By Greg Pak
In the disturbingly near future, Venice is submerged, Canal Street in New York City has become a real canal again, and it’s 87 degrees in December in Boston. Catastrophic global warming has moved from theory to fact. At the Biosphere Climate Change Expo, undersecretary for the Department of Global Warming Mason Park (Tim Kang) informs the crowd of scientists and activists that the tipping point has passed, and that they are all at fault.
He tells them that the scientists of the world failed to create the necessary pressure, which would have allowed for the political changes needed to confront global warming. Now the Department of Global Warming has been defunded, drying up research money for climate initiatives.
That night at the hotel bar, Park runs into Dr. Gloria Holtzer (Betty Gilpin), a former graduate school classmate, and one of the scientists who will be losing her grant money. Park blames himself for failing to prevent the climate catastrophe in time, but finds comfort in Holtzer’s arms. However, she has an ulterior motive. Park awakens in the morning and soon realizes that everything has changed.
Holtzer's ecotech company has developed an entirely new way to confront the challenge of catastrophic global warming — by changing the very nature of the human race itself. And Park has become a very powerful test subject.
Mister Green is a parable about change — both personal and political.
I outlined Mister Green in the fall of 2008 when hope and change were in the air. The presidential campaign catchphrase that particularly intrigued me was "We're the change we were waiting for." It felt true. But it also felt more like a promise than a statement of fact.
I like to think I'm very good at change. I did improv comedy for years. I can think on my feet, roll with the punches, turn lemons into lemonade, all that good stuff. And when it comes to politics and the environment, I'm great at all the little changes in this bright, green world of canvas shopping bags, freecycling, and iFixit. But when you look at some of the projections for global warming in just a generation or two, the meaning of change completely ... changes.
Mister Green was born from the compulsion to explore how incredibly hard it is to genuinely change on an individual level — and to consider just how extreme that change might have to be in order to confront the massive environmental transformations that threaten the world.
On some level, science fiction stories are almost always about transformation — they ask the big "what if" questions that help us envision and prepare for where we're going. But a huge percentage of science-fiction stories are Frankensteinian cautionary tales about heroes fighting the forces of change. With Mister Green, I gave myself the challenge of telling a different kind of story to explore that loaded promise of actually becoming the change we were waiting for.
With incredibly hard work and a little luck, we'll dodge the bullet of catastrophic global warming and fifty years from now, any viewer who stumbles across Mister Green will just chuckle at this fantastical little metaphor for personal growth.
If not, you can thank me for preparing you for the big green change to come.
— Greg Pak, Director
Director Greg Pak interviews Mister Green star Betty Gilpin, who plays Dr. Gloria Holtzer, a scientist with special plans for a jaded government undersecretary for global warming (Tim Kang). Betty was born and raised in New York City and graduated with a theatre degree from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 2008.
Greg Pak: You came into the audition and just nailed every little nuance in the script. Tell us a bit about the audition process. How did you prepare? And what makes for a good audition process from your point of view?
Betty Gilpin: I had never auditioned for a short before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I guess something as simple as just knowing the lines really well helps me. An acting teacher of mine taught me a trick — when you're memorizing lines to be careful to recite them monotonously, so you're not married to a specific way to play the line. Then you won't feel thrown if the director wants to change it up, and the lines will feel more natural. A bad habit of mine is to over-plan what I'm going to do in a scene, so that trick helps me. Is that what you mean by good audition process? Or do you mean the actual audition? A good audition to me is when everyone in the room — actor, director, casting director, etc. — are all in a good mood and an open, creative place. That's when everyone does their best work.
GP: How would you describe your character, Gloria Holtzer? What was the most fun part of playing her? The most challenging?
BG: I was very excited to play Gloria — she's someone who is obviously incredibly passionate in a world where apathy is the norm. She's fearless and ready to take on the suits, which I think is everyone's fantasy a little bit. Even suits. And I love that she's a bit of a nerd. A plant nerd. The most fun was playing (or trying to play) her sincerity and open-heartedness. The most challenging ... well, I thought the most challenging would be looking like a person named Gloria Soto-Flores. Luckily you did a little name change there. I would say the most challenging was acting in that HEAT that one day we filmed outside in the marsh. My GOD! It was hard to try to act all ethereal and world-changing when we all felt like the last of the dinosaurs under the sun. But it was in keeping with the script ... perhaps you control the weather, Greg Pak? I wouldn't be surprised.
GP: I have my ways.
Looking at your credits, I'm guessing you've been involved with theater productions with tons of rehearsal and television projects with very little. Of course, due to our crazy schedule, we had almost no rehearsal time for Mister Green. What kind of adjustments do you have to do as an actor under those kinds of circumstances?
BG: The little amount of TV and film I've done has had no rehearsal whatsoever ... so this was actually pretty normal. It was definitely a shock when I started working — I was used to doing plays where you'd spend months rehearsing. Film and TV — it's sort of here's the script, memorize it, aaand GO. You just kind of have to accept that in that moment, you don't really have time to be nervous or mess up. You've got an entire crew who are doing their specific jobs, so you have to do yours. You begin to feel like a flesh puppet sometimes. But it's all worth it!
GP: One of my tricks is to treat the auditions like rehearsals and actually work on the scenes with the actors rather than just have them read and go.
What's the best advice you've ever been given regarding pursing a career in acting?
BG: "Actors have three curses — death, taxes, and five years in L.A." I also like my dad's advice — "no one can be you better." Awwwww.
GP: What's the one thing you wish every director knew about actors?
BG: But Greg, you know all. Hm. I guess that we do our best work when we feel collaborated with and comfortable ... and when we wait less than 20 minutes for an audition. And when there's snacks. What a terrible answer.
GP: Dude, snacks are key.
BG: It's weird but ever since I was little I wanted to play a female Nicely Nicely in Guys and Dolls. I mean, a tailored purple tux and you get to sing "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat"?? Oh, I would also magically have a gospel singer's voice. Also that boring old Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. I think there's a thousand ways to play her and it would be fun to find out which worked for me. I'm thinking helium addict.
GP: Besides Mister Green, where can folks see you next?
BG: Wow, I have nothing to plug here really. Every blue moon you can see me playing drug addicts or lesbians on TV ... I have yet to do something my father can watch comfortably. Oh, except Mister Green! Thank god.
Greg Pak is a filmmaker and comic book writer best known for directing the award-winning feature film Robot Stories and writing acclaimed storylines such as “Planet Hulk,” “World War Hulk,” and “Magneto Testament” for Marvel Comics. Pak was named one of 25 Filmmakers to Watch by Filmmaker Magazine; described as “a talent with a future” by The New York Times; and named Breakout Talent of the Year by Wizard Magazine. His awards include a Student Academy Award, the Pipedream Screenwriting Award from the IFP Market, and a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship. Pak studied political science at Yale University, history at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and film production at the NYU graduate film program.
Karin Chien is an independent film producer, distributor, and curator based in New York City. Karin has produced eight feature films, including The Exploding Girl (2009), The Motel (2005), and Robot Stories (2002), which have won more than 60 festival awards, premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, and received international distribution. Chien is the curator and producer of the Chinatown Film Project, an inaugural exhibition currently showing at the newly opened, Maya Lin-designed Museum of Chinese in America. Chien is the founder and president of dGenerate Films, a distribution company bringing the best of underground Chinese cinema to U.S. audiences. Chien also teaches at New York University and School of Visual Arts.
Blake Ashman-Kipervaser is a film producer based in New York City. His credits include the award-winning feature film Prince of Broadway directed by Sean Baker (Independent Spirit Nominee, 2009), and the feature-length documentaries 2012: Time for Change directed by Joao Amorim, and The Lottery directed by Madeleine Sackler. Additionally, Ashman-Kipervaser has produced two seasons of Greg the Bunny for the Independent Film Channel and has worked on projects for Conde Nast, Moxie Pictures, and the Human Rights Action Center.
Tim Kang — “Mason Park”
Tim Kang was recently seen on the big screen in Lionsgate’s action thriller Rambo opposite Sylvester Stallone. He can currently be seen on CBS’s #1 new hit drama, The Mentalist opposite Simon Baker and Robin Tunney. His character “Kimball Cho,” the straight-arrow investigator, has quickly emerged as a fan favorite on the show. The Mentalist won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama.
Kang began by starring in nationwide television commercials at the start of his career, has since landed roles in movies such as The Forgotten, Two Weeks Notice, and Robot Stories. Along with his starring role in The Mentalist, he has had recurring roles in NBC’s popular drama, Third Watch, and CBS’s military saga, The Unit. Kang’s other television credits include guest-starring roles in popular TV shows such as The Ghost Whisperer, The Office, The Sopranos, Monk, Chappelle's Show, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. Kang is also widely recognized for his national commercial spots for companies including AT&T, Cingular Wireless, Shell Gasoline, and Home Depot.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Kang graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science before heading east to attend the prestigious A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University, where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree. He also studied acting at the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia. Kang currently lives in Los Angeles.
Betty Gilpin — “Gloria Holtzer”
Betty Gilpin made her off-Broadway debut last year in the Second Stage’s production of Good Boys and True. This was followed by a return to the Second Stage in Howard Korder’s Boys Life. This summer, she co-starred with Wendie Malick in Noah Haidle’s two-character play, What is the Cause of Thunder? at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her most recent projects include episodes of the new series Past Life, The Unusuals, Possible Side Effects, Fringe, New Amsterdam, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. She also can be seen in roles in the films Death in Love, The Northern Kingdom, and the DreamWorks feature Ghost Town with Ricky Gervais. She received her B.A. degree at Fordham College at Lincoln Center and lives in New York City.