Interview: Dana Gould Talks ‘Stan Against Evil’, His Inspiration for the Show and Creating a Were-Pony
“I like being the weird guy that comes in and goes out. My acting career, I tend to be their weird guy that comes in and goes out.” – Dana Gould
Stan Against Evil, IFC’s comedy-horror series about Sheriff Stan Miller (John C. McGinley), had a terrific first season that ended with a bang. Series-creator Dana Gould said recently that he “painted himself into a corner” with the last season but if the trailer for season 2 is any indication, fans of the show have nothing to worry about.
Gould was at San Diego’s Comic-Con where he talked about the show, where he gets inspiration for the monsters and what is up with his character, Kevin, this season.
Stan Against Evil Season 2 premieres November 1st on IFC
Do you get to play with some time travel elements this season?
Dana Gould: Yeah, I really painted myself into a corner and so yes the first episode is a two parter episode that allows us to do a little bit of time traveling, which is a favorite subject to think about and write about. I’ve always wanted to invent a machine that would let me go back in time, but my theory is that if I ever do, I will have already come back to brag about it.
What have been some of your inspirations from the show? You guys are one of the more fun horror shows out there right now.
Dana Gould: Thank you for saying that.
What kind of inspires you a little?
Dana Gould: I’m a comedy writer and I’m a comedian, but I do a lot in horror movies. I used to say they’re my football. That’s what I’m in to. Stan is really influenced the most by the stuff that I was taking in as a kid, and that’s like Dark Shadows, Kolchak the Night Stalker, a lot of these sort of 70s era stuff, and as a real night gallery. There’s a very 70s vibe to the show.
Then, later on as I get older, then other things like, there’s a lot of Buffy. There’s a lot of Hellraiser. There’s things that I sort of was in to when I was, there’s always Twin Peaks. People may not realize it but it’s just stuff that I like. I would say if anything, if Stranger Things is set in the 80s, then Stan’s soul is in the 70s, although it kind of takes place in a timeless era.
Where do you get your inspiration for the monsters in the show?
Dana Gould: From all of those things that I liked growing up. I grew up reading Famous Monsters Magazine, watching all the Universal classics. Then a great example would be my favorite horror movie, An American Werewolf in London. The tone of that movie is really scary and the scary stuff is played straight. Then the people are funny because they’re behaving in a normal way. They’re funny because they’re not behaving in a stylized horror movie way. That’s what I try to accomplish on the show. We have an homage to An American Werewolf in London this year, but instead of a werewolf, it’s a were-pony. A pony can kill, just leave it at that. It’s taking things that I’m into and then just tweaking them enough to make them funny. Stuff comes into your head.
Once the show is finished filming, how much does thinking about the new season consume your brain? Because you doing other things still, like stand-up.
Dana Gould: I’m editing now and putting the shows together and that’s always and that’s a very laborious process. It’s funny. I had, do you know Bob Golthwait? Okay. Bob’s an old buddy of mine. We had dinner the other night. He said, “Don’t you want to direct a movie?” No. I hate directing. What I love, my favorite thing to do is this. I’m working on this but I get to think about new stuff to do. My favorite part of the process is in February when I get the go ahead to write the scripts. I get up in the morning. I take my kids to school. I go to the gym, and then I get to sit in my house, with my dog, and live in this world and just kind of create a world. It’s the best job you could have.
The creature and the effect design. I really enjoy the practical effects. Hard camera effects. How much are you involved with the design of those? Do you say, “I want a were-pony,” and then they bring you drawings?
Dana Gould: That’s basically it. Our effects crew, Autonomous Effects, we’re all the same person. We all grew up watching Creature Features. We all would be here at Comic Con if we weren’t here for work. We’d be here for fun. We go to Monsterpalooza. We’re all the same guys. I can say, the reason the monsters are practical is that’s the fun part, is making the monster. We can get really obscure. It should have an ‘It Conquered the World’ kind of feel to it, and they know what I’m talking about. I think that the reason the show works is because the effects of by and large, practical with digital clean up, because your eye will tell you. Your eye always knows, with very few exceptions. You always know. For comedy to work, comedy and horror have to co-exist. Laughing and screaming are cousins. They’re both involuntary reflexes that release tension. You have to be very careful because if I have a great digital creature, but you know in your guts that it’s digital, you can’t be funny with it because now you’re out of reality and comedy works in reality. To me, all the air goes out of the balloon.
The reason American Werewolf in London works, the reason John Carpenter’s The Thing still works is because all that stuff is really there and your eye doesn’t lie.
Since we’ve been talking about monsters, what is your favorite for the show and just in general monsters?
Dana Gould: When I was a kid growing up, I wanted to be the Wolfman. It was like, yeah. A guy with a lot of guilt. Yeah I could relate to that, Irish Catholic. That made perfect sense. Then, the Wolfman was sort of like my alter ego when I was a kid. I loved An American Werewolf in London. As I said, I finally got around to doing an homage to it this year. I try to stay away from zombies, because that’s been done really well. You might not need more. I think that’s covered.
I loved the show, The Night Stalker, when I was a kid. They had great monsters on The Night Stalker. Again, all practical.
From a creative standpoint, you’ve had to work within guidelines before. I think it seems like a pretty good place for standing against evil. Is it nice to have that kind of freedom when it comes to writing characters and developing storylines?
Dana Gould: Yeah. I mean, from beginning to end, I don’t think this process would ever happen to me again. I kind of had this idea of just as a thing to do. I was going to do it as a digital short just for myself. What if I had a horror movie and just put my dad in the middle of it? He would behave the way my dad would in a horror movie, which he wouldn’t give a shit. It wouldn’t bother him. Then, I was going to play my dad and I was going to have Greg Nicotero from The Walking Dead, he’s one of my closest friends. I was like, “Can you make me look 70?” Yeah sure. Okay great. I was going to do it. Then I just happened to have been having lunch with Pete Aronson, and I say, who’s just a friend of mine. We weren’t having a business lunch. We were just catching up. He just said, “You should write a funny X-Files. That’d be good for you.” I went, “I just did.”
I pitched it to him. “Well, can you change A to B and C to D and D to E.” Yeah, I could do that. I went away and I pitched it and he bought it in the room, which has never happened. Then, I was very fortunate to get a dream cast and I have seen, there’s a lot of creative freedom. They know what the show is they let me do the show you want to do.
It’s absolutely a team effort and their notes are always, they’re few and great, because you need other eyes on a project. You can’t just be up your own butt with that. The limitations come from you do this show on a budget, like a low budget movie. The limitations of having to do it on a budget I think, nine out of 10, always make the show better.
Evil Dead Two, I like better than Army of Darkness. Army of Darkness had a much bigger budget. I like Evil Dead Two better. I like it more. You don’t need a ton of money to make people laugh and you don’t need a ton of money to scare people. You can tell a big story on a small canvas. That’s what we try to do.
We had an episode this year with an evil baby. Yes. We were going to shoot the finale in this clearing in the woods and we couldn’t because of weather. I literally had no idea what to do. I was sitting with the director, Rob Cohen. I said, “We’re fucked.” Then Molly Coffee who’s the art director said, “Well if it’s a baby, what if it made a blanket fort?” Then Rob the director said, “Wait a minute. What if it was like a blanket fort version of Nostromo from Alien?” I was like if it’s a Nostromo from Alien, then its victims could be swaddled in blankets like the alien cocoons. Then this whole thing, and the ending that we have is great. It’s so much better than if we could have done what we planned. We shot it in a store front we rented for the night. It was that’s what doing a show is great about. You’re on the same page, coming up with stuff. It was good. My character gets covered in slime.
How many times do we get to see you this season?
Dana Gould: I’m in it a little bit more. I think I’m in three or four. The fans demanded that Kevin and Denise get closer. Yeah, I’m in it a little bit more. I’ve very, I have an ego. I’m an actor. I want to be on the show. I like being the weird guy that comes in and goes out. My acting career, I tend to be their weird guy that comes in and goes out.
What’s your favorite part about writing these characters?
Dana Gould: My favorite part about writing these characters is writing Stan’s wise cracks because nine times out of 10 it’s just stuff I’ve heard my dad say. It’s the easiest part. When my, I’ll leave you with this. As an example of how funny my dad is and how my dad really is Stan, when my grandmother was passing away, my dad called me up and said, “You better get on a plane. Your grandmother’s got one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel.” He’s talking about his mother. It’s more journalism than creative writing.