Kevin Smith is in that rare category of Comic-Con royalty where everything he touches turns to confab gold. It’s been the case for a long time — even last year, when the crowd awaiting his annual Hall H panel was hijacked by the surprise outdoor Star Wars concert unveiled right before his time slot on the schedule (spoiler alert: it turned out well for him). This year he’s been extra busy in San Diego, shooting his new AMC series Geeking Out, moderating AMC’s Preacher panel yesterday, and more plus prepping for his latest State of the Smith panel tonight at 7 PM back in Hall H.
The wonderfully verbose Smith sat down amid it all to talk about his burgeoning TV career with the upcoming Mallrats series, directing The Flash and Geeking Out. The Yoga Hosers director also talked about getting Matt Damon in superhero mode and working with Ben Affleck again.
DEADLINE: Last year, you kind of met the Dark Side when it came to your Hall H panel…
SMITH: Yeah, last year I followed the Star Wars panel and learned that Sith happens when they emptied the Hall H to go do the outdoor concert, but that worked out — J. J. [Abrams] put me in Force Awakens. I did the voice of a Stormtrooper, so no complaints there, so I’m kind of hoping Marvel precedes me this year. I will hope for something horrible and I get screwed, because then I might wind up in a Marvel movie somehow.
DEADLINE: As if you’re not too busy in the world of TV, where’s the Mallrats series at?
SMITH: I just sat down with the good folks at Universal last week. Our deal’s closed and whatnot, and I walked them through the 10 episodes. As I broke them down, I white-boarded them all, and so Episode 1 and 2 on one board, 3 and 4 on another, and so forth and so on, so I did the whole walk-through to be like, this is what happens this episode, this is what happens this episode, here’s the family tree. You know, it’s a multigenerational story, so it’s about all the kids in Mallrats and all the kids they had, taking my cues from one of my favorite programs in the world, Degrassi: The Next Generation.
So I walked them through everything, and Mallrats as a series is kind of like one gigantic blob of soap opera with a lot of dick jokes in it. When we were doing the feature version of it, I had 90 minutes to tell one story. But wow, essentially, I have 10 half-hour episodes, so that’s five hours to kind of pull and tell the same story and really like dive into the characters. Like, all the characters came back in the Mallrats 2 script, but sometimes it’s just like, hey, it’s that person, you’re moving on. Now we get to go into their lives and stuff and what happens after happily ever after, so it’s pretty damn fun and funny and stuff.
So I walked them through it, and then we decided post-Comic Con, that’s when we go out into the world and pitch, and it’s got cursing in it and stuff, so it’s not like we’re pitching networks or anything, you know? We’re pitching all the usual streaming suspects I would imagine and cable networks, so probably Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Showtime, HBO — it’s a pretty limited pool for us because of the language factor, but it’s a weirdly family show. It’s just, you know, with a lot of cussing in it and stuff, but it’s funny, dude, I love it.
DEADLINE: You had a big cast with frequent collaborators like Jason Lee, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Mewes and Ben Affleck plus Michael Rooker, Shannen Doherty and Jason London in the original 1995 movie. So who’s coming back for the Mallrats TV show?
SMITH: Everybody in the original cast, with the exception – well, I haven’t reached out to Batfleck yet, until I knew I had something that I could say, hey, here’s something to come to.
Affleck’s character has a pretty central but small but useful role. Like, you know, he could do it and it’d be great, but if he doesn’t do it, it wouldn’t be the end of the world at the same time. But I’ll reach out to him once I know where we’re going, what we’re doing, and when we’re shooting. I’ve reached out to everybody else, and they were all like, thumbs up, so everyone’s still on board.
DEADLINE: Before then, you’re directing more Flash, right?
SMITH: Yeah, I go back the first week in September to direct Episode 7 of Season 3. I was supposed to do Episode 5, but we got Yoga Hosers released that same period, and I had to do a bunch of press, and I love doing Flash and we did a wonderful job, me and the cast and crew last episode. I didn’t want to be split focus. I want to give it all my attention, so I had to move from Episode 5 to Episode 7 to clear the Yoga Hosers release.
DEADLINE: How have you found the shift to TV, with Flash, Mallrats coming up, Amazon looking to snag an Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai series?
SMITH: Like, who knew, dude? TV. Like, if you just last long enough in this business, man, somewhere, someone will figure out a use for you. Lately, that use for me, because I’ve been making all these weird movies that only I like and stuff, so they figured out a more mainstream use for me, and that’s kind of in the egalitarian society of television, man — where suddenly, you can tell a much longer story.
DEADLINE: In a different part of the TV world, right after Comic-Con, you’re debuting your new AMC series Geeking Out, your second series with them after Comic Book Men. What’s the new show like?
SMITH: Geeking Out is the present and looking forward. It’s what we’re excited about that’s coming out in movies, TV, comics, games, so forth and so on, so for me, it’s a dream show. This show when I was a kid, I wish it existed, and now it does. Like, the closest we got when we were kids was Siskel & Ebert doing half the movies. We were like, there’s two people on TV talking about a movie I haven’t seen yet.
DEADLINE: So Geeking Out is you and Greg Grunberg in a theater?
SMITH: Naw, It’s essentially like if we kind of do field pieces and interviews and stuff. Like we did all our wraparounds for the Comic-Con episode the other day, so the Comic-Con episode has Greg doing a piece with Michael Giacchino, the composer of Star Trek, that culminates in the Star Trek premiere that is happening at Comic-Con this weekend, so that is the first piece.
The second piece of the show, I think, is me talking to Matt Damon about Jason Bourne, and you know, we chit-chat about the movie and we talk about his career in general. You know, I’ve got this opportunity, and I’m always online, so I know what the Internet wants, more or less, and like I’ve seen a lot of people go like, if Ben Affleck is doing DC Universe movies, how long before Matt gets in there, and what characters would he play?
So I took some of the best dialogue from some of the greatest uncast DC Universe characters, characters that haven’t been in a movie yet — like I didn’t use the Joker or Superman, because they’ve already been cast but like characters he could play opposite Ben — and I got him to read Oliver Queen from The Dark Knight Returns, where Oliver Queen in the future has only one arm.
DEADLINE: Are you trying to get him to audition for a role on the DC big screen?
SMITH: Well, Matt is such a like consummate actor, he pulled his arm into his sleeves to re-enact it and stuff. So I getting him to do dialogue from DC characters — that, to me, is just delicious. If we could do that every show, fun stuff that the audience would dig seeing as much as me, I think that would be fantastic, and we’re going to aim for that all the time.
So there’s a piece we did with Matt, which is pretty long, and then we do an overall Comic-Con piece where we talk to writers and walk the floor and stuff like that, so we begin each episode talking about the stuff we’re excited about. I was talking about the coming Suicide Squad because it’s about to open. Greg was talking about Stranger Things and Pokémon Go. It’s kind of a celebration of all things geek and things that people enjoy.
DEADLINE: Well, you have the access don’t you?
SMITH: (Laughs) We talked to Antoine Fuqua and did this amazing interview. We talked to like J.J. Abrams on the steps of the Psycho house at Universal, because Greg and J.J. are super tight. J.J. wanted to go there because that’s where he decided to be a filmmaker, while on the Universal tour when he was a kid, so we did a great interview with him there. So, it’s not like a, “Hey man, tell me about the new project.” It’s how did you get here? How did you get from point A to point B? That’s useful information for the audience.
DEADLINE: And it’s continuing your relationship with AMC…
SMITH: Man, I’m so glad it’s on AMC. They’ve kept that Comic Book Man show going for five seasons. We’re entering our sixth season right now, and it feels at home at that network. You know, the only reason Comic Book Men exists at all is because after Season 1 of the Walking Dead, AMC was worried that while they went off to make new episodes of The Walking Dead that they would lose the audience, the comic book audience that had come in to watch the show. Can you believe that?
There was a time where somebody somewhere was like, what if nobody watched The Walking Dead again? But this was before it became even more massive than it is, so you know, at that point, they were like, we should have shows that could fill in the gap that could play between seasons, and that’s how we got the room.
DEADLINE: Before people get the wrong idea, you’re not entirely TV – Yoga Hosers, which premiered at Sundance this year, is coming out on the big screen in September. But you know it’s not a blockbuster, so how do you try to find that elusive audience today for a film like that?
SMITH: Hey, a movie like this you wouldn’t put out on very many screens, but when it gets to home video, or streaming, dude…I can’t wait.
Like, for me, this is a movie that some little girl is going to be going through Netflix, scrolling through and be like oh, this movie’s got two girls standing next to each other on the poster. She’ll be like let me see what this is about, and dive down that hole. Some of them will be thrilled and some of them will be horrified, but some of them will be like this is my jam. Same way like, you know, when I saw Strange Brew on cable, and I tried to convince everyone in the world, like this is the greatest film ever made, and they’re like, it ain’t for me, dude. It ain’t for me.
It was a rarefied bridge, a real thin bridge I crossed to get to that movie, and I love it. I still love it to this day, and Yoga Hosers is very much like homage to Strange Brew, so I get it. Like, it’s not going to bring everyone along with it, man. It’s not going to be as respected as a Chasing Amy or as Jay And Silent Bob Get Old, but I love it, so I’m so damn happy I made it, and then it leads to the last one, dude: Moose Jaws, Jaws with a moose instead of a shark.