For our Spoiler Free Review of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet, head HERE!
Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns this Turkey Day on Netflix with a brand new season, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet. Riding high off of the success of the last season’s The Return, the cast and crew are back to riff six more terrible, no-good, very bad movies. Rebecca Hanson returns as Synthia, a clone of Pearl Forrester, and the voice of Gypsy. Hanson got her start studying at The Second City Conservatory Program and is an alum of The Second City National Touring Company. She continues to be a perfect addition to the MST3K writing staff and cast, especially during this year’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 30th Anniversary Live Tour. Acting as host/audience wrangler on stage, the shows lived or died on her shoulders. Hanson rose to the challenge, expertly navigated the balance between what was scripted and reacting on the fly to the audience each night.
The Gauntlet also welcomes newcomer Deanna Rooney to the series. Rooney, an artist herself, did animation compositing for 2014’s Cosmos, served as a production background assistant for The Ricky Gervais Show, and has acted in numerous short films. Deanna joins as Dr. Donna St. Phibes of the St. Phibes Habitat for B-Movie Monsters. Also introduced on the Live Tour this year, Rooney brings fans a quirky scientist with the best job ever into MST3K canon.
Do You Even Comic Book chatted with Hanson and Rooney before the debut of The Gauntlet.
How did you get involved in the season? Were you already a fan of MST3K before joining the show?
Rooney: Oh man. I believe I met Joel at New York Comic Con back in 2012, maybe? He’d already begun development of the show’s return, and I was very fortunate to be around for some of those earlier conversations. I had no idea that my involvement would evolve from there!
Like everyone in the revival, I grew up watching Mystery Science Theater as a kid. I can honestly only recall there ever being MST3K, Tales From the Crypt or Monty Python on our TV at any given time. I don’t think being a cast member will fully sink in for me for at least another few years. It’s been so wonderful and surreal.
How would you compare the writing process between season 11 and 12? Were there any new challenges?
Hanson: I found it to be easier to write on Season 12 than 11. I think we were all so excited that MST3K was coming back that we jammed 11 full of riffs. But The ‘Watch Out for Snakes’ tour definitely taught us what worked best. Doing the same two movies over and over in front of different audiences each night last summer helped us all hone in on what people generally find funny. I also found out (once again but it’s a tough lesson for me to learn sometimes) that simpler is better. Also – after working with Jonah, Baron and Hampton on 11, it’s easier to write towards them and for them. They’re all so talented, it is fun to write to their strengths. When I was writing for 11, I didn’t know I was going to voice Gypsy. I was asked to voice her after the writing process ended. So, this time around for 12, I threw in some Gypsy riffs – whether or not they’re in, I can’t say but it was fun to write a little for myself. That being said – when we write riffs, we do not write for specific Bots – that gets assigned later in the process. But there are some lines that as you write them, you hear them in a specific voice. I was a little more involved with the writing process for The Gauntlet so I wrote sketches and riffs this time around and loved every second of it. The Writers Room for MST3K is the Best type of Ridiculous Fun.
Did you have any input into the development of your character?
Rooney: I did have input, but I wasn’t aware of it. Joel and I spoke a good deal leading up to and thru season 11, so many weird phone bits would ensue. At the time, I had no idea that Joel was sizing me up and drafting characters for me. He initially brought up a few ideas for season 11, but nothing really fit with that season. When the gang received the green light for season 12, Joel surprised me with St. Phibes, who’s a heightened (albeit unapologetic) version of everything Joel saw me as – a nerdy, bleeding-heart vegetarian, and advocate for animals.
Have you thought about trying your hand with puppeteering since joining the show?
Hanson: Yes! I’ve always loved The Muppets and Sesame Street and am a big fan of Avenue Q so yeah – I would love to try my hand (pun completely intended) in puppeteering. Grant Baciocco invited us to a ‘Puppet Up’ show last winter and after seeing all of those talented puppeteers improvising – it really made an impression on me and I would love to take a crack at that. That being said, our puppeteers are amazing and one of my favorite things about shooting the series is watching them do their magic. They’re phenomenal.
How did you come up with the voice you use for Dr. Donna St Phibes? Is it based on a real person, or a mashup, or completely made up?
Rooney: It was so much fun finding her voice. From the initial scripts, she struck me as such an endearing educator, much like Jane Goodall or Steve Irwin… but, like plenty folks in animal rescue, there’s also that neurotic, introverted streak that makes her less comfortable with people than she is with her creatures. For that vibration, I threw in a tinge of Rhys Darby. St. Phibes lives somewhere in that love fest.
The live tour, how was that this year for you? Was the energy from the crowds even better this year?
Hanson: The shows this year are fun but a little more demanding of me than last year’s tour because Synthia is hosting both shows this time around. It is a lot of fun because I get to improvise more this year than last and I come from an improv background so couple improv with a MSTie audience and you got yourself a whole lotta fun right there! Crowds from both last year and this year are incredible. Everyone is so happy to be there and we feed off of that energy on stage. Crowds have been great to us on both tours.
How was being on the live tour for the first time this year?
Rooney: Everything and nothing like I’d expected! It’s been insane performing for a live audience nearly every night for 5 weeks. You can play in a way that you don’t typically get to on-camera. It’s electric. As for living on a bus, it’s been….haha, educational? I don’t think I could’ve survived it with any other team. The show is built, nuts and bolts, by such amazing, brilliant and inspiring people. I pinch myself constantly for getting to work alongside everyone on this tour.
Do you feel more comfortable performing in the scripted taped episodes or the live improvisational nature of the live shows?
Hanson: While I like both, my absolute favorite thing is improvising in front of a live audience. There is nothing else like it in life. It’s the funnest, safest ‘rush’ you’ll ever get and I live for it. I’ve been a professional improviser/actor for about 15 years now so I am very comfortable not knowing what is next in front of a bunch of people. And the MSTie audience is truly the best to be in front of. They’re there to laugh and have fun and join in on the silliness – you couldn’t ask for a better ‘mass’ to be in front of. I love it.
If you could take home any movie monster and raise it, which would it be?
Rooney: Oh, hands down, the little intestine buddy from Dead Alive (Braindead). There’s a tenderness to that little cutie that you don’t see in a lot of monsters. Also, wouldn’t he be the cutest in one of those Bubble Backpacks?
MST3K is comfort food for its fans. What movies or movie genres would you consider your comfort food?
Rooney: If Nicolas Cage could be his own genre, that would be my comfort movie-food. Want some sick action? Turn on some Cage. Comedy? Romance? A taut thriller? Cage, Cage, and another serving of Cage. The man does it all!
Hanson: No matter where I am or what is going on, if the movie Overboard with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell is playing – I am there til it ends. I can never watch it enough.
What is your favorite type of movie to riff on?
Hanson: Bad ones.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet premieres on Netflix on Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd.