On the Red Couch with Nerdist Editor-in-Chief Rachel Heine
Jenn de la Vega / September 28, 2016
There are nerds and then there are Nerdists. When Chris Hardwick started Nerdist.com, he wanted it to be a place for “artful nerds” who don’t just consume content but also create and innovate. It’s a place to celebrate your remix and your tribute art and talk to fellow fans who just binge-watched shows like Stranger Things. You can also go deep with lessons on how to make a Ninja Turtles sushi pizza and discovering the purpose of beer foam.
At the helm of Nerdist editorial is Rachel Heine, who explores the nerd fabric of today’s pop-culture landscape. We turned the tables on Rachel, who is usually the interviewer, to discuss the evolution of fandoms, meeting her favorite celebrities, what she’s reading, and how important it is to keep writing.
What is the state of nerdom in 2016, and how has it changed for you?
Nerdom is different for creators, fans and for media. It has been evolving for a long time.
When I started at Nerdist in 2014, not as many people outside of its audience knew what it was. It’s definitely evolved with superhero films and the inclusion of more sci-fi/fantasy storytelling.
It has grown to be so much more mainstream, which is a double-edged sword. It’s really exciting to share the things you love with a bigger audience. We love it because we try to be as inclusive as possible. Anyone can love what they love or be nerdy about different things.
How many people went and saw Star Wars? How many people read about who gets cast in these Marvel movies? We’re seeing more representation and big studios paying attention to the audience and hearing their requests of what stories they want to hear and who will be telling these stories. I think that a larger, more open space means that more stories are being told in a lot of different ways.
We get to watch, create and consume. We love to cover, write about, explore, unpack, and nerd out. There’s more to play with now.
What’s it like to helm a site that covers a wide range of subjects?
It has been really exciting and a huge challenge. There are people out there that know anything about everything (and they’re usually on Jeopardy!) but there is so much out there. What’s great is that I have such an incredible team. We have editors for music, film and tv, games, tech, and science.
It’s a very small team of very smart, passionate, funny, awesome individuals whom I adore. It’s really a team effort and a collaborative process. I’m always trying to learn more about the areas I’m less familiar with. We’re all constantly learning and discussing; it’s what Nerdist is all about.
What’s your favorite fan community to engage with?
Buffy and the Battlestar Galactica communities. Those were big ones for me. Especially looking at how the Buffy fandom has evolved from forums. Over the past 20 years and in the ’90s there weren’t these online communities where you could talk about each episode, characters and your theories.
Joss Whedon characters and themes are so much fun to discuss over and over again. Buffy has evolved in the technological era to include podcasts and weekly discussions even though it was on so long ago.
I love the Agent Carter fandom right now. I love how much they love the show. I think it’s been a bummer for everyone to have this strong, incredible, bad-ass, sexy character that we all fell in love with [get canceled]. I love seeing the passion there and how much they love that character.
Do you get to meet celebrities? Who did you freak out about the most?
Yes, we do. It’s a test of how much we can control ourselves because we are all big nerds and big fans. We usually maintain our professionalism and composure but as soon as they leave we’re like, “OMG! They were just here!”
We had the Powers cast come in to do some fun videos. One of the new characters is played by Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica. I got to interview her. I thought I was maybe going to cry or vomit because I watched [Battlestar] maybe six times through. I’ve played the board game; I’m even toying with being a character from it for Halloween this year.
If you could bring back any TV show from the dead, what would it be?
If we could get Veronica Mars as a continuation of the movie in a cool, adult Netflix style, I would very much like to watch that. I know Rob Thomas has his hands full but Veronica Mars is one of my favorites and I think it would do really well now. The TV landscape is so different.
I also think everyone wanted to see what Firefly could be. Could Buffy come back? Can we just bring her back?
As a writer, do videos where you have to be on camera come naturally or do they scare you?
They do not come easily to me! I worked from home before I worked here. I read all the time; I was a very shy kid. It was hard for me to adjust but I did it. Dan Casey said to me before my first Comic-Con panel: “This is our audience out there. They like what we do, they want to hear what we have to say. There couldn’t be a better place to be yourself because these are our people.” If you force yourself to do the things that scares you, it’ll stop scaring you. And maybe you’ll realize you enjoy it—that’s what happened for me.
What are some of your favorite magazines or blogs to read?
Vulture, Birth Movies Death, HitFix. I read a lot of movie criticism and am trying to read more fiction when I’m not working. I read in the morning and before bed. I’m re-reading a lot of the books I read when I was younger to get a fresh eye on them. Right now I’m reading American Gods. The language is so beautiful, I can’t put it down.
Do you have advice for writers out there?
I always wanted to write and edit. I thought I would find something, but never thought in my wildest dreams I would be in the position that I am in. For anyone who wants to write and be out there: keep doing what you’re doing. Submit to places, start a blog, keep writing because there is a space for all of these incredible voices out there, and I think that Nerdist is a testament that people want to read and talk about these things. Keep going after your dreams!