Akron’s Ray Wise works in movies and TV. And works and works and works. The Internet Movie Database has him attached to more than a dozen projects in 2014. He is on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless, and in a recurring role on prime time’s How I Met Your Mother (he plays Robin’s father), and in a movie called Jurassic Lockdown.
So when there’s another opportunity, you can expect the graduate of Garfield High and Kent State to take advantage. He has accordingly added online productions to his resume, among them videos for Funny Or Die, and Hulu’s first original series, Battleground, in 2012. He is currently in the Hulu series Farmed and Dangerous, and sees no difference in quality based on the delivery system.
“To use the cliche, [online] is one of the waves of the future,” he said in a recent phone chat from California, where he was enjoying a distinctly non-Akron-like, warm and sunny February day. “These Web series have become quite good. They’re up for awards, Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. These production teams on some of these webisodes, and mine in particular, are as good as any I’ve worked with on the major networks. The differentiation between mediums isn’t very great.”
Farmed and Dangerous is a four-part satire of the industrial food business; two episodes are on Hulu now, with new ones appearing each Monday.
In the show, big-agriculture company Animoil has developed a petroleum-based pill to feed cattle. There’s just a little side effect: the cattle can catch fire and explode.
(Wise quickly said no real cow was harmed, certainly not the one on the set. “It was a beautiful, lovely cow. She was quite friendly, and stood there for hours letting us film away. She was a real sport.” Computer effects created the explosion.)
In the show, after an exploding-cow video goes viral, it’s up to Wise, as spin doctor Buck Marshall, to keep that from becoming an image problem. His techniques are ruthless and unconcerned with the truth; his group is the Industrial Food Image Bureau — which as an acronym, Wise noted, spells out “I Fib.”
The series is also sponsored by the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain, and there is a message the company wants heard.
“Our goal in making the show was to engage people through entertainment and make them more curious about their food and where it comes from,” said a statement from Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle and an executive producer of the show.
“It’s not a show about Chipotle, but rather integrates the values that are at the heart of our business. The more people know about how food is raised, the more likely they will be to choose food made from better ingredients — like the food we serve at Chipotle.”
While Wise said he was eating at Chipotle before getting Farmed and Dangerous, the sponsorship was not an issue when he was considering the show.
“When I first heard about it, it was simply presented … to me as simply a four-part miniseries,” Wise said. “It was a regular, theatrical piece that has story and different characters, and I would play one of them. They sent me a script, and I liked it, and at that particular point of time, the idea of Chipotle being behind it … didn’t even enter my mind. I don’t know if it was even mentioned.”
And Marshall was tailor-made for Wise, who has played more than one bad guy. On the cult series Reaper he played the Devil, and his Y&R role, Ian Ward, is “another nefarious character.” Marshall is “a born confidence man,” Wise said. Even though he dotes on his daughter (Karynn Moore), he is more than willing to use her to woo a crusading farmer (former Shaker Heights resident John Sloan) who is battling Animoil and IFIB.
“If it requires that,” he said. “She can reach those young men that perhaps Buck can’t.”
Of course, this is not the only project Wise has, but some are more easily discussed than others. How I Met Your Mother ends its nine-season run on March 31, and it’s holding back some surprises.
“I can’t tell you anything about it, of course,” he said, “except it’s going to be wonderfully resolved and ended, and all the fans for all these years are, I think, going to be happy and satisfied.”
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.