HitFix Interview: 'Dollhouse' star Enver Gjokaj talks 'Previously on Point Dume'
'Dollhouse' vet discusses his new webseries and the challenges of following a Joss Whedon series
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While "Dollhouse" began life as a vehicle for star and producer Eliza Dushku, one of the supporting players who immediately drew the notice of fans was Enver Gjokaj.
As Gjokaj kept showcasing his versatility -- one week he was Russian, the next week British, the next week he became co-star Reed Diamond -- his Victor seemed to get more and more screentime. Eventually, Victor's relationship with Dichen Lachman's Sierra became a key part of the show's emotional core.
When the Joss Whedon drama ended its truncated two-season run this winter, fans immediately started waiting for Gjokaj to land a pilot role. So far, that wait continues, but Gjokaj's next project will make its online debut next week.
Titled "Previously on Point Dume," it's a tongue-in-cheek webseries built around recap clips from a non-existent supernatural soap opera. Gjokaj is one of the producers (and creators and directors and writers) on the project and also co-stars as dreamy gardener Ron. The clips are tremendously amusing and it's no surprise that "Previously on Point Dume" will have its debut on FunnyorDie.com on Monday.
HitFix caught up with Gjokaj this week, fresh off of shooting a guest turn on FOX's "Lie to Me," to discuss "Previously on Point Dume," as well as other future prospects...
Full interview after the break...
HitFix: What was the genesis of "Previously on Point Dume"?
Enver Gjokaj: Basically, I've been working with these guys from New York, pretty much we do something every year just to stay busy. They're other actors and writers and friends of mine. We've been doing it pretty consistently, but it's mostly been theater and we put something together. We had a male a cappella boy band one year that we did something, then "Glee" came out and we immediately stopped doing that. We've been creating our own work for a while, but this was the first year we decided, "Well let's just do something and film it." And this has been the result.
HitFix: How much have you shot so far and how much are you hoping to shoot?
EG: Well, this is the promo episode. This is an episode recap promo, but they all will be. The show is pretty much episode recaps in structure, as a conceit, of a show that doesn't really exist. We're doing episode recaps of a show that doesn't exist, of a supernatural soap opera. We're thinking of it as "Lost" meets "Clue," although a lot of people I've talked to don't know what "Clue" is, which is a shame. If this all goes well, we'll be able to get to shooting the next four pretty quickly. We just want to see what people thought of it and what kind of structure we want to go ahead with. But this is about it. What you see is about what it's gonna be.
One of the things that we're playing off of is the humor of something like "Lost," where nothing ever gets solved and it's constantly a new mystery and things are never, ever wrapping up. So in these recaps, we do tend to continuously be wild and never actually end the stories and just constantly complicate things forever. It has a "When will it f***ing end?" kind of quality to it, right? That's one of the things that we're satirizing.
HitFix: But if people tune in for every episode, will there be plotlines that progress through the recaps?
EG: That's why I say "Lost" meets "Clue." It's all the same characters -- The Prodigal, The Gypsy Gardener, the Bastard Tycoon -- these archetypes always stays the same and then it's like your basic soap soap structure, with these same people and these insane things happen to them. Another way of saying where the genesis comes from for this is that I love soaps. I think soaps are absolutely hilarious and I always have, but the plots kinda of suck. If you can do anything, if you can kill somebody and bring them back as their twin brother or something like that, well you can do so much more with a soap than what people do with them. They tend to be about incest and paternity issues and stuff like that. We're just taking a soap and making it much better, in our opinion. As soaps go, they have their archetypes and constant intrigue and love triangles and those things. We wanted to jump into that world and just have fun in this world.
HitFix: "Point Dume," the show you're recapping, in your mind is it it a good show or is it the worst show ever?
EG: We love "Point Dume," actually. We think "Point Dume" is great, because we love shows like "Dark Shadows" and there's a lot of shows out there that we love. And I love melodrama. If you look at a soap opera, people think soap operas are bad because the acting is bad, but it's not true. The acting in a lot of soap operas is really, really good. The problem is that the lines are really f***ing awful. Right? It's just so insane what they're saying, so that's the tension and the humor in a soap opera for me. These actors have to really, really sell the most insane situations. And we went to that on this. If you watch it, the tone is very straight-forward. We all felt like the stuff we saw on the Internet was very over-the-top and spoofy, with a lot of fake wigs and that kind of stuff. We wanted to see what would happen if we just played something insane straight. So this is our little experiment, with "Point Dume" to see how it works out.
HitFix: What's the budget here and how was it financed? How lean is the production?
EG: We had to spend a little bit of money on it, but it's very close to zero dollars. We certainly spent under a thousand dollars on it. But, having said that, we used a lot of volunteer work so going forward we're going to have to find somebody who can finance, because there was a lot of work in this that people were nice enough to donate.
HitFix: What key lessons have you already learned in your short time as a producer?
EG: One of the reasons I did this is that I was really inspired by Joss [Whedon] and then later Felicia [Day] working with them on "Dollhouse." They're really ahead of the ball. This something I'm doing in-between projects, obviously. I've got a movie coming out, "Stone," in which I play a younger version of Robert De Niro. That's my acting life and that's the main the thing. But to be doing something on the side that I'm in control of and that I don't have to ask anybody's permission if I can act or if I can be creative, it's really huge. Being in control of the process, this is really the first time that the technology has allowed an actor to be in control of their process, even if it's something as small and silly as "Point Dume." I really think that's the future. I'm not saying that "Point Dume" is the future, but I'm saying that the future of young artists, of actors and writers and all of that, nobody's going to be able to just be one thing anymore. I really don't think so. I think the future is that people are going to have to have to do everything if they want to really push themselves forward. So doing this, producing this on an infinitely small scale, I can't even even tell you how many things I've learned toward that end.
HitFix: Did you pick Joss and Felicia's brains on how to go about doing this sort of project?
EG: No. I'm hoping that they'll like it, but more than anything that the fans will like it. Whenever you put something out there, you're very nervous. No, Joss has got a lot of things going on. Let me put it this way, if it were you and you were writing something to show to Joss Whedon... You know what I mean? Would you want the feedback, or might you be scared? He's so good at what he does. I've got to say that I was a little nervous about share this with him. But having said that, I'm really proud of what we were able to do together. In the end you've got to make something for yourself and this made us laugh. In the end, this represents something that we think is amusing.
HitFix: What's the plan for getting this out there and getting people to see it?
EG: We just found out that we have a Funny Or Die exclusive starting on Monday, so starting on Monday we're on Funny Or Die. And I'm spreading the word myself, really just a means of getting it out in the channels of people who might even care. If the fans like it, then that would be phenomenal. If not? It's not the end of anybody's career. But I did want to see if I could get it out on the Interwebs and at least give people the option, to show people what I've been up to in my spare time. It's very important to me as an artist to be constantly working. I go insane when I don't work, so this is something I do, I've always done in my spare time, to always stay busy, always be creating. So this is my latest thing and I think maybe the fans will like to see it.
HitFix: I think you've definitely got some fans wondering what's next for you.
EG: Well, this isn't necessarily "next," but this is definitely in-betweeen. How about that?
HitFix: On "Dollhouse," you had this great opportunity to try on all of these different characters, accents, voices and mannerisms. When did you realize that you had this ability almost as a mimic?
EG: You know, I've never been known as a mimic and I've actually always hated that word. To me, mimicry is Frank Caliendo. You know that dude? Mimicry is an art form that I don't actually think I'm too good at. What I did on "Dollhouse" is try to inhabit that character or that person, which I think is a little bit harder. I would say that a mimicry of Fran [Kranz], to have mimicked Fran, would have been awful, had I just mimicked him. You know what I mean. That would have been just terrible. But nothing less than just inhabiting him was going to work. I think people liked the mimic stuff because you could see it more clearly, the work that was happening. What was fun about the show was seeing this transformation happen in front of your face. Now if you're transforming into somebody that we've never met before, well yeah, it might look good and whatever, but don't actually get to see how detailed it is unless you're doing it with somebody whose mannerisms we're already familiar with. Does that makes sense?
HitFix: Absolutely, though I don't know that anybody in history has ever attempted a Reed Diamond impression...
EG: [Laughter.] Now *he* was tough. That guy was tough. Again, I did not mimic him at all. There's nothing to mimic. He doesn't really have a mimic-able thing. I just had to tell to myself, "Alright. Now you're Reed." That's all I did for that. I just sat down in the chair and I was like, "Alright, Enver. You know Reed. Just be Reed." There was a lot of stress underneath it, too. I think there was just absolutely fear that boiled it out of me. But man, it's been really hard to find the next job. We've passed on a couple of opportunities because "Dollhouse" was such a great opportunity and exactly because I'm really waiting and looking for the right fit. Joss sets a really high bar and finding the next move after Joss is going to be really hard.
HitFix: I know that fans have been on the look-out this development season hoping to see you end up with a pilot role. What has this pilot season been like for you?
EG: I don't want to go into it too much, because essentially nothing happens until it really happens anyway. Right? It's been a good pilot season. There's been a really good amount of interest in my career. And essentially what it comes down to is that I'm still looking. How do I say this while being diplomatic? There's a diplomacy to this. When you think about moving on and doing the next project, television is a major commitment. You're really signing away a good five-to-seven years of your life. So the idea of doing another TV show sounds awesome, but at the same time, you've got to find something that you'd love doing for that amount of time. Considering that, you do have to be very careful before you jump into the next project, because you could end up in something that doesn't really leave room for you to expand. "Dollhouse" had built-in room for me to play. You've got to be patient.
HitFix: I get it. You could either do a pilot just to be working this spring, or you could hold out and wait for a TV show you'd actually want to be a part of.
EG: Yeah, basically that's it. What you just said is a very difficult thing to do. It requires a lot of strength and patience. But I think I can assure fans, or anyone out there who for some reason is interested, that when I move on, I'll be in love with the project. That's my criteria, to either really love the project, or to be able to learn something completely new from it. So "Point Dume" for me, working as a half-producer, half-editor, half-director, this represented for me, a way to learn something completely new that I didn't know before. So this definitely fits into that criteria.
HitFix: Are you planning on calling in any favors, tapping any connections for "Point Dume" guest stars?
EG: We definitely have some cameos in mind. We're very very hopeful. That is on our radar. That's one of the big reasons we wanted to do this show. Because it's green screen, we can bring somebody in and shoot all of their material very quickly. So it'll be very easy to get people to come in and volunteer their time. We don't have to keep to keep them on location and take time with set-ups and everything. We set up and shoot this stuff and let them go.
HitFix: Backtracking quickly to the De Niro movie, just because I'm curious. You said you're not a mimic, but if you're playing a younger version of somebody as iconic as De Niro, how do you avoid doing a Robert De Niro impression?
EG: Yeah, that was a really hard one, because we wanted to pay homage to Robert De Niro. Everybody knows who he is and what he's like. You obviously can do something close to that. But at the same time, I felt and the director also felt, that the movie opening with somebody doing an imitation of Robert De Niro, no matter how good it was, would be distracting. Even if I was perfect, you'd still just be looking at the screen and saying, "Wow, that's a really good Robert De Niro impersonation," rather than just being in the film. In the end, it was very simple: I just tried to go for the character and kept it within a certain world, within the Robert De Niro parameters. I tried not to do anything that was out of character for Robert De Niro, but I didn't try to super-consciously to affect his mannerisms or something like that. I'm sure it was in the back of my brain. It had to have been in the back of my brain, but I felt it was something I had to play against a bit. We'll see how it turns out!
HitFix: It definitely seems like there were traps you could fall into there.
EG: To be honest, the biggest challenge in that was working with three-year-old triplets. I've never done that before and lemme tell you, it was very difficult to act with somebody who doesn't realize that they're acting.
HitFix: So there will be no children on "Point Dume"?
EG: Oh, man. There's no children. There are feral cats. But no children. We do have to wrangle some animals, though.
Look for "Previously on Point Dume" on FunnyorDie.com on Monday. And look for Gjokaj on "Lie to Me" this summer.