Craig Bierko Takes a Leap of Faith with Web Series Leap Year
It wasn't that long ago that Craig Bierko "felt like a dinosaur" creaking along in the fast-moving tech world. But a Twitter account, a Facebook account and a new Hulu web series, Leap Year, later, the actor is now ready to "punch my way into this online stratosphere." "I think web series are the new wave of entertainment," Bierko tells TVGuide.com. "What's happening in that world is kind of amazing and I think we're on the verge of something great."
Premiering Monday, the 10-episode weekly series, which revolves around five friends who try to start their own business after getting fired, is "a comic take on the world with everyone losing their job," Bierko says. He plays Andy Corvel, the "slightly demented" Richard Branson-type boss who administers the axings. Find out what drew him to the project, why he thinks Hollywood is playing catch-up to the World Wide Web and more.
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How did you get involved with Leap Year?
Craig Bierko: Well, the business is changing so rapidly. That's an understatement. Work is contracting and I'm this weird hybrid artist-businessman. I had an instinct a couple years ago that this was going down. I immediately gravitated towards Twitter and Facebook because I knew I had to start familiarizing myself with new technology. I do a lot of work with Loma Linda University Children's Hospital, so I thought Twitter and Facebook would be a good way to get the word out. ... But I was making fun of this world up until the last minute. Then I read an article about [executive producer] Wilson Cleveland. He's been on the forefront of this for a while. ... I called him up for coffee ... and here we are. And the scripts were a cut above everything else out there. Not only is it slickly shot, but I feel like other stuff don't have the equipment or the money to kind of make it look that great. The bits and pieces I've seen and the way they were working, it seemed like that whole world was beginning to congeal.
Do you feel like more and more actors are looking into online projects or at least are open to them? Kiefer Sutherland just did one.
Bierko: It's starting, I think. Hollywood doesn't really notice this world yet. It's sort of young guns like Wilson who are waging a bet against Hollywood. If it doesn't work out, then Hollywood has just eaten up another little guy. But if it does work, I think we're going to emerge as this new force in show business. My agents knew I take this stuff very seriously, but they didn't even know what the title was after I shot it. Leap Year happened to occur in the middle of pilot season. I had a test for a show the next day. I said, "Listen, I need to be able to get up to San Francisco for a night and shoot my stuff." Wilson got all my stuff shot in a night and we did it. [My agents] weren't really involved. I don't blame them. It's not on their radar yet.
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That's kind of reflected in the whole premise of Leap Year.
Bierko: Yeah, it is. It's about people who are in their 30s, who even five years ago, should have a house and kids and everything by now, but don't. The world isn't like that anymore. I play this slightly demented head of this big company and he basically fires them and says, "I think this is a good thing. You guys always talked about starting your own business and now you get your chance." It's a comic take on what's happening. I know so many people in the business who were knee-deep in mortgage, but were living the life. And all of the sudden, Bernie Madoff [comes along] and they have no money.
Do you think that's going to resonate with people?
Bierko: Oh, definitely. I think that's one of the reasons it's going to hit and strike a chord. It's well-thought-out, well-written that's actually about something. When you come down to it, whether it's online or live on stage, whether it's your uncle telling a story, an effective story has a beginning, middle and end, and it has to make a point. If lightning strikes and you make a point that everyone in the room can relate to, then you've got something like M*A*S*H. Even with American Idol. You hit some chord everyone relates to. People are going to relate to what's challenging about this show, which is it's tough out there. You better think fast. If you have a dream, you have 10 minutes to make it happen because it's really hard out there.
What was it like shooting all your scenes in one night?
Bierko: It was great. We got to improvise. I think he has one of the greatest entrances of all time. We came up with it on the fly. It's this funny and unique thing that might not have been done for TV because there would be seven people saying, "I don't know, that could offend."
Is it wrapped up neatly or is there room for another season?
Bierko: If it does well, it would be silly not to go forward with it, so there is room. We all hope it does well. We don't know. But right now, it's just waiting and seeing and gauging the reaction. It can change by the minute these days. It feels like media is breathing; it has a pulse.
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What do you think of the TV landscape these days?
Bierko: Pardon me, but there's so much crap. [Laughs] There is! They say, "Let's do the Kardashians!" I mean, it's crap! How many of them are there? God bless them. They're business people too. If I had a huge family, I'd say, "Let's do the Bierkos!" But it's like they're absorbing the human race and in a weird way they are. [TV executives] are trying to regenerate, regenerate, regenerate. What people like Wilson are doing is creating trends. Leap Year is his story. But, like I said, it's changing. A lot of it is necessity. People need to be cornered to make a change. For the most part, people keep their heads down. "I don't want my daughter on Facebook. It's a rape machine." It's fear-based. It's not, but even if it were, get on it and familiarize yourself with it. That's the only way to protect your kids. When they do, they get into it.
You went from that to now shooting The Three Stooges. What's that change been like?
Bierko: It's always a shock to come back. It's so funny to come from dressing in an office with eight other guys for Leap Year and all of the sudden, everybody's got their own skyscraper trailer here. People are running to get you coffee. I'm enjoying the s--- out of it. It's been amazing. These guys are brilliant. They really found the three guys [Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso] who are perfect for it. My stepfather is a huge fan and I called him after working with them a few days and said, "You can relax. They're perfect."
Watch the trailer for Leap Year below and click here to watch the first episode: