'Being Human' (and Happy)


There's some new video up of the cast of Syfy's Being Human being legitimately hilarious on a panel I moderated recently at the Paley Center for Media. You can watch it here for some of the highest hijinks of the night with Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath, Sam Huntington, and Mark Stern, Syfy's president of original programming. And if you're up for a little self-indulgent reflection, watching it got me thinking, so here goes... First, full disclosure: If there's a vampire, werewolf, dragon, hydra, or otherwise monstrous creature from occult lore or ancient mythology in it, sign me up. This probably harks back to my mother telling us ghost stories from her childhood on her parents' rural rice farm in Guyana and reading us such children's classics as "Perseus and Andromeda" before bed. Truly, it's a wonder we seem as normal as we do.

So I was somewhat predisposed to digging Being Human, a witty, pretty, and often intense drama about a vampire (Witwer), werewolf (Huntington), and ghost (Rath) who wind up roommates in a Boston rife with sinister supernatural goings-on. But throw in all the twentysomething angst—new romances, old romances, the trials of living together, and the omnipresent "What am I doing with my life (or afterlife)?"—and this was instant destination viewing.

That could also be why the prospect of sitting down with the cast seemed so much like the best possible kind of research. Maybe it's just the wishful thinking that anyone who's supposed to be home writing does to justify the time spent out doing things that are infinitely more fun than writing. But I'm in the midst of doing a book about Generation Y, and Being Human is, after all, about being human at what can be the most complicated, trying, changing, upside-down time of life, even for non-monsters: our twenties. (Actually, Aidan, the vampire, is 257 in an undead twentysomething body. So he's been a young man for, like, 240 years. Which, as they say, presents its own difficulties.)

With that in mind, I expected this panel to be a happy hour of chatting about fantasy, monster make-up, character motivations, and modern life, with a few of those Inside the Actors Studio-style anecdotes that fans would enjoy retelling forever. What I got was all that, some near hernia-inducing laughter, and a perfectly timed reminder of what makes work awesome.

Of course, actors on a hit show have every reason to love their jobs. But what's far more striking about this cast of characters is how much they love each other. In fact, Stern told the audience, they hit it off so famously from the very start that network execs worried they wouldn't be believable as new roomies in the show's early episodes.

And that chemistry showed. Preparing for an event like this, I usually do research, write questions, and try to think through as many angles as I can in an unreasonable attempt to control all possible outcomes. But within five minutes of getting these guys onstage and listening to them banter—without, I think, a real question even being asked—I put my notes down and gave in to the tomfoolery.

Topics ranged widely, from addiction (as in, how Witwer models his vampire), to Mario Kart (Rath does impressions of Yoshi, Toad, and the whole Nintendo crew), to physical fitness (Huntington ends up in his birthday suit most times his character goes wolf). They laughed at each other's jokes, poked lots of fun at each other, and didn't miss an opportunity to praise each other's work. It felt—and I think this shows in the clips—like that hour after the meeting of your very favorite college club or a day at your awesome barely-paid scrappy start-up job, when everybody sits around, hopped up on some exciting project, driven to giggles by overwork, and brimming with each other's energy.

I love that feeling. And I loved seeing everyone in that room feel it. And most of all, I love that we live in a time when it isn't reserved for the super-rich or the super-lucky. We're all allowed to look for some joy, success, and balance in work and life, and increasingly, we're privileging that above much of everything else (such as, say, gobs of cash or the "right" business card). And that—and how great organizations respond to it—is exactly what I'm writing about in this book.

So all that to say, in retrospect, this totally was work, in the very best possible way.


Photo, courtesy of the Paley Center, features (l-r) Being Human cast members Sarah Allen, Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath, and Sam Witwer. For more on all today's folks, check out syfy.com or follow them on Twitter at @Syfy, @stern3000, @meaghanrath, and @SammyHuntington. And if you'd like more video from me, get your fix here.