You may have seen the cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last Friday night. I saw them, too…in person. From the front row of Kimmel’s show.
Our tale of kismet begins 12 months ago: December 2016. After securing ridiculously inexpensive airfare to Los Angeles, we purchased annual passes for Universal Studios Hollywood (mostly so we could imbibe in all the butterbeer deliciousness we could handle). As our year of wizarding drew to a close, we decided to make one last pilgrimage before our passes expired. That trip, booked several months ago, was scheduled for 30 Nov. – 4 Dec.
Knowing we were headed west again, I started checking 1iota for tickets to tapings of “Talking Dead.” And that’s when I found the Star Wars Super Fan search. Initially there weren’t any details about the event other than that it was on 1 December, perfectly situated during our brief time in Los Angeles. To enter, I just needed to submit a short video about why I’m a so-called Super Fan.
You know that feeling when confidence washes over you and you think, “Well, that’s in the bag!” Yeah, me neither. But this was about as close as I’ve ever come to feeling it.
I wrote an unimpressive script, tidied up my impressive (most impressive) Star Wars haven and stepped in front of the camera, awkward and unflattering as could be. After fighting with some video editing apps on my phone, it was done. I exploited a moment of bravery, posted it to social media and waited.
Wednesday afternoon I received word that I’d been chosen by the 1iota team as a Star Wars Super Fan!
After a day of travel and an evening at Universal Studios—the new holiday decorations and light show at Wizarding World are STUNNING btw—I found it impossible to sleep Thursday night. And so I arrived at the 1iota offices on Friday morning to film a Super Fan video interview with puffy eyes and a stomach full of butterflies… all before heading to the Jimmy Kimmel studio.
Guys, I can’t say enough good things about everybody I met at 1iota. They were every bit as cool as you’d expect from a team of L.A. creatives with the added benefit of being super nice, funny and relatable, too. I’m told the video will go live sometime next week ahead of the release of The Last Jedi. I’ll update here when it happens (unless I’m even more awkward and terrible than I thought, in which case we’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist).
The Kimmel taping was a really cool experience. We found ourselves seated in the front row, which ended up being somewhat uncomfortably close to the man of the hour when he filmed his monologue. It took every bit of my self control to keep from chasing down surprise guest BB-8 to take home when he rolled our way. And I couldn’t hold back the tears when Rian Johnson, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Mark Hamill first took the stage not 20 feet away from us. For better or worse, I managed to maintain some semblance of self-control; otherwise the watery eyes would have inevitably escalated to sobbing, which probably would have drawn unwanted attention and created a scene. I mean, I desperately wanted to meet them all but not like a blubbering idiot.
A few observations from the taping: the entire cast seemed so charming! I didn’t have quite the same visceral reaction when John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Andy Serkis and Gwendoline Christie came on stage—instead of crying, I wanted to fist pump. They were all flawless, of course, but Gwendoline Christie looked especially ethereal in person. I was a little surprised there was virtually no mention of our beloved Carrie; since the actors were unable to talk about plot points, I thought they might have engaged in a more lively discussion about behind-the-scenes interactions, which I assumed would have revolved largely around the late Ms. Fisher. The entire show seemed to go by so much more quickly than I expected, I was so engrossed. I’ve heard from friends and family that we were briefly spotted on TV but we still haven’t watched the episode.
Our 1iota pals caught up with us afterwards for another quick interview on Hollywood Boulevard, then we were on our way to the rest of our vacation adventures (read: more butterbeer and Disneyland). The entire day was absolutely priceless and one that will live in my memory for as long as genetics and brain functions allow.
I need to go stock up on tissues now because The Last Jedi happens in less than a week and I know I’m going to be a hot mess. May the Force be with you!
If you’re a fan of “The Walking Dead” and watch it on initial airing, there’s a good chance you stick around to watch the live show “The Talking Dead” afterwards. The guests sometimes flop (Marilyn Manson, for instance) and host/comedian Chris Hardwick occasionally veers into self-indulgence, but the show is generally a therapeutic way to unwind after TWD and learn some behind-the-scenes tidbits.
Having had the great joy of scoring passes to see the live filming of the mid-season premiere last month, I have some behind-the-scenes tidbits for “The Talking Dead” as well. Hopefully this will also shed some light on what to expect if you, too, luck into General Passes and spend hours scouring the interwebs to try and find out what to expect—I was sorely disappointed in the lack of similar firsthand accounts. So let’s start at the beginning.
You love the show and realize you’ll be in Los Angeles on a Sunday when a new episode is scheduled to air, aka just about any Sunday between late October-early December and mid February-early April. Great! Now make haste and get thyself over to 1iota.com and sign up for an account so you can join the watchlist for your favorite shows and request tickets when they become available. My experience with 1iota is that they open the Talking Dead for you to request tickets within about a week of the date you’d like to attend. We tried to get tickets for the mid-season finale back in December, and the “sign up” opportunity opened early morning on the Monday ahead of that Sunday (11/27 before the 12/3) show. We were probably relatively early in submitting a request but didn’t make the cut, which turned out just fine since I was miserably sick that entire trip. I digress…
I started checking 1iota’s Talking Dead page as soon as we knew what dates we would be in L.A. Early that Monday morning before the taping date, I checked and 1iota still hadn’t opened up for ticket requests. Kept checking throughout the day and around 1pm, it was open. I submitted my request and crossed my fingers.
That Thursday, I got an email saying they couldn’t accommodate my request. Bummer.
The next day, I happened to check on my 1iota account to see if they’d updated the guest appearance list for Jimmy Kimmel and noticed that I suddenly had Talking Dead tickets waiting for me. After I recovered from the shock, I followed the prompts and printed those babies as fast as I could (lest they discover their mistake). On printing the tickets, I learned that they were General Passes, meaning there are Priority Passes that some people manage to get their hands on and the General Pass holders get in on a first-come, first-served basis after those with Priority Passes. The passes also tell you to arrive at least 30 minutes early… I think you’d be tempting fate to arrive that late. Add an extra hour to that for a safer bet.
We tried to arrive 2 hours early but L.A. traffic and parking being what it is, we got in line 90 minutes early. 8 people in line already ahead of us. I’d suggest coughing up the money to park in the garage at The Grove. The $20-whatever is worth the peace of mind to save yourself time and hassle; and you can stop in at The Container Store on your walk to the CBS Studio lot if you need to use the restroom (you won’t get another opportunity until after you go through all of the security protocols).
Enjoy using your cell phone while you wait on the street, as it gets confiscated when you go through security. I totally understand why you can’t use your phone during the early screening of the unaired Walking Dead episode—you’ll watch the new episode commercial-free before it even airs on the East Coast!—but it was pretty frustrating being unable to take photos of the Talking Dead set before filming started. Specifically, it was annoying because there are other audience members (who get in by means other than 1iota) who are allowed to have their phones and it feels rather like a double standard.
Anyway, after going through security screening the group is ushered into a tight little room that’s like a garage or dock area on the lot filled with chairs. That’s where you get to watch the new episode. The few accounts I saw online said that they had to watch on a very small screen; I’m happy to report that they’ve upgraded and now you get to see it projected on a pretty good size screen. Sound isn’t theater quality, but you’re caught up in the episode enough that it doesn’t matter so much.
After the episode, audience members pose questions they might ask on the show. The staff choose a handful of those people (the ones who have the best confidence and stage presence, I think) and they go on a separate track for, presumably, screen prep. At our filming, the question asked live on the show was not any of the questions the audience actually submitted. It was in the same vein, but not the same.
Finally, you’re ushered into the set studio, and it’s pretty dang cool. Much larger than it looks on screen. We couldn’t figure out how they decided where to seat people, but we ended up a lot further back in the crowd than we had been for the screening. It really wasn’t a big deal since there is somewhat tiered seating but we ended up on the end behind the crane camera so it was a little hard to see sometimes.
Chris Hardwick comes out and films the little preview bits (they’re not really live) without any audience interaction; this surprised me, as I kind of imagined he’d address us a bit. Perhaps he was too busy being lint-rolled. Seriously, they had lint rollers on him during every commercial break. How much lint can one guy accumulate while sitting mostly still?!
I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the lineup we had: Greg Nicotero, Khary Payton (King Ezekiel) and DeAngelo Williams from the Pittsburgh Steelers. All 3 were a delight to watch interact during commercial breaks, though we couldn’t always hear what they said. As was alluded to during the show, DeAngelo kept jabbing on Khary being a Falcons fan, and Khary repeatedly got up to walk out (jokingly). I don’t remember if it was during a commercial or actual show but DeAngelo said something about also not liking the Patriots and Khary replied, “because you’re human!” Greg also got up at one point, saying “I’m out” during the football talk. Lots of laughter, much fun.
After the live show wrapped, they filmed several bonus segments for the website (here). We did end up getting audience-giveaway shirts, and I was pleased that we actually got to choose what size we got. All in all, a really enjoyable experience that could only have been better if we’d gotten to take pics.