Have you made your appointment with Dream Corp LLC yet? The mind-bending new series from creator Daniel Stessen is currently admitting new patients every Sunday night at 11:45pm on Adult Swim. Starring Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”, “Hello Ladies”), Nick Rutherford (Balls Out, “Drunk History”) and a host of guest stars, the series follows a strip mall clinic that uses advanced technology to invade its patients dreams in order to solve their real life problems. At New York Comic Con this year, the Adult Swim panel was treated to the first two episodes of Dream Corp which blend live action sci-fi and trippy rotoscope animation.
Accompanying the new series to NYCC was creator Stessen with stars Gries, Rutherford and Merchant (who also serves as an executive producer on the show). I sat down with them to talk about this new addition to the Adult Swim lineup.
How did you develop Dream Corp?
Daniel Stessen: I had the concept, been developing it for a while, and created this world and kind of came over to Steve for a little guidance as to how to make it more palatable to a larger audience. Being that he has some–
Stephen Merchant: I think he’s being immodest–or he’s being too modest, I should say, that’s not right. Too modest. I was there as just a friend of Danny’s…to do a voice for this robot [T.E.R.R.Y] that’s in the show and inevitably whenever there’s anything creative going on, I like to start meddling, and just offering thoughts. And we started talking more and more. And it was just for me, it was something I would have done as a friend anyway…but I just thought, you know, let’s try to screw these guys for some money. (Both laugh)
Stessen: And the robot, we love the robot, he was built by Jim Henson Studios…That was one of the more validating moments of my last ten years on Earth, just getting that call that they were on board to build Terry the robot.
Merchant: There’s a really strong visual sense to the whole thing, again largely down to Danny. He’s just got an incredible visual imagination. And so you see that both in the real world–where you see this kind of twisted, eccentric sort of laboratory– and then also when you enter that dream world. And that’s done with the rotoscope animation. When you go on the set, it’s you know, it’s bits of cardboard and people with fake cardboard wings and cardboard jaws and things. All of which is going to eventually going to be animated but which only [Danny] can really see. So a lot of people I think are just stood there and like ‘you want me to what? I’m drowning in spaghetti now?’ And he’s like ‘Trust me.’ So it’s sort of extraordinary, an extraordinary kind of vibe there. Wouldn’t you say people were confused [on set]?
Stessen: It’s just, when people would walk on when we were shooting the dream world stuff, people would walk into an empty room and I would just be like ‘this is going to feel super weird, just trust me, it going to look real cool.’
Can you speak about your characters?
Nick Rutherford: I play patient 88–
Jon Gries: Nick!
Rutherford: Yeah, Nick as well, who comes to the office to work on erectile dysfunction and pretty quickly realizes that the office itself is kind of dysfunctional.
Gries: What happens is that he has to work for us because he can’t pay for his procedure
Rutherford: Yeah I can’t pay for the procedure and you think that it’s a confidence issue and I don’t have a job so you say–
Gries: A job?
Rutherford: Why don’t you work here? And I’m like this is a terrible place, but I kind of go along with the flow.
Gries: So he’s really the eyes of the audience. Because obviously he’s come into this place that is so–well from some perspectives, would be ridiculous and crazy. It’s not from my perspective.
Rutherford: It’s your life’s work.
Gries: It’s my life’s work. Dr. Roberts has this vision that this is the most transforming and necessary procedure but he’s lost his funding. So now he’s working out of a strip mall because he believes and he knows that it’s working. He knows that he’s changing people’s lives. There’s a little problem here and there but–
Rutherford: There’s a lot of problems.
Gries: There’s a couple of bugs that get worked out of the system. But it could be because the system’s really old and we haven’t had the money to update it.
Rutherford: And I think Nick, Patient 88, comes into it and kind of sees a family forming. Because everybody trusts and loves each other. Like there’s, Stephanie Allen plays Joey, his protégé–
Gries: My intern for nine years. No pay!
Rutherford: (laughs) Yeah, Nine year intern. Who loves him and obviously thinks he’s the most brilliant guy ever and he just does not give her the time of day. And Mark Proksch plays kind of the navigator of sorts, I don’t know if you know his work–
Gries: He’s amazing. And he doesn’t ever leave the building. For fifteen years he doesn’t leave the building.
Rutherford: So he’s incredible. And then [Ahmed Bharoocha] plays kind of the nurse and he’s just this big stoner who doesn’t even really care. So Everybody relies on each other in a nice way. So the meat of the story is us working together and growing together and me being thrown into this world. And it being very dangerous, but also fun. And then bringing in these amazing guest stars and throwing them into that.
Gries: He gets attacked by June Squibb at one point. She stabs him.
Rutherford: Yeah she stabs me in the neck with a a screw driver. I’m kind of like the Kenny, I get hurt a lot. (both laugh)
Have you ever had a weird celebrity dream like with [episode one guest star] Dave Coulier?
Rutherford: Yeah that was really surreal.
Gries: I did, I had a weird celebrity dream. I was very nervous, I was about to do a movie years ago and I dreamt that I was in a barbershop. And I was sitting and the man sitting in the next chair was Fred Astaire.
Gries: True story. And he looks at me and he goes, “Are you worried about something?” And I said “I’m just a little uncomfortable” And he said “Have fun. Just have fun.” I swear to god! And that was like two days before I started shooting Fright Night Part 2.
Rutherford: Have fun out there.
What was it like working with the rotoscope animation?
Rutherford: It’s really fun because everything is so grand. You know it’s like now you’re falling off of a hot air balloon, or now you’re running away from your bullies in high school. So you’re playing these large characters, so you just kind of jump into it. Like, I remember thinking when I was very young and being an actor, how it must be really hard to shoot like Jurassic Park when you’re in front of a green screen and then they’re like “and THAT’S a velociraptor” and you’re like “ahhh!” I didn’t feel that at all during the production that that those scenes were difficult thing to do. Because they’re just so silly and fun and you’re wearing kind of a half costume so they can animate it later. Like I’m dressed up like Legolas–
Gries: And literally it was sometimes it was pieces of cardboard, you have cardboard on you almost like a really bad–
Rutherford: Like a play
Gries: Like a kid’s play. But you know it’s all for reference and they’re gonna draw on top of it. And the thing is, knowing how beautiful the animation is also gives you the impetus that when you’re in it, you understand what it’s going to look like, so it helps, it augments. Whatever decision or choice you’re going to make, you can go further with it because you just have that confidence behind that animation. It’s almost like ‘pay no attention to me, it wont be the real me, it will be a better me.’
Stessen: The inspiration came from working with his name’s Michael Garza [of Artbelly Productions] out of Austin, Texas. He worked on A Scanner Darkly, and then a couple other guys on the crew are Scanner Darkly. And one of the woman who was an animator on Waking Life. Which I’m a huge fan of. I saw Waking Life a while back and watched it over and over and over again. Huge inspiration. And we made a short film together that did well in festivals and kind of, we started developing that style in trying to evolve it and I think we’re pushing it forward a little bit and figuring out that we can build things out of cardboard. And make a dragon face. Because all he has to do is draw what’s there. Not that’s all he has to do–his job is to draw what’s there. So we could draw you [all] here and now you’re on a volcano, you know what I mean? So it gives us a lot of flexibility and the fact that with where we are, with little funds, we could do a ton.
What can viewers expect for the rest of the series?
Gries: Surprise after surprise after surprise. I’m not kidding you, it’s different every time!
Rutherford: Yeah it really is. I mean there’s this kind of thread of these different guest stars coming in and getting their therapy as our relationship progresses and as the interrelationships between Joey and Ahmed and…Randy–Randy’s arm gets cut off (laughs)–
Gries: There are things that happen, there’s a continuity within the core group and yet at the same time it’s absolutely ridiculous what happens–but it still stays, it still answers that continuity. And yet the people that come, the patients that come, their stories individually are so different from week to week that it just gives us a whole other area to run through.
Rutherford: yeah There’s like a couples therapy–a gay couple comes in to get like couples therapy. June squibb comes in to quit smoking but then finds out that really just she just wants to have sex.
Gries: And have a baby–and she’s never had sex in her life.
Rutherford: So Roberts appeases that in the dream world–
Gries: You know he says, it’s been a while!
Dream Corp LLC is on tonight and every Sunday on Adult Swim at 11:45pm, with the premiere episode currently streaming at AdultSwim.com
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