Felicia Day (The Guild, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka) has a new Audible series called Third Eye. In the story, a young woman named Laurel Pettigrew (Day) is the Chosen One, set to defeat the villain Tybus (Christopher Judge).
However, during the battle, she fails and magic is taken from the supernatural creatures of the world. Her roommates Sybil (London Hughes) the fairy and Frank (Sean Astin) the vampire aren’t as nice to her as they could be, because they blame her for what’s happened.
Now a teenager named Kate (LilyPichu), who seems to know all about Laurel’s failure and the magical world, has arrived on her doorstep. Laurel must enlist her help while battling evil forces like lower level former Greek God (and Sybil’s ex) Robicus (Wil Wheaton) as she tries to navigate dealing with Kate’s secrets. Neil Gaiman narrates the story.
I got a chance to chat with Day about the story, the cast, how it all came about, and how the project went from a TV series pitch to Audible.
Jenna Busch: I read that you were working on this for five years. How did it start and become the show it is now?
Felicia Day: It started as a TV show. I pitched in like 2016. I really thought it was my next project after “The Guild.” My employees… made me a neon sign for “Third Eye” because they were like, “Well this is it,” because I was pitching it with the company that bought my company [Geek & Sundry]. And I was like, well, they’re big, it’s gonna sell and of course, in that typical Hollywood fashion, it didn’t.
And so I was devastated. And I was already burnt out at the time. So I wasn’t able to write for a couple years after that. But thankfully, Audible approached me, we were talking about projects. I was like, I brought this pilot couple years back and this was at the end of 2018. And they were like, we really like it. Let’s do it.
And I was gonna get a writers room together and write it like a television show like always envisioned and then COVID hit and I ended up writing everything myself. And because of COVID and all the work, I mean, it was a whole season of television — 450 pages. I ended up taking my time over COVID to finish it and we recorded it last year and now it is finally out.
I wondered if there was ever a thought to make this a web series because you know how much I love The Guild.
Day: Thank you. You know, at the time, it was the decline of the web series. And after my company was acquired, it was really a turning point and like, we’re not going to fund low budget, scripted series. We’re not going to give you that money. You know, even “Tabletop” [Full disclosure: I was on two seasons of that series] and some of the bigger nonfiction projects that I did were considered to be too pricey for the investment.
So it was really just like a gutting of what I loved and I just couldn’t muster the strength to shoot stuff in my house anymore. Also this required a bigger budgets. It’s a big fantasy. You can’t really do it as homegrown, so it was always something I had in my mind.
I was thinking maybe I’ll do a novel one day, but again, because I was so burnt out for making dozens of videos a week, I didn’t have creativity in me to give. And thank goodness I was able to kind of step back from all of that web video kind of stuff and sort of rekindle who I am as an artist, which is kind of this – this is the project.
What’s cool is that you not having a writers’ room and just doing this yourself is that you can absolutely hear your voice through this entire thing.
Day: Yeah, my friend Jonah Ray [Rodriguez who stars on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” with Day], who was the voice director on this, I’ve worked with him on camera and behind the camera, and he was like this is the most Felicia Day-thing I’ve ever read. That’s a compliment because I have a voice at least.
I came home and said “Oh my gosh, that was so Felicia!” It was so perfect. You’ve got this crazy cast. It’s amazing, looking at some of the names before I listened to it… I looked down the list and I was like, “Wow!” How did you end up gathering everybody for this?
Day: It was all almost all favors. We did a couple of castings for a couple of roles. But overall, it was just me asking my friends that I met at Comic-Con parties. “Can you please come do this for me?” Because of course, everything’s always a favor in Felicia’s world. I’m always doing the alternative way to do things that low budget way.
But at the end of the day, I always hope that I am gifting somebody a role that they will have fun with on whatever budget level. And if they have time, I’m always honored and I can’t believe everybody — because it was during COVID. We were still under COVID protocols when we were recording.
So people were a little less busy than they would have been and I was able to get everybody together and often in the same room to record and yeah, it does have that sort of magic of like everybody’s just putting on a show, which I always love that spirit.
I did you actually I wanted to ask you — [for instance] Thrilling Adventure Hour [a show in the style of old radio dramas] … I just watched Killers of the Flower Moon, they have a radio show. It’s sort of it feels like it’s kind of coming back. So you actually did get to record some of this with everybody in the room?
Day: Yeah, like I said, we were still under COVID protocols. Everybody had to be masked. We had to be be very careful. People were in separate booths, but I felt was really important, especially for comedy. I mean, it’s, you know, old time radio plays are not really an analogy for this they feel kind of stiff and sort of formal and not high production level.
We were really envisioning this as TV for your ears in a way. So we wanted to be big and cinematic, but also I wanted the comedy to really feel organic. So like people were in the room together and so to the best extent we could people were in the room. There a particular romantic arcs between certain characters and we made sure to schedule those together. And then the core cast.
Laurel — me, Sybil, Lily, who played Kate, we recorded quite a bit together, and then Frank recorded with Lily and we had some to you know, we were able to shuffle around so at least people had one or one time that they recorded with someone they were acting across. And I feel like that really helps get the feeling that everyone’s in the room together. Which you know, I think is a problem with some audio stuff.
I’m running and I’m listening to this and I can see it. And there were points where I was like, “No, I have to stop. I just have to stop and listen to this”
Day: Oh, what a compliment!
It was so it was really cool. And one of the characters that of course I loved was Sybil, but I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard that. So can you talk a little bit about the process of getting London and how you created that character? She’s hysterical!
Day: Well, London was the one cast member I had no idea who she was and Jonah – we were sitting down to cast and I was like, “I have people for everybody. We’re gonna cast a couple of roles like Ben [Laurel’s ex, voiced by Hudson Yang] we have casting. But I don’t know who to get for Sybil and she’s a lead character. We need somebody who has some experience and I was like she needs to have a British, ideally British but some kind of accent. She needs to be loud, proud and like a party animal.
And Jonah was like, “I did stand up a couple of years ago with this woman named London who is I think she’s perfect.” And I saw 30 seconds of her YouTube and I was sold. She’s more Sybil than I ever could imagine a Sybil could be, and she is a delight and… they say she steals the show. I don’t care. She could steal the show.
And in fact, when I first pitched as a TV series, a lot of the feedback was that, well Sibyl’s character is too interesting. You’ve got to dial it back and make Laurel more interesting. I’m like no, no, she’s perfect the way she is and London is perfect the way she is.
I think that thing about Laurel is and, not to sound like an internet meme, but she’s kind of all of us. I mean, I love the idea of that feeling of like, “I’ve disappointed everybody, even though all the expectations were so out of control. I’ve disappointed everybody.” I think that’s universal. That’s interesting to me, because everyone’s felt like that.
Day: Yeah, no, I was definitely channeling imposter syndrome, prodigy syndrome, all of that into this, because, at the time, like I said, i was burnt out and I wasn’t feeling like I was living up to my potential or reputation as sort of an Internet genius, which, you know, it was completely ridiculous. I was just at the right place, right time, right skills, you know.
And did all the work!
Day: Yeah, I did a little work! [laughs] But at the same time, I always had big expectations for me. And the Internet will never let you feel proud of yourself. So I was able to put that into this character and yeah, she is everybody because everybody’s experienced that they were they felt really competent about something and then they get undercut by life or themselves even.
And I wanted to have that be the grounded reality of the arc of this because you know, comedy is really fun, but you can’t do seven hours of comedy unless you have more deep meaning underneath and that’s what I was aiming to do with most of the characters actually.
I think Kate was really interesting, too, and that as somebody — I’m obviously not a teenager, and so I appreciate the idea that when you’re this age, you’re like, teenagers have so much confidence now. Did we ever have that? How did you channel that?
Day: Well, Kate really is I mean. There were a couple of reasons why I wanted that relationship to be the kind of core of the show. I have a daughter who’s six years old, and I can project that when she is 15 or 16. I would just love her to consider me a mentor, even though we’d have some differences.
And when I read children’s fiction, I see a lot of like negative portrayals of older women and younger women or older women being in the way of a young woman being actualized and then the reverse of older women being resentful of younger women and I think it’s all a patriarchal construction that we’re working under, that doesn’t allow women to really be unified across age.
And so that was one of the reasons. You know, those are two full reasons; my daughter and also this idea that women should be allies, and we could learn from each other young or old. And if we’re, we’re stronger together. So that was, you know, that was a big theme of the piece as well.
One of the things I love about these characters is when you introduce somebody, say Frank, and you know you’re going through Laurel’s vision, so it’s like, he’s so annoying, and then you end up loving him by the end. I think that happens with all the characters. They change so much and grow on you by the end, and you’re like, I love everybody.
Day: That’s the privilege of being able to sit through seven hours. Like, this is truly the length of the scripts would have been like a The CW hour show every episode. They’re like 45 pages each and when you can craft that all at once. Even on TV, you don’t get to do that.
I had no idea that I would love Frank so much when I pitched a pilot, but when I get to live with a character for hours, and I have to come up with ways to portray their character differently and show different versions of them to the world and then give them opportunity to fall in love and you know, all of that taking somebody through that emotional journey. I wasn’t like, I love Frank, first episode and then by episode seven, I’m like, oh my God, I find him so annoying, but I love it.
He’s really cool! I think even the same thing with Sybil. You’ve got a character who is washing her underwear in the toilet, but by the end you’re like, oh but I love her.
Day: I mean, I did start with a bunch of tropes, right? I started with the trope of the chosen one, the tropes of a vampire, the tropes of a fairy princess, and I turned them on their head. But then I was like, well, they can’t just be anti-cliches, they have to be real people.
And so it really wasn’t about peeling back what we think of when we hear these sort of trigger words, and subverting them. I just I love subverting people, I love subverting the system. And that’s why I’m always on the fringes making strange things and saying, hey, come listen to a TV show on audio. It’s cool, I promise.
I think people are sort of gravitating toward audiobooks now because you can listen to them while you’re doing something else and they make whatever you’re doing better because you’re entertained, you’re distracted and you’re having fun.
Day: Yeah, I definitely have that when I’m commuting around LA or I’m trying to exercise. I have to have something in my ears and I can accomplish a lot more … I think we’re all better at multitasking now in this world.
And if we can have audio and visual and our body movement at the same time, like wow, we’re winning. So, I mean, I hope that even when we’re watching TV, we’re multitasking. So I think that’s who we are now as a species and I am happy to provide you know, some TV for your ears during your workouts.
There’s there obviously Easter eggs in here, obviously nods to the geek world and I think it’s so much fun. How much of that just sort of came out organically because that’s sort of the world you live in or you know, stuff you wanted to kind of pepper in there?
Day: You know, as you’re joke-writing some of it’s contemporary and I will say that since I wrote the thing back in 2016. I was like, oh, these are outdated jokes. Sometimes I had to either cut — I did do a whole pass cutting all references that I couldn’t live without. Because again, I don’t want it to be dated. I don’t want people to be like who, but I had to leave a “Final Fantasy” nod in, or there’s a “Property Brothers” wink.
You know, there are a couple I just couldn’t let go of and that was like, well, if you can’t let them go, at least there’s like one or two an episode versus like 10. So yeah, I definitely am a pop culture addict. I love pop culture. I love giving a wink to an insider who is also a pop culture addict. But I use them as minimally as I could. When I couldn’t give up a joke, it stayed though.
I love them. I mean, I was listening for them specifically. You know what a nerd I am. I know you’re an expert.
Day: I mean, I would bow down to Jenna.
Well, I’m nerdy, but I feel like you might be…
Day: We’re the grand duchesses of nerdom, okay?
I like this! When I got to the end, I was halfway through my run and then I was sad. So I have to know, are you doing more? Have you thought about a sequel? Maybe a spinoff? A Robicus prequel?
Day: I mean, I love these characters. I can’t rule anything out. The wonderful thing is I own the show so I could do what I want is exactly like “The Guild.” I love that flexibility. I love that ownership over stories. I definitely could have more stories to explore in the world, but I also have other projects I’m really excited about and I’m knee deep in right now. I already have things planned for 2025 coming out so we’ll see.
We’ll see how the audience receives it. We’ll see what the appetite is. We’ll see what format I do it in. I mean, you know me — I’m always jumping into something I haven’t done before. I don’t know why I can’t just stay on track, but I can’t. So yeah, the story was conceived. To be satisfying in one go, but I certainly could see life in these characters going forward in whatever format the opportunity arises.
I didn’t know about The Smithsonian and The Guild, customs and props [being on display there]… what was that moment like? Because I’m also a museum nerd.
Day: Oh, wow. Well, I went there and as I rounded the corner, there, in the back of the pop culture floor, there is a display of iconic women. And so when I saw my outfit, right next to Xena’s outfit, and right above Scalia’s badge, I almost started crying. And then I made a video to show off on my social media. And my picture was there. It’s down there, you know, there’s there’s the Codex outfit, there’s the staff and then there’s a you know, a placard about what it is and my headshots there.
I was gesturing very largely, largely during my video, not one other person that museum paid attention. So that’s classic Felicia, internet fame. You know, like niche, always. Boy, oh boy, it was a little discouraging that at least one person didn’t go, like, you’re in a museum. That’s you. That’s cool. Not one person. Okay. There you go.
How did you resist saying, you guys, that’s me?
Day: Oh, I did it! [laughs] Believe me! With my acting ability, I was like, as large and pointing as I could [be]. People just passing by, they didn’t care. They were like, oh, there’s Dorothy’s shoes. Let’s go with it. Anyway, humility will always come from the Internet. Humility will always be the gut punch I need.
I was just thinking about this versus Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and the last strike … I know you like to change things up, but the audio book …
Day: I’m so proud of it. And it’s more writing than I’ve ever done myself and I was able to overcome… I wrote a creativity book called “Embrace Your Weird,” and that really got me back in my creative groove. It was a long process after having a baby leaving the company that I had just burnt out on, but loved dearly. It was really tough.
And that couple year recovery where I wrote that book, and I worked through that process of rediscovering my voice that all went into this “Third Eye,” so it really unlocked a lot of my anxiety. You know, it got rid of a lot of anxiety and procrastination, all that about creating so I have several projects in the work a couple of more stage things next year. I don’t know why I’ve just decided to do that.
I also have a graphic novel down the line, and another novel that I’m working on. So yeah, I had to just jump to the format that I haven’t done before, but I definitely would jump at the chance to work with Audible on another audio book because the audio production was so high quality and the feedback from the executives was so altitude versus like diminishing, which is usually my experience in Hollywood, that I would love to work in the format again.
I have to jump back to the characters because Robicus is so much fun.
Day: Wil Wheaton is a legend. And I wrote that part for him because I’ll never pass up an opportunity to make a part for Wil. He’s in everything I do, and he always will be because he is incredible. And I think he steals every scene because he has such nuance and the character is an antagonist. But he has so many layers to his vocal performance.
I don’t listen to his audio books because I’m like, “Oh, it’s my friend.” And now I’m just going to be like, oh, just put it in my ear. It’s just so nuanced and layered and just wonderful and his relationship with Sybil is – it was almost borderline like, “Hey guys, we’re trying to keep this PG-13, please tone it down. It’s a little pervy.”
It was really funny, though!
Day: He’s just the one of the best audio book readers out there. And he’s one of the best vocal actors out there too. So I’m privileged to know him and I will always write him apart whether he wants to do it or not.
There are definitely some video game references in there. And you know how much I love video games. So what are you playing now?
Day: Right now I’m playing a very dysfunctional “Baldur’s Gate 3” co-op with my friends. And I’m playing the “Cyberpunk 2077 DLC and I adore “Cyberpunk.” I played it from the beginning. I had no technical issues with my PC. I know I’m an outsider outlier. But I love that world and getting back into it. Idris Elba. I mean it is a dream come true.
So those are those ones and then of course, I’m dabbling in “Starfield.” I haven’t played enough to really get a handle on the ships and the flying but I know that maybe around the holidays when I get a little bit more time, and my child is still in school, I might be able to play like a couple of eight hour sessions or really settle in. It’s a good time to be a gamer. Also “Assassin’s Creed Mirage” I haven’t gotten into. love “Assassin’s Creed,” so it’s a lot right now.
Third Eye, the hilarious fantasy adventure crafted by master storyteller Felicia Day, is now available on Audible here!
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.