Still a ‘GOOF’ After All These Years: Geeks Are Sexy Talks with Jason Marsden

If you grew up in the ’90s, Jason Marsden is a household name, even if you don’t recognize it right away.

From General Hospital to Full House to Step By Step to A Goofy Movie, Marsden has been acting — either on-screen or behind a microphone — for a whopping 30 of his 41 years.

I recently sat down “eye to eye”** with him over Dragon Con weekend in Atlanta to discuss his lengthy career, the (depressing) reason why the ’90s are cool again, what’s next for him  — and what really happened with Fuller House.



Alright, first things first, because we’ve got to address it: Can you please finally put to rest once and for all the Fuller House Controversy of 2016?

I know, man! I‘ve never been so popular!

Who knew, right?! It had to make you feel good! But when it’s all said and done, it really was your decision not to reprise the role of Nelson Burkhard, D.J.’s ex-boyfriend?

It did make me feel good, yes, absolutely! But it was my decision. So, what happened was months ago, I want to say May – no, I’m sorry, March – casting from Fuller House contacted me directly and just was like, “Hey, you know, it’s not a sure thing. Are you available these dates, these dates, these dates?” and at the time I was like, “Yes, sure. Interested, totally!”

And then three weeks ago, “Hey, we’re gonna do it after all! We’re gonna do the reunion episode, and we’d love to have you! Are you available August 30th through September 2nd?” I’m like, “I’m not, I have to be in Atlanta on the 2nd,” and they wrote back, “Ok, I guess you’re not available,” and I went, “Oh, I guess I’m not!” And then they tried again, and usually I get too hasty, you know? “It’s not ‘show friends,’ it’s ‘show business’.” I have to see the offer: What’s the role? If I’m gonna fly there, is it just one scene? I had to know what’s gonna make it worth my while, and they’re like, “Oh yeah, we’ll get you an offer by the end of the day.” So I contacted Dragon Con and they were perfectly willing to have me come in on Saturday instead of Friday. I figured their [Fuller House’s] schedule is we rehearse during the week and then do the live show on Friday, then I’d probably have to get on a red eye, [and] get down here [to Atlanta].

Three days later, nothing. I checked in. “Hey, I’m going to Yosemite for a friend’s wedding. There’s going to be zero reception. Can you let me know now?” “Oh yeah, yeah, we’ll let you know!” They didn’t let me know. So, of good faith, I’m in Yosemite, there is no reception. I leave my camp. I’m like, “Look, I got to check on this thing. I know we’re supposed to unplug this weekend, but let me check.” [I] find a library where I can get on their Wi-Fi in their parking lot, and I look at my emails – no emails. So, I was like, “Alright, hey, guys, thank you so much. Sorry it didn’t work out. I’m in Yosemite, I’m unplugged, best of luck!” And I came back from Yosemite, got reception, and there were all these emails: “No, no, no wait! Here’s the offer! Here’s this, this, this!” And I had already told Dragon Con, “Look, I can come, don’t change any plans.”

I live in Tennessee, that’s another thing. And I’m sure Fuller House would have sprung for it, but I was under the impression I would probably have to pay for myself, so I looked at flights and it was like, “Man, there are zero convenient flights to get back to Dragon Con. I’d have to take a red eye, and I don’t f***ing want to do that.” You know, you get to a certain age and it’s all about convenience and what it came down to was look: I want to do Fuller House, I really want to be at Dragon Con, [and] I really had my heart set on driving, because it’s like a 4-hour drive. My buddy’s gonna come in, we’re gonna do the whole bonding thing, and I really wanted to be here Friday. I wanted to be here for the whole thing. I just didn’t want to go back and forth, and they [the show] tried. The producer called me, one of the writers, Candace Cameron [Buré] reached out on Facebook. I’m like, “Sorry, I made my choice. I love you guys. Maybe next time.”

Marsden as Nelson Burkhard, one of D.J. Tanner's (Candace Cameron) boyfriends, on "Full House" (1994-1995).

Marsden as Nelson Burkhard, one of D.J. Tanner’s (Candace Cameron) boyfriends, on “Full House” (1994-1995).

And you really did want to come to Dragon Con? You said on Twitter how excited you were.

Yes! Yeah, I mean it may be easy for some, but it’s not an easy thing for guests to be invited. There’s so many performers, and we all hear how awesome this is and how everyone is great, and I just wanted to experience that so bad, so I knew it was a rare thing.

And you had other friends coming as guests this year, too.

Yeah, my best friend Will Friedle [Boy Meets World, Batman Beyond] was gonna be here, and I hadn’t seen him in a while. Yeah, so, I just chose as a matter of convenience, you know?

Marsden and Will Friedle on "Boy Meets World." Marsden played himself on the show.

Marsden, Friedle, and William Daniels on “Boy Meets World.” Marsden played himself on the show and best friend to Friedle’s character, Eric Matthews.

Well, we’re all happy you’re here, so thank you!

Thank you! You know, there are people that have come up to me who are not happy I am here. They’d rather see me in Fuller House! And I said, “But then I wouldn’t be able to talk to you right now!”

“You wouldn’t be able to tell me how upset you are that I’m not doing Fuller House if I wasn’t here!”

Right, yes! [laughs] And you know, the actors, when you come, you bring stuff to sign for people, and they’re heavy stacks of pictures. I had to take all that with me. And I like to dress up! I like to be part of it!

Have you dressed up this weekend?

Yes! Here! This was my Friday night. [pulls out phone] And I wouldn’t have been able to bring that because I have a tub of things I can just put in my car that I didn’t have to worry about putting on an airplane.

Marsden with fellow voice actor Alexander Polinsky at Dragon Con 2016. (Courtesy: Jason Marsden)

Marsden with friend and fellow voiceover actor Alexander Polinsky on the Friday night of Dragon Con 2016. (Courtesy: Jason Marsden)

You’ve mainly done voiceover work for the past 10 or so years. Was there a conscious decision to do less on-camera acting work and focus more on voiceover acting?

For me, I love what I do. I don’t require a lot of money, I don’t require fame. I just like to work, and getting a regular job as an actor is nearly impossible, unless you get a series and whatnot, that sort of thing. So your job is auditioning, pretty much, and I’m always super jazzed when I get a gig. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and I always kind of regarded it as “show friends” and realized as I get older, “Oh, no, it’s definitely ‘show business’,” and there were some things that happened personally and business-wise that created a bitterness in the on-camera world. It doesn’t matter how much is on your résumé — it doesn’t guarantee you a job. You still have to jump through hoops, and I was kind of tired of jumping through hoops. And then there’s voiceover, where it’s very well-received, and there was less pretension. I’m booking because of my talent and it was just so much fun, so I was kind of like, “You know what? Instead of having to audition or memorize dialogues, this is much easier. I can audition from home, I’m working with a bunch of people I used to listen to as a kid, it’s so much fun – let me focus on this.”

And then I grew up a bit. Again, I was doing it as a kid and had a lot of success and didn’t really live my life, so I fell in love, got married, traveled, experienced loss, and just kind of revitalized myself as a performer, artist, whatever you want to call it.

And then, you know, the industry changes. They want a certain thing, and so once I was ready to get back into it, it was seriously, like, “Hey, what have you done lately?” And people who remember me remember me as the short guy, [and] there was a stigma that happened that wasn’t there before. So, again, I was like, “Alright, I’m happy with voiceover. You know what? Maybe I’m not even happy with L.A.” My wife is from Tennessee. I love Tennessee. We moved there. Again, less pretension, slower pace, more support for the arts, music scene. You know, I’m happy to do on-camera. I’m sure I could, I’m just not putting the effort into it.

You’ve been consistently working for decades. How do you feel when people just know you or recognize you for your earlier work – you know, like Hocus Pocus or A Goofy Movie or Step By Step?

I love it! Totally. That stuff is beyond expectation. People in my own industry – casting people, producers, whatnot – they forget about you, but the fans never forget. I’m revitalized by all that; I love it. I mean, you work on stuff like Hocus Pocus and A Goofy Movie, and you don’t realize how people are gonna hold on to it, what it means for them, and then I get to come to places like this and talk to fine people like yourself because of that, so yeah, I love it.

Marsden became a household name to many '90s kids when he played Rich Halke on "Step By Step" (1993-1998). One of his most beloved roles still to this day, however, is Max Goof in "A Goofy Movie" (1995).

Marsden became a household name to many ’90s kids when he played Rich Halke on “Step By Step” (1993-1998). One of his most beloved roles still to this day, however, is Max Goof in “A Goofy Movie” (1995).

Let’s see if I can word this next one appropriately: Aside from producers/Hollywood trying to make money and capitalize on reboots, remakes, etc., why you think there’s such a renaissance for ‘90s nostalgia? Girl Meets World, Fuller House, you know, they’re all doing well, and now people want a third Goofy Movie and a sequel to Hocus Pocus.

I can’t say money? Because you already threw that out there? I mean, that’s the initial thing: Money.

But those specific things – why? Is it because it’s “ok” to be a geek now, so some of those things are making a resurgence?

Supply in demand, maybe? People cried out for it? Why some of that stuff is being produced, I can only say it’s money, because they see that “oh, there’s a market for this now. Let’s bring this back!” It’s the only reason they’re doing it. No one’s doing, you know, another X-Files because they want to enhance the creativity. The X-Files was fantastic! They’re like, “I’ll bet we can make a few bucks selling air time” or “someone will produce this because it had a fan base, and they’d probably still like to see more of it.” I know it’s an unfortunate answer, and I don’t want it to be true, either.

I know, it’s just – ugh! The outcry for ‘what’ is just so weird. I mean, there might have been a Hocus Pocus sequel if there was a demand for it 20 years ago, but only in the last few years are people now really asking for one.

I know, but they [Disney/Buena Vista Pictures] released it in the middle of July in 1993. [laughs] I can’t answer it – it boggles my mind, too! I mean, I’m a big Batman fan, and I’m very disappointed with the DC movies as of late, in my own personal opinion. All I see, in my mind, is DC and the film companies are saying, “Wow! Look at the gobs of money Marvel is making! We gotta catch up!” Not even worrying about content and story and heart. It’s just to throw stuff together, and to me, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t have the heart or creativity. I love Tim Burton movies, I like the Chris Nolan movies – that Batman – it’s just it’s all money. That’s it. I know, I’m sad about that, too.

Marsden was the voice of the black cat Thackery Binx in "Hocus Pocus" (1993) but was played by actor Sean Murray of "NCIS" fame when he returns to his true form.

Marsden was the voice of black cat Thackery Binx in “Hocus Pocus” (1993) but was played by actor Sean Murray of “NCIS” fame when the character returns to his human form.

At least that’s an honest answer, so thank you for that. Alright: Favorite role or proudest role? I know they may not necessarily be one in the same.

It’s hard, I mean, it’s like choosing your favorite child. I mean, I only have one child, which is great! That’s easy! “You’re my favorite! I tell you every day, buddy!” [laughs] I worked on a show when I was 17 called Eerie, Indiana.

Oh man, I loved that show! It was completely ahead of its time.

I know, right? I agree. And they did two seasons. The second season was six episodes, and they brought me on – that’s probably why it got canceled. [laughs] But no, I loved it because I was 17, and I was working with amazing talent, like Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins; Ray Walston, who was in My Favorite Martian and did a lot of movies; John Astin, who was Gomez Addams – working with great people. It was like making little mini movies, and I played this dark character and I loved it and it was super cool for me at the time, so I always reflect upon that fondly.

Marsden as Dash X in "Eerie, Indiana" (1992).

Marsden as Dash X in “Eerie, Indiana” (1992).

Currently I’m doing a cartoon called Transformers: Rescue Bots, and I love it, because I’ve never worked on a show – cartoon – where we all get along so hard. It’s like a family. It’s a mix of voiceover veterans – Maurice LaMarche – and folks that have never done animation before, and we share a text thread, we travel together, we’re proud of our own work, and I have a lot of heart for that [show] because of that.

While he voices multiple characters on "Transformers: Rescue Bots," Marsden's main role is that of firefighter Kade Burns.

While he voices multiple characters on “Transformers: Rescue Bots,” Marsden’s main role is that of firefighter Kade Burns.

What would your Patronus be?

[laughs] Hmm…Expecto Patronum! What would it be…I’m trying to imagine…I can see it. [makes wispy/windy noises] Maybe a white dragon, like Falkor. Not like Spirited Away, I just want to be clear — I’m not plugging my own shit! [laughs] There was a Falkor here yesterday, did you see that? I only saw a picture of it. FALKORRRRR! That’d be my Patronus.

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

[laughs] No, I don’t. I’m such a performer, I gauge the room. I don’t even do it to please myself – I do it to, like, “How can I get this room mine?” which is especially tricky in Tennessee, where they mostly want to listen to country songs. I’ll throw in, you know, “Let’s see if they want to hear some ‘Humpty Hump’ by Digital Underground!”

And do they?

No! [laughs] I realized that was not – someone just did “Baby Got Back” and I was thinking, “Oh, I could do this as a throwback!” No! Nobody wanted it! You do “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith, they love it! Love it!

Anything coming up that you’d like to plug?

There’s another season of Rescue Bots coming on to Discovery Family Channel, and there’s other things just contractually that this is the day and age where it’s just, “Yes, there’s things, I just can’t divulge them.” And like I said, I live in Tennessee, so if you have readers from Tennessee, I produce music shows out there. I call them Mars Presents. You can be on the lookout for that or you can go to my website, you can sign up, and you can get an email directly, and they’ll let you know when all that stuff is.

Great! Thanks so much, Jason!

Thank YOU!

Marsden with yours truly. "I wonder if we had actually touched fingers, would time have stopped?" he later tweeted to me, referencing the short-lived '90s sitcom "Out of This World" about a teenage girl who is half alien.

Marsden with yours truly. “I wonder if we had actually touched fingers, would time have stopped?” he later asked, referencing the short-lived ’90s sitcom “Out of This World” about a teenage girl who is half alien.

**Yes, I know it’s technically “I 2 I,” but the capital I’s on here look like Roman numerals or some weird bar-bracket thing.


To follow Jason on Twitter click here. For his Instagram, click here.

For more on Mars Presents, click here (Facebook), here (Twitter), and here (Instagram).


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