Steph & Jess Cast a Joss Whedon Hamlet
This is the second edition of Steph & Jess Geek Out About Stuff. Last time, they talked about Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. This time they’ve decided to cast a hypothetical Joss Whedon Hamlet. Consider the image below to be a fair warning.
Steph: So last time, we ended with the rumor that Whedon’s next Shakespearean crossover would be Hamlet. It made us think. What if we could help Whedon with all that pesky casting? Rules are simple: Defend your claim and only use the Whedon network of actors.
So, let’s start with the obvious: Who’s our Hamlet?
Jess: I thought it through, considered my options, and my vote goes to Neil Patrick Harris. He would be amazing at portraying himself as insane, he could do both the dramatic and the humor, and I can already hear him “alas poor Yorick”-ing in my head.
Steph: Wow. I did not see that one coming. My personal vote was torn between two candidates. In terms of age (because, remember, despite how many productions decide to go, Hamlet is only an emo college-aged kid), I would vote for Spencer Treat Clark (he played Borachio in Much Ado). True, he did not get a lot of screen time, comparatively, but he has a look in his eyes that makes me think he could pull it off. If we’re aiming for slightly older, but still in the appropriate age group, my other vote is for Fran Kranz, because I feel he has proven himself to be pretty versatile and able to pull off both drama and comedy (basically your argument for NPH).
Jess: Interesting, I had considered neither of those two, but I could definitely get behind Fran Kranz. I feel like he did a really amazing job with Claudio in Much Ado. Also, an interesting side note is that I tried using the age argument to talk myself out of NPH, and it just ended with me thinking “Eh, he doesn’t really look like he ages anyway!”.
Steph: Good counterpoint. I like to point out that at the very least, we’re sticking to the appropriate age group. So, yay us. Now, should we debate over this or move on and come back?
Jess: I vote we move on to each of the major roles and debate once the nominees are in place. Hey, maybe we can even do a poll!
Steph: Well, with a tentative Hamlet in place (or at least three contenders), I think the next role should be Ophelia’s. For me, it’s a no brainer: Summer Glau.
Jess: And we have a winner via no contest. Summer Glau.
Steph: But because of the hasty rules I’ve made, I feel I have to at least justify: She can play crazy. She’s the right age group. She would be amazing in…well, in everything. And we haven’t seen her in a while. So, Summer it is. Next role?
Jess: Plus, I feel like Summer Glau has basically already portrayed an Ophelia. River Tam anyone?
Steph: Exactly. It’s kinda a role made for her. One could make an argument for Amy Acker (*cough*Bradley*cough*) but I have a more ambitious role for her.
Jess: Oh, it looks like we are going to possibly agree again later on in this discussion as well. Plus, we don’t want to strike too close to his exact Much Ado cast either.
Steph: Agreed, though I see no problem in “borrowing” some of them . Who shall we cast next?
Jess: Why, Claudius of course. My personal pick was kind of surprising to me, but I think he could pull it off: Clark Gregg. He really surprised me with how deep he could be in Much Ado, and I feel like he could really deliver the weighty dialogue that comes with Claudius. Plus, I kind of want to see what he would be like on the dark side.
Steph: Iiiiiiiiiiinteresting. I also had Clark Gregg, but not in that role. For me, I actually put him as Polonius. Thinking on your reasoning, I’d like to see him with a Dark Side, but I’d also like to see him play a little more comedy (mostly thinking of the scene between him and “insane” Hamlet). No, for me, I chose an actor I already know can play a dark side along with a charming one to fool the masses: Anthony Stewart Head. In my mind, I see Claudius as being both outwardly “proper”, but also having the darker or “Ripper” side necessary for killing his brother. Remember, while Hamlet himself isn’t fooled, everyone else is. Thoughts?
Jess: Yeah, I’m throwing in the towel on this one. The minute you typed Anthony Stewart Head, I thought “Damn I should have thought of that he’s perfect.” He even played a king on Merlin, so I can already picture him. With that in mind, I agree that shifting Clark Gregg to the Polonius role would fit in great as well.
Steph: Boom baby. Shall we finish up the court? Who’s your Gertrude?
Jess: I want Amy Acker. I feel like she is so good at playing anything that’s thrown at her that I would love to see what she could do with a character who is noticeable weaker and more fragile than other roles we have seen her play. Plus, she’s just so versatile, I feel like she would be capable of bringing about sympathy for a character who can be really unsympathetic if played wrong.
Steph: *Nodding* I hear what you’re saying, but I have a counterpoint. Given the age of Claudius — and our prospective Hamlets — my vote for Gertrude would be Kristen Sutherland. Think about it: we already know she can play a (clueless) mother. She has great chemistry with ASH. And she’s in the right age bracket to have a son of one of our Hamlets’ age. Acker is brilliant, but here I feel she’s too young. At least for now. No, for Amy Acker, and I was really hoping we’d get back to this, I propose another gender switch: what if she was our Horatio?
Jess: Well, now I am torn. My biggest issue with Kristen Sutherland is that I never found her really capable of making me feel sympathetic toward her portrayal of a clueless mom, and I feel thats a very necessary component. However, I agree that with the casting of ASH that Amy Acker is too young for the role, plus I LOVE the idea of her gender swapping. So, that’s a hell yes for Amy Acker as Horatio and a I am not sure she could pull it off for Kristen Sutherland.
Steph: I’m open to another suggestion for Gertrude, but let me ask you this: How much sympathy are we supposed to feel for Gertrude’s character? I always found her to be tricky considering the audience is never sure on whether she was in on the whole murder scheme or just a misled bystander.
Jess: She definitely isn’t an overly sympathetic character, but she still has to inspire enough feeling that the audience comes away unsure of whether she was involved or not. Of course, this could be left over bitter feelings because I never forgave Joyce for kicking Buffy out of the house, and I guess I can’t hold that against Kristen Sutherland.
Steph: Aaaaand now Bradley can’t read this till we watch “Becoming” hee. Again, I’m not married to Kristen Sutherland, and I’m willing to let her go without as big of a fight for the others. Off the top of my head: Olivia Williams?
Jess: The more I think on it Kristen Sutherland seems like a good candidate for Gertrude if only for the excellent chemistry we know she has with ASH. I guess I can forgive her for Joyce’s bad decisions, it is just difficult.
Steph: I see what you did there . And ack, it really is too bad because that could have been interesting. Alas alack. (Pause, thinking.) Whedon doesn’t really have a lot of older female characters to choose from, does he?
Jess: I was just thinking that! I was going through the list going damn is Joyce about to win by default?
Steph: I mean we could nix ASH…but you really don’t want to, do you?
Jess: Absolutely not. He’s perfect.
Steph: Heh. He’s “perfection.”
Jess: Alright then, Kristen Sutherland takes the crown (Ha, I made a funny!) for lack of older women and known chemistry. Plus, I can’t really blame her for Joyce’s poor decisions no matter how badly I want to.
Steph: She just has sooooo many of them.
Steph: Moving on, I’d like to talk a little more on the implications of gender switching Horatio: Is it too much? Would it work? Could it add like Conrade’s switch or detract? Discuss.
Jess: It is going to be a more substantial change than the Conrade switch, in my opinion, simply because it is a bigger role we are proposing switching. However, its ability to work is entirely dependant on the chosen actress’s ability to pull it off, and if anyone could do it its Amy Acker. You have the potential for it to detract only if our chosen Hamlet has better chemistry with Amy Acker than Summer Glau. That’s one potential backfire.
Steph: My biggest worry is the possible assumption people would make of having Hamlet and Horatio be lovers, and that’s not why I’m doing the switch here. True, a male Horatio could and would work just as well, but I feel Acker could play the rational scholar turned believer. The important thing about Horatio’s character is that he (or she) is a confidant for Hamlet. Without Horatio, Hamlet has no one to confide in about his plans or fears or essentially anything. By making Horatio a woman, I feel this might explain the close bond between friends — in this sense, I’m totally picturing a season one Willow/Xander relationship.
Jess: I agree with all of the above for why Amy Acker would be excellent in the role; however, I feel its important to point out though that Willow was in love with Xander in season one. It is highly likely that it would be very difficult to avoid the implication.
Steph: Yeah, that’s a good point. So, then the question becomes: is the gender switch a good one? I’m thinking back to when Peter Jackson was casting The Lord of the Rings films: he was pressured to make Samwise a woman, and rightfully so, he declined. Would it be better to cast Horatio as a male?
Jess: I think that while I find the idea of the gender swap intriguing, ultimately, with this role in mind it might detract more from the overall character development of Horatio and his place in the narrative. Besides, it is Amy Acker. We could cast any guy on the planet as Hamlet, and the chemistry would still be there.
Steph: Hmm. Perhaps we should leave it for now and return later?
Jess: Ironically, if we are going to switch to male casting I kind of want to go with Alexis Denisof. Ha!
Steph: Hee! Yeah, you have a good point. If anyone can play “scholar” it’s Denisof. Blast.
Jess: One way or another someone in that (fictional) relationship is getting the part!
Steph: So, for now, let’s move on . Laertes?
Jess: He was the tough one for me. I went through a lot of potential choices for him, and I finally landed on Sean Maher. And yes, I have more reasons than a brother-sister Firefly reunion! Look how much menace he brought to the role of Don John in Much Ado and add in all the traits of Simon Tam from Firefly. Basically, Laertes could be their love child.
Steph: Huzzah! Once again we are in agreement and for all of the reasons you listed above. Plus, I can buy Maher being a child of Clark Gregg, and as you said, we already have the brother/sister bond between him and Glau.
Jess: Exactly, he falls into the age group perfectly. and nothing wrong with using the bonds already in place!
Steph: If only they could all be so simple . Now, this next one has a minor role, but we are running down the list: The Player.
Jess: You are going to laugh at me, and I know it is a minor part, but I want Nathan Fillion. He would be perfect as the leader of an acting troupe, plus couldn’t you see him over playing the role of King?
Steph: I’m actually not going to laugh at you because he was my first choice. However, I have switched over to another Firefly alum: Alan Tudyk. I can’t really explain why, though. Just a feeling. One thing I want to remind, though, the Player shouldn’t necessarily overplay: “Speak the speak, I pray you, let it lie trippingly on the tongue. Let the word to the action, the action to the word.” Hamlet himself (masking, as many believe, as Shakespeare) instructs the players to not overact.
Jess: I could actually get behind Alan Tudyk, I feel like he could pull off the role as a king actor without overacting, which let’s face it on occasion Nathan Fillion is known to do. Plus, this frees up Nathan Fillion for Osric.
Steph: I see him as the Gravedigger, and it pains me to give him such a small role, but it’s one I think he would fit into very well.
Jess: Interesting, I didn’t think about him playing the Gravedigger, my mind immediately went to him playing the courtier (Also a small role, but I feel like he would do it well!).
Steph: Perhaps I’m thinking more of the clowns in the gravedigging scene…
Jess: I just feel sad having to waste Nathan Fillion on such small roles, could we make him do both I wonder? It could be an in joke in the movie if we had him play both roles in different costume and also serve as some much needed lightness in that final act.
Steph: Well, what about either Rosencrantz or Guildenstern? Slightly bigger role. Occasional comedy, though not overbearingly so. And then pair him off with either Fran Katz (if he’s not Hamlet) or Tom Lenk (we already know how well they work together).
Jess: I like it especially with Tom Lenk. I feel like Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk would be a great combination for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, plus then I wouldn’t have to live with the guilt of assigning Nathan Fillion to a role whose actual name I had to look up (I confess couldn’t remember the name Osric to save my life always remembered that character as the courtier)!
Steph: I think we hit all the major players. Let’s go back to some of our indecisive choices.
Jess: Sounds like a plan, let’s start with the most important role: Hamlet. I feel this choice requires us to do our proper research, which translates to watching youtube videos of our selections (It’s how the cool kids do research!). Let’s start with NPH. For our first video, I submit the following Dr. Horrible Clip. It shows Dr. Horrible at the point where he has been kicked enough and isn’t going to take it anymore. You see his serious side, his comedic side, and (most importantly) his “I am starting to go slightly crazy” side.
Steph: You know, I have to say, I’m glad you brought up Dr. Horrible. Until you had, my dominant impression of NPH — and I can’t help it — is this:
Which, let’s face it, doesn’t exactly cry “Emo College Boy” vibe. BUT, you may have convinced me with Dr. Horrible, and this is my reason:
Particularly, focus on 2:44. Classic Hamlet. I’m almost willing to call the match over and done with right here, but let’s give all contenders a fair shake, shall we? Besides, you did do all that research. Who else did we have?
Jess: Yeah, you have to separate the talents of NPH from Barney Stinson, a difficult task I know. However, you are completely on point with that clip from the end of Dr. Horrible being just classic Hamlet. Wow. But let’s give our other contenders a fighting chance as well. Next up, Spencer Treat Clark.
Steph: Let’s be honest, folks, until MAAN, the only image we really get of him is this:
And to be quite honest, the only reason I was even nominating him was because of age and he can pull off a hoodie look. Something about hoodies and Hamlet just seem to fit.
Jess: It is the necessary emo-teenager vibe. Ooh, that does give me the opportunity though to post this great video of him in a backwards cap talking to a camera guy! (That sorta connects right?):
And we also have him here talking about playing a bad guy on Law and Order (can’t find the actual bad guy clip unfortunately):
But my personal favorite audition piece is the touching scene between mother and son:
Steph: Well, there is that relationship with Gertrude. But yeah, I think it’s safe to say, we can edge STC out of the running. Last up was Fran Kranz. I give you, exhibit A: The man can wear a hoodie and emote with a taxidermied wolf head in the background:
Exhibit B: We already know the guy has a nice range of emotions:
Along with the appropriate amount of intensity needed for the role of Hamlet. Plus, proof he can read Shakespeare.
Jess: It does increase the difficulty level of emoting when a wolf head is present. Also, he definitely brought a lot of intensity to Claudio in MAAN, so we know he has the depth, and he is in the right age range (even though I am personally convinced that NPH is immortal). I also submit the following video of his greatest lines from Dollhouse just because we get a nice range of dialogue delivery:
Steph: He could definitely pull off the crazy bits. Sigh, I dunno. I think we may have come up with a stalemate for this on. Unless…the pairing of Summer Glau can serve as a tie-breaker?
Jess: He has previously worked with Summer Glau on Dollhouse, but I never watched Dollhouse so I don’t know if they shared scenes. You?
Steph: And I’m not to that point yet. Sorry, Joss, but I have issues with this series, which will probably become a rant…errr, essay, all on its own later on.
Jess: Don’t even get me started on how miscast the lead on that show was. He should have anchored it with Amy Acker.
Steph: Preaching to the choir, sister. Not to digress, but I think we may have found our next topic .
Jess: They do just seem to keep popping up, don’t they? Plus, it will assure our audience that even loving Whedon as we do doesn’t mean we don’t see the flaws! The very big, glaring flaws.
Steph: Which just means we’re not being biased when we praise the crap out of just about everything else he does. We have our limits, people.
Jess: And those limits definitely start with a wooden actress being required to play multiple different roles.
Steph: But pardon us, gentle folks, for we digress. Tune in next time for why we hate Dushku and Dollhouse.
Jess: Well, we could make this simple on ourselves. We have two worthy candidates, both having strong cases for why they should get the role.
Steph: And impressive resumes, to boot.
Jess: What say we leave it up to a poll?
Steph: Wait! Wait! I think there’s a late entry. Yes! We’ve been remiss. There is one other Whedon project that has not been brought up, and one with a worthy contender: Tom Hiddleston.
(I know, Loki, I’m sad I almost forgot you also)
Jess: How could we possibly have forgotten Tom Hiddleston?! He’s the appropriate age, and he’s got the emo vibe. We know he’s done stage work, so he will be a natural at Shakespeare. He can play dramatic and slightly unhinged (aka Loki). Hell, Loki even has daddy issues! Is there any point in doing a poll anymore?
Steph: None whatsoever, unless we make it a poll on Horatio. Damn but wasn’t that a Cinderella story. Hiddleston came from nowhere to take the lead.
Jess: No one else should ever have been nominated. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our Whedon cult, we forget the rest of the world has finally caught on to how awesome he is.
Steph: I blame us.
Jess: Ha! Nice reference! It is ok, we caught it in time, this could have been worse!
Steph: The Battle of Horatio?
Jess; On to the Battle of Horatio! My personal leanings on Horatio have swung in favor of Alexis Denisof.
Jess: As previously mentioned, I worry a gender switch on Horatio would lead to romantic implications, which would distract from the primary plot and the importance of their relationship. Also, Denisof is very well suited for the role of scholar and narrator. In defense, I present to you Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Besides, we know Denisof is more than capable of pulling off the deep intensity stuff.
Steph: But this where it really does become six of one, half a dozen of the other. In Angel, Acker was essentially Denisof in female form. They’re both believable as scholarly types. They could probably both pair off well with Hiddleston. Hmmm, though Denisof may have a slight advantage with that.
Jess: Yeah, Denisof and Hiddleston on the same screen sharing dialogue? That could be my new favorite bromance!
Steph: I do feel guilty we wrote out Acker.
Jess: But our next piece is basically going to be a sermon about how she should have been cast as the lead of Dollhouse, so that kind of makes up for it!
Steph: Agreed! Until next time, we leave you with this image of Tom Hiddleston vs. the Nyan Cat
Jess: An image that should be the end of every article ever written!
Steph: And now without further ado (hee!), the cast of Joss Whedon’s Hamlet:
Hamlet — Tom Hiddleston
Ophelia — Summer Glau
Claudius — Anthony Stewart Head
Gertrude — Kristen Sutherland
Polonius — Clark Gregg
Laertes — Sean Maher
Horatio — Alexis Denisof
Player — Alan Tudyk
Rosencrantz — Nathan Fillion
Guildenstern — Tom Lenk