In October, when I was in Los Angeles for the #DoctorStrangeEvent, we visited Disney Channel for an advanced episode screening of Disney’s new serialized live-action series “MECH-X4”. While the show brings about a new storyline, I couldn’t help but notice a familiar look and feel that brought me back to my childhood. There was a mix of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Transformers, Star Wars, and Spy Kids; just to name a few.
As we watched I found myself quickly drawn in to the storyline and wishing my Mini Me was there with me to giggle her way through the show. I know this will be an adventure that we will be adding to our weekly viewing and can’t wait for the show to premiere. Thank goodness we don’t have to wait lone since the show will be presented in an expanded premiere weekend with four back-to-back episodes on Disney Channel, the Disney Channel App, and Disney Channel VOD, Friday, NOVEMBER 11 through Sunday, NOVEMBER 13.
Ryan Walker is a typical freshman at Bay City High until he discovers he is a “technopath” with the extraordinary ability to control technology with his mind. His superpower mysteriously awakens a 150-foot robot known as MECH-X4 and Ryan can command its every move. When monsters suddenly begin to descend upon the city, Ryan recruits his two best friends, Harris and Spyder, and his older brother Mark to help him operate the robot’s high-tech defense system while he pilots MECH-X4. The four unlikely teenage heroes must quickly learn how to work together as a team to maneuver MECH-X4, their only hope of saving their town and ultimately the world.
In addition to advanced episode screenings, we also had the opportunity to sit down with the cast Nathaniel James (“Ryan Walker”), Kamran Lucas (“Harris”), Pearce Joza (“Spyder”), and Raymond Cham (“Mark Walker”) as well as Executive Producers, Steve Marmel and Anupam Nigam. First, let me just tell you that it was so much fun! Everyone was hilarious, they were constantly cracking jokes, smiling, and they truly, at least it appeared that way, were having a good time. Second, they are all so down to Earth! They have not got caught up in the whirlwind of their careers, the new series, or the possibility of fame. They were young guys, including the executive producers, have a good time. So fun!
Here are some of the tidbits that we picked up from our sit down with the team.
~ EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS ~
THE REASON FOR AN ALL MALE TEAM
STEVE MARMEL: We are a serialized show. That is sort of the engine of the show, the two brothers and the friendships, but keep watching.
ANUPAM NIGAM: We can’t give away too much.
STEVE MARMEL: It wasn’t a conscious choice to or not to, as much as we know where the season is going to go, and we know who the characters are, and the universe widens like this, and it is inclusive.
WHERE THE IDEA OF MECH-X4 CAME FROM
STEVE MARMEL: It started with, hey, wouldn’t it be fun to do a show about, four kids that just happen to have to work together with a giant monster fighting robot. Then every step of the way through development, it sort of evolved. Like, wouldn’t be fun to actually have great special effects? Wouldn’t it be great to do it single camera and make it look like a movie?
Wouldn’t it be great in this day and age where storytelling is binge and serialized? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do a long story over a season? So it started with an idea, Disney went for it, and then all of a sudden, this great team started coming together and bringing everything to it. ANUPAM NIGAM comes from a world of serialized storytelling and the director, Zach, has a passion for the nostalgic Goonies, ET vibe, that’s sort of an Amblin feel of it all. And it all just became this thing through collaboration and really talented people.
FAVORITE BEHIND THE SCENES MOMENT
ANUPAM NIGAM: I can tell you what mine is. I came from the one-hour world; this is my first time on a half-hour comedy. It’s my first time on a show that targets families instead of adults, so I had a little trepidation. I’d seen some of the footage… the show looked amazing, and in the third episode – which will air Saturday, November 12th – the director sent me this one quick clip of Ryan and there’s an explosion in the head of the robot. He just goes flying across the thing, and it looked amazing.
It looked like any kind of action movie you would see in the theaters, and I remember asking him ‘how did you hide the wires; how did you higher the rigs?” And he said there were no wires; there were no rigs. Nathaniel just did that; he was able to jump and make it look like he was being thrown across the robot. I was like, okay, this show is going be amazing.
STEVE MARMEL: We do what Zach likes to call Kung-Foo takes. Once we get everything that’s written, once we get the intention down, then there’s usually a thing where the kids get to do whatever they want. And the camera rolls. They get to do whatever they want to do. Invariably, in every episode, somebody does something funny, or poignant, or weird, or interesting that’s an extension of what was written – that’s surprising.
Or even Harris going, ‘oh, we’re doing catchphrases now?’ Like, I love that. That happens because they know the character, and they’re having fun with it, and that makes me really happy.
PRODUCTION SCHEDULE AND CGI
STEVE MARMEL: It’s ambitious. We do two half-hour episodes every night, over nine days. We’re in the Robot set three to four days, and then we’re just out in Vancouver, doing movie stuff for five days – whether it’s sunny or rainy, or, whatever it is. There’s a crew up there that just deals with it, and makes it great every day in; day out, episode after episode.
ANUPAM NIGAM: And we shoot two episodes at once.
STEVE MARMEL: Yeah, the schedule can hop from one episode to another over eight days. Then literally, between when it’s finished and when it’s done, there’s about four to five months of special effects- CGI, like all the drone shots that are done during the nine day period. They have some people sort of play acting out exactly what the fight will be, and then they lay in the robot and the monster in those shots. It takes a really long time, but they challenge us.
ANUPAM NIGAM: Yeah, it looks amazing.
HOW THE MONSTER COMBINATIONS ARE CHOSEN
ANUPAM NIGAM: There’s usually a method to the madness to why the monsters are made a certain way. They usually have a specific sort of mission to accomplish. We can’t really say too much. When we’re talking about it in the room, it’s a little random fun time. Like, wouldn’t it be cool… to do this. We have amazing concept artists in Vancouver because sometimes we just say, well, what does an octopus and an anaconda look like together?
STEVE MARMEL: We get four versions and maybe we’ll use that one. But I would say that the monsters do have a purpose. The purpose of a monster will be built into it, and then we just sort of geek out and try to come up with the coolest version of what that purpose would be.
ANUPAM NIGAM: We also look at what unique skills the monster has that can hurt the robot.
INFLUENCES BEHIND THE SHOW
STEVE MARMEL: I think if we reference stuff, you’ll usually find us referencing comic books, movies, action adventure stuff, or the stuff that we love; that’s what we’re passionate about. That’s what we’ll sort of talk about. Then, we’ll try to infuse that into becoming a character story that turns into an action story.
WILL WE GET TO SEE THE ENTIRE INSIDE OF MECH-X4?
STEVE MARMEL: It’s a 150- foot robot, there’s a lot to explore. It has a job to do, and then what would a club house feel like if it was in a giant monster fighting robot. Those are the two things that come together. But they all have to work for the primary mission, which is to save the city, and save the world.
ANUPAM NIGAM: You’ll see all the rooms besides the ones you saw in these first two. As we said earlier, we have a med bay where Harris does a bunch of cool stuff.
~ THE CAST ~
HOW THEY ARE LIKE THEIR CHARACTERS
PEARCE JOZA: I’m like my character and not like my character. Spyder’s very crazy and he likes to do a lot of daredevil stuff type things. I lived in Colorado for a long time so I like to go out back and, play in the pond and climb trees or whatever. I also love school. I’m taking college level courses and Sypder’s not very good at school.
NATHANIEL POTVIN: I’m kinda like my character because, Ryan is always rising to the occasion. So whenever he has to fight a monster or even stand up to his brother, I’m kinda like that in some ways. Also, I have two older brothers so I know exactly what Ryan goes through on a daily basis. Ryan loves to skateboard. I love to skateboard. There are some similarities between us there.
KAMRAN LUCAS: Harris and I are pretty similar in like book smart terms. But not so much. More of like we both dress really nice and we’re both ladies men.
NATHANIEL POTVIN: That’s right.
RAYMOND CHAM: Oh, how do you follow that? I’m kinda like my character in a way. When it comes to family I’m very protective. And you’ll see that later ‘cause right now you’ve just pretty much seen me crank my brother. I care for my family and I’ll do anything to protect them and make sure that they’re okay. I’ve also dabbled in sports a bit. When I was around eight or nine, I used to play basketball. But, other than that, yeah, I’m not too similar.
THE SUPER POWERS THEY WOULD LIKE TO HAVE
RAYMOND CHAM: Shape shifting! It’s the craziest. Boom, I wanna fly, I’m a bird. I end up in the water I’m a whale. I could be anything. Yeah, because it’s my favorite. I think about it all the time. Maybe too much, but… Everyone’s like, I wanna fly. What? That’s it? That’s all you want to do? I could do that. I could do anything.
KAMRAN LUCAS: I kind of want to have the ability to stop and turn back time.
RAYMOND CHAM: That’s cool.
KAMRAN LUCAS: In case I want to change something, like when I was younger, I was at Legoland and this girl pushed me. I was really mad because she did it for no reason and I just want to go back and say, ‘hey, I’m on Disney Channel now.’ I’m not like that in real life. Just to that one person.
NATHANIEL POTVIN: If I had a super power it would probably be teleportation because who wants to pay for airline tickets? No one. No one does. Also, it would just be really convenient. If I got locked out of my house I could just teleport inside my house.
PEARCE JOZA: Telekinetic powers.
RAYMOND CHAM: It’s a cool word.
PEARCE JOZA: Yes it is. It’s pretty much controlling anything you think with your mind.
NATHANIEL POTVIN: That’s cool.
RAYMOND CHAM: I couldn’t have that super power because I can’t pronounce that word. Tele… I can move stuff.
PEARCE JOZA: See that water bottle? It’s over here now.
HOW DISNEY HAS CHANGED THEIR LIVES
NATHANIEL POTVIN: I would say that it’s actually pretty much the same because I have great friends, and I have a great family, and I love them so much. When I told them that I was going to be on Disney, with Steve, they were like, ‘oh, that’s cool. But, I asked you what the homework was,’ or something like that. I’m really blessed to have friends who don’t really care about what I’m doing, but they would love to support me and they’re just great.
RAYMOND CHAM: I would say it didn’t change too much just because the show is not out yet. But, I would say every once in a while I’ll get an Instagram notification from a kid and they’ll say, ‘I can’t wait for your show’ or something like that. And it’s really, really exciting. It makes you really happy. It’s inspiring or just seeing kids excited for something that I’ve worked really hard on. That’s really cool. I didn’t really experience that before.
KAMRAN LUCAS: For me, I’d say I’m still the same person, but the feelings are a lot different because ever since I was five years old I’ve always wanted to be on Disney Channel and do the wand thing that I’ve seen all my heroes do, especially Selena Gomez, God bless her soul.
RAYMOND CHAM: She didn’t die.
NATHANIEL POTVIN: She’s still alive.
KAMRAN LUCAS: First of all, I just I love her… We have a connection. Yeah. But no, it’s just all surreal. I never thought I’d be in the position that I am. Honestly, I’m just so thankful because I have great friends who are there to support me. Being in Canada – I love being with these guys – Sometimes I’m away from the friends that I’ve grown up with my whole life. And it’s great to know that even when I can’t see them, they’re still there.
PEARCE JOZA: As I said before, I’m from Colorado. You know, of course this has changed my life with all the things that are happening, and this is crazy, right? But, I think what really, really changed my life in the whole broad spectrum is just moving out to LA when I was eleven. Since I was nine I was trying to convince my parents to let me go out and act in movies and TV and whatever. For two years I worked at it. And then finally I got out there and I don’t get to see my friends from Colorado that often, but, you know, everybody from there is still really cool with me. It’s nice.
WHAT DREW THEM TO ACTING
NATHANIEL POTVIN: Personally for me, I got into acting because my dad and my mom were kind of in the industry. And I loved watching movies. I think there’s a lot of stuff I can learn from movies. Initially, when I started watching movies, I was thought ‘wow, I want to be like them.’ I want to change people’s emotions just by pretending to be someone else or becoming someone else. So I thought, just the art of becoming an actor is really interesting to me so that’s what motivated me to become an actor.
PEARCE JOZA: When I was four my mom took me to see this stage play, Frog and Toad. I was sitting out in the audience going ‘why am I out here and not up there?’ So for a very long time, I was on stage, and then I started watching Jim Carrey. He’s my comedic mentor, he’s great. I’ve done a bunch of his stand up. I thought he was hilarious. And it was like hey, I should do that. That would be awesome. So yeah, that’s how I got started.
RAYMOND CHAM: I started when I was eight. I loved performing. That was my thing I loved because I’m also a dancer. Just being on stage and performing for other people is really fun for me. But when I first started, it wasn’t really because I really wanted to become an actor. It was really just filling a void of performing. Then eventually I started watching more and more movies and every time I would watch a movie – especially with teens.
I remember when I would see Harry Potter with my mom, we’d go to midnight showings, I would always have this feeling; I still don’t even know how to explain it really. It was a mixture of jealousy and want; I was hungry for it. For some reason I just would leave the theater thinking, that was amazing and I want to do that. I would be- not upset, but I would just think – why am I not doing that? It’s kinda weird because all those people worked their butts off to get there. But I was just really intrigued and really wanted to do it.
So around ten or eleven, I thought this is what I want to do. I started taking acting classes and then just watching movies because I think that’s the best thing you can do as well. There are so many great movies and great stories being told. And just seeing how people play certain things. Then I think, how would I do something different? Or just like wow, everything he did was just flawless. I think it’s great. And then working on set is the greatest school. That’s what got me into it.
KAMRAN LUCAS: So, I was always a great liar. I would break a plate and I’d be like, ‘ah man, the maid did it, I guess.’ We didn’t have a maid. I look back and I think, wow, that was really mean. But, no, I could probably incorporate this into something I could do and we all have our heroes; mine being Selena Gomez on “Wizards of Waverly Place” on Disney Channel. And I thought, I kinda want to do that! A friend of mine had taken me to an acting class. I went and it was just really interesting. It was kinda like, forgetting everything that you’re doing at the moment, not being you. Blank slate. You’re being totally someone else and you’re pretending and acting like anything else. It was just really interesting to see that, and I was thought, I want to do this. It eventually became a profession and now I’m here, and I’m really grateful that I get to do that.
WHY THEY WANTED THEIR ROLE AND HOW THEY GOT IT
NATHANIEL POTVIN: I read for it and obviously Steve saw something in me, because when I looked back through the audition tape…I didn’t think I was that great. But, we went back and we were going through this process of going through audition, after audition, after audition. Finally, the last audition, which is actually the most memorable for me, was with me and Raymond. We were doing stuff together and at the end of the audition, we had this banter back and forth which we adlibbed. That’s actually really what got us the roles. I was really excited about that. I love my character because I can see a lot of myself in my character. But also, what kid doesn’t want to be a superhero? It’s pretty amazing.
KAMRAN LUCAS: When I got the role, actually it was very interesting, I had also had auditioned for this other show to be a series regular. I remember going in for a screen test, which is the level before getting the job, and I got a call from my manager saying, we’re really sorry but they don’t want you to be the character. I visually remember me being in my bed and I was so crushed because this was something I really wanted. But the next day I got a call that I was going to do a chemistry test for this show.
I guess a little happiness spark kinda came back, and I thought – you know what…why should I be upset? I ended up getting the job and I’m so thankful because now I get to be on a Disney Channel show which is something I’ve always wanted. I guess my dreams have kind of come true.
RAYMOND CHAM: That was really sweet. I wanted to do it because, one, it seemed like a really cool show. And then two, experience. I think being on set is a great way to learn. And also this show kind of, uses everything. It has its very normal moments, and then it has its very crazy moments. I’ve never worked with a green screen before so I thought that would be a cool thing to learn because a lot of things are green screen. That’s a really good tool to have in your back pocket. And the brotherly moments, I think are really awesome. It just seemed great. I auditioned with these guys and it was really fun.
I’ve auditioned for Disney a bit, but it’s still always a weird moment in my life when I’m auditioning in front of people. Especially when you get to the network level, like a screen test. Normally when you’re auditioning and it’s just two people, one person’s operating the camera and the other person you’re reading with. If you’re lucky. Sometimes you get the camera person reading with you and they’re just not caring about the lines. Then when you get to the next level, or a network or whatever, and there’s maybe ten people in the room, or more. It kind of feels like when you’re in school and you have to do those oral presentations and no one really wants to do that because it’s kinda scary. I wish I took that more seriously in school because it’s a really good skill to have – to be able to talk in front of people. I didn’t realize that in a couple months I’d be talking in front of a hundred maybe two hundred background actors. So that was my experience and I was very, very nervous even though I worked with these people. It still never fails to get me.
PEARCE JOZA: I had been auditioning for two years for the role. Originally I was too short for the part, so these guys went and shot the pilot. They came back down and they wanted to cast my character again, so I went in. I just went in for a screen test and that’s when I met these two right here. It just happened very fast, is what I remember. Then I got a call from my manager one day and he said, ‘is this Spyder? ‘ I was like, ‘apparently now!’
SEE! So fun, excited, and genuinely happy to be a part of this new adventure. Everyone we talked to was amazing. A special thank you to all of them for coming out and allowing us to get to know them better!
TUNE IN ALERT
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11
One-hour television premiere of “MECH-X4” featuring two back-to-back episodes (8:30 p.m. EDT) on Disney Channel.
“MECH-X4” is available on Disney Channel YouTube, Disney Channel VOD and the Disney Channel App for smartphones, tablets, and connected TVS.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12
New “MECH-X4” episode titled “Let’s Get Some Air!” premieres on Disney Channel (8:30 p.m. EDT), Disney Channel VOD and the Disney Channel App.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13
New “MECH-X4” episode titled “Let’s Open the Monster Heart!” premieres on Disney Channel (8:30 p.m. EDT), Disney Channel VOD and the Disney Channel App.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 5
“MECH-X4” will also be presented on Disney XD and the Disney XD App.