Will Friedle is both entertaining and educating viewers with the new Critical Role series Mini Primetime, and told Hidden Remote how it came together.
Mini Primetime isn’t your ordinary talk show, and Will Friedle isn’t your ordinary host. He’s behind a desk for Critical Role’s new series, which teaches fans how to paint their own minis—while Will strikes up conversations, late-night style, with your favorite Critical Role stars.
It’s a painting series with a parody twist, and Will connected with Hidden Remote to talk about where the idea came from, and how hard it is to paint a very small object with a camera right in front of you.
Learn more about Mini Primetime in our interview with Will Friedle below, then check out new episodes every Wednesday on the Critical Role YouTube channel! It’s the most fun you’ll ever have watching a talk show.
Hidden Remote: Mini Primetime is a really fun concept. How did the idea come about and what interested you about it?
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Will Friedle: It all started with [Critical Role star] Marisha Ray years ago now. I was playing in a home game with Brian Foster and some other people, and I threw a mini on the table that I had painted with magic marker, and of course Brian Foster took a picture of that that and instantly mini-shamed me all over the internet.
Marisha saw this and called me one day. I was actually at a convention and she called me and said, hey I saw your mini, that’s awful, s there any chance we can do a show and teach you how to paint this right. I went okay, that sounds odd. We wound up doing three seasons of Painter Skills together.
And then when Critical Role went to do their own thing, I’ve been friends with them for so long [they] said come paint with us, and that’s absolutely what I wanted to do. So we threw out a bunch of different concepts, and the kind of sad late-night talk show host was one that we thought was really funny. That coupled with the mini painting led to Primetime and we had so much fun shooting. It was three days of laughing, so I can’t wait for people to see it.
HR: How much do you lean into the parody part of the show? Because you playing that character is hilarious.
WF: It’s a late-night talk show with a host who has no idea how to host, no money to actually make a talk show so he does everything himself. The show is primarily about painting. It’s not a long show; it’s not the kind of show where you get one mini and for five hours, you watch me paint the mini with somebody. That show’s been done and we didn’t want to do that anymore.
What we wanted to make sure we did was focus on specific techniques. We’ll work on one thing that’s specific to the mini that we’re working on, whether it’s going to be face or we’re hitting edge highlighting, battle damage, doing basing—it’s all very quick pops of here are some techniques or one specific technique we’re going to teach you today.
It’s also a chance to see your Critical Role gang answering questions they were not expecting to come at them, so it takes it in a whole different direction, which is great too.
HR: Painting can be hard, so how hard was it to paint a mini while also trying to converse with the Critical Role cast in Mini Primetime episodes? How would you describe your painting skills?
WF: The thing that’s so funny is if somebody put a gun to my head and said you have to draw me a picture or I’m pulling the trigger, I’d go hey, bye. I have no artistic talent whatsoever. I can’t draw a straight line. But for some reason I can pick up mini painting.
I’m never going to be one of these women or men out there that take it to the level of truly being artistic. Some of the pieces you see belong in a museum. That’s not an exaggeration. I saw a picture of one a Russian artist did where he blends all his own paints. These are minis, they are tiny, [and] he painted the helmet so perfectly that within the helmet he painted the reflection of somebody coming to kill this character. It’s ridiculous. We had another artist who on the shield of a miniature, painted the Mona Lisa. You can take these things to the next level.
I’m still getting better, but I’m to the point now where I can spend some time, paint the mini I want and throw it on the table and people say hey, that looks great, which is all I’m looking for. You can throw yourself into mini painting as much as you want. So as somebody with no artistic ability, it’s not that difficult to pick up. It’s very difficult to get good.
But I learned not only to do it while talking to somebody, but for the first three years I learned to do it with a GoPro in front of my face. So I was painting at a distance; some people bring it right to their eye, while I paint from a foot and a half away. That was an interesting way to learn!
HR: How much fun was it to work with the Critical Role actors again on Mini Primetime?
WF: It was a terrible experience. They’re all awful people. That’s what most of them will tell you to your face is that they’re really, really horrible people. (laughs) I’m kidding. I met [Matt] Mercer first out of that crew and that was back in 2010 I think, we were doing Thundercats. Some of them I met the first time ever at the first campaign I played on, which was back early in their run, and we’ve been close ever since. Travis [Willingham] and Laura [Bailey] are my neighbors and I’ve gotten to know them very well.
The great part about doing this show and having them on one at a time is really getting to showcase how different their personalities are. It’s so wonderful to sit with them and paint with them. Mercer’s a perfect example. Sitting and trying to teach Matt how to paint is a ridiculous thing to do because he’s way better than me, so the episode really ended up being me once again learning from Matt, who was my first painting teacher.
We had episodes like that, where maybe I’ll teach a little bit, but then it’s let’s learn this together or you’re teaching me. So seeing them showcasing their personalities one on one was a whole lot of fun. And you can’t like one episode more than the other because they’re all so different. But [with] Laura Bailey, I won’t get into what exactly our technique was on that episode, we had a blast. It was like a giant arts and crafts episode and we had so much fun doing it. Things like that, you’ll be able to see how much fun we have.
HR: Things like Critical Role have raised awareness about the awesomeness of roleplaying and now we’re hearing more about the celebrities who play. What is it about RPGs that you love?
WF: It’s like an improv class with dice, rules and consequences. You’re immersing yourself in a character, having a ton of fun with your friends while on some adventure. I was a little bit spoiled that my first DM [Dungeon Master] was Matt Mercer. We have now Patrick Fugit and Brian Foster; the two of them together paint a wonderful story, so I’ve been really lucky with having some incredible actors and storytellers as my DM’s. You immerse yourself in this world, and any true actor wants to act.
William Daniels, who played Mister Feeny on Boy Meets World, when anybody would ask him I want to be an actor, what do you suggest I do? He always said act. Whether that means you stand up in front of your family, you’re at a local theater, you’re at a family reunion—wherever you have a chance to perform, you perform. That’s what an actor does. So a Dungeons & Dragons game with six or seven people around the table, you’re immersed in that world, you get to act and for a performer, that’s all you care about.
HR: What would you say to people who are newer to playing or maybe don’t know anything at all about it and want to check out Mini Primetime?
WF: I think more and more people are coming to roleplaying or coming to game nights [and] getting the joy of it now. I don’t think they’re misunderstood anymore. I don’t think people have this kind of impression of huge nerds sitting in their mother’s basement. Sometimes we’re nerds and we’re sitting in our mom’s basement—I don’t have a problem with that—but it’s just hanging out with friends and having fun. I think more people are starting to understand that.
Critical Role are incredible pied pipers for the game and roleplaying in general. The joy of any nerddom is going down the rabbit hole. When I first started learning about mini painting, I didn’t realize that the size of the world there is based around mini painting. There’s conventions, award shows, artists all over the world that get together.
That’s my favorite part of being a nerd, scratching the surface of something and then realizing wow, there’s an entire world based around this. People are getting that with roleplaying, I think people are starting to get that with minis and mini painting, and like anything else it’s how much time you want to invest.
Mini Primetime streams Wednesdays exclusively on Critical Role channel on YouTube.