Paget Brewster on Dan Vs., Mark Hamill and More

With the season premiere of The Hub's Dan Vs. hitting this Saturday at 4 p.m. (see an exclusive clip here), Paget Brewster (one of television's most consistently-badass leading ladies) is animated again as Elise, the long-suffering, secret agent girlfriend to the title character's unemployed, scatterbrained and food-obsessed best friend.

Brewster joined earlier this week to talk about Dan Vs., and her experiences working with geek culture mainstays like Curtis Armstrong, Mark Hamill and James Gunn.

 You've done other voice acting in your career, but this show is full of people who basically just use their own voice. Is it a little different going in to a series that's less heightened and exaggerated like that, at least from a performance standpoint?

Honestly, what I've mostly done at American Dad! is anytime they've had a character with an accent. I've played the Russian fortune teller on Dan Vs., but I would say other than specific charactrs here and there I mostly do voice work that is pretty close to my voice, so it's just acting. Birdgirl on Harvey Birdman is similar to Elise in that I'm not altering my voice that much--it's not like I'm playing a kid or an old lady. I'm not going to say that I have a ton of range, because there are other people who are a lot better at that.

The really fun thing is that Curtis Armstrong is in no way like Dan in any way in real life. He's just a sweet, kind, lovely guy, and when he plays Dan, he goes bananas. He's vicious and angry and he's yelling, and it's nuts. When he gets into character in the room when the three of us are recording, he gets all amped up like Dan and when he blows a line, he'll shoot a look--at usually me, sometimes Dave--like he wants to murder us. As though we made him blow his line, and it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

And actually, just now I'm realizing that voice-wise, Dave Foley can't do anything but Dave Foley.

You know, that's what made me want to ask you this question--after the roundtable, I spoke to Dave about that.

Dave doesn't try! I think they asked him once to do some other voice and Dave just started riffing about how this is all they're going to get--that he can't sound like an old, Russian fisherman, that he's just not going to pull it off. What they get is Dave Foley--and he's right. I love that the man knows his limitations--and he's so good with just his voice that he doesn't need to do anything else.

Curtis has done a lot of stuff, and I guess I'm probably in the middle of range. Dave is at the zero range, then I'm at a three or four and then Curtis I would put at a seven or eight.

With Elise, was the plan always for you to be the superwoman? It occurred to me as I watched it that early in the first season, the spy stuff starts to get peppered in, but in the pilot there wasn't anything like that.

You know what? You're right, that wasn't in the pilot. I don't know! I never asked the real Dan and the real Chris. I know that the real Elise--Chris's wife in real life--has got a PhD, she's a rocket scientist or something--it's something really crazy. He's this big, tall, funny, kind of shy guy who writes animated comedy with kind of a boyish humor to it, kind of like a big twelve-year-old, and his wife is an actual, certified genius.

So I don't know when they decided to make her a secret agent, who can kind of fix anything and make anything, but you're right, it wasn't in the pilot.

And you said that you do the reads with the principal cast--but you've obviously got more than just three people in the episode and I assume that most times you don't have most of those people in the room with you. Is it kind of surreal to be talking to a responsive person for one line and then turning around and talking to air for the next?

It is really difficult to get everyone in the room--I haven't done that in maybe eight or nine years. The fact that Dave and Curtis and I have been able to record together so much is kind of unusual.

There have been times where Curtis was shooting a movie in Louisiana, or Dave was touring doing stand-up in Canada and we couldn't all be together. It is really unusual to have everyone together. I have recorded with Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter as my mom and dad, which is great. They're very funny--they act like they're actually married in real life. They've known each other for so long, since Family Ties, and now they're playing Elise's parents and they're great to work with.

And I recorded once with Mark Hamill, which is a trip--becuase that guy is such a pro, it's scary. So good, and so gifted. That guy is a voice-over genius, he's amazing. He's really a force--when you're recording with him, he's just telling stories right up until the record light goes on and then, boom! He's in character, doing it.

Well, and there's this widely-circulated talk that he'll be back in Star Wars, but he's so prolific right now that it's hard to imagine him not doing any other work during the time he's shooting those movies back-to-back-to-back.

Hmm. You know what, I wonder--because their shooting schedule would probably be what, ten months? You can't blame him for wanting to do it, though!

And it's funny--you've also worked with James Gunn, who's one of our favorite rumor mill topics these days, too.

Why, what's the rumor?

Well, he's doing Guardians of the Galaxy, which is the next new Marvel property to come out as a non-sequel following The Avengers.

Oh my God, that's insane.

We should set up a group of fans to lobby for you in Guardians--you could be a bad-ass female soldier in that movie and just roll in the Dan Vs., Criminal Minds stuff and do it again, except that you get to be green the whole time and beat up on Iron Man or somebody.

[Laughter] Well, I'll have to e-mail James!

To me, I'd never heard of Dan Vs. until The Hub approached me to cover it. How does a cast this good come together on a show that's so under-the-radar, and how do you guys try to raise awareness?

I think that people are hearing about it more and more and people are more aware of the show this year. Sometimes it just takes time to build, especially on a brand-new network. The Hub was an entirely new network and anything new takes time to find its footing but I think the exciting thing is we live in a time when you can go back and get season one and season two. If you fall for it in season three, you can see the other stuff that we've done and the stuff that we've done is really strong. I'm hoping more people find it the way you did, and this year is the year that it gets even more viewers. I think it's a great show, and I think it can be enjoyed by many different ages. I don't know if a lot of shows are like that.

Yeah, I feel like it's got the same anarchic, irreverent material that the Seth MacFarlane material does, but without skewing specifically to the college crowd. I wouldn't let a kid watch Family Guy unsupervised, whereas Dan Vs. I might be more open to it.

That springs from the mind of Dan and Chris--I think they're a little bent and anarchic is the perfect word to use for what they're doing without going blue--no, nobody uses that term anymore.


Well, I'm a big Lenny Bruce fan.

Who's great. Yeah--blue! You would let a ten-year-old watch Dan Vs. Sometimes it's a little violent but it's not bloody, icky--there's no drugs or sex. And Seth [Green] is the guest star in the second episode of Dan Vs. that's about to air, "[Dan Vs.] The Mummy." I didn't get to work with him, though.