Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Interview: American Actor Taylor A. Purdee Talks About His Role in The Finnish Show Dragonslayer666: A Fantastical, Comedic yet Realistic Show For and About Gaming Nerds

What is Dragonslayer666? American Actor Taylor A. Purdee had a role in this Finnish series about the world of professional gaming, which is something that is not just taking over the US or Finland but the planet. The series is based on a book by the show's creator, Aleksi Delikouras. In this interview Taylor explains what this show is all about, why it's so cutting-edge, and why he forsees it as a hit around the world.

On Getting the Role in DragonSlayer666

Taylor A. Purdee: So I didn’t know ANYTHING about it before I got the job. And what little I found out between the audition and filming was actually a little confusing. You see, in America there are generally a few very specific tiers of TV. Primetime dramas, very independent web shows, online multi-media additions to your favorite superhero adventures, Netflix, but rarely (if ever) do these things overlap.

Not so much in Europe. So Nerd: DragonSlayer666 is a Finnish show, that began as a book, quickly became web content and now plays in marathon on the YLE, kind of the Finnish equivalent of the BBC. And that’s what makes European production so special, most projects are funded in LARGE part, but the state. Allowing for a wider range of stories to be made and less clearly defined lines between the mediums of those stories.

Taylor A. Purdee (Left) with Aleksi Delikouras (center).                     Screen shot courtesy of DragonSlayer666

Based on a book series by Aleksi Delikouras

Taylor A. Purdee: So the show’s based on a book series by Aleksi Delikouras, who also happens to be the show’s creator and director. Both iterations follow DragonSlayer666’s path to becoming the “Ultimate Gamer.” It’s a comedy. DragonSlayer’s a highschooler who takes the game Counter-Strike very, very seriously, as does the show, and that’s kind of what’s brilliant about it.

As much as we could spend our time laughing at this geek who treats video-games like world conquest, we’re with him. We know why he cares, we can see that yeah, winning the right tournament could actually change his life, and yet when he goes too far we worry about him,
and giggle a little bit on the side.

After all, Professional Gaming is a Profession

Taylor A. Purdee: As he begins to put his team together to prepare for an international Counter-Strike tournament (These are all very real things by the way. Professional gaming is actually a profession) he builds a group of disparate, diverse, very separate and very talented kids, creating a multi-ethnic cast, and a team of exceptional talents.

Watch: Season 3 Part 1 of DragonSlayer66

There's Really Nothing Else Like It in the US

Taylor A. Purdee: Honestly, there’s nothing else like it I can think of, and that’s probably for two main reasons. One, the Finnish government can, and will, take chances on projects and people that most of our networks won’t. For instance, DragonSlayer’s creator Aleksi Delikouras was in his mid-twenties when the show started, he was younger when he wrote the books the show’s based on, but YLE knew he’d be embraced by a generation and sub-culture no one in Finland had managed to tap yet.

And two, this breed of comedy isn’t something I think we really have here. It asks us to take our star’s absurd dream very seriously, while laughing and cringing at most of his mistakes. But that never takes away from how grounded the show is, or how it becomes styled like a mini sci-fi epic as it progresses. It’s a badass, realistic, dry comedy, sci-fi high school fantasy. And it works.

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An Emmy-winning Look into the 
World of Professional Gaming

Taylor A. Purdee: Mostly, you’d like it because it’s funny. The icing is that you get to explore a world you probably haven't before, hyper-competitive international pro-gaming. (The real life Finnish team ranked 2nd in the world this year). It also happens to be BEAUTIFULLY shot Arsen Sarkisiants, high school’s never looked more like being in the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Also it just won a Finnish Emmy, and nearly 2 thirds of the country watches it so you might wanna get on board. You can turn on some subtitles, don’t worry. (though most of my pieces are in English so no problems there.)

Taylor as Batman                             Screen shot courtesy DragonSlayer666

On Being Nick in New York City

So my character, Nick, comes in for the very beginning of season 3. I don’t want to give anything away but DragonSlayer666 (Samuel Kujala) and his “manager”/side kick Mega Man (Eino Manner) have left Finland and show up in New York hoping to join my Pro-Gaming team.They don’t exactly realize how tough surviving as a competitive gamer is even here in New York City and soon my parter Jim (a wild haired and out of his mind Jonathan Iglesias) rope the two of them into some very NYC money-making schemes.

Jonathan and I end up in Times Square having a Batman V Spiderman cos-play battle that the show’s heroes just can’t make sense of. And then by the end of the season the story looks back at our New York very briefly to see…well, it’s the climax of the show so, ya know, I won’t say.

For More on Taylor and His Role in the Upcoming Film 
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Filming with Improv

Taylor A. Purdee: This thing was a blast. Again, I had no idea what to expect and was honestly a little wary going in, but I had a fantastic time! I’m not sure what the vibe’s like when they’re filming in Finland, I’m sure it’s just as fun and far more complicated. But because the production had had to move to New York for this leg of the season they were working very quickly and rather paired down, much more like an independent film than a network show, and I loved that.

It was all experimentation and improvisation. No one involved could have been older then 35, most were younger so we had that sense of spontaneity that comes with just making something with your friends in the back yard. Except that we were filming in Times Square and all over New York with the blessing (and backing) of the Finnish Government!

Filming in Times Square is always bound to draw a few onlookers, but in that particular scene Jonathan and I are dressed like street-performer superheroes, so no one passing by could figure out if this was a movie, or just another day in Times Square!

Cast members of Dragonslayer666                                         Courtesey IMDB

It Got Young Boys To Read

Taylor A. Purdee: From my understanding of the network’s internal logic, Aleksi’s books did something that most everyone else had given up on, they reached game nerds, and more then that, they got them to read. Getting kids to read is always considered a bit of a challenge, but this particular gaming population of boys like 13-22 didn’t engage with really any traditional media. They didn’t read, they didn’t watch TV, they played games, hung out on message boards, and played more games. Aleksi’s books provided them with a hero they could relate to. Another gamer, another nerd, another kid. The success of the books was expected to make for a perfectly fine bit of programming but when its initial online release was viewed by nearly two thirds of the nation it was pretty clear that they were onto something special.

A Diverse and Interesting Cast

Taylor A. Purdee: But I don’t think it’s simply the “he’s just like me” element that makes DragonSlayer666’s adventures so appealing. He’s also surrounded by a fascinating, detailed, and diverse supporting cast and I think it’s this very modern look at the edge of adulthood that draws us in. It feels real, and familiar, and exciting because Aleksi’s avoided the pitfalls of most high school settings. The cliched cliques, and villains, and plot lines don’t have a place in his universe. Not to mention that he populates it with bright, fabulous women, people of color who’s colors don’t matter, goofballs, everyone.

It’s worth noting that the show’s producer who’s worked closely with Aleksi through the development of the show, Max Malka is a middle-eastern Finnish woman, whose race and gender may inform some of the show but never seem to become a centerpiece of anything about it. These characters are very real people from all over. Token-less, human, and VERY good at Counter Strike. And this is Finland we’re talking about, America might need to catch up!

It's on Youtube, of course.

Taylor A. Purdee:  So it’s just been picked up in a batch of other European countries, as well as Canada, but for most American viewers today, the first 20 minutes or so of the second and third seasons are available as a teaser on Youtube. But lucky for us, there’s a lot of our New York plot line in the top of season 3!

That said, I think the whole show should be playing in marathons on Finnish National Television.

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