Starring Nathan Fillion as Cactoid Jim and Busy Philipps as the Red Plains Rider. Also starring Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, Mark McConville, Craig Cackowski, and James Urbaniak. Songs and narration performed by Grant-Lee Phillips with Sean Watkins. Recorded September 10, 2011.
When we were first planning this episode, Grant-Lee Phillips called my house. I was not home and my wife answered. She still talks about hearing Grant’s voice on the other end of the line: like velvet chocolate, if that were a thing. I swear I occasionally catch her looking longingly at the phone, hoping he’ll call again.
We had written the “Cactoid Jim, King of the Martian Frontier” theme a few years ago with Andy Paley, but Jim never had a segment of the show to himself. As we started firming up casting in the Sparks Nevada universe — including Nathan Fillion as Jim and Busy Philipps as the Red Plains Rider — we became invested in figuring out the stories for each of these characters. But in doing so, we realized that, with only 12 episodes of Sparks per year, we needed to move those storylines along as deftly and efficiently as possible. The audience seemed to be with us on Sparks, and we certainly knew they’d be with Nathan wherever he took them, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to spin Cactoid Jim off into his own segment that began the relationship between him and Red.
Nathan was a no-brainer to cast as Jim a few months previous. Jim is supposed to be the most heroic, aw-shucks, and, yes, handsome fella on the plains, a frustration to Sparks and an idol to everyone else. It was amazing watching how Busy plays annoyance turned to reluctant love for Jim. These two make a dynamic pair, and we couldn’t wait to establish their relationship so we could start messing with it.
We have been fans of the SuperEgo podcast for a few years now and were very excited to work with Jeremy Carter, Matt Gourley, and Mark McConville. They are three of the funniest guys around, thoughtful about comedy, and nice guys to boot. We knew that pairing Matt and Jeremy up with Craig Cackowski, who comes from a similar improv/live performance background, would yield strong characters and great comedy. Our collaboration with SuperEgo has extended to a monthly installment of both of our shows, sort of, whereby Acker and I plot broad strokes of an alien invasion story and the SuperEgo guys, with some of our WorkJuice Players, improvise the scenes. The first episode was released last month. (Podcast #60).
Finally, I am not too fond of montages in our show, but I think they work here, thanks mostly to Grant-Lee’s narration (aided by Sean Watkins on mandolin) and the funny walk-ons by Hal Lublin, Samm Levine, John Ennis, and James Urbaniak. Having such a strong stable of players means even the smallest of part yields great results.
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