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Donald Faison discusses 'Wish I Was Here,' 'Adventure Time,' and more

On June 2, 2014, I made the two and a half hour drive to Austin since Donald Faison and Zach Braff were doing a press junket for "Wish I Was Here" at the Four Seasons hotel on 98 San Jacinto Blvd. I was more than a little nervous. Not only was I meeting two actors and filmmakers who I enjoyed immensely, but this was the first set of interviews I had ever done. Nevertheless, everything went very well.

Donald Faison in Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here."
Photo courtesy of Focus Features, used with permission.

I interviewed Donald first. Both Donald and Zach seem like they could talk about anything and everything for hours, which is awesome for an interviewer. Donald is very easy to talk to funny, and down to earth.

"Wish I Was Here" opens in select theaters July 18. A Houston date is currently TBD.

Chris Sawin: So what was it that made you want to be a part of "Wish I Was Here" ?

Donald Faison: What was it? He (Zach Braff) just asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and I was like, "Yeah, sure."

Chris: Really? That was it?

Donald: Yeah, he's my best friend. When he does things I want to support him just like he would support me. That's why I'm involved. That and, you know, it's been awhile since he made a movie, so he probably needed my help (laughs).

Chris: (laughs) Yeah, I'm going to ask him about that. There was a lot of online controversy regarding him using Kickstarter. What are your thoughts on Kickstarter?

Donald: I think Kickstarter is great if you can get it done. I don't know of that many success stories from Kickstarter. I know that he succeeded. I know Veronica Mars succeeded. I know Levar Burton right now and Spike Lee; they've all succeeded. For the most part, if you look at Kickstarter, there are so many people trying to fund projects on there and he was able to do it. I think it's something to applaud and not hate on as other people feel like...I don't know. This is my personal belief. I think that because they couldn't do it maybe they're hating or they didn't think about it maybe they're hating, but I think it's a great way to--if there's a project you want done I think that's a great way to go about it and if you can get it done through Kickstarter good for you because that's a very difficult way to raise money.

Chris: How would you describe Zach as a director? Is he easy to work with?

Donald: Yeah, he's the easiest to work with. I've known him for 14 years now. He's amazing. I think he's a better director than he is an actor and I think he's a really good actor. You know what I mean? (laughs)

Chris: (chuckles) He's pretty good, yeah.

Donald: I don't know. There's something to be said about someone who can say this is what I want to do and then go out and execute it. You know what I mean? A lot of people can't do that. A lot of people promise you, promise you, promise you, and then when you get the final product--what you get back is not what they promised. And there's something really cool...there's something really inspiring about someone who can do that. Not that I want to direct or anything like that, but it makes you think; well you know if I say I'm going to do something I better damn well do it and he was able to do that.

Chris: Were you ever considered for a bigger part in the film or...?

Donald: (cutting me off and replying jokingly) No! See, that's what I say too. You know what I mean? What's up with the length of my role? How come my role is so small? There were other roles in the movie that I could have done. I could have played his brother. No disrespect to Josh Gad, but I could have been his black, adopted brother.

Chris: (laughs) Yeah.

Donald: No, I mean it is what it is. He wrote the script with his brother and they had an idea of what they wanted. I'm just happy to be a part of it.

Chris: Have you seen the final cut of the film and was there anything left out that you wish stayed in?

Donald: I have seen the final cut and there were a couple things that I was attached to when I read the script that didn't make the movie and I'm alright with it since the story is told so well. If he cut stuff out and it didn't make sense then I'm sure I would've said something to him. Not that he would necessarily listen, but I would've totally said something.

Chris: Right.

Donald: He knows exactly what he's doing. I'm in no way a director and I have no aspirations of being a director and he knows what he wants. And he got what he wanted. And he's made what he wanted to make, so I commend him. I think he's awesome for it.

Chris: There were a lot (I said "a lot" at the time, but apparently it was just one or two) of early reviews for the film saying that "Wish I Was Here" was too much like "Garden State."

Donald: I haven't heard those reviews.

Chris: It was just like...Facebook garbage, you know? How do you feel about that? Do you think they're similar in any way?

Donald: Well they both have Zach in it. He directed "Garden State" and he directed "Wish I Was Here." They both have music in it; really good music. I can see how there are some similarities, but it's a completely different story.

Chris: That's how I felt, too.

Donald: And it's a completely different time. Aidan and Large, they both have some similarities but one is a very young man who has no clue what he wants in life and Aidan is following a dream and he's trying to live out his dream. He eventually has to give up on his dream. It's two different stories. It's about one man finding himself at 20-something and another man finding himself at 30-something. It's true; if "Garden State" was about your 20s then this is totally about your 30s. Other than that, two completely different movies.

Chris: What was it like working with Joey King and Pierce Gagnon?

Donald: Pierce is awesome and Joey is awesome. Joey is really good. She's a star in my opinion. Pierce is, too. He's just a little young right now.

Chris: He was great in "Looper."

Donald: Yeah, he was amazing in "Looper." But, you know, he's got growing up to do. Joey seems to know exactly what it is she wants to do with her career and so that's inspiring. She's really good--they're both really good in this movie.

Chris: My last few questions are kind of just random and not about the movie if that's alright.

Donald: Cool.

Chris: I'm a big "Adventure Time" fan.

Donald: Yeah, Princess Cookie.

Chris: Yes! Princess Cookie. What was it like working on the show?

Donald: It was awesome. The guy who played the dog...

Chris: John DiMaggio?

Donald: That's his name, yes. He does a bunch of voices, but he came and read all my scenes with me. That was really cool because usually when you do voiceover work it's just you in a box and a director and a writer and whoever else is in another room. They're just feeding you stuff back and forth. But he came in and read with me. I don't even think we had scenes together in "Adventure Time," but he showed up and we worked. I was like wow, so that was a lot of fun to record. Then the feedback I've gotten from "Adventure Time" is really awesome. I didn't know that many people watched the show.

Chris: It has a crazy following. Massive.

Donald: Yeah! Huge following! I had no clue and I would love to do that show again. They haven't called since then, but I would love to do that show again.

Chris: Everybody always comes back on that show.

Donald: Princess Cookie is gone. She dissolved. Didn't she?

Chris: Uh. She's in that little thing at the end. She's in like a little asylum thing. Jake gives her the crown. She's still...he, I guess. He's still there. So there's always a possibility.

Donald: She, he, whatever. It's a cookie.

Chris: (laughs) I thought you were the best part of "Kick-Ass 2."

Donald: Oh! That's awesome! Thank you very much.

Chris: Would you come back for a sequel?

Donald: Yes, absolutely. And I know what happens to my character and I'd still come back.

Chris: I don't know what happens to your character.

Donald: Just read the comic book, Kick-Ass 3, and you'll find out. "Kick-Ass 2" was so much fun to make. Aaron, Chloe, freaking Clark. (laughs) Robert, like all of them are just awesome people. Everybody was really awesome. Jim too, man. We had a lot of fun working with Jim. At the end of the day, he thought the movie was a little too violent.

Chris: Yeah, that was kind of weird.

Donald: Well the dude gets run over by a truck and his head explodes.

Chris: That's true.

Donald: His head explodes! He gets run over and his head explodes! (Donald started smacking his hands together here) I, personally, thought that was awesome for a movie. Some people don't. But I had a lot of fun making that movie. I got into sick shape for it. Took up Muay Thai kickboxing and some grappling and stuff. Not knowing that my character at first doesn't know how to fight. I just had an awesome time making that movie. That was a lot of fun. I had never lived in London before. I stayed in London for like a month and a half, which was really cool. We filmed at Pinewood Studios where they shot all of the James Bonds. I wanted to shoot at L Street because I wanted to see where the Well of Souls was. Just certain things like that. "Maleficent" was shooting right next door to us while we were making it ("Kick-Ass 2"), so that was kind of cool.

Chris: This is my last question. Do you still know all the words to Guy Love?

Donald: Of course, yeah. Hell yeah. Are you coming to the screening tonight?

Chris: I'm not actually. I'm from Houston. Drove all the way here just for the interview.

Donald: I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but we're going to surprise the audience tonight and sing Guy Love. I better know the words.

Chris: Nice!

Donald: (motions toward the "Wish I Was Here" movie poster) Tell me this doesn't look like a video game, dude!

Chris: It does.

Donald: I don't know what video game it is, but it totally looks like a video game.

Chris: (laughs)

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