'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' Creators Dish on New Book, Take Credit for Neil Patrick Harris's Career
It's quite simply everything you wanted to know about the creation of this award-winning, Internet-server-melting, genre-twisting musical tragicomedy ... and more.
Like what, you wonder? How about the full shooting script, amazing photos, sheet music of all the songs, glossy pages and real sharp edges.
Exclusively for TV Squad, two of Joss Whedon's collaborators on the musical masterpiece -- Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon -- as well as star Neil Patrick Harris (Dr. H himself!), have shared insights into the book about the film ... but more about the film, really. Read on and prepare to laugh.
TV Squad: How surprised were you by the success of 'Dr. Horrible'?
Jed Whedon: We were floored. We did not anticipate any of this at all. And the 'Dr. Horrible' audience still continues to grow. Three years later there are people who are just discovering it. It won an Emmy? What? For a Web musical we created during a Writer's Guild strike? What? It's all madness.
What was the inspiration for 'Dr. Horrible'?
Maurissa Tancharoen: The character Dr. Horrible was an idea Joss had about an inept supervillain with a heart. Who sings about the things he wants, like Penny. He originally wanted to do it as a podcast, but then saw the silly Web videos we did with Zack [Whedon] on YouTube and it all grew from there.
There was a lot of talk right away about a sequel -- is that still something you all want to do? If so, when?
Whedon: We've always had many dreams for Dr. Horrible ... Broadway. Lunchboxes. Projected on the moon. The sequel is at the top of our list, but that list is unfortunately under a massive pile of all the other projects we're working on. Joss is going to be working on 'Avengers' for the next twelve years. Folks have heard us say this before, but it's just the sucky reality we're currently living in.
What was the biggest challenge for you as writers -- the music, the lyrics, the comedy?
Tancharoen: We honestly had such a great time creating it that the overall process was fairly breezy. We all grew up in musical-loving households so bouncing ideas around and coming up with songs was pretty much heaven. And performing those songs for each other for the first time was like a weird heaven where everyone is nervous all the time. The biggest challenge was shooting it all in the amount of days we had. And getting Nathan to stop hitting on the extras.
Do you take responsibility for Neil Patrick Harris' career taking off after 'Dr. H.'?
Whedon: Full responsibility. He now gives us a percentage of all his earnings. Even for the stuff he did before 'Dr. H,' or as we call it, the 'other doctor.'
You have a die-hard, loyal fan base for 'DH' -- is that because it's a Whedon project or because it's such a dynamic mini-musical?
Tancharoen: Well, that fact that it's a Whedon project doesn't hurt, but we do think we made a good little musical. The Whedon fans are definitely responsible for spreading the word and helping it blow up the way it did. They were our publicists/advertising-firm/test-group/cheerleaders. We love them very much.
What musicals, in particular, influenced you?
Whedon: Anything and everything Sondheim.
The way you marketed 'D.H.,' putting it out on the web for free initially, was very innovative. What made you choose to do that?
Tancharoen: We wanted it to feel the way television used to [feel]. Where you had to be home at a certain time to catch your favorite show. Like an event. With a frozen dinner. But sans ads, which made it even better. Then after all three episodes streamed, we pulled it from freebie land and moved it to the land where people pay for things with the hope that the fruits of our labor would taste like dollars. Eventually anyway.
Will there be other musicals like 'DH' in the future from you?
Whedon: Only totally. Like, duh. Jeez.
And now, a-never-before-published-online 'Afterword' for the book, by Neil Patrick Harris:
I have to say, on reflection, that Dr. Horrible is the single best thing that I've ever done. I look back at all of the chapters in my professional life, and they were either long and rambling, or had major ups and downs. But from start to ﬁnish, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was nearly perfect.
I had just arrived into New York City when I got the initial call from Joss. I remember it well -- sitting in a yellow cab, crossing the Triborough Bridge, looking at the amazing landscape of Manhattan, and Joss Whedon is on my phone, seeing if I'd 'be interested' in starring in a super villain movie that he wanted to produce and direct. A musical, no less. I think I said yes maybe a dozen times before we hung up, just to make sure he heard me.
Receiving the initial email with a link to Billy/Horrible's songs was a treat. I downloaded them immediately, and had my iPod on a constant loop for weeks. Jed sang my part. Though, I'll bet if you ask him, he'd say it was the other way around.
Recording the music was surreal. It all happened at the then Whedon residence, upstairs in a room they had built for just this sort of creative, musical happenstance. I was sequestered to a soundproofed, glass -- encased recording studio, and Jed handled the mixing and computering and such. Maurissa was there. Joss wandered here and there, muttering his preferences. We did all of the songs back-to-back, saving the growlier, rockier stuff for the end of the day, when my voice was most damaged. Everyone seemed pleased, and I was anxious to hear the ﬁnished product. (Products..? Songs..? Canon..?) I was anxious to start to learn the lip-sync. (Lip syncs..? Moving on...)
Everyone at my local Equinox gym must have thought I was a psychopath for about two weeks there, when I was trying to get the 'mouthing' down perfectly. I'd put one song on repeat, and practice it for hours, usually while running on a treadmill or doing sit ups. I ﬁnd it memorizing at the gym is helpful, not sure why. Concentration? Anyway, point being, I looked like a boob.
[Editor's note: You are no boob, NPH, and you were great in 'Dr. H.']