Orlando Jones’ Tainted Love Takes a Page From Comic Books

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Orlando Jones, comedian and self-proclaimed comic book nerd, has taken his passions to a new medium with the web series Tainted Love, in which he stars as Black Berry, a savvy hitman determined to protect his newly pregnant girlfriend Jezebel (Deanna Russo of Being Human).

The story follows the pair as they recover from a robbery gone wrong, outwit Barry’s angry boss, played by Eric Roberts, and prepare for the world of parenting. Airing on gaming and geek-culture hotspot Machinima Prime, the six-part series released its Season 1 finale just last week.

Jones sat down with Spinoff Online to discuss his inspirations the series, how fanboys are changing Hollywood, and his upcoming Fox drama Sleepy Hollow.

Spinoff Online: How did Tainted Love come to be?

Orlando Jones: Ignorance and stupidity, the way all stupid things come out. I’m a comic book nerd, which is the start of that. I wanted to do a graphic novel and was thinking about what that meant in 2012. It occurred to me that if I were to try and tell that type of story, the first question was, “Do I draw this on paper and try and release it in the dying print business?” That seemed to be not the smartest way to go.

It occurred to me that the way to approach it would be to make it live-action and have it come to life. After that process, the next thought was that I should do it, so I hooked up with a couple of fellow nerds- Avi Youabain, the director, and Ted Andre, the producer, and we set forth to try and do the first digital, live-action graphic novel.

I had the story in my head. What people generally call “guilty pleasures” I call Tainted Love because I think everybody loves something they aren’t supposed to. With that idea, I started writing and here we are.

Orlando Jones in "Tainted Love"

Orlando Jones in “Tainted Love”

Have you always been a comics fan?

It was always Spider-Man, Superman, stuff that any normal kid is fascinated with. For me, it was always MAD Magazine. It was one of the first things I thought was different, and it led me down the graphic novel path. Doing MAD TV and getting to do the television version of that, was the first awesome thing I got to do from my childhood and followed me into being an adult.

What books are you reading now?

Usual suspects. I definitely liked Persepolis and I have a real affinity for Joker, that latest graphic novel, which I thought was very cool. Like everybody else I was always into a lot of Frank Miller characters. I think I often seek out the more obscure ones now just because I’m curious to see what these younger people are doing in the medium.

This is a great time for comic book movies, probably the best ever. Was this a project you’d always hoped to work on and just needed to wait for the right time, or was there some strategy behind waiting until there was an obvious audience?

Everyone talks about digital being the future. That remains to be seen. One thing that’s clear is that places like Machinima have a huge gaming audience, a huge comic book fan audience, and they certainly have changed the rules to story telling among that audience. The traditional rules we’ve all become accustomed to don’t apply in the digital space the same way.

In thinking about that, and in wanting to be a pure fan-boy in some ways, I really wanted to make something with the right distribution partner that wasn’t about commerce. I’m a huge fan of this world, I love this world, and I’d like to try and make it live for real. I was really fortunate that Machinima agreed with that vision and embraced it.

I think it happened when it was supposed to happen. I’ve been kicking around ideas about characters that people think have no dignity. I’ve always liked those type of characters that people whisper behind their back about, and look down their noses at, and exploring them as humans as opposed to exploring from the perspective of someone who thinks they are better than them.

Deanna Russo

Deanna Russo

I wanted to populate that world, I wanted to write a story about a male character that was strong but whose strength didn’t have to diminish the character development of the female character. Most times she’s the girlfriend or the wife, and I didn’t want Jezebel to be that. I wanted her to be her own fully realized character, and in many ways I wanted Berry to follow her lead.

There’s a real world of comic book nerds out there who don’t fit the prototypical Poindexter point of view. For me to try and tell a story that’s encompassing the entire community around it. What I feel a lot of the mainstream business is doing is really just making the same four or five people doing the same movie over and over again. They make The Hulk and then they make it again. That’s cool, but that just feels like commerce as opposed to what always drew me to this world.

I think all of that together was what was rolling around in my head and I fortunately found the right partners to do it with.

What was appealing about Machinima as a partner? How did you find them?

I’m a fan! Just like anyone else, I go there and check stuff out. I’ve always liked the silliness and have always been attracted to the world of people who were there. When I started looking for a place to release Tainted Love, it seemed like that was the obvious place. Machinima has been an incredible partner. I’m looking forward to seeing how it moves and evolves.

Some recent trends in entertainment are companies like Netflix and Amazon releasing exclusive content, digitally produced shows and horror television — two of which you’re involved in between Tainted Love and Sleepy Hollow, which airs on Fox this fall. What are your thoughts on how fast pop-culture fads move? What do you think is next?

tainted love-posterI don’t think that places like Netflix and Amazon making content is a trend. The fact that they are doing it so late in the game, in my humble opinion, is interesting. Frankly, the entire content business is paid for by brands. The idea that they we wouldn’t expect them to get more involved in the content business since they underwrite the entire thing is obvious. You’ll see it happen more and more as the years go by, and for me that’s clearly the future.

The trick of it is going to be wrapping our heads around the differences between the story telling rules in traditional media and digital media. The difference in those rules really dictates what will happen. There’s always going to be something to be said for user-generated video that somebody puts up that’s stupid or funny and you want to see it with your friend.

The real game-changer, which is many-to-many communication, will continue to ebb and flow. Many-to-many communication is only seven years old and, frankly, no one knows where it’s going. When you really look at it at it’s most base form, there have been two forms of communications in human history. There’s been one-to-one, and one-to-many, which is films, concerts, and plays. Many-to-many has never existed. There’s never been a point in human history where everyone in the room could talk to everyone in the room at the same time, that’s always been noise. I would be remiss to pretend that I know because who can tell a seven year old what its life is going to be?

I did know that making a digital graphic novel should be done, and I wanted to be one of the first people to do that. I wanted us to stop pretending that print was the medium of the future.

When I look at Sleepy Hollow I feel the same way. It’s far from horror, it’s in the Ichabod Crane world, but it’s really more of a blockbuster. I think it represents a game-changer. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have done things like Spider-Man, Transformers and the upcoming Now You See Me. These are all tentpole Hollywood movies. For them to say we’re going to reinvent Sleepy Hollow and bring that tentpole content to a network is a big idea, and very exciting.

The mainstay of Sleepy Hollow is anything but horror; it’s really more the retelling and rebranding of classic tale and bringing it into the 21st century. I don’t think these things are genre specific or trend specific, I think both of them were inspired by fanboys. We are all still fanboys, comic book geeks, and nerds who are trying to reinvent the medium as best we can. We want to make it available and give it over to the fans.

I believe that interactive storytelling is ultimately going to be the future. It’s exactly why for Tainted Love we’re already in talks about doing an augmented reality game where you can be inside the graphic novel. That’s what excited me about this; I know that’s what excited Kurtzman and Orci. There really are new rules and you can do some interesting stuff that people haven’t thought of before.

For a nerd it doesn’t get cooler than that.

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Comments

  • chien_clean

    That’s a good song.