"It's going to be a blast flying a spaceship again," actor Alan Tudyk tells Crave. Tudyk is writing a new story. The tales of his past are well known to sci-fi fans. He played Hoban "Wash" Washburne, the pilot of the spaceship Serenity in "Firefly." The Western-inflected "Firefly" lasted one glorious season before being prematurely canceled by Fox in 2003.
It was fandom that kept "Firefly" in the spotlight all these years since. The original 14 episodes and the follow-up movie "Serenity" fostered a continuing interest fed by fan conventions, as Browncoats (as "Firefly" lovers are known) gathered to celebrate the series and the people who made it happen. Now Tudyk is toasting the fans in return by launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for a new Web series called "Con Man."
"Con Man" is about the adventures of Wray Nerely (Tudyk), an actor who played a spaceship pilot in a cancelled series called "Spectrum," which became a beloved cult classic. Nerely makes his way through a mostly obscure life as a guest at fan conventions while his friend and co-star Jack Moore, played by Nathan Fillion of "Firefly" and "Castle," has gone on to A-list Hollywood fame.
"Wray struggles with his career and he's very unhappy in his career. Even though he's a huge star at conventions, he comes home to his one-bedroom apartment and hopes to get a guest star spot on "NCIS: Topeka," says Tudyk.
The Indiegogo campaign's $425,000 goal is focused on funding the first three 10-minute episodes of "Con Man," but Tudyk has a whole 12-episode series in mind.
Tudyk sees Indiegogo as acting like an "online convention." "The fans built this world. It just makes sense to involve them early on. They get the world. They love the world as much as Nathan and I," he says. Backers at various levels will get access to a production blog, posters, merchandise from "Spectrum" and the opportunity to be a background extra.
Fillion's experience with "Firefly" getting the axe helped convince him crowdfunding was the best place to go for "Con Man." "This project in the hands of the fans is the only place it will be safe," he tells Crave.
Fillion and Tudyk reminiscence about a memorable moment at their first convention. The photographer in charge of shooting portraits of the actors with their fans kept calling for timeouts to ice his swollen shutter-button finger. Another time, a strange woman wandered into Tudyk's hotel room and flopped down on his couch, thinking she was in her own room.
"This is all drawn from my experiences going to conventions in the last 12 years. There's a moment in every convention where you think, 'That would make a great episode,'" says Tudyk. Tudyk will be writing, directing and starring in the series if it gets funded. The freshly launched campaign has already attracted thousands of backers, with both Fillion and Tudyk pledging some of their own money to the project. The $425,000 (about £285,000 or AU$560,000) goal was handily obliterated in the first day and the total is currently up over $470,000 and rising.
While it sounds like Tudyk will be taking on a lot of responsibility for "Con Man," he won't be doing it alone. The reunion with Fillion will excite "Firefly" fans, but other "Firefly" regulars have signed on for guest appearances, including Sean Maher and Gina Torres. Sci-fi luminaries Amy Acker, Felicia Day, Seth Green and James Gunn are also on board.
"Con Man" is not a revival of "Firefly," and it doesn't need to be. It is shaping up to be a captivating creation intent on forging its own destiny, far from the meddling of any network. The crowdfunding approach puts fans in Wash's pilot seat.
The most compelling recommendation of all may be from Fillion: "I read it and I was crying because it was so funny. This is Alan. He attacks what he wants to do and he does it very well. I'm excited for people to see what he's capable of."
Update, March 11 at 12:35 p.m. PT: This story has been updated to include information about "Con Man" topping its funding goal in the first day.