Resurrecting Vanessa

Something I’ve never had to do before is recast a role that’s already been seen by audiences. With short films, or even features, if an actor drops out at the last moment and you’re forced to do emergency recasting, the audience is totally unaware. But with a web series, which is basically like a TV show, people have watched previous episodes with original actor already.

Lauren Henschen, our original Vanessa in the Squishy Studios web series “Normally This Weird”, has had amazing success with her new band Super Stereo. Naturally, we’re all so proud of her right now, but with this success means she’s now fiendishly busy. With Michael Peterson (who plays Simon) leaving for South America to shoot his documentary this summer, we just weren’t able to make the schedule work, and Lauren and I came to the conclusion that the best route was to recast the part.

Now we did have one distinct advantage that the character of Vanessa herself has actually died in the show and was brought back to life by dark magic! 🙂 So, much in the spirit of Doctor Who, Vanessa has been resurrected …

Christina Fruciano Stoffan as the new Vanessa

The talented and funny Christina Fruciano Stoffan got the part as the “new” Vanessa. She was in fact at the right place at the right time, having actually been one of the performers at the NCT benefit show for “Normally This Weird” back in January. The priority wasn’t find another actress that looked like Lauren … I wasn’t trying to fool the audience … Instead, the goal was to cast an actress that had the right comedic skills for the part.

This begged the question … how do we handle the recasting the role in the actual show itself? I didn’t want to go back and reshoot everything Lauren had done with the new actress, essentially erasing her performance on the show … that just seemed wrong to me. Would we actually show the physical transformation from one actress to another (like in “Doctor Who”)? That seemed wrong and just a little too on the nose for me.

But, this is a comedy after all, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of making a few winks at the change as the other character’s perceive Vanessa’s recent change and “differences”, so I added in a few new lines to show to do that.

Another thing I had to realize is that, now that the audience had a new Vanessa, a new actresses, they had to establish a new rapport with her. The “new” Vanessa needed additional face time so that they could get to know her and make a connection. Too often filmmakers don’t consider “face time”, which allows the viewers to get to know a character. So, because of this, I wrote two new scenes to add to the show.

Michael Peterson as Simon (Left), Adam Rini as Swivey (center), and Christina Fruciano Stoffan as Vanessa (Right)

Wow, we’re getting so close to the end! The last shooting days of Season One of “Normally This Weird” is coming up on May 7th and 8th! Woo hoo!

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