"Goodnight Burbank’s" Hayden Black and Laura J. Silverman

By Cody Deal

Goodnight BurbankHayden Black is a one man powerhouse in the world of New Media web series. Previously known for the viral hit, Abigail's Teen Diary, which featured Hayden in drag as a 13 year old with a disease making her look like, well, Hayden Black, for the comedy-horror The Occulterers, and for a previous incarnation of Goodnight Burbank done in 5 minute topical shorts, Hayden has re-launched the concept Goodnight Burbank as the first 30 min web comedy series, which is currently finishing up season one on Hulu. Black does it all, writing, acting, producing and marketing the series which also stars comedic genius, Laura J. Silverman. The series focuses on the local nightly news, and exactly what happens when the cameras cut away. The pair recently appeared on MediaBlvd Radio, where they were interviewed by MediaBlvd's team (Kenn Gold and Jamie Ruby), along with special celebrity co-host, Alighty Thor's Cody Deal.

Kenn> Hayden, is there nothing sacred? You tackle everything from racism, religion, politics and pretty much everything that comes up.

Goodnight BurbankHayden> Yeah, because that's life. Why should anything be sacred, because there is no sacred cow, only in India. I want to tackle what we all deal with on a regular basis and not really pull too many punches, because it is satire. At the end of the day, the reason that we are addressing all of these big issues is really simple. Who are these people coming into our bedrooms every night at 6PM and 10 or 11PM delivering us the news. Who are the people who decide what's important? Who are the people who scare us before we go to sleep. This is a comedy about that, and if one person in every 10 goes away and has a think about, "Who are these people and what are their agendas, then our job is done."

Cody> What gave you the idea to develop the first half hour sitcom for the web? What I like about it is that you use your actual twitter account that is in the actual web series, and that is pretty unique and a great way to market it online.

Hayden> The basic idea came about just over a year ago. We had a lovely lunch with Hulu and they said, "Would you be interested in doing a half hour version of Burbank?", which is something I had not thought of before. So I said, "Oh wow, how much are you going to pay?" They said, "We'll pay for lunch, but that's it."

Laura> That's not a bad deal these days, you know! I hope you ordered something to bring home with you!

Hayden> It was a fairly inexpensive place, I should have gotten them to take me to the Ivy or something. But the next month, I was in England meeting with some TV networks, and was pitching them a half hour version of Goodnight Burbank that was set in England. They said, "That sounds fantastic, but what does a half version of this show look like?" I thought to myself, "That's a really good question, I have absolutely no idea." So I just thought, "Why not just do it?" Then I found the unbelievably talented Laura Silverman and it just kept getting bigger and bigger and better and better from that.

Jamie Ruby> How did you come up with the original idea, way back when?

Hayden> I was watching my dear sweet mummy watching the news. She lived in Ft. Lauderdale, and I was watching her just gasp and be in shock of all the news she was watching, and I was thinking, "You do realize, these are all just people, and they do have their own crappy little agendas." Just because they are on television doesn't mean they are special. We were led to war in Iraq because we all kind of trusted what we were told on the news. That's kind of where the idea came from.

Kenn> Laura, I had a question for you. Gorden Smythe, on the show, is kind of arrogant and a bit of an ass. We see a lot of the similarities in the tweets, so the question is, how is Hayden to work for, is he anything like Gorden in real life? Or is he a big teddy bear?

Laura> Hayden is great! When we are shooting, he is kind of doing a million things at once. He is the lead actor, he wrote it, and he is producing it. Everything falls on his shoulders. He has to go out and buy a bag of candy bars and some Subway sandwiches to feed everyone. I think his secret is that he keeps his momentum going by constantly annoying me between takes, but in the funniest way. We laugh so hard, and just get so silly, but he is pretty fun.

Hayden> Laura actually wouldn't allow me to talk to her on set.

Laura> I tried to implement that as a rule.

Hayden> She had an assistant that I had to talk to.

Laura> The hand!

Hayden> But we got through it, and it looks like we like one another, which is all that really matters in Hollywood.

Laura> But we had a good time, he's cool! He's alright. Luckily, we both have a sense of humor where we both like to constantly say mean horrible things to each other that are funny, so it works out well. We have a chemistry where we just like to sit there and bust each other's balls all night, so to speak.

Cody> You created this concept, and it's pretty awesome. It seems like you are creative and wear a lot of different hats. What is your long term vision for Goodnight Burbank? Is it always just going to be a web series, or if you had the opportunity, would you turn it into something else? And two, what are your long term goals? Are they in acting, or in producing, or writing?

Hayden> As far as Burbank goes, I think if we are lucky enough, we can kind of change the paradigm and start producing shows without network interference, which is not necessarily a great thing. It can be a bad thing because sometimes other people's opinions are important. But the fact that you can maybe make something that is good that can cross over to television, either the original version, or you sell that version to England, and sell Goodnight Minsk to Russia, and so on and so forth, where you sell format rights; we've done a deal with Zodiac, the third largest distribution company in the world to do just that. They are going to represent the TV rights. We can distribute it on places like Netflix here, and it becomes sort of a little cottage industry that I own all of the IP on, as opposed to a studio taking it because they are doing their distribution and press and marketing. I think it's the beginning of something really big. I think everyone has been trying to find a business model in this space that works. Call me naïve and call me elitist, but I think the reason so far is that the content that has been given a lot of money behind it hasn't really been all that good or compelling. The cast is just magical, and I know Laura is on the phone so I have to say nice things. I call her every day because we are still editing, just to tell her how lucky and thankful I am to have met her and to have her on the show. She is phenomenal and just takes the show to a whole new level. I think we have something really great on our hands because of all of the people who have participated in it and collaborated on it. Where it goes from here, we will see, but we have very high hopes for it. In terms of me in the future, if you watch Goodnight Burbank, episode one, the original five minute series from 2006, you will see the very first time that I have ever acted in my entire life; the first time I have ever produced anything that was longer than 30 seconds. You will see the first time I've ever written something. It's the first time I've done so many things, so you can see my evolution right there on the internet in front of your eyes. Where I do go from there? I've always been a writer. The producing I enjoy, as much as a heartache as it can be. We did get different directors in for this, because I knew that I couldn't have done that as well. If we do a second season, and I hope we will, I will probably write myself out of at least one episode so I can direct it. We'll see where things go, I have a couple of screenplays that some people are interested in.

Cody> How many episodes are in the first season? You have four out right now? And when did you guys start filming?

Hayden> There are going to be six total. But we started shooting in October. Laura can attest to what that was like and how cold it was.

Laura> Yeah, in the middle of the night.

Cody> Do you guys stay on script pretty much? Or is there a lot of improve?

Hayden> It's mostly script based, but Laura will turn her amazingly talented, comedic mind to it.

Laura> I just couldn't help myself, just attention seeking. It's my turn to talk, so I make the most of it, kind of thing. I'd just have a tendency to rattle on here and there and Hayden would get annoyed with me. But then he would tell me when he was editing that he was using all of it, so I'm like, "You're welcome!"

Hayden> It wasn't that I was annoyed, it was that she would do something and the cast and crew would laugh, and I'm so buried in what my lines were, I'd be like, "Ok, sure, just do it, whatever! Then figure if it was awful, we could loose it in the edit. Then, invariably, while we were in the edit, I was watching it for the first time and I was laughing my ass off at some of the stuff that she did.

Laura> Thank you. The scripts were great though and we did do the scripts. They are all in there, and it's all Hayden pretty much.

Hayden> We shot about 31 minutes per. Each episode is a commercial half hour which is about 23 minutes, but we shot about 31 minutes per episode, so we've spent lots of time editing down what will be tons of deleted scenes for the DVD, whenever we get around to doing that.

Kenn> Where do you find the series? I tend to find it in my Facebook stream from Hayden in the middle of the night.

Goodnight BurbankHayden> It's real simple. Go to http://Hulu.com/GoodnightBurbank It's all mirrored and we have merchandise and bits and pieces at the main site, which is just http://goodnightburbank.com Then of course, there's the twitter account which is just @goodniteburbank, which is just headlines taken straight out of the news in 140 characters. So of those are very offensive, and since its twitter there is that whole mantra of "Tragedy + Time = comedy" Time is out the window, it's all just too soon.

Laura> It's a nice companion to the show because that's the one thing that had to shift when it went to the half hour format. It had to be done more in advance because the original version played on more current topical things because it was done so quickly, so it's a nice way to keep that element going.

Cody> Laura, do you find that some of the content might be offensive, such as the Muslim or fundamentalist jokes? Or do you think it's all in good fun?

Laura> No, I don't think it's offensive at all. I don't think there is anything that is that outrageous at all. There isn't anything that is making fun of Muslims, my character is just a jerk, and she is making a fool of herself. I think if people can't see that, then we aren't doing a good job. We're not making fun of anybody, the character is just an idiot and is really the butt of the joke because she sounds stupid.

Hayden> I think we've done a great job. Laura is talking about her own character, Whitney, right now.

Cody> I've always wondered, because I have a twin brother who is back in Kansas and not in the business; you have a siter, Sarah, who is also in the business. Is there any type of sibling rivalry? Are you great with one another?

Laura> No, there is none. We are really very different people, and we get along great. We had a great time working together on her show, it was really, really fun. We're not really competing for any of the same things.

Hayden> Except possibly my affection!

Laura> She can have you!

Jamie Ruby> Can you talk a bit about working with Dominic Monaghan and how you got him working on this show?

Laura> Yeah, he is friends with my sister. He had just watched The Comeback, which is a show I was on and he thought it was funny. She'll always pass that on to me when somebody says something nice. Then Hayden was haranguing me to get people, and that was the first time ever where I was like, "I'm just going to get in touch with this guy and ask him to do it." I'd never met him, and just hope that if he thinks I'm funny, he will want to do it, and he did. We've actually been great friends ever since. He was sweet and humble, and came and did it, and was hoping he did a great job, which he did. No body is really a douche bag unless they are just a douche bag. Usually when they are talented, they are just pretty normal.

Cody> Is Hayden a douche bag?

Laura> Yeah, he is an anomaly, because he is talented, but he is also a douche bag. It makes him stand out. He's kind of special and unique.

Hayden> When I asked you to come on here and pretend to be Laura Silverman, I didn't ask you to also start insulting me either.

Laura> I felt like that's what she would do.

Hayden> No, she's a lot kinder than that. She's normally very sweet, and when she is on her meds, she is the nicest girl ever.

Laura> How pretty is she do you think?

Hayden> Oh my god, so pretty, I forgot to ask. She's gorgeous.

Cody> What are the differences in production for a web series compared to something that would be on TV?

Hayden> I think the biggest thing is budget really. We were kind of scraping along as best we could to do six hours that could then be broadcast on television. Obviously, there have to be some broadcast standards thrown in. But I think the bigger problem that plagues most web productions is really scripts. People don't really develop ideas and take them through, and take the time to develop them and write them. You can upload stuff at the drop of a hat and people are like, "Oh, I will." This whole culture is all about now. And so everybody wants to rust to put things together. They find friends who aren't necessarily all that talented as actors and some horrible stuff is thrown up. Some of it aspires to be pedestrian. If people spent a little extra time working on a script, it's such a great time to be in this game, creating content. You can now create content, get it out there and have an audience, and have that content have an original voice and have something to say. But you look out there and just see a slew of parodies and rehashes of stuff that has been done a million times before and you wonder why. I don't need to see a rehash because I own the DVD, or I can see it on television. It just makes no sense.

Laura> Hayden, don't sugar coat it though!

Hayden> At times I get all nice about things.

Cody> But you are absolutely right. I think it allows you to be showcased in a light that you are a very creative individual, and I think it would be gret to see the things you do come to life. I'm sure you have a lot of fun doing this, right?

Hayden> Oh my God, the next episode that goes up on Sunday is my personal favorite. We have Jim Rash from Community, we've got Parvesh Cheena from Outsourced, we've got Fran Kranz from Dollhouse, we've got Juliette Landau from Buffy playing herself on acid.

Laura> It's pretty good, it's very nicely acted by everybody and everything kind of blows up in an over the top way. There are a whole bunch of little moments that are not exactly how you would expect everything to play out.

Hayden> Then of course, in the middle of everything, we cut to a porno from Jan, the director. He did pornos in Estonia. We cut to one of his pornos that turns into a musical. To be able to do stuff like that and have that creative freedom is phenomenal. Back to what you were saying Cody, one of the differences between web and broadcasting, you can be as creative as anything and no one is going to get in your way and say, "You've gone a bit too far there."

Laura> I don't see the purpose of doing something unless your heart is in it, and people kind of push to be somebody in the business, but don't really have a passion for the material or what they are trying to say, and the real art of what they want to do. I think you hope that everything is going to find an audience and have some kind of success, but you have to do it because you think it's good and that has to be the main driving force. I look back at just about everything I've done, and feel like doing it was the fun part. I don't really think very much about when it's airing and people seeing it, but for me the fun part is already over.

Cody> I think that's a really good attitude.

Hayden> I wrote that bit for her by the way!

Laura> I can remember when I've done series, you shoot it all, and it comes out four to six months later. People are asking, "Are you excited?" I'm wondering for what, because it's not that I don't care, but the fun part is over.

Hayden> I think this is why when people meet Laura for the first time, they end up speaking very loudly and slowly to her. They are not sure if she is completely mentally there or not!

Cody> You have a great cast. How did you come up with them? Were they mostly friends, or did you have a casting call?

Hayden> We cast for Nadira and found the beautiful, talented Hadeel Sittu for that. She plays the makeup girl. I knew Diahnna Nicole Baxter from a couple of years ago from web space, and always wanted to work with her. She plays Genevieve. Then Miracle, we'd worked with a year or so ago, and approached her and asked if she wanted to come on board. She plays this entertainment anchor that has aspergers, and is just so good. Camden Toy, I'd met at Comic Con a couple of years ago and thought he would be so good as this devilish Estonian porn director, who is now directing the local news here in Burbank. America Young, it's funny, somebody had sent me their reel to look at, and she was on one of the clips in the reel. I was actually so taken with her performance, so went and dig some digging. It turns out she's a stunt actress and I'd always wanted to mix this cerebral stuff in with the shtick, so this was a dream come true. When she falls from the ceiling, she is really falling from the ceiling.

Laura> She's an actual stunt woman and stunt coordinator. It's really funny, and she is adorable. Then through her, we found Cameron who plays the station owner, who came along to do a cable read, and just blew everybody away.

Hayden> Laura Silverman was indeed the luckiest day of my life. I was asked to perform as Abigail, a web character I used to do, where I play a 13 year old teenage girl. We were back stage at a club here in LA doing this event. I met her, and was a huge fan of hers from the Sarah Silverman program and had seen every episode. I wanted to ask her to be in the show, but knew there was no way I could ask her within minutes of having met her, because she would have said no.

Laura> I would not have, that's a language I understand. "Would you like to be a star?" "Yes, I would."

Hayden> I played it safe, and said I was wondering, would you like to look at this script I have written for a show, you could maybe be in? I was stupid enough to actually say, and potentially scare her off, "You don't know me, and I'm dressed as a 13 year old girl, would you be the lead in a show you've never heard of?" And she said yes eventually, and I think that was perhaps the second luckiest day.

Laura> I hesitated though because I didn't know if I'd be good at it, but then I thought, at least it would be a challenge. I'd always rather be doing something than nothing. Then I was like, "Oh my God, this could turn out to be a nightmare." The other thing was that Hayden let me take passes at the scripts and rewrite jokes here and there, which was good too.

Cody> How many views does each episode get on Hulu?

Hayden> We're in the tens of thousands right now, just starting off, but are working on a couple of things that will see the views explode. And we haven't done much press.

Cody> Are your guest stars mainly friends of friends, or do you just think of somebody and go after them?

Laura> It just sort of snow balled. One person does it, then they tell their friends, and they want to do it.

Hayden> We got John Barrowman because we contacted his agent, and his agent said, "It's the first half hour comedy for the web, Laura Silverman is in it." The email came back, "John's in because he's a big fan of Laura Silverman."

Laura> Which surprised me, and I said, "Who is he?" I know he's really popular, but I don't watch those shows. Not to take away from him, but I had to find out who he was so I could be more flattered.

Goodnight BurbankHayden> We had him appear briefly in episode 4, but he comes back in episode 6 for a full interview. It's all scripted, but his take on Doctor Who and Torchwood is going to have the fans rolling.

Laura> He plays kind of a douche bag version of himself, which is always fun when some one plays themselves, but as you wrote them.

Hayden> I couldn't believe he said yes. I was so happy.

Hayden> In season two, we are going to have some bigger names popping in and out. We may even have Cody if he is available.

Laura> He's planning on being much bigger by then!

Cody> I would never be too big for Goodnight Burbank. I'll go ahead and tweet that right now!

Hayden> You know we will be re-tweeting that.

Cody> Hayden, where is the line drawn between Hayden Black and Gordon Winston Smythe?

Laura> Oh, I know this one! It's straight across the center of his balls!

Hayden> It's time like this I'm glad my grandmother's dead!! Bear in mind, I write every single character, so you could ask me the same question about everybody in the script. In terms of me and Gordy, we're both fairly sarcastic and somewhat liberal and that's where it ends. I don't wear granny panties. I supposed if I did, I wouldn't tell you!

Hayden> Cody, where is the line that you draw between you and Alighty Thor? That's what inquiring minds want to know.

Laura> Yeah, that's what I want to know.

Cody> You know, Thor is very useful and innocent, and good hearted. I'm a very negative, nasty, mean, immature person. So, there is a very definitive line!

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