Comic-Con icon Felicia Day
Felicia Day is a sort of famous person, by which I do not mean that she is moderately famous but that her fame is of a particular type.
“People are very excited about meeting me, or they’re absolutely confused,” Day said one recent morning over breakfast by a pool at a hotel at which she was not a guest. “It’s a very specific recognition factor. I actually like that.”
Among other things, Day is an actress, a writer, a nerd world pin-up and an Internet icon. (The other things include, but are not limited to: violinist, singer, dancer, math major and college valedictorian — she is something of an overachiever.) In the old media, she has been the sort of regularly working actor you recognize but can’t necessarily name. She had a recurring role on the last season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has appeared on “Monk” and “House” and in commercials for Sears and Cheetos.
In new media, she is herself a star, with nearly 2 million followers on Twitter and the power to pack a large hall at Comic-Con. She was the female lead, opposite Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion, in Joss Whedon’s Internet musical, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and a dirty-minded fairy in the online “Legend of Zelda” parody “The Legend of Neil.” But I have come to meet her because of my late-blooming love for “The Guild,” the Web-based comedy Day created for herself in 2007. (It’s available through multiple channels, including Xbox Live — Microsoft has supported the production since the second season —YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and its own dedicated website, https://www.watchtheguild.com.)
Now in its fifth season, “The Guild” concerns six players of the Game, an online fantasy adventure, and their growing entanglement in one another’s daily lives. It stands out among Web series for its craft, its characters — socially awkward, but affectionately drawn and adeptly acted — and its consistency. It has polish and heft. It also has the authority of experience: Day, who is 34 and a gamer herself, has been online since childhood, since before the Internet was the Internet — she speaks of Prodigy and CompuServe in the way older generations might remember the dial telephone, radio serials or the ice man. She calls that world, simply, “the space.”
Her father was a doctor in the military, and the family moved a lot, which led her to being home-schooled or, as Day puts it, “unschooled.” “But I happened to be a very self-motivated, disciplined girl,” she said, “and I would wake up early and do math, and then I would watch ‘Lost in Space,’ and then I’d practice my violin, and then I’d read Perry Mason mysteries, and then I’d watch more TV and play video games.” Socially, the two “consistent threads” in her life were her online friends and community theater. “So it’s really funny that my career has become the melding of Internet technology and acting.”
“The Guild” was born from a moment of crisis. Day was making a living in Hollywood but feeling less than fulfilled; she saw herself being funneled toward a life of playing “the quirky secretary or that loony girl that had, you know, the ceramic bird collection.” As “solace” in the time between jobs, “I played video games obsessively — and then I got a support group to tell me that’s not healthy.”
So she wrote a script about a young woman addicted to gaming and with the help of friends put it on its feet. “We had all been sitting around Hollywood waiting for someone to give us what we thought we wanted,” she said. “The idea of just taking the reins and doing something on our own was terrifying, but the decision to do it, with just what we had in our houses, was so exciting that it became a great creative focus.
“I never felt more fulfilled than when I uploaded that first video and I saw comments starting to appear,” Day said. “I don’t know if I would have as much satisfaction releasing a movie in the theaters; I can see somebody enjoying my show online immediately. For better or worse — the Internet definitely makes you realize that whatever bubble you put around yourself, there is a world out there that has a different opinion.”
Still, times are good; people want to work with her. She’s become a regular on the Syfy series “Eureka,” in a role written especially for her. The current season of “The Guild,” which takes place at a Comic-Con-like fan convention, has been certified cool with a host of cameos from Day’s friends, fans and colleagues, including Fillion, Kevin Sorbo, Zachary Levi, “Mythbuster” Grant Imahara and writer Neil Gaiman.
And for the video game company Electronic Arts, she has created a new Web series, “Dragon Age: Redemption” (premiering Oct. 11), linked to the game Dragon Age II, in which she plays a heroic Elven assassin (closer to the real Day, perhaps, than the shy flower she plays in “The Guild”), a character that will also be playable, via a downloadable expansion pack, in the game itself.
“When the opportunity came to create a character for a world where I could wield daggers, I couldn’t pass it up,” said Day, the nerd triumphant.
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