His new animated TV show is not, Ralph Michael Brekan swears, just about smoking marijuana.
“It’s really about living your dream,” says the visual artist-slash-actor. “To really live a high life doesn’t mean just to be high. It means to be fulfilled, to make relationships with people you want to share yourself with in a positive way. And, you know, to laugh a lot along the way.”
Supatoonz: The High Life — which debuts today, July 27, on various cable stations; new episodes drop each Monday on thesocialclub.tv — aims to please a demographic, Brekan says, of people between the ages of 18 and 80. He hopes the show can reconcile pot-smoker stereotypes with today’s pot-smoking realities.
“It used to be that people just got high to feel good,” he says, “but nowadays medical marijuana is fixing a lot of what ails you.”
Brekan is honest about his own use of marijuana. “I’m a regular user. It helps with my PTSD and my ADD. I was born with one and acquired the other. Pot helps me sleep and stay focused.”
Not too focused. Rather than give up acting or making art to focus on his new television contract, Brekan is pursuing all three careers. He and his wife divide their time between Phoenix and Pasadena, so that Brekan can perform on film. Before studios recently suspended production, he’d done a movie with Baywatch’s Donna D’Errico and appeared in an episode of Apple TV’s For All Mankind.
“I’m a bit of a polydactyl learner,” he says. “I engage in things I’m interested in and do them completely, even if I’ve got other commitments.”
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Those other commitments include work as a freelance commercial artist, where Brekan finds himself doing more and more animated storyboards for clients. “My wife is an animator, and I started asking her things like, ‘Could we use CGI software to animate a story?’ It turned out we could, and so we started working together to make illustrations that move, and we formed an animation studio called Artorama around that new skill set.”
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Brekan’s pitch for an animated show about a bunch of potheads was well received. But when a deal with renowned animation network Adult Swim fell through, he decided to pedal the already-produced series to other networks himself. “I’m an opportunist who took advantage of the fact that everyone is staying home these days, watching more TV,” he admits. “But with High Life, I wanted to present values that were less raunchy and a little more wholesome than you’d expect in a show about potheads. So I integrated Rastafarianism, spirituality, an emphasis on community and family. It’s about a bunch of pot smokers, but it’s a pretty traditional sitcom.”
It helped to get high before voicing Stevie Stoner, the main character, Brekan says. “I guess I’m a little bit of a method actor with my voice work. I want to disguise my own natural voice when I’m doing each character. For Stevie, that affected-by-marijuana voice is part of his sound. But there’s a stuffy record producer named Sir Robert Hansen SP who has more of a gin-and-tonic voice. It depends on the character.”
Brekan says he’s got a 60-month commitment with the pothead series. “So I have to keep my ADD in check for the next five years.”
Focus remains an issue. “People keep bringing me COVID stories,” he says, his voice rising. “And now I’m starting to think about a series where some guys are planting computer chips in your brain if you go for a coronavirus test. I think I better find some time to rough that one out.”