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Dark/Web Interview with Michael Nardelli

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Interview with Amazon Prime’s Dark/Web Star, Michael Nardelli

Michael Nardelli is the creator and star of Amazon Prime’s newest series, Dark/Web. The series is comprised of eight anthology segments, each dealing with different dangers of the tech age, connected by a serialized narrative uncovering the mystery behind the disappearance of Molly Solis, a cyber securities analyst.

-Michael, thank you for joining us today. We are so excited to talk to you about Dark/Web!

-Congratulations! Dark/Web is getting rave reviews. What can you share about the show with our readers who have not had a chance to watch it yet?

Thank you very much for having me, it’s a pleasure! We’re really grateful people are finding their way to it on Amazon Prime and seem to be enjoying it. So, DARK/WEB has flavors of THE X-FILES, TWILIGHT ZONE, BLACK MIRROR, but it’s different than those in many ways as well. It has contained anthology segments each episode that are connected to a greater narrative that’s centered around this missing woman, Molly Solis. She sent cryptic stories to her old high school friends before disappearing and the more you watch, and the deeper her friend’s journey into finding her goes, you see symbols and clues for how everything in the show is connected. Which is a metaphor for how we ourselves are now all connected in this tech age, by the world wide web and the dark web itself.

-Dark/Web’s eight-episode anthology format is brilliant! What gave you the idea to write the show this way and did it present any challenges you were not anticipating?

Me and my collaborators, Mario Miscione and brother Tim Nardelli, really believe in doing things that feel new and fresh. Of course, nothing is truly original in this day and age, we’re all inspired by something, but the only thing unique to any person or story is your point of view. We felt we had a unique perspective on the internet and the tech age. We’re the last generation that will remember an analogue world, and at the same time, we’re now so invested in the digital world. We felt a bit of responsibility in being the last generation that can authentically comment from a place of experience on what the world was before the internet and social media took over. So, our feelings on that were the starting point for the show. In terms of the format, I grew up loving shows like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTTER LIMITS. But we wanted to try something new and have an anthology show that would give the viewer a bigger payoff if they chose to watch all episodes.

I’d say the biggest challenge I wasn’t expecting on the show were the VFX and post production. We wrote a story that was ambitious, but we thought, at least doable given our experience with VFX on our Netflix movie, CIRCLE. We weren’t creating CG dragons or gigantic fight scenes, but you simply forget how much research and development and graphic design goes into a show dealing with the internet and technology. We were literally creating our own app interfaces, compositing thousands of shots needing monitor replacement, creating CG bugs and everything else. We did this all on a tiny indie budget, so it took a lot of time, notes, perseverance. I really wasn’t prepared for that – I will be next time!

-What drew you to the role of James? Did you know you’d be playing him as you and your fellow writers were creating the show?

So, we started developing and writing the show and I knew, since I’m an actor and around the age most of these characters are, I’d want to play in that playground in some kind of capacity. Between the main storyline and all the anthologies, there were a ton of roles. But as we wrote, I really fell in love with and related to James. He’s equal parts serious and goofy, he’s kind but has a bit of a temper. He’s at the point in his life where he has to reconcile with what I like to call “the realities”, which are in many ways in opposition to the big dreams “change the world” wild-at-heart spirit he had in high school and right out of college. I felt like with James, people watching could finally see a little bit of me and who I am – and then, how that kind of person fits into a sci-fi thriller. James is a landlocked substitute teacher when we meet him – it’s not the kind of character you usually find in stories like DARK/WEB.

-You wear multiple hats as a writer, producer, and director for Dark/Web. What is that like and which is your favorite role?

Well, if I could act every day, I would probably just do that. But an actor’s career is cyclical and sometimes you’re on the field a lot and sometimes you’re benched, for all kinds of reasons. I don’t want to be benched. I like telling stories and exercising my creative muscle around the clock. I adore writing. I love the solitude it provides and especially that first draft when anything is possible and you’re so excited by this thing you’re literally creating into existence. Directing, I’m starting to love more and more. It’s this all-hands-on-deck experience where you have to have all your artistic antennae out making sure everyone is taken care of and the vision is uniform. Of course, starting in acting, I try my best to be the director I’ve always wanted as an actor, but you do realize how limited each interaction can be on set when so many decisions must be made in each department. It made me more sympathetic to directors, for certain. Intellectually, I probably enjoy producing the least. But there is a sense of accomplishment in “putting on a show”, as they say.

-Do you think we are headed to a world where Dark/Web could become a reality?

Most definitely. It’s happening. And a lot of it is scary. If you watch DARK/WEB to its conclusion though, I think you’ll see it’s a little more open to the possibility that all of this can be for good though. Conclusively, DARK/WEB isn’t as nihilistic as something like BLACK/MIRROR. It’s actually a very personal story in many ways and deals specifically with how technology is affecting and changing our emotions. How we feel. But there’s heart, and my interpretation of the show is that if we can imbue technology and artificial intelligence with heart and humanity, we have a chance to make things better.

-You work with an incredible cast! Which episode was your favorite to shoot with them?

We were very lucky to get our cast. Russell Boast, our casting director, is responsible for most of that. I also try and cast friends and people I’ve worked with over the years of my time in the entertainment industry. If you look at my different credits over the last fifteen years, it’s probably likely you’ll see at least one person I’ve worked with from other projects pop up in DARK/WEB. I love that. I love feeling like we now have our own traveling reparatory, or theater company.

In terms of my favorite shoot, I loved working with the cast on our main storyline. The “A-Story” or “wrap around” as we refer to it. It was our longest shoot, and we shot so many pages a day, and I became quite close with Noemi, Brian, Lana, Sibongile, Rene, Noemi. But all of it was a blast to shoot.

-Do you have any favorite behind the scene moments that you can share with us?

We all drove Roxy Shih, our director, absolutely nuts humming and singing different renditions of George Michael’s “CARELESS WHISPER.” I always get songs stuck in my head when I’m filming and just sort of hum them all day when I get bored. For some reason that one really stuck, and it was like a virus how quick it went around the set. It’s kind of our anthem now. At our panel at COMIC CON the moderator started playing it by surprise when the panel ended. Later that night when we were out celebrating, a street performer randomly started playing it as we walked by. All I can say is, thanks George Michael!!!

-What was it like being on a panel and having a screening of Dark/Web at Comic Con?

Absolutely a total dream come true. I could never have imagined. We made our show with the tiniest budget but kept the dream and the ambition big. The fact that we were able to host a panel, have our show premiere at comic con, and premiere on Amazon Prime the very same day was just insane. We all felt like BeyoncĂ©! But I’ve been going to Comic Con as a fan for over a decade. So, to turn the table and be up on stage with these amazing artists that make up our cast and crew – it was just such a dream and a moment in time with friends and family that I will never forget and will be eternally grateful for. I’m so appreciative that people showed up to see us. There’s so many big properties at Comic Con, I could cry at the thought that people were willing to give us a shot. Take their time to check out this weird new series that has no prior IP associated with it. Grateful grateful grateful!!!

-In addition to working on Dark/Web, you recently starred in the play, “The Narcissist Next Door” at The Complex Hollywood. Do you preference between acting on stage or behind cameras?

To me everything is storytelling. Everything is art. Sometimes it’s in a small box on stage, sometimes it’s in front of a camera and beamed to cinemas and theater screens around the world. I just try to adjust to whatever container I’m provided and tell a story and hopefully take people out of their day and make them laugh or make them think. It is a rush to perform live though. And I will say, a challenge I hadn’t had in a while. I’m used to kind of preparing my scenes as an actor on a day to day or week to week basis. You sort of prep whatever you have coming up on the shooting schedule next. With a play, there’s the logistical side of just memorizing everything. But also making sure you ration out your energy to get through a whole performance. And you really have to have the inner workings of the character very much mapped to fulfill your arc on any given night.

Photo Credit: Ryan West

-In addition to acting, writing, producing, and directing, you are a self-proclaimed science fiction, comic book, and gamer nerd. If you could turn one of your favorite gamers into a film or television series, which one would you pick?

I would have said Y THE LAST MAN (by Brian K Vaughn) – my favorite comic series – into a film or show, but that’s already happening! As for games, I’d love to see STARCRAFT or BIO SHOCK turned into films. I really love the aesthetic of all the BIO SHOCK games. Very retro and gothic and steam punk. Video games are the new art form, I’m glad they’re getting the respect they deserve. Another old game I grew up with was SYSTEM SHOCK 2. That’d make a great film.

-Can you share one interesting fact about yourself that your fans don’t already know?

I’m a big reader. Love books and comics. I’m also really into the human experience and psyche. I’ve been in therapy for over a decade. I like learning about our feelings, how we’re all different and all the same, what makes people tick or what makes people happy. I think it’s fascinating how people can grow and change so much over their lives, but also stay the same in a lot of ways too. What weird creatures we are! It’s one of the reasons I’m an actor and storyteller.

-What’s your dream role?

Currently it would be a spy. Think MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, HOMELAND, ATOMIC BLONDE, JOHN WICK. I’m desperate to do something super physical with lots of fight scenes, choreography, and hey some violence too! I’m a very physical person. I love to work out. I’ve been doing weapons training and fight choreography for a while now. Intellectually, I’d also love to dive into the mentality of what being a spy is too. On the flip side of that, it’s a dream to be in a stoner comedy like DUDE WHERE’S MY CAR? Or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.

-When you aren’t working, you are involved with some amazing organizations such as PATH Organization, Autism Speaks, the Boys and Girls Club of Boyle Heights and NCJW LA. Why is it important for you to give back?

Because I’ve been given so so much. It’s a responsibility to give back. We all have our down days where we feel like we don’t have enough, or things aren’t the way we want them to be – but giving back really neutralizes that. I have no reason to complain or whine in my life. I’ve met some true heroes through the philanthropic work I’ve done. Teachers, or homeless families getting back on their feet; men and women living with and overcoming disabilities. I’ve just had a great summer between doing what I love in a play and our launch of DARK/WEB at comic con. But that’s all kind of “me me me,” so now I’m talking to PATH about doing a summer workshop in acting for the kids in their facilities. Time to give back! I also work with ASCAP a lot. Animals don’t have a voice; we have to speak for them and protect them.

Thank you so much for your time, Michael! We can’t wait to see what you take on next!

Thank you very much for having me. As I mentioned, it’s tough to launch original indie content these days. I’m very grateful for Amazon Prime, Comic Con, and your site for helping us get the word out on DARK/WEB. DARK/WEB is a bespoke, handmade project created by a lot of hardworking, talented artists. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish on a fraction of the money your average studio series gets, and I hope you’ll all enjoy the show if you choose to spend your time with it!

Photo Credit: Ryan West

Be sure to follow Michael Nardelli on Instagram & Twitter. Links below!

Instagram: @thenardelli
Twitter: @thenardelli

Interview Conducted By:
Kelly Anne Blount
SpoilerTV Writer

USA TODAY Bestselling Author
Wattpad Star

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