Exclusive Interview: Clare Kramer & Greg Grunberg at San Diego Comic-Con

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She’s best known as Glory from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER; he’s probably most recognizable as Matt Parkman from HEROES. But when Clare Kramer and Greg Grunberg sat down for an exclusive interview at San Diego Comic-Con, they both wanted to make sure to share some details on their latest joint project, upcoming documentary JOYRIDER. Grunberg also had news on his DREAM JUMPER series and was scheduled to do some signings at the Scholastic booth at SDCC. Never fear, though: With 2017 marking the 20th anniversary of BUFFY, Kramer was also happy to discuss her pivotal role in that iconic cult series before hosting FOX’s BUFFY 20th Anniversary party Saturday night at the con.

Greg Grunberg and Clare Kramer on JOYRIDER.

Produced by Greg Grunberg and directed by Clare Kramer, JOYRIDER is a documentary about Andre Kajlich, the first and only handcyclist to qualify for the Race Across America. Kajlich  is a double amputee, following an accident in 2003. After three years of preparation, Kajlich qualified for the race this year and rode his handcycle from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland, covering 3000 miles in 12 days.

If JOYRIDER seems to be a film that doesn’t quite “fit” with SDCC, outside of its connection to genre television through its filmmakers, think again. Kajlich is a superhero, having slept only about 90 minutes per day on his journey — but only after going 40 hours with no break on the first stretch.

Cliche as it might sound, not all heroes wear capes. And Greg Grunberg would know having starred in HEROES, where about zero heroes wore capes.

When asked why he was interested in working on the documentary, Grunberg said “anybody would be interested in this because you can’t imagine someone…If I got into an accident and lost my legs — God forbid — what would I do? Would I bury my head in the sand? I mean, there’s so many crazy, terrible, negative things you could do. Or, would I do what Andre did, which is make it positive, help other people, and help Wounded Warriors and all that? So, I jumped on board.”

The long road to equality in the film industry.

Not only does JOYRIDER boast the telling of one man’s phenomenal story, but the very existence of the documentary itself is pretty inspiring. It’s one of a precious few films directed by a woman. So, what’s it going to take to get more female directors? Supportive partners, for one.

One of the reasons Kramer asked Grunberg to produce the project was because she knew she could trust him to treat her as an equal. The two actors previously worked together on BIG ASS SPIDER and TALES OF HALLOWEEN. Due to their past collaborative successes, Kramer immediately thought of Grunberg as a potential partner behind the scenes: “When the project was brought to me, I knew that I wanted to bring him in to kind of run the ship…He was someone who I knew would allow me to execute my vision…With Greg and his company, Bandwagon, I know that there’s no genderfication. It’s completely an even playing ground, and that’s a situation where you can thrive as a director — female or male.”

Part of the journey toward getting more woman directors, according to Clare Kramer, is “finding producing partners that will facilitate lifting a new director up.” Proving himself to be one of those kinds of partners, Greg Grunberg interjected to tell Kramer that she was “already on [her] way,” and “it’s just a matter of getting the right story.” And he was sure Kramer had “a lot of stories to tell,” whether those continued to be documentaries or not.

Even with an idea for the best place to start — good, supportive partnerships — Kramer admitted that she didn’t have all the answers to the big question of how to make sure more women were able to work behind the camera: “You know, I don’t know what it’s going to take. All I can say is that it’s something that I am going to go into.”

One thing’s for certain, though: Clare Kramer seems to have adopted her BUFFY character’s drive to accomplish her goals. Just without all of the evil.

More on Kramer and Grunberg’s partnership.

For as much as Kramer can be assured that Grunberg will support her as a director, the respect goes both ways.

Collaborating on JOYRIDER meant another chance for Greg Grunberg to work with Clare Kramer, so he didn’t have to think twice. “When Clare says, ‘hey, I have a project, do you want to get involved?’ She doesn’t even have to tell me what it is, and I’m, like, ‘yes, please!’ We love working together, but the fact that it was a really fun project makes it even better.”

Why does this partnership work so well? For Grunberg, “it’s trust. As an actor, when I look at someone like Clare, I know that if I mess up, she’s going to catch me and vice versa. You need to trust people, and that’s what happens when you work with good people.”

JOYRIDER was a big documentary for the pair, and they’re hoping to do another big movie together soon. But “big” doesn’t mean the budget has to be huge, either. JOYRIDER “wasn’t meant to be a huge studio production.” As Kramer said, “in this digital age, you don’t need five hundred thousand to a million to shoot something.” That only applies to production, though. For distribution? All bets are off.

Greg Grunberg on DREAM JUMPER.

After discussing the mutual trust, respect, and support built into her partnership with Greg Grunberg, Clare Kramer switched gears. In an interview where she could have stuck to advertising only her own recent work and celebrating the 20th anniversary of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER at SDCC, Kramer took the time to give a shoutout to her friend’s latest book.

At San Diego Comic-Con, Grunberg was signing copies of the latest in his DREAM JUMPER series. But what’s the series all about?

DREAM JUMPER was born one night when Greg’s son had a dream that woke him up. As Grunberg was trying to put his son back to sleep, he asked what the dream was about. “And he said, ‘it wasn’t my dream. I was able to jump in and out of my friend’s dreams and save them.’ So, he’s, like…Harry Potter lives in a world of magic. Ben, our main character, goes into the world of dreams and sleep. There’s a nightmare lord and all kinds of stuff.”

Make sure to check this series out via Scholastic. The second book comes out in September.

Clare Kramer on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Glory was the Big Bad of BUFFY’s fifth season; and for all intents and purposes, she was the only one to truly best Sunnydale’s slayer. After looking for her Key for the entire season, the goddess Glorificus successfully found it not-so-cleverly hidden, as Buffy’s bratty sister Dawn. And when Buffy was too late to stop one of Glory’s minions from putting the Key to evil use, the only way to close the portal between all dimensions was to commit the ultimate act of sacrifice.

When asked if she ever looked back on her journey on the series, particularly as the only Big Bad to every truly best Buffy, Clare Kramer had nothing but praise for both the role and the series: “It was an iconic show to begin with. There wasn’t a female lead — especially a young female lead — that was a badass but also had human emotions and was compassionate. And not necessarily totally confident at all times. So, that’s what made the show stand out. And then [series creator Joss Whedon] just took any preconceived notions of what a Big Bad could be and threw them out the window with Glory. She was this fashionable, valley girl type of girl character who wanted what she wanted and would go to whatever means necessary to achieve that.”

And even after 20 years, nobody’s getting sick of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER any time soon. You’d think Clare Kramer, who played a Big Bad for a single season, would be tired of being asked about the series. You’d think wrong.

“You know what? It’s still interesting because it was such an iconic show. I don’t ever get sick of talking about it. I feel like I’ve won the lottery!”

Clare Kramer on the Whedon of it all.

Here’s an interesting factoid: Despite not appearing on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER together at any point, Clare Kramer and Eliza Dushku have managed to work on both TRU CALLING and BRING IT ON together. It’s just one of many cases of Whedonverse stars having multiple connections. Case in point for Kramer alone: She starred in THE GRIDDLE HOUSE — which she also produced — with Charisma Carpenter and Amber Benson. She has never worked with Julie Benz, “but if you follow my instagram, you know she, Charisma, Emma [Caulfield], and I are very close.”

Kramer says we have only Whedon’s eye for talent to thank for all of these ties. “Joss has a good eye for picking unique talent, so people from his shows work.

The next natural question, then, would be whether or not Clare Kramer would work with Joss Whedon again. The answer? Definitely. “If he calls, I say yes to anything. I don’t even care what it is. Of course. He’s so talented, he’s so creative, and he’s just one this generation’s talents.”

This fits in with pretty much everything I’ve ever heard from anyone who’s ever worked with Whedon. So, what about some of the pushback he’s received online, due to an inappropriate joke here, a leaked bad script there, or an off-color tweet somewhere else? Simply put, mistakes don’t take away from the overwhelming amount of good.

“I had a good experience with him. I’ve obviously…I’m friends with tons of people who have worked with him, and they’ve all had great experiences. I think that’s the problem with social media: It makes people anonymous. And so, they feel an entitlement to state, and say, and slander, and bully that is not actually existent if you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone. So, I encourage whoever has a complaint for Joss to just go up and really have a conversation with him, and I doubt that complaint would still exist.”

If nothing else, you’d be having a real conversation with the man who gave us BUFFY, folks…Can’t we just enjoy the series for its 20th anniversary?

And a little BUFFY trivia before we go…

“One of the JOYRIDER producers is Jonathan Woodward, who did BUFFY, ANGEL, and FIREFLY.” Props to Clare Kramer for linking JOYRIDER back to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER just before ending our interview with her and Greg Grunberg at San Diego Comic-Con.

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  • MemyselfandI

    Great piece! And that documentary sounds pretty inspiring .