Fanboy Comics Interviews Cas Anvar and E.J. de La Pena of ‘Nobility’

The following is an interview with actor Cas Anvar (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Halo 4, Assassin's Creed: Revelations) and producer E.J. de La Pena, who are currently working on the sci-fi online series Nobility.  A show made "by fans, for fans," Nobility is a sci-fi dramedy that features talented actors from TV and film's most well-known sci-fi franchises. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Anvar and de La Pena about the premise of the show, the amazing cast and crew involved in the production, their own geeky obsessions, and how you can learn more about Nobility!

This interview was conducted on June 23, 2014.

Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Nobility at Fantasy Con and San Diego Comic-Con next month! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the project, how would you describe the series?

E. J. de La Pena: Thank you! It's been such an incredible journey that has surpassed everyone's expectations from when we first started this project!

Nobility is a new sci-fi series in the vein of Firefly and Doctor Who. Best described as Firefly meets The Office, Nobility is a wonderful mix of comedy and drama that enables the audience to really connect with our characters as they deal with their personal struggles, as well as the challenges the world throws at them. We've basically got humanity's most powerful starship manned by the crew of Down Periscope. As the tagline goes, "anything but noble . . . "

BD: E.J., as the producer of Nobility, what attracted you to the project, and what do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?

EJ: This is my dream project. I grew up obsessed with shows like Star Trek, Babylon 5, Xena, Battlestar Galactica - you name it. On top of that, even though I grew up as a professional actor, I've always been a writer. I remember being on the set of Jingle All the Way and Leave it to Beaver writing in little notebooks. Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith had just come out, and I was bound and determined that I was goin a sequal right then and there!

Also, being such a huge sci-fi geek, I've felt really dissatisfied with the projects currently on the air. While many of them are REALLY good, there's nothing like what I fell in love with as a kid. WHERE ARE MY SPACE SHIPS, DANG IT! I wanted to create something that was simultaneously a new universe and harkened back to the stories I fell in love with. I created this, because I wanted to see a show like this. I created this for sci-fi fans.

I hope fans will take two things away from this. First, I want everyone to have a good time riding along with the ship and our zany crew. Second, more importantly, our characters aren't just zany and eccentric just to be zany and eccentric. They have reasons, often tragic ones, for who and what they are - the same types problems that people have today. I want people to be able to see our characters work through their issues and take something positive away from that in their own lives. That's one of the reasons I love this genre so much; it allows us to get outside of ourselves in order to look back and make a positive impact on the real world around us.

BD: Cas, you are no stranger to fandom, with previous roles in the Star Wars, Halo, and Call of Duty universes. What intrigued you about Nobility, and what makes it a show “by fans, for fans?”

Cas Anvar: What brought me to Nobility were several things. 1- EJ's passion and enthusiasm as a person are infectious. 2- He had crafted a really deep rich and layered universe with an exciting and unique premise. The most powerful ship in the universe run by a crew of damaged and broken human beings struggling to put their lives back together again. Sound familiar? It sounds like all of us! 3- I was offered a role I couldn’t refuse, that of Capt. Eric Cern the Captain of the C.A.S NOBILITY - a role any geeky, sci-fi fan boy would kill for. (Luckily, I didn’t have to!) I think the "for fans, by fans" moniker implies that the creative team who put the series together are all huge sci-fi fans (E.J. being the biggest sci-fi geek I have ever met!) who took great pride in crafting a story that was layered richly and full of fleshed out human characters. because as fans they know that TRUE sci-fi fans LOVE intelligent, complicated, and challenging stories that don’t have huge holes in logic and that make us think and provoke us. That’s what drew me to Nobility.

EJ: Speaking of roles to kill for, I should note here that Cas threatened to use his Altair blade on me if I didn't hire him. ;-) I JK, I JK.

BD: The cast and crew consist of some amazingly talented creators and performers, many of whom audiences will know from fan favorites like Star Trek, Hellboy, and Heroes. Can you tell us about the process of working with the creative team and the contributions of these individuals?

CA: From my part, I have never worked with a group of artists that are at once so hilariously creative and also established and successful. It's a unique combination of confidence, talent, and creative anarchy. They all have the talent and the freedom to do whatever they want with these roles and make them brilliant. It's a rare gift to work in a cast like that. Sometimes even intimidating, but these are problems we should all have . . . too much talent. 

EJ: It's absolutely amazing. These are the kind of people I grew up dreaming I'd get to work with one day - and now I actually am! Even though I grew up working with a LOT of big names - I never had the opportunity to work with the people from the stories I admired. And, as I've begun to work with this amazing team of established actors, it's been such an amazing thing to see what they bring to the table. Watching them enrich both their characters and the story as a whole has been a fun and humbling process. I think that all of us on working on this project who are sci-fi fans agree with Cas; it's even a bit intimidating. Many of these people are my childhood heroes after all.

BD: Cas, with your past credits ranging from TV and film to voice acting in video games, do you find that working on a web series medium differs from your previous experiences?

CA: Well first off, NOBILITY was originally designed to be a 1-hour Television Series not a web series, but, haviing done web series before, it's slightly different. You do have to shoot for the medium you’re in; namely, performances tend to be a little bit more broad and our production values are never as high, because budgets are much lower for web projects, but you can find some incredible web series out there, and I mean mind blowing. My belief is that the days of defining something as a TV series or a web series are numbered. With the huge succes of the NETFLIX model, internet series, HOUSE OF CARDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and other platforms (Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, and others jumping onto the bandwagon and investing a lot of money in developing new content. I expect we will shortly just be calling them all SERIES regardless of where we watch them.)

BD: The first two seasons of Nobility will be released online. Do you have plans for future seasons and through which medium(s)?

EJ: What we're shooting now is actually a one-hour pilot for Television - one in which we've already gotten interest in from multiple high powered production companies and networks. So, yes, we definitely have plans for future episodes and seasons. In fact, in our series bible, I've mapped the show out for 5 seasons of regular TV. That said, when we started this project, we had no idea what kind of interest it would garner. I don't think anyone expected that we'd get the cast and crew behind it that we now do or have the opportunities opening up as they now are. Because when we started this, things were so uncertain, and we all felt so passionately that this show needed to be made and seen, I resolved that this project was going to reach audiences no matter what. So, I made it clear that if we didn't get picked up, we'd put this on the web and fund it outside the traditional studio system. That's where the misunderstanding came from that this was meant to be a web series.

BD: Being that we focus on all “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite sci-fi TV shows or movies?

CA: Firefly, Star Trek, Princess Bride, The Matrix, What Dreams May Come, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, Star Trek TOS (Space Seed), Babylon 5, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Once Upon a Time. Buffy. Gosh . . . NOBILITY!! :)

EJ: What are my favorite franchises? Easy answer? YES! I love it all! But, the ones I most love and draw inspiration from are Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (new and old), Dune, Back to the Future, Farscape, Independence Day, Doctor Who. Cas has some great ones mentioned, as well. (I love What Dreams May Come.) Fans should pay REALLY close attention to every detail in Nobility - there are a TON of little easter eggs for fans like myself ;-)

BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Nobility?

CA: If you love intelligent and exciting, layered, dark, humorous, and action-packed sci-fi with a cast that can blow a room up with talent and pedigree, I am thinking Nobility may be the flavor you are looking for.

EJ: I specifically created this for you. We've all been working on this for you. Our cast are not just sci-fi legends but amazing people who bring so much to this project. Our story has the comedy of Firefly and Doctor Who, the character complexity of Battlestar Galactica, and the huge scope of Babylon 5. What more could you want?!

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