Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back for its 13th season and ComingSoon spoke with star Felicia Day about its return. New episodes are now streaming online via the Gizmoplex website.
“For the first time, not one, but three humans will be subjected to the bittersweet agony of watching the world’s cheesiest movies, as returning test subject Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) shares hosting duties with the newest kidnapped Gizmonic technician, Emily Connor (Emily Marsh) and original host Joel Robinson (show creator Joel Hodgson),” says the official synopsis. “Accompanied by wisecracking robot pals Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount/Kelsey Ann Brady), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn/Conor McGiffin), and GPC (Rebecca Hanson/Yvonne Freese), our heroes will have to survive 13 new movies, 12 new shorts, and the unveiling of Kinga’s newest scheme for world domination: The Gizmoplex, the First Cineplex on the Moon.”
Tyler Treese: Felicia, it’s such a pleasure to be speaking with you. I know you were a fan of MST3K growing up, but what was it about the show that really spoke to you?
Felicia Day: Well, my brother and I fought a lot, and we only had one TV. And the one thing that we wouldn’t tear each other’s hair out, literally, about was MST3K. My brother and I think our senses of humor were really formed by this show. And I mean, I think maybe it’s underestimated, but seeing kids’ letters in the episode was really super engaging. I have a five-year-old now, and I’m waiting a couple of years, but I cannot wait to watch the old episodes with her and introduce her to the MST3K world. So when I got involved in the show, it was a dream come true. I was able to write a couple of episodes with my brother. And so this is my third season and I just can’t thank Joel enough for keeping me in the family.
When you’re coming onto a project and you obviously have so much admiration for Joel, is that almost intimidating in a way? How do you navigate that?
It certainly was intimidating at first, whenever I’d hear him speak behind me, I thought he was on a TV. Like he has such a distinctive voice. But at a certain point, we’ve been working together for years now. And this season, I didn’t actually get to work with Joel one-on-one, because it was COVID. He was on the east coast. I was on the west coast. So my friendship with Jonah Ray got me through. He not only was the head writer for the episodes I wrote on, but he also directed me for half the episodes. And it was just like getting the band back together with me and Patton and Jonah. And we had such a good time. This season really is special.
So what’s the writing process like when it comes down to riffing? Is it a lot of iteration and fine-tuning the jokes?
For sure. There’s a lot. And a lot that goes on after a writer like me would be involved. The head writer … there were two different writing rooms this season. Tim Ryder, who directed the other half of the episodes, was the head writer for one room. And then I was in Jonah’s room. He was the head writer there, and like, we would just take sections, like 10 minutes each we’d riff, we’d pitch, shout jokes, we’d laugh at other people’s jokes, we’d laugh at our own. And then at the end of the day everybody kind of picks the best that goes in. And then all of that goes off to Elliot Kalan, and Joel, and Matt McGinnis, and all the people at the top. And they get to pick like what the final final final is. And that’s it, it is a long process, but one that I think is done with a lot of joy and, thank goodness, Joel at the helm, always making sure that MST3K is consistent for 30 plus years now.
That’s what kind of really impressed me because as a fan you’re always excited to see a series come back, but there’s always this tinge of worriedness like, “Will this be the same? Will that magic still be there?” But it really does, credit to Joel and everybody else, but it really does feel the same. It has that same sense of humor. So, as a fan yourself, how great was it seeing it just work this way, and for the fans to also fully support it so much that they did not one but two Kickstarters?
I know it really is fantastic. No, it’s just overwhelming. It was, again, you’re part of a legacy. Like this is a legacy, it’s an institution it’s like being part of Star Wars or Star Trek. It really is that level of institutional nerddom. And yeah, it’s, it’s wonderful. And what I love about this season is that Netflix didn’t pick us up and the fans showed up and made … I think this is gonna be the best season of the ones that I’ve been in, just because the scale is smaller. Everything’s more spontaneous. Joel and the crew have complete creative control. When Jonah, I, and Pat were on set, we would just be like, “Hey, I think we have a funnier joke here,” or “let’s do this instead.” And we had the flexibility, and the spontaneity was just, it was just so much more fun in a way, to be able to do at this scale. Because I think it actually fits MST3K better than having big, shiny sets and all that stuff. So I really feel like the fans are gonna feel like coming home for this season and meet a lot of new cast members who are wonderful.
I wanted to ask you about Patton Oswalt because this is your third season working together. How has your chemistry just grown over time? You spoke about spontaneity and working off each other. So how has that evolved?
I mean, Patton really set the bar. He’s so experienced and so wonderful. And I was super intimidated when I was first on set and he really. Our chemistry really got me through and now, this season, there was just a lack of caring, not caring, but a lack of inhibition. And we just went goofy, wild places. And I have to tell you, it was just such a joy. He really is an unsung hero of comedy and he’s everywhere and yet not enough places. I just love him to death.
What I find so interesting about your character is that she’s kind of trying to live up to the evil standards of her family. It’s not really a path that she really decided for herself. So how do you really view Kinga and that element of her?
Yeah. I mean, she really is. She’s trying to live up to something that she isn’t, and I don’t even know if anybody’s actually putting that pressure on her. It’s it seems to come from an internal place. And so this sort of manic emotional roller coaster that everybody around her goes … she’s kind of like just a screwball heiress, in a way, from like the 1930s. And I love those characters so much. I think I definitely channel a little bit of that Carole Lombard energy into her. So yeah, she is somebody who’s never gonna get what she wants because she doesn’t even know what she wants that will make her happy inside, but she’ll try everything and put everything, everybody through the ringer to get there
During the Netflix seasons, we had a little bit of a Dr. Horrible reunion where you got to sing with Neil Patrick Harris. How surreal was doing that scene?
It was amazing. Bobby Lopez, who wrote the Frozen songs and many, many other songs with his wife, like dream team. It was really incredible. There were a lot of great cameos this season. Again, I got to work with Mary Jo Pehl, which is like, what?! Like, there’s a lot of old and new coming together. We’ve got Emily, the new hosts, and it’s all melded together in a really awesome way. And I think it just kind of strengthens the family aspect of MST3K. There’s gonna be three different hosts, but Kinga is in charge of forcing them to watch these movies. I love it. It’s just the more the merrier.
I haven’t seen the episodes with Emily yet, but how awesome was it that we have our first female host subject?
I think it’s great. I think it’s amazing. And she’s been on the tour with the other crew, so they’re a whole entire … They’ve been touring the US. They did the longest tour ever. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work one-on-one with her yet, but I really hope that opportunity comes in the future.
What has it really meant for you to just be so embraced by the fans? You had a lot of big shoes you were filling as the big evil mad scientist here.
Yeah. I can only hope that the fans like Kinga or at least hate her in a good way. I definitely feel like there was a long lineage of Forrester evil that I needed to really nestle under, and working with Mary Jo, like this season actually brings that kind of family aspect to the show. And to me as performer, kind of getting to integrate with the Forester lineage is really cool. And I can say that we had to shoot under COVID circumstances. It was a smaller scale, and I really feel like it benefited the show in so many ways. And I think fans are gonna see that sort of organic wackiness, off-the-cuff wackiness that they’re used to even more than the last two seasons
Despite like the smaller scale, this is such an ambitious undertaking with the Gizmoplex, which is so cool as it’s both an onscreen part of this story, but there’s also the real implementation of this live theater experience that the fans will be able to get in. So how excited are you to take part in these events in the Gizmoplex?
I think it’s gonna be great. I can’t wait to do one of the livestream events for sure. When Joel pitched it to me, I was like, “That’s not gonna work,” and then seeing it come together and having it be so awesome. It is kind of like going to the movie theater and buying a ticket and having an experience. And I think it’s so much more integral to the show’s spirit than just kind of dumping all the episodes at once. Like that works for some shows, Mystery Science Theater, we’re already having an hour and a half episodes, right? Each episode is an event and I’m excited that they’re gonna release the first three, and then every two weeks after that there’s gonna be new content and new stuff. And I really hope the community, it’s a real community that forms around the GizmoPlex. And yeah, it’s really cool. It’s a great concept that is being pulled off well. I was dubious and now I’m in awe.
The series has covered so many great bad films. Are there any like films you would love to see given the MST3K treatment in the future, or your own favorite bad film?
There’s a Charlie Sheen movie where he is a car, and I can’t remember if it’s called Revant or Charlie Sheen car movie. I mean, it is one of the worst movies … The Wraith! It is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The Wraith is so bad. I saw it on like late-night TV a couple of years ago, and I was like, “Joel, you have to do this one.” So I would love that one just because it’s so wacky, I just can’t help but think that it would be pretty awesome to riff. So that would be my vote, but again, I don’t get to choose the movies, Joel and Matt McGinnis and the crew do that, and I just am happy to write and perform anything they give me.
That sounds amazing.
Yeah, you gotta watch this movie. It’s really bad!