QC – BEHIND THE SCENES It is one of the longest running webcomics on the internet today.
It's also one of the most popular – its indie music loving, twentysomething cast tugging at the heartstrings of thousands upon thousands of readers five days a week. But the road to net.stardom wasn't an easy one – and was filled with more than its share of highs and lows. Join us as we take a look at Questionable Content – Behind The Scenes. Marten Reed (Marten Reed) He was the first person who answered the casting call for the webcomic, back in the days when Jeph was a struggling insurance underwriter who only dabbled in music and drawing. Marten Reed thought he was trying out for a sci-fi comedy strip, but Jeph told him after the read-through with the first few strips that the comic was actually an indie-hipster-music slice-of-life comic – and Marten was trying for the "author avatar" role. Marten realized that he wasn't going to be as huge as the 6'6 Jacques, so he played the "mopey skinny indie boy" role to the hilt. Jeph loved it, and made him the main character. Marten acknowledges that he thought the strip was only going to be for about one season's worth of strips – "maybe just a year or two, but then the strip just took off", in his words. "The interplay between me, Dora and Faye was just fantastic, and then Raven added to things. Pintsize's antics were an added plus." Soon, the fans were demanding some sort of resolution between Marten and Faye – and the "deep dark secret" that she held. MARTEN: "What no one knew – not the rest of the cast, the fans, no one – was that Jeph had been honest with me and Faye from the start. He told us that he already had an ending in store for the strip – that Faye would reveal that her dad had shot himself, and that Marten would help her get over the issues she had developed since then, and they would ride off into the sunset as a happy couple – The End." He shakes his head at the thought. "We did the whole 'The Talk' storyline as an afterthought to what the rest of the cast had thought was going to be the wrap party." He pauses, contemplating. "We did the whole thing in one take. Faye read the lines like it just poured out of her, y'know? The little thing with Pintsize was just an add-in by Jeph to keep it from going completely off the deep end." He sighs as he revisits the arc in his thoughts. "What came out of that was just magic. (Laughing) We deserved those Comic Emmys we got for that storyline." Jacques surprised everyone by informing the rest of the cast three days later that the comic had been extended by Topatoco Studios – and that the long-expected Faye-Marten "hookup" was not going to happen. "That was when the strip took off," Reed relates. "The Dora storyline, the whole Vespa Avenger thing, then Sven hooking up with Faye – which was a bold thing, you know – and suddenly, we're at a thousand strips, we have this new character who everyone loves in Hannelore, and people can't get enough of us at cons!" Marten was the impetus in two recent storylines – one, believe it or not, was the breakup of him and Dora. "She was getting uncomfortable with the whole long-term relationship, especially since she's married to someone else in real life. So we kinda foreshadowed it, then ran a trial of it before a few other artists. Randy Milholland from S*P and Danielle Corsetto from GWS urged Jeph that it would be a way to keep the comic fresh – and to draw the fan base in to the comic." He shakes his head in wonder. "What we didn't expect was the absolute ####storm that would happen. Dora really didn't care for it, because she realized that it was going to look like the breakup was 100% her fault. I lobbied Jeph to make sure she not only landed on her feet and got help for her 'issues' that led to the breakup, but that she and I would actually end up reconciling." He pauses. "Though, of course, not by getting back together."
The other storyline isn't what you probably thought it would be: "I was never all that keen on the Padma storyline, especially how Jeph had it originally laid out. But I really wanted to explore the possibility of adding someone other than just Tai at the library that I could interact with – other than the female undergrads who we always had wandering onto the set as extras. So I suggested to Jeph, right towards the end of the Padma's Leaving arc, that we consider doing a contest to find a new character. That's how Questionable Content Idol came about. Boy, was that some competition! We had entries from Australia, England, Canada, the US… all over! I had to do the shooting for the Space arc at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, but I kept up with the whole thing via Twitter and Skype and Tumblr – and the whole thing with the forums. I'm glad that one gal from Australia got one of the three roles. We originally wanted only one, but then it just got so… big." Marten, by the way, does actually play guitar and has his own collection of Stratocasters – including one he had autographed by the late Les Paul two years before he died. He had been part of a band when he was in college – something, Jeph relates, that definitely helped him land the role. He is also single, but not currently dating anyone. "After all the stuff I've had to deal with in the strip? Me? Dating? Psh, right." Faye Whitaker (Faye Dowson-Whitaker) She's the sassy, foul-mouthed barista with indie music tastes and the mysterious past – or, at least, that's what she plays in the strip. The truth is, she is a Southern Baptist congregant who actually likes country music. Faye was the third person to read for the strip (behind Marten and Steve). She was incredibly convincing as the character of Faye, so much that Jeph hired her on the spot. FAYE: "I was absolutely thrilled to be working in a webcomic. I knew it was going to push the envelope on my acting abilities to play a character so opposite of what I am off the set. Jeph helped by explaining what my background issue was – initially, he explained that my dad had killed himself when I was in college, but when we got to the actual 'Talk' storyline, I got him to change it to where he had actually shot himself while I was watching." (pause) "Even I was shocked when I revealed that in 505." In the aftermath of The Talk, Faye decided to lighten the mood on the set as she was going to visit her father's gravesite. She was the one who suggested that the name "DOWSON" be placed on the gravestones next to her "father" – which were the actual names of Faye's real parents, James and Julia Dowson. Her parents, by the way, aren't dead. "The whole scene about 'The Talk' did lead to some issues with me," she explains. "I did end up struggling a bit with alcohol in the immediate aftermath of the storyline, but after a brief stint in rehab – and after discovering Muy-Thai martial arts – I haven't touched a drop of the stuff since. A little secret: the emergency bourbon bottle? It's full of sweet tea now." Faye is actually married to David Whitaker (how's that for irony?), and has a son, Jeffrey – who was born during the Space arc earlier this year. And yes, she admits, she named her son after the guy who gave her her big break in the webcomics business. Dora Bianchi (Dora Marie Severson) The role of the ex-Goth Barista was one that Dora Severson gravitated to. It helped that she already knew Jeph Jacques from their mutual high school days, and she got the role when Jeph mentioned to her that "he wanted to expand the strip from being just about three indie hipsters doing their barhopping" (as she relates) to include a coffee house. "Coffee houses have always attracted hipsters," she says. "And it was only natural that the one that Marten frequented – and where Faye worked – would be attractive to both. He wanted an exGoth to be the owner/operator – and, for some reason, he
thought I'd be perfect for the part." (looks into the camera) "I honestly have no idea why. I mean, just because my grandmother Claire Severson is the real witch who appeared later on in the strip, doesn't mean I was some Goth girl or something." (trying to keep a straight face – and failing) She does admit that some of her own insecurity issues have "actually crept into her character in the strip. Feeling both like I'm kicking ass at life and being a complete wreck? That's me, 100%." She also hates cats with a passion, but allowed for Jeph's decision to have her character own Mieville. The dirty little secret of the whole comic strip, though, is to whom she's married. Yes, first of all, it is true, QC fans: Dora is married, to a member of the opposite sex. Who it is, though, is somewhat shocking: DORA: "Jeph really wanted to build on the whole 'Dora the ex-Goth chases Marten the Indie boy' thing, but he also wanted me to have an older brother who seemed to have everything fall into his lap at the right time. So that was when he hired Sven to join the cast." SVEN: "I'd answered the casting call for the comic, and when I showed up that first day on the set, I just couldn't get enough of her. We clicked right off the bat, even though we were supposed to be antagonistic to each other. I asked her out the night after my first story arc on the strip, and we got married the weekend of Thanksgiving, right before 'The Talk' storyline." DORA: "Truth is, we both thought the strip was going to be ending, because of how Jeph had made it sound. But we've made the relationship work. Jeph's even had us reconciling in the strip, so we're not the antagonistic pair that we started out playing initially." Hannelore Ellicott-Chatham (Hannelore Chatham) JEPH: "The one person I get the most questions about, whether it's at cons, or interviews, or anywhere I make an appearance, is, of course, Hannelore." Jeph admits freely that the idea of Hannelore's character was never part of the plot of QC from the beginning, but he did realize after the "Talk" storyline that he needed to expand the strip outward from it just being about the five main characters (Marten, Faye, Dora, Steve and Pintsize). JEPH: "I thought about Marten having this creepy stalker-like girl who followed him everywhere – a little like that gal who followed Charlie Sheen's character around on Two and a Half Men. But I didn't want her to be an eventual love interest for Marten – or for anyone else in the cast. And one day, I came up with the idea – give her OCD." HANNELORE: "When I read for the part, I just knew that this was going to be huge. And I loved the concept of the creepy stalker girl with OCD. We read that whole Scrabble game scene (with Marten) and it was just perfect." JEPH: "The explanation has always been that, as her character developed, she was just originally on some pretty heavy medications at the start. (looks skyward) I admit it – I had absolutely no idea where to go with her character. That's kinda why she got so much control of her character." CRISTI: "A little bit too much control, if you ask some of the others around here." (pause) "Of course, not within hearing distance." MARTEN: "She got to be so popular, especially after the whole Faye-Sven hookup arc, that she was perceived as having taken over the entire strip." HANNELORE: "Yes, I'm aware of the Joan Crawford whispers. To those people, I say – GET A LIFE. I'm not this big, scary person like I portray in the strip. I'm also not really OCD – though the character's quirks have made me start washing my hands three times after using the bathroom and such." FAYE: "Hanners got made out to be like her on-screen mother's 'James Bond villainess'. Truth is, she had all these great ideas, and it was working every time she suggested something. Jeph
basically agreed to the 30% stipulation, just out of sheer thankfulness." HANNELORE: "I haven't used the clause, of course. Jeph's made sure I'm in at least 80 strips a year. I just asked him to do it because – well, I couldn't always rely on my trust fund and my physics degree." RAVEN: "Yep, I used to think I had the highest IQ among the cast. Then she came around and we started having arguments about the Higgs Boson and whether or not the Large Hadron Collider could actually find it." (smiling) "That was one of the things I missed about the strip when I left for congress." While she does mention that she dislikes all of the fanfic and fawning over her character – which has sometimes made convention appearances difficult to take – she brushes it all off as being part of the job. Of course, she points out, "I do have that collection of African tribal spears and shields on display in my home (in Cambridge, Massachusetts). And the leaders of the Mokawi tribe of East Sudan showed me how to use that blow tube dart to disable an enemy from a thousand yards." Pintsize (Voice actor unknown) Originally, the character of Pintsize was played by a midget in a suit with a computerized voice – at Jeph's insistence. After a short stint as an animatronic "puppet" (beginning with the laser chassis storyline), the character is now completely CGI – though a "fake" stands in when he needs to appear with the rest of the cast. Winslow and the other APCs in the cast are also all-CGI – except for the new Momo character. The voice actor who has done Pintsize's voice (through a computer voder that distorts his real voice and accent) is supposedly a professionally-trained Shakespearian actor – whose name has never been revealed. There's been speculation that it's someone famous, like Patrick Stewart – but Stewart has denied any contact with Jeph and QC. Marigold Farmer (Marigold Farmer) She had to stretch it a bit to make the tech-nerd role of Marigold, but this gal – who played the Ally Sheedy character in a late 1990's stage production of The Breakfast Club – took to playing WOW after a few false starts. Ironically, she's not a big fan of anime, but she did have a bit recurring part in the Foglio studios "epic" Girl Genius as one of the Geisterdaimen. She had to bow out after the Sturmhalten storyline due to her increased role on QC. Her dad, Ivan Farmer, made his famous brief appearance in the "Explain Steampunk" strip earlier this year. Steve (Steven S. Stephenson) Mister suave and debonair was actually your typical actor working in a restaurant when casting calls came out for the strip. He was the second person to read for the strip, and actually had to go to rehab a few times during the early days of the strip – which explained his long absences after the Ellen breakup storyline – especially after the Ellen storyline. Since the return from his service with DOKYA, he has been stonesober – and the woman who played Tortura is his now-real-life wife (Tatyana Spencer). Sven Bianchi (Sven Bianchi) He never thought that answering a casting call for the webcomic would lead him to meet his future wife, but then, on the first day on the job he met Dora – and immediately fell in love. It got to be a bit difficult to work with her over time, but anger that Dora felt towards Faye during the "YOU SLEPT WITH HIM?" arc and the Gina Riversmith arc? Completely and totally unrehearsed. He was actually a practicing Jehovah's Witness until he met Dora; they now both are essentially agnostic (and were married right
before the "She Kisses The Boy" storyline – which made things tough for him). Oh, and all the sex scenes with Faye and Sven, and Marten and Dora? They were all completely clothed underneath. Sven is also different from his character in one other very key area – he cannot read or write music. He can sing – as the karaoke machine segment of the Faye-Sven arc proved – but the music he supposedly writes is all made up. Blodwyn "Raven" Pritchard (Raven Pritchard) Representative Raven Pritchard (D-Temple) lost her re-election bid in the 31st congressional district of Texas in 2010 to Republican John Carter. Pritchard took over the seat held by her grandfather, Samuel Pritchard, after he passed away in mid-2008 – right after he had run unopposed for the seat. Governor Rick Perry appointed her to the seat after pressure from her parents – both whom had not only contributed to his re-election campaign, but also had been significant contributors for Texans For McCain that year. Raven had never even lived in Temple, Texas prior to then; she had left for Massachusetts and MIT in 2003, the year the strip made its debut. After trying out for a walk-on role as a Goth girl, she managed to make it as a full cast member by the time of "The Talk" storyline. Unfortunately, her parents still thought she was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Then she started to befriend Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the 111th Congress, and ran for re-election as a Democrat. Carter trounced her, dredging up her work in the strip (One of the attack ads had the tagline: "Questionable Content? Questionable Pritchard." Her parents are no longer on speaking terms with her – which forced her to return to the strip. She has since finished her physics graduate degree program (with a minor in theater arts) at MIT, though she has spent all of 2012 defending her master's thesis on the caffeine molecule. Tai Hubbert (Tai Hubbert) Believe it or not, Tai is pretty much the character she plays in the strip. The only difference is that she is monogamously "attached" to the girl who appeared briefly as Bailey in her early days in the strip (played by Gina Eastman). Angus McPhee (Angus McPhee) Another character actor who had done some off-Broadway shows and dabbled in theatre at Holyoke College. Angus is pretty much "the consummate professional", according to Jeph. His hard work and dedication landed him the permanent role of Faye's boyfriend a few years back. The lactose-intolerant bit was not an act, interestingly enough. Angus declined to be interviewed for the Behind The Scenes special, as he prefers to have his acting speak for itself – and for his private life to remain that. Penelope Gaines (Penelope "Penny" Gaines) PENELOPE: "The rest of the cast say I'm the most under-appreciated character of the lot. I think that title might go more to Will than to me, but I guess I do serve one important purpose. That is, I'm always the one who persuades Jeph not to bury the forums. (smiles at the camera) "Yeah. That's right. What, you thought Cristi did that job? Not a chance in hell; she agrees with him for the most part. And apparently it's paying off, or that's what Raven tells me anyway. I don't know, she used some kind of complex formula based on swearing and number of angry moderator posts, but apparently the forums are about 40% more sensible than they were before, say, the big break-up. So that's good! "I guess I'm more working in the fan networking and public relations side of things than being an actual cast member these days, cause even outside of my character I'm the sensible one who gets things done, but that's alright. I don't think Jeph quite knows
what to do with my character anyway. (pauses for an off-screen question) "Oh, you were wondering how we did the whole 'me meeting Pizza Girl' thing? Trade. Secret. Not allowed to say anything about it. Got any theories about it? I can respond to all of them right now: (coyly) Mmaaayyybe." Momo-Tan (Mikoru Guildstern; former voice actor unknown – but rumored to be Cristi Jacques) As listed before, the original forms of the anthroPC's were semiCGI'd animatronic puppets. Unfortunately, after some issues (that eventually led to the "Pintsize Rewired" storyline), the puppets were replaced by CGI versions. Jeph had originally planned that Momo would be owned by Angus, but then Cristi came up with the idea of Marigold as her owner. It has been long rumored that Cristi had been the voice actress of Momo in her original chibi form, but Cristi has never acknowledged this. After the relationship between Momo and Marigold developed, Jeph really wanted to do more with the concept of "AI rights" and how AnthroPC's had developed over time during the strip. By the way: yes, it is true that Hannelore had come up with the idea of the "robot boyfriend" earlier in the strip; however, Jeph had decided to push the idea further, at the egging of John Ellicott. Thus came the Idoru story arc, and Momo went from being a CGI character to being a real actress playing a Data-like character. Mikoru Guildstern, a San Francisco-based anime actress and professional cosplayer, best fit the part. Mikoru does not give interviews, as she prefers to let her work onscreen speak for itself. Ellen (Ellen O'Reilly) After the accident that paralyzed Sara eliminated Steve's main love interest, it became obvious that Steve's character needed a new "squeeze" to add to his supposed Casanova persona. A quick casting call found Ellen O'Reilly, a freshperson at Smith College, who played the role to the hilt. She convinced her friend Natasha Willington to come with her to the reading, and Jeph decided to cast the eclectic Nat as her roommate (and, eventually, as Amir's girlfriend and the third member of Deathmøle). Going into her junior year, O'Reilly realized she needed to concentrate on her Philosophy curriculum if she actually intended to graduate within four years' time. Thus came the idea that her character would be written out as being "off at sea" doing oceanographic studies, with the concept that if and when she wanted to return, she could come back at any time. Tragically, shortly after her last scene with Marten at the library, she was killed in a car accident with a drunk driver, outside of Northampton on US Highway 6. Her loss affected many of the cast members, but especially Steve – who had actually developed something of a crush on her. This led to one of his last bouts with the bottle before his final rehab session – where he met his wife, Tatyana. To this day, however, Steve refuses to talk about Ellen or his relationship with her. Winslow (voiced by Lewis Black) LEWIS BLACK: "I love this gig! The kids are really professional about this and the author has been really good about working around my schedule. I haven't been able to go off on one of my rants 'in character' yet, but I think that doing that would spoil the dichotomy for what I'm best known for and the character." Padma (Padma Pahtishi) Padma's character came about quickly after "the breakup" arc, as the assistant writers for Jeph came up with the idea of a "mirror universe Coffee of Doom". Padma was originally supposed to be just a complete mirror opposite of Dora – but one that Marten wasn't supposed to fall for.
However, the interaction between the semi-clueless Padma and indie-boy Marten was too much for Jeph to pass up. The truth was that Miss Pahtishi – who had come to America a few years prior on a scholarship to Julliard – was not going to be able to remain in the strip long-term. Though her accent was never noticeable while she was "on camera", Padma was of Indian/Kenyan descent. She had done acting work as a teenager in some Bollywood films – even having a bit-part in Slumdog Millionaire – but her first love was dance. She intended to return to India in 2012 to work with the Praheep Nuhtekgani Touring Ballet Company, but had literally put off ending her role on the strip until practically the last minute. Padma doesn't intend to reappear in the strip anytime soon, saying in a statement, "Though I enjoyed my time working with Jeph and the cast, I am doing what I truly love here in the Indian ballet culture. I wish Jeph, Cristi, Marten, Faye and the rest of the cast well in their future." Veronica Reed (Veronica Miller-Reed) MARTEN: "Jeph let Faye and I fill in a lot of the back-story parts of our characters that he hadn't developed in the original framework of the script. Faye was the one who came up with her character being from Savannah – and how her accent didn't come out until after she had a few drinks in her. She already had the role of the overprotective and PTSS-suffering mom (and deceased dad) written into her character, but mine – well, Jeph left it open-ended. FAYE: "We got into the whole 'whose family is worse' discussion before we did those strips where he talked about his parents, and he mentioned his parents had divorced after his mom finally figured out his dad was a closeted gay man. I made the off-hand comment that the only way it could be worse is if his mom turned out to be a dominatrix or something." MARTEN: "Close – she did do some acting as a burlesque dancer in college. Which is how she met my father, at USF (University of San Francisco). But her whole life was for her teaching career." VERONICA: "I've been a professor at Stanford University now for about 14 years –about three years after Henry and I divorced. I lecture in the human biology department of the school – mostly to undergrads in the 100-level courses. It does give me some free time to pursue acting, though. Mostly things on campus." DORA: "I was the one who came up with the Bettie Page angle. I suggested to Jeph that it would not only take Marten's awkwardness to another level, but it would also bring an interesting development to the character." JEPH: "I'd toyed from the beginning that Dora's character was bisexual. Thing is, short of her trying to make out with Faye – which Faye told me in no uncertain terms would happen only over her DEAD BODY – I had no way of showing it in the context of the strip. Then came the Bettie Page angle – and the interplay came naturally." VERONICA: "When I'd done burlesque shows at USF, I'd gone under the stage name of Veronica Vance. I just dusted it off and played the part for a bit. Tell you the truth, I loved it. Unfortunately, I couldn't get away from the campus to make another appearance until the post-breakup storyline. If I could, I'd be appearing more often." (Shrugs for the camera) "Alas, I have a few more years before I get tenure and can just leave whenever I feel it necessary." MARTEN: "What she doesn't want to mention is that she wasn't kidding about the whole incident with Steven Tyler. I remember that because mom has always cringed whenever she hears the opening riff to 'Walk This Way'. And she HATES American Idol." VERONICA: "No comment." Wil (Charles Wilford, aka Charelston Willingford II) The role of Wil, Sven's friend from school, was originally slated to be played by someone a bit more famous than the current "Wil"
(Charles Wilford, who goes by his stage name in the strip). Uber-geek extraordinaire Wil Wheaton, who had appeared in background scenes of QC in the past, continually turned down overtures by Jeph to join the cast as a lovelorn poet who falls for one of the baristas (namely, Penny). As has happened frequently in QC history, it was one of the current cast members who suggested someone to fill a role – and that someone just so happened to be Penny herself. PENNY: "Charles and I had known each other for quite some time before the strip even started. Jeph had wanted my character to get involved with someone, but Steve and I were far from a match. So I suggested Chas, and he came in with his poem about the Large Hadron Collider, and – well, the rest is history." Charles also declined to be interviewed for the Behind the Scenes special, but Penny does acknowledge that the two of them are still dating and living together. She has been coy about the possibility of the two of them joining the ranks of the married cast members of QC, though: "He hasn't asked me yet, and I'm not pushing things." Cosette Hurlbut (Cosette Beauvais- Hurlbut) The real reason why Cosette went so long between appearances in the strip (and where the clumsiness came in) was because Ms. Beauvais-Hurlbut is a member of the US National Motocross Association. She has had several incidents in competitions which prevented her from appearing in the strip – though her whole neck brace, crutches, cast and red-eye issue was for-real. (She really didn't pop her neck during the ensuing scene after the fire drill, however.) She gets chided at conventions and meet-and-greets about her characters "name change" – when she was first named in the strip, Jeph called her "Cosette Beauvais", but she later was named "Cosette Hurlbut" when Jeph began using Twitter as an alternative way to promote the strip among social media users. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten the older name – but for good reason. After her initial appearance in the strip, Cosette had gotten married to the WCW wrestler known as "Dee Hurt" (real name: Deegan Hurlbut). Amir Afridi (Draegan Delmar) and Natasha (Natasha Willington) The old story about out-of-work actors who are part-time waiters? It happened with the role of Amir. Draegan really was working at Tapas Nu Kegas in Northampton when Jeph realized he'd seen him play for a neo-punk metal band. JEPH: "Amir was the driving force for the creation of Deathmøle. He really wanted to get a band together, and I really wanted to make music – but I was scared to death of actually getting out in front of a crowd and performing." Draegan was not available for interviews at the time of the special, as he is touring in Japan and performing his own music. However, he has credited Jeph in earlier interviews as being the driving force behind his music career. Shortly after the introduction of Deathmøle, Draegan proposed to Jeph that he and Natasha could go on a tour, performing Jeph's music with the help of some session players, under the name "Deathmøle". Jeph loved the idea, and managed to write around the two appearing in the strip with the idea of Marten getting hired to work in the Smif library. The pair toured for several months to sold-out shows – pausing only to return to Northampton for Ellen's funeral. After completing the tour, Natasha was reluctant to continue in her role as Ellen's roommate. However, she was enjoying working with Draegan as they toured as Deathmøle. The pair continued the world-wide tour, taking Jeph's music as far as Australia before returning to do some strips where Nat clumsily played her guitar. Right around the end of the Faye/Sven hookup arc, Nat and Drae had a bit of a falling out over further touring as a band. Drae wanted
to do a European tour, while Nat wanted to get back to school and finish her degree. The disagreement led to an off-screen argument that ended up in Jeph writing Nat out of the band – something she agreed to willingly. (By the way, the "But it's heavy!" comment was all her.) Drae went on to do his European tour – but under his own "name" ("Amir Afridi of Deathmøle"). When he finally returned after the Marten-Dora breakup, he made a brief return, helping Jeph do some more recording. As mentioned previously, he is out on tour playing both Jeph's stuff and his own stuff under the Amir Afridi pseudonym. Elliot (Elliot MacKenzie) Fans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL got a huge surprise when they saw their star Defensive Tackle Elliot MacKenzie show up in the comic during the first scene at The Secret Bakery. MacKenzie, who stated after the appearance that he had been planning already for life after football, wasn't able to spend long periods of time on the set, due to his commitments to the team. MacKenzie is in the final year of his contract with the Ti-Cats in 2012, but plans on making at least one more appearance in the strip, possibly after the Grey Cup playoffs are over. Amanda Whitaker (Dana Ellis and Fiona Towson) Don't let this get out, because it didn't appear like it at the time, but the role of Amanda was actually played by two separate actresses. The "first" Amanda was a random walk-on, Dana Ellis, whose style Jeph liked when she appeared – and the fact that she was a fan of Diesel Sweeties helped. Unfortunately, that Amanda never returned as she instead chose to move to Alaska, where she took up a walk-on role in the semi-Furry paintball comic The Whiteboard – as Pirta the Snow Leopard. After "The Talk" storyline, Jeph decided to go with Faye's real-life sister – who is actually named Fiona. Fiona, who is a worship leader for the SunRidge Church in Savannah, took to the role as the "on-screen" lesbian sister. Fiona hasn't had much desire to reprise the role on the strip, especially since releasing a self-titled contemporary Christian music album in 2011, under her given name Fiona Towson. Jim and Samantha (James Whitaker and Samantha Forrester) Jeph has gotten lucky at times when it comes to casting characters for the strip. When the idea for The Secret Bakery came about, Jeph initially wanted Padma to be the owner of the shop – then, realizing that would be too much like a Coffee of Doom "clone", he thought about having Elliot become the owner. Unfortunately, Elliot had two more years on his contract with the Tiger-Cats, and couldn't appear in the required strips. So, Jeph decided to write in a new character as the owner – and, interestingly, one that had never appeared in the strip before: a slightly-older, single (divorced) male with a kid. The only problem? Jeph had no idea who could play the person. Fortunately, Faye happened to have two of her in-laws in town – her brother-in-law, James Whitaker, and her niece-in-law, Samantha Forrester. Samantha had done some acting bits in the past – she had appeared in a few scenes as a classmate of Oscar (Captain Heroic and Miss Match's son) in the webcomic Evil Inc. Jim had been an avid follower of QC since Faye had recommended it after the first season of the strip was over. Both jumped at the idea of appearing as the divorced owner of TSB and his pre-teen daughter. Lydia and Meena (Lydia and Meena Corron) If Lydia and Meena seemed to look alike at times, it was because they were actually sisters – though fraternal. Lydia and Meena Corron were both college students at the real-life Smith College
in Northampton who – completely independent of each other – tried out for walk-on roles on the strip. Both have since graduated from Smith, with each getting their degrees in music theory and forensic science, respectively. Mieville (Dora's Cat) JEPH: "It made sense to me that an ex-Goth who was a former member of a coven would have a cat, and I wrote one into the script. What I didn't know was that Dora hated cats." DORA: "Mewling poo larvae was the term I used with Jeph. I couldn't disagree with his reasoning for it, though, so I sucked it up and dealt with it." Mieville, who was rescued from the Northampton animal shelter as a kitten in 2003, has made occasional appearances in the strip. He has made tours on behalf of the ASPCA for the cause of neutering and spaying pets (Mieville was neutered after he was rescued by Jeph and the QC cast). Beatrice Chatham (Martha Stewart) FAYE: "We had always joked that there was only one person who could possibly play Hannelore's mom." MARTEN: "Martha Stewart." DORA: "Martha Stewart." HANNELORE: "Yeah, but she wasn't exactly beating down our door to work with us." MARTEN: "That was all on Jeph. He had Pintsize make that comment right after Faye and I had moved into the apartment. I think we all figured we'd never actually see Hanner's parents – or we'd find out that she had been lying about the whole thing." FAYE: "That was what I'd thought, too. Even said that in the strip." DORA: "So we're all reeling a bit from what had happened to Ellen; Steve's trying to keep from going over the edge with this gal he met at Smif (Meena); and Natasha's hurrying back with Drae from their touring as Deathmøle." MARTEN: "THAT was where the weirdness started." FAYE: "Turns out that Ellen's mom is Martha's sister-in-law. There were some uncomfortable moments at the funeral, but Hannelore broke the ice and talked to her about the role." HANNELORE: "She was a little reluctant at first." DORA: "Try more like 'screaming there was no way in HELL she was going to do it.'" HANNELORE: "I convinced her, though, that she would be able to make fun of all of those stereotypes of being an Evil Overlord villainess. That and the agreement that the character wouldn't look anything like her." MARTEN: "The short hair and the black pantsuit helped. The whole time, I actually saw her as Beatrice and not Martha Stewart." FAYE: "She was fantastic to work with. A real pro. She even got a nomination for best guest appearance in a webcomic at the Copper Comic Awards for that arc." HANNELORE: "I don't think we'll see her play the role again, though. She lost out to that one gal who played a sniper on Schlock Mercenary." (shrugs) "Maybe we can get Oprah to convince her to come back to do the role again." DORA: "Oprah???" FAYE: "Long story." Clinton P. Augustus (Clint Blackman) CRISTI: "Jeph has made no bones about his disdain for some of the fans of the strip. The creeps who've fan-boyed out at Hannelore and Marigold at cons, the forums which he's sought to blow up completely a couple of times. It got him so frustrated at one point that I just flippantly suggested, 'Why don't you just come up with a character that pokes fun at all the fan-boys of the strip?'" JEPH: "When she said it, I realized it was perfect. I knew how it would come about – a researcher from one of the area universities would come in to interview one of the regular cast
for something, and would end up being a complete fan boy for Hannelore's dad." CRISTI: "When he said Hannelore's dad, I knew exactly what he had to do – the character not only had to be male, to add to the creepy factor, but he actually had to be a fan of the strip." JEPH: "I had been toying with the idea of it being either a male or female character, until I met this guy at NEXUS-Con in Portland (Maine)." CRISTI: "He was a kid who'd been involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, served well but had his hand blown off in combat. He'd come back to the states in '03 for rehab, and said that the comic had really resounded with him. In fact, he'd written him about the 'Talk' storyline had helped him come to grips with his own PTSS depression, and that he was a huge fan of the strip." JEPH: "Turns out he had taken his GI benefits and enrolled at UMass, and was finishing his degree in computer programming when I finally met him at the Convention – right as we were going to start casting for the role of the 'fan boy'." CRISTI: "I remember how he was just gushing over Hannelore, and how red-faced he kept turning because his prosthetic hand kept sliding off. Jeph and I looked at each other and we knew we had our 'fan boy'." CLINTON: "Yeah, I had posted on the boards a few times, tried not be the 'bear-hat' guy, and all that – but I just turned to mush when I met Hannelore for the first time. I had no idea that Jeph was looking for a character that was… well, essentially an overthe-top version of me." HANNELORE: "I definitely remember meeting him at NEXUS. (rolls eyes) To find out a week later that he'd been cast as a researcher-cum-fan boy of my father… well, let's just say I wasn't happy with Jeph for a while." CRISTI: "I had to soothe things over with Hanners for a bit after their first scene together. When she found out that he was a disabled veteran, she was a little more sympathetic. And despite the obvious dig at the rabid fan base, people actually liked the character." CLINTON: "So much that they asked me back to do another scene, this time with Marigold and the new actress playing Momo. That was fun – except for the electrocution part." John Ellicott-Chatham (John Ellicott), Francis York (Frank Stafford, Ph.D), Lieutenant Abby Potter (Abagail Potter, Lt.Cmdr., Springfield Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol) and Dr Bernadette Case (Oprah Winfrey) HANNELORE: "Every time we hit the convention circuit, I was always asked the same thing by at least one person: 'When are we going to find out about your dad?'" JEPH: "I had the character of Hannelore's dad mapped out long before the Space storyline. I'd always wanted to do a whole storyline about him and his space station – but never could get Topatoco to put it in the budget." HANNELORE: "I had met John Ellicott several times at various conventions – he was usually there because he'd played a Ferengi dignitary on Deep Space Nine, and he was big into sci-fi roles. He had been a technical advisor to Jeph with the robots in the strip, and it was pretty much always assumed he was going to end up playing my dad when the time came for it. JEPH: "The incredible success of the release of Volumes 1 and 2 gave us the impetus for it – and suddenly, we got a phone call from NASA." FRANK STAFFORD (NASA public relations liaison, Johnson Space Center, Houston): "I'd been reading QC for a while to that point, and I knew that with the end of the space shuttle program, we needed some impetus to encourage space exploration – and travel. I'd toyed with the idea of using Jeph's ideas to further the space program, but I couldn't convince anyone to do it. (looks into camera) And then, Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX fame) got his daughter a plush version of Pintsize."
ELON MUSK: "She was just all about this goofy webcomic that featured these little robots, and she told me about this one character whose father lived on a space station. I read a bit about this, and decided to contact Jacques through my liaison at NASA (Stafford)." STAFFORD: "I was thrilled, Jeph was thrilled, and I was just amazed at how quickly everything came together. All the null-G scenes that Jeph wanted to do were easy – we got Marten, Hanners and Marigold up in one of the Vomit Comets and did the shooting in mockup cabins, and we even helped Jeph out with the CGI backgrounds." JEPH: "What really floored us was how they helped us out with the mockups for the space station. It made it just that much easier for me, knowing all I had to do was write the scripts." HANNELORE: "The idea as to why we were going up there was going to be the easy one – a birthday party for my 'dad'. What we were going to do when we got up there was going to be up to Jeph." JEPH: "Come on, you KNOW what it was going to be about." (looks at camera) "Null-G make outs." (laughs) "Seriously, I did want to develop some relationships for Marigold and Marten, but I think everyone knew it was going to be about Hannelore's background." MARTEN: "Everything kinda came together right there after Thanksgiving of 2011. We knew Faye was going to be out because she was in her last month with Jeffrey, and Dora and Sven were really looking forward to having a proper honeymoon after several years of marriage. What we didn't realize was that there were going to be people beating down the door to get a walk-on role on the Station." JEPH: "Including that strange phone call we got from Harpo Productions." Even the large amount of makeup and the glasses couldn't hide Oprah Winfrey's walk-on role during the Space storyline as Doctor Bernadette Case. Winfrey, who admitted to being a secret fan of the strip, played down her role as the "ship's doctor", only relishing in the fact that she helped contribute to some of the background of Hannelore's beloved character. (She was not interviewed for the documentary because of other commitments.) FAYE: "Yeah, I'd known about Oprah being a fan for some time. One of the first times we did 3C (Chicago Comic Con), she actually sent one of her reps to our table with free passes for a taping of her show. Tai and I got to meet her backstage. She told us her favorite character was Hanners, and it was just a natural when it was made known that HannerDad was finally going to make an appearance." JEPH: "Musk's daughter got her walk-on role as one of the 'singing scientists' – something that she came up with as an idea to begin with. Stafford wanted to play a lovelorn scientist who was even more awkward at make outs than Marigold – which I'd never even thought of happening with her." MARIGOLD: "Frank was fantastic in the scenes we were in. He was even understanding over my real-life case of space-sickness after our little Vomit Comet escapades. He also got an autographed copy of Naruto from me." MARTEN: "That only left who I was going to try making out with." HANNELORE: "I thought it'd be funny if my dad kept thinking that Marten was trying to make out with me, but Jeph and Marten agreed that it wouldn't be believable enough. Though we did get that one 'schtup my daughter, eh?' scene in during the birthday party." JEPH: "I was going to do some random scientist, or something to that effect – and then we met the Potters." MARIGOLD: "No, not those Potters. That would have geeked me out too much." (pause) "Okay, all right, I admit – that lousy Harry Potter fanfic really was mine. Huge Harry Potter fan. One of the few things I have in common with the 'character' that Jeph gave me. Seriously, though – a few years ago, right after the
Angus storyline, I tried my hand at getting a pilot's license. On my first training flight, I accidentally set off my ELT (emergency locator transmitter – the "black box") on a rough landing, but didn't bother to check in my post-flight inspection. After I got home, these three people wearing green uniforms with blue nametags appeared at my door to ask if I had been flying that day. Turns out the Civil Air Patrol squadron in Springfield had been doing training that day, and couldn't figure out why they were getting a signal from the plane I'd used." (sighs) "ANYways, it turns out that some of the members of the squadron were fans of the strip. When Jeph was looking for some extras, I made a few calls and the Potters were more than willing to help out." ABAGAIL POTTER: "I had been involved in CAP when I was a kid – went through the cadet program, got my Mitchell and Earhart awards, and was trying for my Spaatz when two things happened. First, I got into a car accident that left me with several scars on my hip – I got hit side-on and the door caved in on me while I was in the passenger seat. Second, I was trying for my pilot's license when I found out something: I had moderate deuteranopia." (pause) "Yeah, that's right – colorblind. It had never come up before then, so I never knew. It also dashed my hopes at getting into the Air Force." MARIGOLD: "Abby and her family were involved in CAP, on and off, even after she started working as a fitness instructor in Springfield. I'd gotten to know them after my little 'run-in' with them, and they were both thrilled at the idea. They had wanted the entire squadron to join them, but all this stuff was coming together so quick – and it was the holidays at the time, too." STAFFORD: "Jeph told us about the Springfield CAP group. We were all for it, but at the last minute it was only Potter and her father that could make the trip down to Houston." ABBY: "My dad and I went with the QC cast to Johnson Space Center, where they had this whole space station mockup thing. It was just too awesome. Dad enjoyed his little bit as the 'Major' (which is his actual rank in the CAP), though he didn't understand the anime references. He wasn't too keen with how Jeph wrote my character, but I absolutely loved it." MARTEN: "She didn't love the Vomit Comet at first, though. Puked up through our first take of the scene at the 'observatory.' She got over it with some scopamine meds, and we did the whole scene in one take before she had any follow-up issues." HANNELORE: "That whole storyline was the most fun I ever had since joining the QC cast. And I just loved how we managed to develop the character while doing it. Wouldn't mind doing it again. (pause) Except, of course, for all Vomit Comet stuff. Watching everyone else get sick was not something I'd want to do again." Spacestation and Spaceship (and avatars; voiced by Peter Hodgkins and Paul Hodgkins) Both Station and Spaceship's avatars were CGI "holograms". The technology was paid for by Lenovo, who provided Topatoco Studios with the hardware to develop them. The two avatars are actually voiced by twin English vocal professionals Peter and Paul Hodgkins. Neither like being interviewed on camera, and as such declined to be interviewed for the Behind the Scenes special. Jimbo (James Bodett) JAMES BODETT: "Well, I haven't gotten a lot of play lately, which has actually been good, because it's given me opportunity to get back into Shakespeare. I'm classically trained, you know. Studied under Olivier and it was a toss-up between me and Blessed when Branagh did 'Henry V.' Last month I was Ophelia – you know, Shakespearean theatre the way it was originally done – and maybe I shouldn't talk about it because he's concerned about his image, but you should have seen Pintsize as Rosencrantz. Or maybe it was Guildenstern. I forget."
Bodett, who is the younger brother of Motel 6 spokesperson Tom Bodett, has the same sense of dry humor as his brother, with an equal amount of Foxworthy-like redneck humor.
Roomba Hannelore's Roomba – and the little "Roombettes" – are all now CGI characters. Originally, though, the Roomba was a remotecontrolled character, capable of beeping and flicking the knife in its original storyline. The people at iRobot, the manufacturers of the Roomba, were so enchanted by how Jeph had developed their product as a character that they let him use their headquarters in mid-state Massachusetts for the "reproduction" comic. Sara (Sara Stewart) Shortly after her character had started dating Steve in the storyline, Sara Stewart – the girl who played the "lovelorn barista" in the comic – was involved in a car accident. Though she recovered, she ended up paralyzed from the waist down, and was bound to a wheelchair. She didn't want to have her character "fixed" for the comic, and instead decided to simply resign. When Jeph asked her how he should be "written out", she supposedly replied, "Tell them an Allosaurs ate me or something." The in-joke stuck. Vicky (Marten's ex; played by… well, read on) MARTEN: "Back in the early days of the strip, Jeph wanted to work on developing my character – mostly, answering why and how an "indie boy" like me was in Northampton. And his back-story was that I had come cross-country from California to chase after a girlfriend, who ended up dumping me." DORA: "The problem was, Jeph really didn't have the money for extras in the cast. He explained it away by saying he didn't like drawing stuff in the background, but he knew he'd have to start doing it eventually." MARTEN: "So when we talked about who we'd get to play this 'Vicki' character – the name was all on me, by the way – he really didn't have anyone who could step in and play it, especially not for the flashback scenes." FAYE: "After a few strips where we'd riffed a bit on music or something, he finally found a gal to come in and do the whole flashback story. We never knew who she was, and I definitely didn't know who she was until after I did the whole milk-splash thing on her." JEPH: "Yeah, I guess I should have told Cristi that when I asked her to just step in and play the part. She dyed her hair and everything, but she just went ballistic after Faye dumped that milk all over her. Let's just say I had to pay her back big-time for doing that to her." (looks at camera) "At least she got her revenge in the blooper reel we did for the DVD of the first season." CRISTI: "That was one of the scenes that ol' doofus had forgotten to save to his hard drive. I was not going to get milk thrown at me again without getting something out of it. So we did a couple of takes, and on the second take, instead of letting Faye throw the milk on me, I unloaded on her with a super soaker." (smiling) "The entire cast pulled out their own super soakers and we had a full-on water fight on the set for a good 10 minutes. Fun times." The following semi-regular cast members were not interviewed for the Behind The Scenes special: Henry Reed and fiancée Maurice, Dr. Corrine Buenvenida, Vespavenger, Mrs. Whitaker, Peter Bianchi, Gabrielle, Emily and Claire the Interns, Dale, Renee (from the Secret Bakery), Genevieve (Sven's Ex), Leda the Idoru AnthroPC, Alan Turing (Robotics Defense department), and Luna (Cosette's friend).
NOTE: The following set of interviews were never aired for the original "Behind the Scenes" special. DORA: "We all knew it was going to end between Faye and Sven. We just didn't know exactly how it was going to end." SVEN: "I had always figured that it was going to end because my character was going to screw someone else behind her back – and that would set her off." FAYE: "We all knew what was gonna happen, right? We just didn't know the particulars. Or who would do it." JEPH: "The lothario thing was always going to be what would end the relationship. Dora was pressing me to end it sooner, because she was getting uncomfortable explaining to her parents why her husband was sleeping with another cast member." DORA: "Jeph decided that it was going to have to be a country music singer, since it would fit with Sven's role as a country music writer. And in so doing, he wanted to have a name that would show his general contempt for the genre as a whole." FAYE: "And the name was a doozy: Kelly Swiftwood." SVEN: "Kelly Swiftwood." (shakes head) "It was over the top." DORA: "Way over the top. So much so that his lawyers told him that it might not be a good idea to go forward with the name." SVEN: "So we all sat down and did some brainstorming of what her name could be." DORA: "Lydia came up with the name 'Gina Riversmith', figuring it sounded like a good name for a country music starlet." FAYE: "A country music starlet who was also a nymphomaniac when alcohol was involved." SVEN: "Jeph loved it so much that he actually had Lydia include it in some dialogue in the strip – right before Cosette made her first appearance." DORA: "Only problem was, Cosette had no desire to even touch the role. And Lydia had already revealed that she was in town for a concert by that point, and Jeph had already planned to have Cosette be the little redhead who hit on Marten." COSETTE: "Dee made it really clear to Jeph that there was no way in HELL that his girlfriend was gonna pose nude in a webcomic." SVEN: "So he started looking around, frantically. Asking everyone in the cast, friends, family – even family members of the cast." VERONICA: "Yeah, he asked me if I knew anyone who'd be willing to do it. I told him he was slightly insane for writing himself into that kind of corner." JEPH: "I was getting nowhere fast. I knew I wasn't going to be able to extend out the Cosette storyline longer than a week or so, and no one wanted to play the role of the young country music starlet and nympho." (pauses, then looks into the camera) "So I made a phone call. She kinda owed me one, because I did her a huge favor at Comicon the year before. When I told her what I wanted, she told me I was ####ing nuts. I told her that we'd put her in costume, and that it wouldn't even look like her. She turned me down again. I told her I'd make sure the nude scene was done tastefully, and no one would ever know it was her. She refused. I promised that I would have the staff involved all sign non-disclosure agreements that would keep them from ever saying anything about who played the role of Gina Riversmith. She was about to hang up on me when I made my final offer." (pause) "A full case of Absolut vodka." SVEN: "Jeph gave me the call to come in late that night, after the rest of the cast had already left after filming their scenes. I was really surprised when I saw who it was, but we did the scene in one take." (looks uncomfortably into the camera) "She was really getting into it. And she was also a bit inebriated." JEPH: "A lot inebriated. It was just her, me, Sven and the cameraman. At her insistence." SVEN "The next afternoon, she came in and did a few stills that would end up in the Google search segment – and she did the digital altering of the photos herself. She also did the digital editing of our scene, just to make sure that no one could
recognize her in the scene." (pause) "She destroyed the rest of the clips from the scene after Jeph had posted the strip that evening." FAYE (sitting nervously next to Dora and Sven) "We all signed the non-disclosure agreements willingly before she left." (all three look at each other nervously) "Her use of a flamethrower to destroy the clips and the negatives of the promo stills was a huge incentive." DORA: "And none of us have ever revealed who played the role of Gina Riversmith." SVEN: "Never. Not even with bribes or cajoling." HANNELORE: "Even I never found out who it was. Marten and I had left after the Drunken Scrabble scene, and I was already home and in bed when this all happened." MARTEN: "I had my suspicions, but Jeph never told me. And I always figured it was never that important." JEPH: "No one. Not Cristi, not Penelope, no one ever knew who came in to play that role. And no one ever figured it out." (fade to black, then fade in to…) DANIELLE CORSETTO (creator, Girls With Slingshots) "Oh, yeah, Jeph and I go back to our mutual early days of webcomic production. He helped out a lot with the development of Hazel in my webcomic, and I helped him out a lot with his comic. I was the one who encouraged him to have Marten and Dora break up, just to keep the characters fresh and all that." (pause) "Of course, he pushed me to do the same thing in my comic between Haze and Zack, but that's something else entirely." (another pause) "So what exactly was the reason for this interview, again?" (pauses for a question from off-screen) "What?" (another pause, her face suddenly falling) "How do you know that?" (another off-screen explanation; she turns and looks into the camera with a death glare) "Excuse me. I have to talk to someone." (takes off her earpiece and mic and storms off stage; a moment later a hand reaches in front of the camera) "Gimme that, you're not airing that." (A blip sounds) JEPH (who is holding an icepack up against the right side of his face, as he has apparently been hit hard with something) "Yeah, no one is ever going to reveal who actually played the role of Gina Riversmith in the comic. We all agreed to that." SVEN (sitting on one of three chairs next to Faye and Dora on the interview set, talking quietly to them): "He didn't really call her in here to try to get her to admit to it, did he?" (Faye and Dora look off to the side of the set in horror as they see Danielle come charging in) DANIELLE: "That's IT, this is NOT going to be airing anytime soon!" (reaches the camera and it suddenly cuts out to black) MALE VOICEOVER: "The interviews you just saw were originally thought to have been lost after Miss Corsetto's rampage on the set of Behind the Scenes. However, a copy of all of them were preserved for posterity – and the unlockable Special Extras part of this DVD version of the special." (pause as the source of the voice is finally determined to be…) R.K. MILHOLLAND: "And I didn't agree to any non-disclosure clause, so she can come after me all she wants. She knows what dirt I've got on her otherwise." (smirking) "And she #### well knows she's got nothing on me."