Mercury Men Productions
Curt Wootton as Captain Jack Yaeger in The Mercury Men
In the movie serials of the late '30s, '40s, and '50s it was heroic figures like Flash Gordon, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Superman that kept the world safe from evildoers. Nowadays, only the courageous efforts of dashing aerospace engineer Captain Jack Yaeger can stop a band of outer space invaders from destroying Earth in the web-based serial The Mercury Men (premiering Monday, July 25 on Syfy.com). It was actor Curt Wootton’s previous work with Mercury Men creator/writer producer Christopher Preksta that led to him landing the role of Jack Yaeger.
“I had done a feature film with Chris back in the summer of 2003 called Captain Blasto, which was later converted into a web series,” says Wootton. “Chris and I immediately hit it off and had a great deal in common, including the fact that we were both big Star Wars and Indiana Jones fans. The two of us became good friends and have since done a number of small projects together.
“In 2007 we were hoping to begin work on another terrific script idea that Chris had, but unfortunately those plans fell through. Chris really wanted to make another short film and he’d always wanted to tell a story that involved ray guns,” recalls the actor with a chuckle. “Chris was looking to shoot something with practically no budget whatsoever and he came up with the concept for The Mercury Men.”
Set in 1975 Pittsburgh and filmed in wonderfully atmospheric “retro” black and white, The Mercury Men opens with Edward Borman (Mark Tierno), a bespectacled, tie-wearing government worker discovering that his office building has been commandeered by several glowing men from Mercury. These creatures have come to Earth to deploy their doomsday device, the Gravity Engine. Luckily for us, a mysterious organization called “The League” dispatches Captain Jack Yaeger (Wootton) to deal with the situation.
A short concept piece for The Mercury Men was shot first and shown at the 2008 Comic-Con in San Diego. It received such a positive response from con-goers that the upcoming ten-episode web series was then made. Having played Captain Jack in the concept piece, Wootton was only too pleased to step back into the role for the web series.
“Ever since I became interested in acting, which began when I was a kid, this is the type of role that I’ve always wanted to play,” enthuses the actor. “Again, I was a big sci-fi and action/adventure fan and that’s exactly who Jack is, he’s an action/adventure hero. The inspiration for the character came from a lot of the early test pilots and astronauts of the NASA program. Jack is like a lot of those guys who put the advancement of humankind and science before their own lives. That’s what he’s preoccupied with and he’s recruited by The League, which you’ll find out more about in the web series. And I, of course, drew a lot of my inspiration for playing Jack from the characters I grew up with as kid, such as Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
“So to play a character that gets to run around and shoot glowing invaders was an absolute blast. One of the biggest challenges with a role like this is that you really have to be able to pretend as an actor, because the aliens aren’t really there, and Chris is offstage yelling, ‘Bang!’ when you fire your ray gun. It’s not like working with green screen, but you still have to use your imagination in order for your performance to be convincing.”
Where, for example, Batman had Robin to help him fight the bad guys, Captain Jack has Edward Borman, who is none too pleased to risk his life to help stop the invaders from carrying out their evil plans. “Jack and Edward just happen to cross paths in the building, and he’s the only help my character has if he hopes to stop these creatures,” says Wootton. “Edward, however, is the worst person that Jack would want to have helping him. He’s nerdy, afraid, incompetent, and just about everything else that is the opposite of Jack.”
Conversely, Wootton thoroughly enjoyed working alongside his Mercury Men co-star Mark Tierno. “Like me, Mark was in the concept short for the web series as well as in Captain Blasto, so we’ve known each other for years,” he says. “Mark is a wonderful actor and gives you so much to work with when you’re in a scene with him.
“Everyone on The Mercury Men set was like a big family,” adds the actor. “We’re all friends and everyone worked on this project out of their own passion and while working other fulltime jobs. So we were all there for the pure joy of telling a story and I think that comes across on the screen.”
What does Wootton feel is going to garner viewer interest for The Mercury Men? “Well, first and foremost it’s a great story,” he says. “Some of today’s movies, especially a few of the huge summer blockbusters, don’t really tell a good story, you know? They’re all over the place and are more interested in showing as many visual effects [VFX] as they can. That’s all well and good, but people want to be told a good story, too.
“The Mercury Men is like one of those small independent movies where you’ll get a great story from beginning to end, and not only that, but it looks different as well. It’s black and white, which will help attract audiences. I think a lot of people will watch this and want to know more about the world we’ve created. As Chris Preksta says, this is just a ‘knothole movie.’ You really just get a glimpse of the larger world that we hope to further peel back with a season two or whatever venue this may take after the web series.”
To find out more about The Mercury Men, go to the official website.