And that works a different muscle, too. It brings out a certain creativity and a confidence because you just gotta commit and go for it. We don’t have a lot of takes. You just have to go for it and make it happen and that was very liberating and exciting to do. And I really, really enjoyed it.
Ultimately, he hopes it will open people’s eyes to the fact that he’s as adept at comedy as he is at drama.
Tahmoh: I would hope that if the rest of these eight episodes are received well enough it would open some of those doors, maybe even the industry itself. People have never really seen me in this role or imagined it would allow me to potentially do that kind of work in the future…
Recently, one of Penikett’s other gigs resulted in him showing off his considerable dancing skills. He took part in The Hillywood Show’s Supernatural parody video, which is closing in on almost 5 million views in just two months.
Tahmoh: We were at a convention (Vegas Con) when we shot that. And I remember Richard Speight came up and he said, ‘Listen…’ And he’d already mentioned it at the convention before — and he said, ‘Would you be willing?’ I said, of course, I’d be willing, I’d love to. I had just arrived and I was supposed to go up and do my panel and it was that quick. Went in there, met those lovely ladies and their lovely team and they said we’re going to put on some music, dance and do your thing. You can do whatever. You can be goofy. You can be serious. You can do whatever you want. Just go for it. So…we shot it in minutes, it took five minutes. Went in there had a good little dance, some good music. And then I was done. It was that simple. I think they did a fantastic job. I mean if you look at the numbers of how many times it’s been aired and viewed, that’s a testament to how rabid and loyal the Supernatural fandom is.
At the end of this month, he’ll reunite with his fellow Battlestar Galactica alums at Galacticon 4 in Seattle.
Tahmoh: I’m really excited because I signed on only recently and a lot of the cast is going to be there. Any opportunity we have. Honestly, we do it outside of any convention anyway. Most of us, a lot of us, get to see each other a lot especially when we’re down in L.A. where many of us are still very, very dear friends. But any opportunity for us to get together especially for something like this. Specifically celebrating Battlestar at a convention and meeting some of the diehard fans and old school fans is just going to be great. The biggest part of it is Grace Park is going to be doing this convention. She’s only done one. Ever. So my wife is gonna be there. Athena will be there doing pictures and she’s going to be there. It’s a big deal.
Riftworld: Chronicles premieres today. It’s a cute, fun, hilarious web series that we highly recommend.