Felicia Day, who has an extensive career in film and television with over 100 credits and is arguably most well-known for her work in the web video world, is currently working as an actor, producer, writer, and streamer. Most recently, Day’s original series Third Eye has been released on Audible, bringing another of her unique fantasy adventures to life.
The description for Third Eye reads:
“Once upon a time, in the magical land of San Francisco, there lived a not-so-ordinary girl named Laurel Pettigrew. She was supposed to be the Chosen One. The plan was simple: She would vanquish the great evil Tybus in an epic battle. But destiny had other ideas, and Laurel’s performance in the whole heroics department was a colossal flop.
Now, instead of being a legendary hero, Laurel’s the resident pariah of the magic realm. And what’s worse, the dark wizard Tybus swooped in, took over the realm, and forced all supernatural creatures to live under his tyrannical rule. He’s even stripped away the magical powers of those who refused to join his wicked cause. Yeah, everyone hates her. Well, everyone except her two roomies—Sybil, the sassiest diva of a fairy, who could throw shade with the flick of a wing. And Frank, the vampire who rocks a bald spot and a serious paunch. They are the real MVPs, the ride-or-die buddies who have her back, no matter how many colossal fails she racks up.
And it’s all about to get even weirder. Along comes Kate, a Normie who somehow knows more about Laurel than Laurel knows about herself. Turns out, she’s got some secrets up her sleeve that might just give Laurel a shot at redemption and a chance to rewrite her destiny.”
After catching up on what Felicia and her daughter got into on Halloween, we dove into a conversation about Third Eye.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nerds & Beyond: Congratulations on Third Eyes‘ release! Where did the inspiration for Third Eye come from and how did it come to fruition as an Audible Original?
Felicia Day: I had the idea for the show back in 2015 or ’16. I wanted to pitch a TV show after The Guild ended, and I was playing around with some of my ideas and I just had this idea about a girl who was kind of lost that worked at a psychic shop, and as I developed it, I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be interesting if she was a ‘chosen one’ who was just a loser?” I definitely wanted loser, supernatural creatures in a psychic shop, and I didn’t start writing it until I kind of got the character like, “Oh, I just get it.” She’s a “chosen one” in this world and she failed and everyone hates her. And then I was like, “Oh, we’re off.”
This is the character I want to write because at the time I was feeling very burnt out. I ran a company called Geek & Sundry, which was amazing, but we made so many unscripted videos. It was just not my passion after a while and it was exhausting because the pace at which we had to make content was just really, really tough on anybody. And so I was feeling really down on myself. Being able to put that sort of, “You’re a failure” into this story was really close to my heart. Unfortunately, Hollywood did not acknowledge that it was the most brilliant idea in the world, and it wasn’t until several years later when I could pitch it to Audible that I finally got to see it through.
Nerds & Beyond: It has to be so exciting after sitting with it for so many years and developing it for so many years to finally see it come to fruition.
Day: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I could not let go of the story, and I’m kind of like that with some stories. I just can’t let people tell me no. I mean, they could say no, but I’ll find another way around them. And the wonderful thing is it turned out to be the perfect format for the story.
Nerds & Beyond: In terms of a format, were you presented with any new challenges as a creative when doing an audio-only series? What mindset do you put yourself in to dive into the challenges?
Day: It took a while to crack how I was going to approach it, and certainly I can’t underestimate the challenge of not being able to see somebody’s reaction to sell a joke or have a thought really say a thousand words. You’d really have to say 1,000 words in audio, and that’s why this ended up being seven hours, 400+ pages of script because you have to be so explicit.
The hook really came when I decided to have a narrator, but I found the voice of the narrator because Neil Gaiman, who is so brilliant, plays the narrator, but he’s not just a person reading a book. He is truly a character in himself. And it was really cracking the sort of tone of the narrator matching the tone of the show, which is very comedic, but has a lot of heart that really helped me get through. But at the same time, every scene I had to back up and be like, “Okay, is everyone understand everything when they can’t see anything? Are they understanding where everybody is in the scene? Who is talking? What’s going on physically?”
I think confusion is something I had to battle a lot, and we dealt with that until the very last episode was edited.
Nerds & Beyond: You kind of touched on a question that I wanted to ask, mentioning Neil as the narrator. I want to dive into the cast a little bit more. When you’re writing an audio series, do you have a certain voice or cast member in mind already or is that something that comes after?
Day: I certainly had a lot of these actors in mind, almost all of them except for a couple are personal acquaintances or friends. But when you’re casting, I think just like if you’re casting a TV show, you don’t want anybody to be confused about who anybody is. You don’t want to have everybody be blonde women or the same age.
It’s the same thing with voices. You don’t want everybody to sound the same. You certainly don’t want people to be confused about who’s talking ever and that was something we really had to take into consideration. London Hughes, who plays Sybil, I always knew she needed to have an accent because I knew Frank wasn’t going to have an accent. Sean Astin plays Frank, and he’s a dumpy vampire, so I knew that he and I would have American accents, and I was like, “Sybil has to have an accent just because we don’t want to have any voice bleeding.” We want people to really understand who’s talking immediately.
Same thing with LilyPichu, who plays Kate, the young girl who kind of comes in and busts my pathetic former “chosen one’s” life up. She has a very distinctive, almost anime-like voice. And when we cut my voice together with the leading people for the role, she’s so perfect as far as my voice goes. I am older, but I don’t sound old at all. In fact, I play kids most of the time in animation, so matching somebody’s voice to mine was really the biggest challenge. She’s 15 and I’m an adult, and how do we get that when I sound so young?
Well, we nailed it with Lily because not only is she brilliant, but her voice does sound so distinctively young.
Nerds & Beyond: When you’re telling a story like Third Eye that has some complex and darker themes, as well as aspects that are comedic and light, how do you approach maintaining that balance between the two?
Day: I think tone is the thing that I am the best at because it is part of who I am. And I think that my friend Jonah Ray, who was the voice director for this, said after he read the script, “This is the most ‘Felicia Day’ thing I’ve ever read.” And I was like, “Thank you.”
It’s very similar to the other things I’ve written, The Guild especially, it’s very funny. People are almost hostile to each other even though they love each other, but there is a heart underneath it and there is romance and love and healing. So I think tone is the thing that doesn’t make me commercial in Hollywood, but makes my work stand out.
I knew I wanted it to be funny. I can’t write anything that’s not at least a little bit funny, but I wanted it to feel like an epic fantasy tale. And I wanted people to imagine this rundown terrible San Francisco with this veneer of magic right underneath because that’s kind of the fun of it. When I was driving down a street one day, I passed a “Cash for Gold” shop and I was like, “What is that place? Is there really enough gold to support those people so they can pay rent?” And then I was like, “Well, what if they’re a dwarf who lives there secretly and they’re melting the gold down for their people?” And I was like, “Oh, this is what I want.”
I don’t want to go to a fantasy world, I want to find fantasy in our world. And that was kind of the setting that really let the tone come to life for me.
Nerds & Beyond: Did you find a lot of inspiration for pieces of the world like that when it came to world-building, just driving around and seeing something and creating a fantasy behind it?
Day: Absolutely. It was a trip to San Francisco that inspired me to place Third Eye in San Francisco because I love those old Queen Anne houses, some of them are so run down, but they’re so formally beautiful and there’s a decay about them. And there’s so many psychic shops around LA that have these bright, beautiful neon signs on them, but they’re just a regular house. And I was like, “Well, what if we combine those two and we have this sort of ‘old decadence?'” so to speak.
And I think that if I can encourage anybody who’s driving to see a person and be like, “Oh, they might have a secret,” that will be my biggest victory.
Nerds & Beyond: You touched on a phrase that, and this is a compliment in the best way, encompasses Third Eye — it’s old and familiar, but it’s new and decadent at the same time. There are a lot of familiar themes and tropes, it’s fantasy, and there are a lot of types of creatures that we’ve seen before, but it is really fresh.
And I think right now what a lot of audiences are struggling with in media is repetition. How do you continue to breathe new life into these familiar and nostalgic themes and tropes?
Day: That’s such a compliment, I really appreciate it. And yeah, you’re right. I sometimes don’t watch something that I thought maybe five years ago I’d really enjoy because I kind of know what’s happening. Not only do they give everything away with a trailer, but it feels like we’re being served the same outlines and journeys that we’ve been served over and over again. I think it all goes kind of back to the hero’s journey, but it also goes to save the cat and other screenplay rules that everyone’s following, especially in Hollywood. And yes, it’s safe and it’s proven, but it’s quite boring sometimes.
I have the privilege of not being able to follow rules. If I see somebody tell me I need to do something, I’ll do the opposite. And it was really tough for me. Third Eye is as many pages that I wrote for this as six seasons of The Guild that I did over seven or eight years, so this is a lot of writing. And to sit down and break it into ten pieces, I had to teach myself to write in a much more structured way and a much more organized way. But at the same time, I didn’t let rules hem me in. And I certainly told the story I wanted to tell.
Had I sold this show as a TV show however long ago, there’s no way that this story would ever have existed because of all the input, all the other people’s opinions, all the rules, and requirements, not only just length, but it never would’ve ended up to be this. And so that’s why I’m super thankful that although it was a much less glamorous and longer journey, this is a story I knew I needed to tell that I would never have told in any other format.
Nerds & Beyond: One of the largest pieces that really makes it uncommon from what we’re seeing right now is the use of hero’s journey in a way we don’t normally see. We don’t usually see the “chosen one” failing, we don’t often see the “chosen one” having to deal with their failures because at the end of the day, we usually ultimately see them save the day anyway.
I think in that way, Laurel was a very interesting character to probably bring to life. Do you want to touch on your favorite parts of her character arc?
Day: I have to say this is a very personal connection I have with this character Laurel, because at the time I had just written my autobiography, You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost). I talked very extensively about my mental health struggles, my burnout, but I honestly don’t even feel like back then I grappled with how burned out I was creatively. And I was so unhappy because I knew that the spark that I had was gone because it had been quashed by too much work.
I didn’t respect myself as a person to take care of myself. At the same time, people were lauding me as sort of a prodigy of the internet space because I was so early in making content. But I felt that nothing I could do could live up to the hype in my head or other people’s opinions, especially when it came to business, because quite frankly, business is not my four strong points. I’m a creator. I have creative ideas. I’ve started many awesome shows that last in people’s minds and hearts. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the great business strategy that I did or the great monetization strategy that I had. That’s not what I’m good at. Unfortunately, when you’re in an internet startup in a company, you’ve got to juggle all the hats. And the thing that I sacrificed was my own creative spirit.
So being able to infuse this character with that sense of failure, even though I wasn’t a failure at all, I just had that feeling about myself. Working through it and healing myself with the support of these characters. It helped heal me and it also gave me a sense of story of artistry and creativity back. I wrote this over Covid and I was able to take my time in a way that never would’ve happened otherwise. The fact that I didn’t feel rushed or anxious or pressured all the time to go faster allowed me to really get to know myself again.
I feel like a much better creator now. Having gone through the process and gone through the story of Laurel, who as a “chosen one” finds a way to look at herself in a different way.
Nerds & Beyond: I’m glad that Laurel and the project as a whole helped you get that spark back. Do you think audio series is a form of media that you’ll continue to explore, specifically maybe returning to the world of Third Eye?
Day: I own Third Eye, just like I own The Guild, so I think for me going forward, I tried a lot of Hollywood writing for many years and it just did not work for me. God bless the writers, they deserve every dollar they earn because I just put my heart too strongly in things and I don’t move quickly enough for a very quick business. My joy is writing my own things on the side and acting and hosting for the broader audience that I get to do a little bit of everything I love.
In that point, I do have some ideas about what to do with Third Eye, but I really wanted it to be an Audible one satisfying experience. So if the opportunity arises, I would love to explore these characters again and I can explore ’em in different formats perhaps, but at the end of the day, working in audio was a wonderful experience. I could make something big without having those big budget dollars that Hollywood has to give you and that I will always be thankful for and would love to do again.
Nerds & Beyond: Now that we’ve gotten the serious questions out of the way, I like to end with a quick rapid-fire session — I’ll throw out a question and you say the first thing that comes to mind.
Day: Let’s do it.
Nerds & Beyond: Starting with a pretty easy one where a day late, but we already talked about it. Best Halloween candy?
Day: Ooh, I love Baby Ruth. And you know the secret to Baby Ruth is orange oil.
Nerds & Beyond: Oh?
Day: That’s the secret. That’s why it beats Snickers.
Nerds & Beyond: I need to do a side-by-side comparison now.
Day: Yeah, you’ll taste it now. You will.
Nerds & Beyond: Does pineapple belong on pizza?
Day: Yes. Always. Extra.
Nerds & Beyond: The best answer. If you were to pull up a playlist of the songs that are the most on repeat for you right now, what would be at the top?
Day: Oh, well, my kid has taken over my Spotify and she plays the podcast Greeking Out over and over and over and over and over … and over. I’ve listened to every episode probably five times, but I was a huge Greek mythology fan before her, and that’s why I got her hooked. So I deserve it. And I actually enjoy the podcast a lot, so it’s all good.
Nerds & Beyond: If you could have any fantasy creature as a pet, what would it be?
Day: Could I have a tiny unicorn?
Nerds & Beyond: Yeah, there are no rules.
Day: Yeah, tiny unicorn. Well, I mean, honestly, if I could have a pegasus and I can basically fly over LA traffic, that would probably be better — more practical. If I’m going to deal with horse poop, I might as well be flying.
Nerds & Beyond: You’re solving issues at the same time as you’re having fun. Since we’re kind of between seasons for the two right now, which one is your preferred flavor — pumpkin or peppermint?
Day: Oh, I hate peppermint. Pumpkin all the way.
I like gingerbread. So if we’re going to go from season to season, it’s going to be pumpkin and gingerbread. Never peppermint. Never.
Nerds & Beyond: Would gingerbread win over pumpkin?
Day: See, that’s a hard one.
Nerds & Beyond: Now it’s difficult.
Day: I make a really good gingerbread and I make the best pumpkin pie. So boy, it probably would be pumpkin pie because I could probably eat pumpkin pie every day until I die. It’s close, though.
Nerds & Beyond: Pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream, personally.
Day: Oh wait … whipped cream. I eat whipped cream on gingerbread too though.
Nerds & Beyond: Just whipped cream wins. It was super great to talk to you, I really appreciate your time. Congratulations again on Third Eye!
Day: Thank you so much for featuring Third Eye. It’s my baby. I’ll talk about it whenever I can.
Third Eye is available now on Audible.