Will Friedle and I Talk About MINI PRIMETIME, BATMAN BEYOND, and Painting Minis

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Will Friedle. Over the course of the interview, we talked about Batman Beyond, painting miniatures, and his upcoming show on Critical Role: Mini Primetime. Friedle was such an amazing person and talking with him was a blast.

Tommy: I know you have Mini Primetime coming up, but before we get to all of my bajillion questions about that and painting minis, because I have a lot, I do want to go back and real quick going back to Batman Beyond, I know that it's the 20th anniversary.

Will: It is.

Tommy: I had the great joy of being at the San Diego Comic-Con panel for it.

Will: OK. Good.

Tommy: It was a blast to be there. But since then I've thought of a question that I wanted to ask you.

Will: Okay.

Tommy: Who was your favorite villain from the show? There were a lot of really cool villains throughout Batman Beyond, and I'm just curious who your favorite one was.

Will: Well, I'm going to discount the Joker because he was, I consider him more of a Bruce Wayne villain.

Tommy: That's very fair

Will: Yeah. Getting to work with Mark Hamill was one of the coolest things that's ever happened to me. No, I think I had a couple, I think Ink was a very cool villain. And I thought Spellbinder was a very cool villain. They really did kind of go out of their way to make his rogues gallery pretty amazing. But the one I would say, only because of the complexity, probably in a way turned out to not be a villain at all in the way that Selena Kyle turned out to not be a villain to Bruce Wayne. And that would have been Ten from the Royal Flush Gang. So, you know, they had a thing. So, I think I would have to put her up there.

Tommy: Those are great picks. I love how they kind of took ideas from Batman's rogue gallery and then kind of updated them for Batman Beyond. I thought that was great.

Will: I thought that was cool, too. I loved how they made sure that we weren't just fighting the same villains over and over again. It wasn't just future joker and future band. Yeah. You know, future Penguin. And so, it was cool how occasionally we got an old villain in there, but for the most part it was a whole new rogues gallery, which is awesome.

Tommy: Yeah, it was fantastic. I really need to go back and watch that again.

Will: Me too.

Tommy: Okay. So, let's dive into this. Let's go to painting. So I, for the last few, several weeks actually I've been going back and watching and rewatching episodes of your show Painters Guild on Geek and Sundry because I've been going through and I've been trying to paint miniatures for board games I have.

Will: And hopefully it's been helping.

Tommy: Oh, it's been fantastic. I mean, I've painted some minis for board games before, but I sit there now and I go, I didn't quite do this quite right. And now I'm saying that I'm doing, I'm like, I did those other ones completely wrong. This is, you know, the way to do it. This is so much better. So thank you for Painters Guild, in the first place.

Will: No, I'm glad that it helped. Again, that's a real show in that I had no idea how to paint minis either. So, I was being taught along with the audience, and you know, obviously being taught by some of the best in the world is a pretty wonderful way to learn. But being taught on camera can be a little jarring. So, I'm always happy when people tell me that the show, helped them learn how to paint, and I think Mini Primetime is then going to kind of take it to the next level.

Tommy: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to Mini Primetime. It's funny actually because I believe it was in your episode of Between the Sheets with Critical Role, actually, you talked about the first mini, you ever "painted" where you had this mini and you went and you took magic marker to it. It was so funny to me because I had done something similar years ago. It was before I did any kind of painting. I went out, I bought some minis and I went, "How can I color these?" And I went out to the store and I bought a bunch of Sharpies and used those to color my first minis.

Will: That is exactly what I did. So yeah, and then Brian Foster made fun of me constantly and then stole it from me and essentially said it didn't work and had somebody else paint it for me. He had our friend Gil paint it. But from now on, after being that shamed, that's when Marisha Ray called me. Marisha called me to say "I saw your mini and that's just the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. Can we, is it possible that we can do a show where we teach you how to do it right?" And I said, "What?" And she said, "We want to do a show where we teach you to do it right." I went, "Okay. That's...sure." So that's where Painters Guild was born. So it was, you know, from Marisha's brain comes Painters Guild. And I think from Marisha's brain, again, comes Mini Primetime. So yeah, she certainly helped in my mini painting career more than I think anybody else.

Tommy: So, I think it's safe to just call that the interview and just thank Marisha for everything. Right. I mean...

Will: That's pretty much it. Yeah. As I'm accepting my Mini Primetime Emmy, I just want to thank Marisha Ray. She really did get me into that entire world. Then, my first teacher was Mercer.

Tommy: Yes.

Will: Matt was my actual first teacher on the show, so it was a ton of fun to take it full circle.

Tommy: Yeah. Now, over the course of Painters Guild and now I'm assuming just your career in Mini Primetime and life, I'm sure you've learned a lot about painting miniatures. What was the hardest part for you to learn about painting minis?

Will: Well, the hardest part for me is still the hardest part for me and that's doing eyes. Eyes are just still the hardest part and I have learned a great tip for doing eyes and making it easier. And then of course I'm doing an episode where I'm trying to teach Mercer the easier way to do eyes and of course he's still way better than me. He gets the tip down in exactly the right way. I looked like a fool. So yeah, it always comes down to doing faces and doing eyes and you get some of these men and women that are just so incredible at it that they're putting on makeup and they're like, "Well, after I do the eyes make sure I've put on the mascara," and it's just, it's ridiculous. So, for me it was it was a little crazy to even get the eyes done slightly well. He still schooled me and made me look pretty bad, but that's what Mercer does. He always...You think you're a big nerd and then you sit with Mercer and know you knew nothing at all, so that's just the way it works.

Tommy: Curse you, Mercer!

Will: Damn you, Mercer! He's done that for me. I mean, he was also my first DM the first time I ever played Dungeons & Dragons. So, it's like, where do you go from here, when Matt Mercer's your first DM?

Tommy: Oh man.

Will: I've lucked out there. Cause Foster and Patrick are my DMs now, and together, the two of them are pretty formidable.

Tommy: I believe it. So now that we've covered your hardest thing. What advice do you have for people just starting out?

Will: Stick with it. It's gonna get frustrating at times and you're going to want to throw the paints away and you're going to want to throw your mini down the garbage disposal. But the thing that people forget is it's paint. Nothing is irrevocable. If you make a mistake, if you screw up horribly, you take it outside, you spray paint your base coat again and you start over. It's not a big deal. Painting minis is a wonderful kind of analogy for life where everything seems to be so minute and so detailed. But at the end of the day, nothing is a problem that can't be fixed. So, you turn around and you take a breath and you gather your Zen and start over. And when you can get to that place becomes very therapeutic. You know, I've talked a lot about how I deal with anxiety, and one of the things that really helps is painting minis because you sit there and you're just, it's quiet and you're concentrating on one thing and your brain really does concentrate on what you're doing and it really quiets you down. So yeah, it's wonderful that just stick with it and just remember that there's no mistake that can't be fixed. So that would be my biggest advice.

Tommy: Thanks. That was, that was a beautiful analogy. You mentioned that you sit down and it's quiet. I know in his episodes of Painters Guild, Matt talked about soundtracking his painting experience, and me and my wife, we sit down to paint minis and other things and we put on Bob's Burgers in the background. Do you listen to anything when you paint?

Will: I do. It depends on the mood I'm in. I will listen to anything from classic rock to, there's nothing like putting on a great Pink Floyd album and just pressing play and letting the album run from beginning to end and painting the mini. You know, you put on "Wish You Were Here" and you start painting your mini by the time "Have a Cigar" comes on, you've got a good base coat going. So, you know, by the time you're halfway through "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," you're drying up already. So, it's pretty wonderful to paint to.

Tommy: That sounds great. I'm pretty sure that's how Pink Floyd intended for people to enjoy their music.

Will: That's how, I think it was too. You're supposed to put on a Floyd album, and you're supposed to paint the minis. I think that was the intention of Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters when they started.

Tommy: I concur. So, let's go in a little deeper. Let's actually talk about Mini Primetime itself. Now, as I understand it, you're going to be going through, I'm making some assumptions here, so feel free to correct me, but I'm assuming that each episode you'll be taking a cast member of Critical Role and helping them paint their Mighty Nein miniature.

Will: That is true. The thing about Painters Guild was it's a very long show. It was, you know, sometimes 40-minute episodes, some people don't have that amount of time to dedicate to just learning a tip. So Mini Primetime, especially at the beginning, we're concentrating on very specific techniques. So, we might get a mini, I might sit down with Laura or Travis and we might concentrate on one thing. We're going to learn how to fade color or we're going to work on eyes or we're going to work on just the base. We're taking one very specific technique and we're teaching that per episode. So, somebody doesn't have to dedicate 45 minutes because they might know how to base coat. They know how to do certain types of things, but they want to learn how to detail fade. They want to know how to edge highlights. So, we will take one person and we'll do very techniques with them the entire time, all the while interviewing them in a way that we found to be pretty fun. They were definitely on their toes most of the time they didn't know what questions were coming or what direction they were coming from. And I think people are going to be pretty happy, and I think they're also gonna be able to see their famous Critical Role cast members in an entirely new light, which was part of the point too.

Tommy: That sounds fantastic. And that leads me on, so each episode is going to be, is it gonna be then each cast member and character is a different technique or are different characters going to come up for different techniques?

Will: Yeah, no, each cast member will get a certain technique that we'll be working on that day. And I don't want to give away too much of who got what, but somebody got, again doing faces. We got color for one, edge highlighting was another, basing was another. Certain kinds of techniques that will then take your mini painting to another level and also techniques that you can use kind of for any mini that you're working on, whether it's one of your characters, whether it be a monster that you're working on, a creature character. But they're techniques that will carry over into every aspect of your mini paintings.

Tommy: Okay. I went through and I double checked which figures come in the Mighty Nein miniatures. And I noticed that one of them is Mollymauk, Taliesin's character, and I imagined that you painted Molly with Taliesin. What was that like with the unfortunate fate that met Molly?

Will: You are good. That's one of my favorite episodes for a number of reasons. I'm not going to get too much into why, because it's not only about the fate of Molly, but some other aspects of just painting with Taliesin. And we will certainly get into those when the show comes out, what they're going to be, I'm very proud of that episode, it was one of my favorite episodes to do. I've known Taliesin for years and painting with him was a ton of fun for a number of reasons. And you're going to be able to check that out when you see the episode.

Tommy: Okay. I'll look forward to that one. I also noticed that there's a figure for Shakaste. Who are you painting Shakaste with? Did you get Khary Payton? Is Matt going to be filling in there?

Will: Matt will be. That will be Matt filling in for Khary. Khary's a very good friend of mine of note. Khary and I go back to Robots in Disguise and even some animated shows before that. So, I've known him for many years. He is obviously off doing, Walking Dead and is having an incredible career, one that he so richly deserves. One of the best people you'll ever meet, but also just too good for me now. And to come on my show. I'm kidding of course. He's the greatest, but no, Matt will be filling in. We've got a cool episode with Shakaste there where I was supposed to be the teacher and once again Mr. Mercer schools me. So, that's another very fun one to do.

Tommy: Okay. Now I know that Matt is an incredible mini painter. And I understand Marisha is very talented as well. What about the rest of the cast though? What kind of skill levels were they coming in with?

Will: I think some of them would say they came in with almost no skill levels whatsoever. Which, you know, like talented people, you'll find you're amazed at what they can do when they try. And so a lot of them have not even really attempted to paint a mini before, but the one thing that they all had in common, whether they were phenomenal at it or whether they were learning whatever it was, everybody had fun. And that's the point of mini painting, it doesn't matter if you're great at it and it's something you do where you're selling your pieces or you do it just to throw it on the gaming table or you do it just to be with your friends and family and kids or whatever it is. You're just having fun. And as long as you can just sit there and have a good time, at the end of the day, whatever you come up with will be awesome.

Tommy: Okay. So, I'm guessing none of them were super difficult to teach. Based on the little tidbits I see here and there, there are a couple of them that I could see being a little distracted maybe or difficult to teach. Anything like that come up for you?

Will: No, actually they were all wonderful students. Some of them schooled me more than I could school them. They had a blast, and the one thing they all took away was they all wanted to continue painting minis. And I think they say if you're the teacher can have the student walk away and continue to want to learn, then it was a good day.

Tommy: Well that makes me very excited. I was sitting there and I'm just picturing some of the members and I'm like, "I could see that going a little off the rails at times."

Will: It didn't, it didn't at all. They were absolutely wonderful and everyone, once they got into it, we're really into it. So, we had a ton of fun. We definitely did. Even Travis with his big meaty paws. We had a great time together.

Tommy: I'm looking forward to that. So, are you currently playing any games right now? Any tabletop games?

Will: Ah, we're still, you know, we have our regular home D&D game. That again Foster's one of the DMs Patrick is our other DM with Mary McGlynn and Steve Blum and a whole bunch of us. But Patrick just had a baby. I mean like trying to get 10 actors together is like herding cats.

Will: So, we have not unfortunately played in quite a while, but that is something we are hoping to rectify very, very soon. So, we are looking forward to sitting around the table again because we've got a whole long campaign, that we have yet to flesh out. So, we've probably played maybe six or seven times. We're really just getting into it and we want to get back so we can't wait.

Tommy: Well, best of luck to you on that. I know what that can be like. What character do you play in that campaign?

Will: I am actually a Norse Ranger, our entire world it takes place in a Viking world. So I play a very small Norse Ranger who was not big enough to be on the shield wall, so he's only been about 5' 2". So he was trained as the equivalent of a Navy SEAL. He's essentially a sniper for a Norse regimen. So a very, very fun character, very brusque character. But kind of fun to play.

Tommy: That sounds like a lot of fun. Thank you so much Will, I have one final question for you. Are you caught up on Critical Role at all?

Will: I'm not nearly as caught up as I should be, and we get into that on the show.

Tommy: Okay. So, I will do my best not to spoil anything for you, but when will you be guesting on the Mighty Nein? I know that you guested back on Vox Machina. Now when are you going to be back for the Mighty Nein? They could really use your help right now.

Will: That is not up to me. So, you know, the Maestro Mercer...he's got the vision in his head and I'm sure that we will all get to play again, but you can't push the genius of the Mighty Nein. So when they need us I'm sure that they will call and their friends will come running. But Matt's got a plan. So we all kinda sit and wait for the call.

Tommy: Okay. And do you have any thoughts as to what kind of character you'd want to build for when Matt turns on the Will signal?

Will: I haven't even thought about it yet, to be totally honest. The most fun is building the character. And that's something that Matt and I would have to talk about first.

Tommy: Okay. Well Will, I want to thank you so much. This has been a dream come true for me.

Will: I appreciate you talking to me and hopefully you'll enjoy the new show. I think you will.

Tommy: I think I will too. Thank you again so much. You have reinstilled a love of painting minis for me, and I'm sure that I'm not the only one, so thank you so much from everyone that you have helped.

Will: Well, I appreciate that the second you get some that you're enjoying, please tweet them out because I love to see them.

Tommy: Will do.

Will: All right. Thanks again.

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