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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Exclusive: Will Friedle on painting minis, Critical Role and his new series Mini Primetime

By Lisa Granshaw
Mini Primetime - Critical Role

Critical Role recently released its latest fall programming schedule, which saw the return of familiar shows as well as the debut of new ones, such as the four-episode series UnDeadwood. On Wednesday, another new show is joining the brand's expanding line up: Mini Primetime.

Mini Primetime is a miniature painting show hosted by Will Friedle (Batman Beyond, Boy Meets World), who will be joined by a member of the Critical Role cast each episode to paint a miniature of their own character from campaign two's Mighty Nein. Episodes will focus on a specific technique and can appeal to beginners and experts alike.

SYFY WIRE has the first episode of Mini Primetime below that you can watch exclusively right here, right now before it debuts on Critical Role's YouTube channel.

We spoke with Friedle about his three years of experience with miniatures, what fans will learn from the show, and what it's been like for him to see Critical Role expand into its own brand

Where did the idea for Mini Primetime come from?

I did a painting show for Geek & Sundry called Painters Guild and I did that because it was created by Marisha Ray. Marisha has been a friend of mine for many years. Matt [Mercer] and I had known each other from back in the day doing a show called ThunderCats and Marisha knew I was a terrible mini painter and essentially said "I would love to do a show where we taught you how to do it right." I went, "okay."

But I finished up the run of Painters Guild and I'm still very friendly over there with everybody on Critical Role and again Marisha called me and the team called me and said "let's do a painting show over here."

We discussed the format and how we were going to go about it and after many, many, many a meeting Mini Primetime came out and it was a perfect format. I think it fits in great with their lineup and the stuff that they're accomplishing over there. It worked out great. I'd have to say Marisha Ray was really the catalyst for getting the show off the ground.

What was appealing about doing another show about mini painting? Why did you want to be a part of it?

Frankly because I love mini painting. I went from it having absolutely no effect on my life whatsoever to great effect on my life. It was very much like Dungeons & Dragons in that way. I'm a big fan of nerdom and I'm a huge nerd myself, so anytime I can kind of find a new nerdom and scratch the surface, then go down the rabbit hole, I'm enjoying life.

It was like that with mini painting. You don't really know anything about it and then you scratch the surface and all of a sudden you are going on every website, you're reading about the Crystal Brush awards, and you're seeing this world you didn't even know existed. That's one of the things that I love about nerdom and one of the things over at Critical Role that they are really good at, is finding that one tiny little thing that nobody even really knows exists and just showing it to the world.

Mini painting became such a big part of my life where it's a Saturday, I have nothing to do, and next thing I know I'm sitting there painting a miniature, which had never happened before. It was kind of that. Just that love and then the way we talked about doing the show and bringing some comedy into it and really focusing on more of the detail portion of doing a miniature because as everybody knows there are times when doing a mini from beginning to end, you're talking about watching somebody do something for five, six, seven hours. It's a long time. But doing a fun little interview style while we focus on one technique or one specific aspect of mini-painting was kind of an interesting new way to bring it to fans.

So it's like if you're a beginner this technique will help... If you're an expert, here's little tips we're learning from the people around us. That kind of get in, get out, let's have some fun, let's paint some stuff, let's do 10 to 20 minutes, I think was really appealing to everybody involved.

You mentioned how the show can appeal to people with different levels of experience. How does it appeal to every level and can you tell me a bit about the techniques you'll be highlighting?

It's one of those things where much like any other craft, there are little techniques you can learn that you can learn how to use them a little bit or you can learn how to really use them to take everything to the next level, but it all depends on where you are.

I am by no means an expert mini painter. Not even close. I'm still very much in the learning process myself so all of these techniques, while I might be sitting down with a very novice mini painter, can pick it up quickly. Like, we talk about fading. Certain different types of fades on different articles of clothing of your miniature or doing faces, which can be a very difficult and daunting task for me. [The] nightmare for me is doing the eyes. When Matt Mercer and I sat down and, of course, I'm supposed to be the teacher, [but] he schooled me as we're sitting there doing the mini painting. That's what you expect. He's been doing it for years and he's great at it.

It's all little techniques like that so instead of "hey, we've got a miniature here that we're going to sit and paint for nine hours from top to bottom," it's like "hey, we've got this amazing professional artist who's done a lot of the minis already, we're now going to jump in for one or two segments to show you." Let's do some edge highlighting. Let's do some battle damage. Let's do some things that could take your mini to the next level.

That's where we jump in; we're the pro-tip kind of show, which I love because, again, after a while, the long format of "we're going to sit down and start painting at eight in the morning and we'll be done by nine at night" can be a lot.

This is such a cool way to just jump in and we're going to hit this hard and fast and then we're going to hit this hard and fast. Of course, when you're doing it with the Critical Role gang you never know what to expect. It is a ton of fun and we are doing the show in a new type of format, which I think people are really going to respond to. You're going to get to see the Critical Role cast being interviewed in an entirely new way.

Mini Primetime - Critical Role

The show is part of Critical Role's new fall programming and part of its continued expansion into creating new original shows for fans. You mentioned how you think this is a great fit for that lineup. What has it been like seeing how Critical Role has expanded over the years?

It's incredible. I'm honored to be there. I came in way back playing a character on Critical Role in Season 1, first campaign and early in the campaign. So getting to see what they started from the beginning has been an incredible thing to watch because they're all such wonderful people and they're all so good at what they do.

To see something that they've taken that was just a love of theirs and grown it the way that they have and had this incredible fan support as they were doing it, you're honored to sit there and watch it happen and to be even just a little part of it is pretty great.

Matt Mercer really pulled me into that world where I had never played D&D. I always wanted to try. That's the fun part too when I tell people that now I'm a D&D fan but run your games well because my first DM was Matt Mercer, they kind of look askance and say, "oh, this is going to be fun."

Anybody who watches, they are just still humble and they are incredibly in tune to their fans and I think all of them would agree that servicing what the fans are looking for is their number one project. That's why we think Mini Primetime was such a good fit because I know the fans love every aspect of that kind of tabletop and gaming world that they've created and miniatures are a big part of it. Anybody who's played in home games knows, and I've learned this the hard way, that throwing an unpainted mini on the table is not the way to go. This is going to be fun for everybody to get over that hump of "oh man, I'm too scared to start painting a mini. Well, then join us and we'll teach you how to do it.

I'm looking forward to giving painting minis a try myself this year!

When you do it once, it's so much fun and it's one of the things where people, I don't know what it is about miniature painting, but people don't realize that if you screw up, you just start over. You spray paint the entire thing black or white again and you just start over. But there's something, this feeling of "oh geez, once I start, if I screw up, my miniature's ruined." It's not that at all.

It's literally going to a chalkboard and erasing and just starting over so priming it and then painting it, you'll have so much fun and if you hate it, just prime it again. Nobody's even got to know. The one thing I do warn you about and I will strongly caution you about this, when you fall in love with it which you will, it is really time consuming. It's a beautiful thing, but you will look up and be like "wow, Saturday's gone." To me, it's a wonderful way to spend a Saturday but just be prepared to have nights where you look up and it's 3AM and you're like "man, I did not expect to be painting this mini all night long."

But what a wonderful way to spend some hours!

Is there anything else you want our readers to know about the show or that you're excited for fans to see when episodes air?

I think the fans are really going to dig this show and love being able to see the Critical Role cast kind of being interviewed.

"Interviewed" isn't right because [Brian W.] Foster takes care of the interviews, the real interviews. But seeing the cast answering questions they aren't expecting while painting, I think is going to be something the fans are really going to love.

New episodes of Mini Primetime will air Wednesdays at 10AM PT on Critical Role's YouTube channel.