Actor and "Just a Geek" author Wil Wheaton sat down this week with legendary TV show host Larry King on "Larry King Now" to talk about gaming, Net neutrality, and what it is to be a geek.
The actor also answered King's queries about his work as a child actor in the hit film "Stand By Me" and TV show "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and much later in "The Big Bang Theory." Plus, Wheaton chatted about his current show "Tabletop" on the Geek & Sundry online channel, as well as his upcoming new show "The Wil Wheaton Project," which premieres May 27 at 10 p.m. on SyFy.
Below are the highlights from his interview with Larry King:
On what it is to be a geek:
"Being a geek is not about what you love, it's about the way that you love it. I'm a geek for 'Firefly,' the Joss Whedon series. I want to know everything about it. I want to figure out the relationships of the characters. I watch it over and over again to pick out little things he's done. I'm a huge comic book geek. I'm a game geek."
On being one of the first celebrity bloggers:
"I saw this opportunity to communicate directly to the world without media filters and without publicists. I certainly wasn't one of the first bloggers. I was probably one of the first people who had a career in the entertainment industry who was starting to go into that.
On the success of "Stand By Me":
"When we made 'Stand By Me' we all knew it was going to be something special; we all just felt it on the set. I don't think any of us were prepared for it to become what it became. It's become one of those classic, quintessential coming-of-age films. People sort of talk about it the same way they talk about 'Diner.'"
On his "Stand By Me" co-star River Phoenix's death:
"He was this raw, emotional, open wound all the time. He felt everything. It's what made him such a wonderful, wonderful actor. We drifted apart right around the time I was like 15 or 16. He was clearly in a lot of pain. [His death] wasn't shocking, it was 'please don't let this be true.'"
On being in "Star Trek: The Next Generation":
"There's a great story that David Gerrold -- who was one of the writers on 'Next Generation,' who wrote the classic Star Trek episode 'The Trouble with Tribbles' -- said to Gene Roddenberry, 'I don't think you should put a kid on this show; people don't like kids on science fiction shows.' And Gene said, 'I want to have a kid on the show so that younger audiences have a character to connect to, and I want family to be part of this new series.' And David Gerrold said, 'If you're going to put a kid on the show you better put a kid in that role that can handle it; I have just seen this kid Wil Wheaton in 'Stand By Me'. He's a big deal with the teeny-boppers and teen magazines, and I think you should come and read him for the part.' David gave me the memo that he sent to Gene and Bob Justman, and I have it at home.
On the importance of science fiction:
"Science fiction is speculative fiction. In speculative fiction, we have the opportunity to look in a mirror at what's happening in our world right now and consider if we need to keep things the way they are or if things need to change. It gives us an opportunity to talk about difficult subjects. I was watching the news yesterday, seeing that it looks like Google is going to buy Twitch TV. It looks like AT&T is going to buy DirecTV. We're getting massive corporate mergers all over the place. Network neutrality is very much threatened. And all the dystopian cyberpunk science fiction that I loved in the '80s, all the stuff William Gibson and Bruce Sterling wrote. I'm like, 'You guys it was cautionary, it wasn't a how-to manual!'"
On Net neutrality:
"Network neutrality is a principle that all Internet traffic is delivered equally, that nothing is prioritized over anything else. Some of the big ISPs -- Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner -- want to allow companies to pay to prioritize their traffic over other people's traffic. For example, your show is coming up on Hulu and here comes somebody else who wants to compete with you. If they pay and you don't, the quality of your stream is degraded and your viewers don't get to see it as clearly and as efficiently as someone else does. I'm really worried that the fewer media companies control more, the more things are consolidated, the easier it becomes to push out unpopular ideas; the easier it becomes to shape a national conversation simply by choosing to cover certain things and not cover certain things. That's really dangerous toward what I think are really clear fundamental American ideals."
On his celebrity board game show "Tabletop":
"'Tabletop' is a board gaming show. We play hobby board games that are a little more complicated and a little more interesting than Monopoly and Risk and Sorry. We get together with our friends from the entertainment industry and we play a board game every episode. It's sort of like 'Dinner for Five' meets 'Celebrity Poker' with a board game instead of a poker game. What we have found is that there's a renaissance happening right now in tabletop gaming. I think that 'Tabletop' is part of it because we have created a show that lets gamers show their non-gaming partners, 'This is why I play games. This is why we love to play games. This is what the experience is like.' And they watch the show together and get excited about the games that they've seen."
On his role as Evil Wil Wheaton in "The Big Bang Theory":
"Bill Prady (co-creator of the show) said, 'We're looking for a nemesis for Sheldon and I wonder if you would be interested in playing a delightfully evil version of yourself?' And I said, 'Yeah that would be great.' I'd been playing villains in drama. My function in scripted entertainment is to be the guy you love to hate. And it's always more fun to be the villain. So that's how "Big Bang Theory" came about. And then they said they liked me being with them and they liked the chemistry I had with the cast so they wrote the character a little bit to make him a little less evil and make him sort of an ally to Sheldon. I still call him 'Evil Wil Wheaton.'"
On the role closest to his heart:
"It's Gordie in 'Stand By Me' because he was awkward and weird and really sensitive and unsure of himself and struggling to figure out where he fit into the world.
On his current obsession:
"My current obsession is Harry Potter. I never read the Harry Potter books. My kids loved them. I saw two, maybe three, of the movies. And the whole thing kind of passed me by. I just started reading the Harry Potter books for the first time. They're wonderful. I wish they had existed when I was a kid. The whole story of Harry Potter is that he's this kid who lives in a world where what makes him weird is frowned upon and he feels isolated and alone. He finds out there's this world where the thing that makes him weird makes him special. And he can go there and get even better at it and be surrounded by other people who love the same things that he loves. Oh, if I had had that when I was a kid!"
On his new show "The Wil Wheaton Project":
"'The Wil Wheaton Project' is a show we developed with SyFy. It's sort of like 'Talk Soup' for nerds. We collect all of the things that I love in genre entertainment -- sci-fi, TV and movies, horror, fantasy, comic books, the weird stuff we love on the Internet -- and put it all together in a half-hour show where I'm setting up clips and making jokes about the clips. We're celebrating the things that we love, and we're sort of mocking the paranormal reality shows that really need to be mocked."