Exclusive Interview with Greg Grunberg
I’ve always had a great fondness for alliteration. The gratifying cadence of like sounding words on the tongue is equally matched by their resonant musicality on the ear. Not only does Greg Grunberg’s name give me that tickle of satisfaction, but so does the immediate word that comes to mind in describing him: gregarious.
Best known for his roles in Felicity, Alias, Heroes and anything JJ Abrams, Greg is exactly who you’d wish him to be. To meet him is to be embraced in a warm hug, both literally and figuratively. You sense an immediate impish charm and devilish humor behind his warm eyes and in the wink of his dimpled cheek.
But the greatest impression Greg gives is one of passion, passion for whiskey, acting, storytelling, kids, epilepsy awareness…life.
“George Clooney can do it, I can do it”
In speaking with him at Denver Comic Con, Talk Nerdy With Us learned he’s a man of many talents with no shortage of projects on the line. His newest venture is with the award-winning Cadée Distillery (Cadée is Gaelic for pure). With an eye on diversifying, a thirst for bourbon whiskey (which I heartily share!), and a group of friends he travels with to explore spirits of local artisans, Greg happened upon Deceptivus, his favorite of Cadée’s bourbons. Before long he invested in the company, which proudly uses 200-year-old recipes from proprietor Colin Campbell’s Scottish clan. With Greg as their spokesperson, Cadée plans to launch a new campaign, likely bringing on celebrity friends to help plug the aqua vitae.
“He’s so talented and awesome.”
Speaking of celebrity friends, Greg will reunite with his Alias co-star, Bradley Cooper, in next year’s highly anticipated remake of A Star Is Born. Not only does Bradley star as a failing country music star opposite Stefani Germanotta’s (Lady Gaga billed under her given name) rising singer, he also co-wrote, directed and produced this fourth iteration, previously made most famous in 1976 by Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Greg likens his role in the film to that of his appearance as Snap Wexley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, small, but present throughout. Long considered a lucky charm for his childhood friend, JJ Abrams, it only makes sense that Greg would bring the same good fortune to Bradley on his greatest undertaking yet. Not only was Greg happy to support his longtime friend, he can’t wait for the world to see his bud at his best.
“We’re going to do it right, this is something we want to take to the festivals.”
In truth, it’s quite easy to see friends play a vital role in Greg’s life and often draw him into projects. One such endeavor is the inspiring documentary Joyrider. Clare Kramer, his co-star in 2013’s B-movie remake of Big Ass Spider, brought him the story of André Kajlich (brother of Bianca Kajlich, Rules of Engagement). In 2003, after a drunken bender led him onto the tracks of an oncoming subway train in Prague, he lost both legs. The double amputee struggled to define his new life, but family and endurance competition gave him passion and direction. Now he’s just become the first solo hand-cyclist to complete the 3,000 mile Race Across America. Greg and long-time collaborator Brad Savage serve as producers, alongside executive producer Bianca, director Clare and DP Pablo Durano. Now the team is assembling footage and looking for a distribution partner for the fully-funded Kickstarter project, which they hope will become an award-winning documentary.
“That’s an opportunity to work with, I think, the greatest actor to ever live.”
Next up is HBO’s untitled Joe Paterno story about the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Greg was just cast to play Paterno’s son opposite Al Pacino and working with the legend is something that’s long been on his bucket list. Filming begins in August in New York and he can’t wait to get started.
“I’m not just another actor who’s put his name on a book. This is something I care very deeply about.”
If whiskey, movies and TV weren’t enough, Greg is also a middle grade author with his second graphic novel coming out this October (Dream Jumper Book 2: Curse of the Harvester, Scholastic Graphix). Inspired by his son Ben’s epic dream of being able to jump into his friends minds and save them from their worst nightmares, the series has been picked up by a studio hoping to bring it to film. Both he and illustrator Lucas Turnbloom have visited with their target audience at cons, book signings and even a Skype Classroom visit with 185,000 kids. Not only do they encourage the kids to share their dreams, they inspire them to trust in their own creativity and imagination.
“They are so brave, because they’re living with an earthquake in their head that can strike at any time.”
Another passion project was born from his eldest son, Jake, living with epilepsy. In May of 2016, Greg partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals to launch the TalkAboutIt.org website and campaign to let the 3 million people who live with seizures know they are not alone. Its Greg’s greatest hope to raise awareness and erase the stigma often attached to this neurological disorder. Jake is now 21-years-old, working for Bad Robot and doing great, but the family has definitely had their ups and downs in dealing with the chronic illness. Greg especially wants to reach out to kids with the condition who may be bullied. Too often people are picked on because of ignorance and fear on behalf of their tormentor. Kids and their parents should speak up and educate those not in the know so they have a better understanding and will, hopefully, then stand beside them as an advocate and friend. With the help of Greg’s celebrity friends, TalkAboutIt.org offers video tools for support, empowerment and education.
“Yes, please! Put in a good word with the good Doctor.”
Finally, you know when you ask the co-host of Geeking Out (an AMC pop-culture talk show he does with Kevin Smith) what he nerds out about, you can expect a lengthy list. Greg readily agrees to a lot of interests, finding more every time he does a new project or attends a convention, but he says he’s slowing getting into anime and he loves Dr. Who. In fact, add that as another thing on his remarkable wish list he’d dearly like to do. For this good man, we’ll use the sonic screwdriver to see what we can do to get the word out.
To keep up with Greg and his many projects follow him on Twitter: @greggrunberg.