Exclusive Interview: Tyler Labine, from 'Reaper'
Exclusive Interview: Tyler Labine, from 'Reaper'
Tyler Labine has been impressing television audiences in guest roles for years.   Recently, Labine has appeared on The X-Files, Jake 2.0, Invasion, Traveler and Boston Legal.  Last Fall, Tyler was cast in the new CW drama/sci-fi/comedy Reaper as sidekick Bert 'Sock' Wysocki.  While Reaper hasn't taken off as some would have expected, the series has garnered universally positive reviews and a loyal fan base.  Reaper is back in production right now on their to finishing up their first season, and a new episode airs tonight.  On Tuesday, we talked to Tyler about how he got cast as Sock, his feelings about the show's potential, and what he's got planned for his future.

Below you will find both the written transcript and the full mp3 audio of the interview.

Hey, this is Oscar Dahl from BuddyTV, and I'm here with Tyler Labine from Reaper. Tyler, how are you doing?

Good, man.

How did you end up getting cast in the role of Sock, and what was your first reaction to your character in the pilot script?

Well, I'll answer that question in reverse. I got the script near the end of the pilot season or whatever, and I'd read a bunch of other scripts. I got the pilot script, read it, I thought it was really funny, and had to re-read it because I had to check and make sure that it was actually funny. And yeah, it was funny. Then I found out that Kevin Smith was directing it and it was shooting in Vancouver, which is my home town, and I was like, "Yeah, can I go in for this one?" And my agents were like, "Well, we already passed on it a few times for you. I don't know if we can get you in now because we passed on it." I was like, "Well get me in man, I want to be with Kevin Smith." So Kevin Smith thought I was like blowing him off. He thought that I was like, "I don't wanna go and meet with Kevin Smith." I had to make a few crucial calls and be like, "Look, I will go wherever the guy is right now and go in, meet with him, and talk to him about this pilot, because I love it, and it's shooting in my home town, and it's him, and blah blah blah." So I did. I ended up going to meet with him, and I was on a holding deal with Touchstone already, so I had to get in to get an offer for the part. Kevin and I really clicked, he offered me the part, and then Bob's your uncle, the rest is history.

Going forward from that pilot script, how much of the character of Sock was purely what was on the page, and how much did you take a role in creating what we now know as Sock?

I don't know, that's a difficult question to answer. I think the role was there on paper, otherwise I don't think I would have identified with it. The way that I interpreted the character I think was a little different than they had intended. By the time I got this script, I had played this kind of character quite a few times, and you never want to play the same character twice. I decided to, hopefully rather than playing Sock as like an idiot, this dumbass, I wanted to play him like he was more just like a caution be damned, I'll do whatever...like the id of the psyche. He'll say and do whatever pops into his head. It doesn't make him stupid, it just makes him maybe freer than most of us. That's how I sort of wanted to play him. He's willing to do anything, no matter how stupid it might seem to other people.

One of the things that struck me about the pilot is how much the script could have gone a lot of different ways. But with Kevin Smith, he's kind of known for having those comic characters that are also really three-dimensional. Do you think he was a big part of setting the tone for the rest of the season?

Yeah, totally man. He turned the pilot into like an hour of Kevin Smith. We didn't know it was going to turn out the way that it did, and we were all really impressed with it. Like I said, I'm a big ad-lib actor, and he's a big ad-lib director. He loves to just come up with things on the fly, and we hit it off so well that way. He really helped nurture the kind of freedom I found in playing the role of Sock that I took into the rest of the season. Because he was the director when we were shooting the pilot, if he was cool with it, it was cool. It got to make it in to the show. A lot of stuff that other directors, or other pilots, might not have let into their show, snuck past because Kevin was in my corner. I really have to thank him a lot for how I found Sock.

Have you gotten to do some ad-libbing since the pilot?

Oh yeah. With Kevin having sort of established that tone in the pilot, we went back to shoot the second episode and they were just like, "Yeah, do what you did in the pilot." That was a lot of ad-libbing for me, and they kind of gave me carte blanche to feel freedom within their writing. As long as I'm still doing the writing justice you know, I'm not just gonna run amuck and piss on their writing. Yeah, I had to sort of keep up with the ad-libbing.

The show premieres back in the fall and gets pretty much universally positive reviews, and you've got Kevin Smith doing the pilot, which is sort of a big deal. Are you surprised that it didn't catch on earlier, and that the show hasn't become bigger than it is right now?

Yeah, I guess a little bit. We all thought we'd premiere a lot bigger because of the Kevin Smith thing, and there was a lot of hype from the critics and everyone seemed to really like it. We thought it would premiere a lot bigger, but we have to remember that we're on a network that not many people watch. Even their biggest show, America's Next Top Model, only gets five and a half or six million viewers a week. When you're competing with shows that get 20 million or 18 million viewers or 12 million, it's daunting. We're up against some other major networks, and people don't stop by the CW that much. So we weren't shocked, we were like, "Oh that sucks. Hopefully we'll gain some steam." It just stayed the same. I think we got viewers right at the beginning that are still there, and that will stay there, and we've gained a few new viewers since we aired our new episode. But it's tough in the time slot we're in now too. We're up against Lost, then we're going back up against American Idol. TV sucks, man. It's hard to get people to watch your show when everybody's got their favorites already.

I've always thought that Reaper had a chance to be a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know they're different shows, but it has that potential going forward, getting the mythology bigger and bigger. Do you get the sense that if you get picked up for a second season that the audience will grow and latch on, and that the show will be a big DVD show?

Yeah, I definitely do man. That's what we're all anticipating. The first season of Buffy, it wasn't that well received, it wasn't watched, and by the end it was a huge show. We're hoping that now that we're starting to blow up the mythology a little bit, and we're trying to set the table for the first season, get everyone involved and up to speed, then sort of blow it out of the water. That's what we're planning to do if we get a second season. Already, with this five episode pick up, the network has sort of laid off and been like, "We think you guys are right. You do what you want to do with the show." They were kind of enforcing the formula that was starting to drive all of us crazy, and drive the viewers crazy. Now, finally, they're releasing their grip a little bit, and the girls, the writers are just like...these two that we're shooting right now are just so different than everything else we've shot. They're so good, and the mythology is really taking over, and it's not a formula monster of the week, like every week on page 10 we get our vessel, then we go and we fight. Which is great and everything, but it needed a change, so that's what's happening. We're hoping that if we pull that off, if we execute that well enough and the network sees it, that they'll give us a second season based on the product and not on the ratings alone.

Assuming that you guys get picked up for another season, where would you like to see the series go, and where would you like to see Sock go? How would you like to see him evolve?

First of all, I would love for Sock and Ben to get to interact with the devil. He's been seen by other people, so it's not like he's this guy that only Sam can see. People can see him if he wants them to see him. I want to do some scenes with Ray [Wise]. I would love to see Sock get maybe a little more badass. A little more into the reaping. I would love for the boys, this is one idea I had, to find out that we're just the Washington branch of reapers. So there's like a California branch, and dudes in all the states, all over the United States or all over the world, they're in little teams of two or three, or single guys or whatever, and they're out there reaping for the devil. And we all end up sort of meeting each other and forming other networks with other teams of reapers from other states. I think that would be kind of cool. I also think that I want Andi and Josie, or maybe just Andi because I don't know how Josie would get into it, but I want Andi finally to get let in on everything that's happening. Then her and Sam can work out how they can either be together, or if they can't ever be together, I don't know, whatever. But I want to see Andi get led behind the curtain about the reaping.

Do you have anything coming out outside of Reaper that you'd like to talk about? I was looking at your Wikipedia page and it said you were going to be in Kevin Smith's new movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Is that true?

That's true, yeah. I went up to Pittsburgh and shot a small cameo for Kevin. He just invited me up to go do it, but it's a pretty big scene with me and Seth Rogen, which is pretty funny. I've got a movie called Control Alt Delete that's coming out, which is a really crazy Canadian indie that I did with my brother as the writer-director. It should be out hitting the festivals. After we shoot the five episodes here, I'm going to go out and shoot this movie called Good Old Fashioned Orgy in North Carolina with Leslie Bibb and Martin Starr. It's from the guys who were writers on The Larry Sanders Show for a long time, and they wrote this really, really funny movie. I'm gonna go shoot that for a couple of months, then hopefully back to the second season of Reaper.

Alright Tyler, I appreciate you stopping by and talking to us.

Yeah man, any time.

Good luck with the show.

Thanks, take it easy.

-Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl
(Image Courtesy of the CW)