Heroes star (and best friend to JJ Abrams) Greg Grunberg has launched a new website to get people talking about epilepsy called talkaboutit.org, and he has got a number of celebrities to get involved, doing videos for the site, including the new Kirk and Spock. TrekMovie talked to the actor about the site, working with Chris and Zach, the new Star Trek movie (and his semi-cameo), and Heroes. Plus we found out what part he wants in the Star Trek sequel!
Greg Grunberg got involved in epilepsy awareness and related causes due to his son Jake who suffers from the disorder. Earlier this month he worked with the Epilepsy Foundation to launch a new website, talkaboutit.org, which will help increase awareness for the general public as well as those who are affected more directly by epilepsy. Grunberg brought in a number of celebrities to do videos on the site, including his friend JJ Abrams and the new Kirk and Spock, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.
TrekMovie.com: What was the impetus for you to create talkaboutit.org?
Greg Grunberg: Well it isn’t just me, it is also Ken Lowenberg from the Epilepsy Foundation. Because the epilepsy world has not had any significant celebrity presence – from time to time somebody will say ‘I have it’ – but no one has stepped forward as the spokesperson and represent the 3-5 Million people in the US who are dealing with epilepsy, at all different levels and degrees of severity. We have gone through the ringer on it. Jake started off with staring spells and mild seizures to having full fall-down seizures and every kind. It got so bad that we went to the last resort, which is brain surgery. Because of that, I have experienced all different levels of this as a parent. And it is so needed that there is one place for all the organization to come together, and they need a voice. So the impetus was at one of these functions and I was talking to all the top doctors from all over the world and people who are struggling and the one common thread was ‘if we could just remove the stigma, if we could just get people to talk about it.’ So jut before I went on to speak I ran downstairs to the business center and bought the website talkaboutit.org. It isn’t ‘talkaboutepilepsy.org’ because that is a red flag and sounds scary, so we will fool them. I know all these celebrities and the truth is they all want to help. Just talking about it can lead to everything that we want, whether it is a cure or finding tips on raising a child or learning how to handle a seizure. So what we decided to do was start talkaboutit.org and it is not a horror story, because that is the first thing you find when you research any disease online. It is a place where people can exchange information and you are responsible for your own information. So now we can talk about it, the way people talk about cancer or AIDS and no one has to hide from this disease anymore.
TM: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about epilepsy?
GG: Well a long time ago the biggest misconception was that people were possessed by the devil, and I mean like only forty of fifty years ago, and in some countries, third world countries, they still feel that way. But the immediate misconceptions are the old wives tales. like if some has a seizure you should stick something in their mouth so they don’t choke on their tongue. Absolutely never ever should you stick anything in someone’s mouth if they are having a seizure. Second thing, that if you see someone having a seizure you should hold them down — absolute 100% wrong thing to do, you should just make sure they are comfortable and nothing falls on them, and just be a friend and wait it out and they will be fine, they will come out of it.
TM: You got a lot of celebrities involved, including Zach Quinto who you work with on Heroes, but you also got Chris Pine to join him for a video, how did that come about?
GG: I met Chris on the set of Star Trek and then one night we had dinner with JJ and Chris and Bryan Burk, and that guy is so great, he is so funny and he really fits this movie and Kirk so well. Anyway we hit it off and he immediate said, as do most celebrities who I meet — everybody wants to help. They came in together and they did their bit and it gives me chills. For people in the epilepsy community to have all of these celebrities behind it and to make it, I hate to say it, but ‘cool.’ We are going to get people talking about this. And to see those two guys, and they didn’t talk about Star Trek, but clearly it is Spock and Kirk! It was incredible and so moving. It is exciting they did this for us.
TM: Speaking of JJ, as his best friend, what affect has this long process of making the Star Trek movie has had on him.
GG: I think he has got incredibly excited. This is the second time he has been asked to jump onto a franchise that is so ingrained and established and to try and re-invigorate it. This thing is so huge. It is like giving someone a Faberge egg and saying ‘make a box out of it.’ For him to not be scared to tackle that is a huge thing. And this is not just JJ, without Bob and Alex and all of them — they are this creative machine that is at the right place at the right time. I have seen the movie twice now and I love it. And again I am not the typical fan — it is just a great movie for everyone.
TM: As per tradition, you appear in projects by JJ. For Star Trek you were offered a role, but because you were shooting something else you couldn’t do it. What role was offered?
GG: They offered me the red shirt Olsen, the guy in the trailer diving down. I wanted it so bad, obviously I would take anything from JJ, but that role in particular, because as soon as they see me in a red shirt people would be like ‘oh my god he is going to die’, it would have been great, but I couldn’t do it because I was shooting a movie that I co-wrote and co-produced called Group Sex.
Grunberg was almost Olsen the redshirt (left), who ended up being played by Greg Ellis
TM: But you still worked your way into it in a small way, like on the radio
GG: Well I cannot say, but when you see the movie you will know it is me.
TM: But what you did does not preclude you appearing in the sequel. I was thinking you would be perfect for Harry Mudd.
GG: You are not the first to bring that up. I would absolutely love to play Harry Mudd, that would be incredible. I would have to redefine the character and do it the way I see doing it, but that character to me has comedy and brings levity and I would be able to work with robotic chicks. How fun would that be?
TM: So no mustache? How much redefining?
GG: No I would go with the big mustache and an earring, why not? [laughs]
Grunberg wants to be the new Harry Mudd
TM: Finally onto Heroes, the show has been criticized for the first part of this season going down a few blind alleys, but do you think the second half of the season has been an attempt to return to the roots?
GG: As much as it can. What is interesting is that a show like Heroes worked on a couple of levels in the first season in a way you can never go back to. And that is that it is a show all about discovery, these characters were discovering their powers and we were discovering the show and there is a sort of magical quality to that. And so once you are in that world and everyone is a super hero, you lose that. I think that is what the show lost, in it being about real people leading extraordinary lives with extraordinary abilities, as cliché as that is, but that is what people identified with. I am always trying to play as real as possible, I try to say everyman as possible and my character is just trying get back to just having a family. And Bryan Fuller coming back is a big plus for us, because he has that voice in his pen. So they found a way to bring it back to where it started, as much as they can, because we rediscovering what happened to our ancestors a
generation before us, and that is where season three ends, in this kind of shocking revelation, and it will carry us into season four. I am really happy with my character and his getting back to his family, and the new direction of the show.
Grunberg in season finale for Heroes
The season finale of Heroes airs tonight on NBC at 9PM.
Behind the scenes at TalkAboutIt.org
The folks behind talkaboutit.org sent over some behind the scenes images of Chris Pine and Zach Quinto recording their first aid video.
And here is another promo video by Chris Pine for TalkAboutIt.org