Ryan Bergara & Shane Madej on the Changes in Covering Cases


In a few short days, Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej will debut their brand-new Watcher series Mystery Files, which is the spiritual successor of their fan-favorite series Buzzfeed Unsolved: True Crime. Last year, the duo made waves with the launch of their ghost-hunting series Ghost Files, which went on to be nominated for a Webby. While True Crime focused on some truly gruesome cases, it sounds like Mystery Files will take a much more light-hearted approach to the cases they’ll cover, which may make the new series more accessible to a wider audience.


If you enjoyed the interview we did with Ryan and Shane last year ahead of the premiere of Ghost Files, then you are in for a real treat with this one. During the interview, the dynamic duo discussed how the format has been switched up for Mystery Files, which episode they’re most excited for fans to watch, whether or not they’ll ever be able to top the Hot Daga, the hilariously unexpected and X-rated Easter egg built into the Mystery Files set, when Ghost Files will return, how demons could influence a crossover between Mystery Files and Ghost Files, and we also try to uncover if Shane has been an alien all along.

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Drumpe: So from the start of Buzzfeed Unsolved: True Crime to the launch of Mystery Files, I found that a lot has changed in regards to how people are consuming true crime and interacting with it, and I’m curious if it has changed the way that you approach mysteries that involve that true crime element?

RYAN BERGARA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I’m trying to think of the best way to say this because covering true crime for so long, it definitely did start to wear on us. So when we did something like Mystery Files, we wanted to make a show that focused on crimes that didn’t deal with death, things that happened very recently, focused more on cases that deal more with, I guess, the mysterious aspect rather than the gore and gruesome nature of some of the awful things that people do in this world. And I think people will find that out quite quickly with the series, but I don’t think that deters from the nature of why they like something like Unsolved, just in the sense of, it still is very much a whodunit. It’s still Shane and I examining cases in the way that we usually do, and we switched some things up with this format that I think people are gonna really like. Or maybe it won’t be for them, I’m not quite sure, but I’m very happy with how it turned out, I think it’s very fun. Shane, how has this experience been for you?

SHANE MADEJ: Well, I think we were pretty timid about true crime even when we were doing Unsolved: True Crime. It was very early on in that show that Ryan and I got pretty– because I don’t know that we, on our own, tend to consume much true crime content, in the way that, I have never watched a single minute of any ghost hunting show [laughs]. But, Unsolved was always pretty diligent about doing stuff that was really old, and we found that the few times where we did sort of dip our toe in more recent cases, it’s always a huge bummer. You know, we like to have fun with mystery and crime, and I think you can sort of do that when you’re a century removed from something, but it’s hard to do that when it’s something so recent.

Honestly, it’s one of the reasons why when we started at Watcher, we knew we wanted to ghost hunt, and we got out there, and we did that. But true crime was sort of sitting in the back of our brains, like, “Well, there’s certainly a large portion of our audience that probably wants us to dig back into some mysterious cases out there,” but we’ve sat with it for a long time, and landed on sort of the nice version of it, which is, we’re still looking at spooky, unexplained things. I don’t know that across the board there’s no death involved. I feel like maybe, I’m trying to think, but it’s certainly not like– yeah, we’re largely sidestepping a lot of gruesome, upsetting cases that kind of bummed us out on the last series.

BERGARA: It’ll become a little clearer when you see the show. When you see the type of cases that we’re covering, you’re like, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” Because, like Shane was saying, there were some rules that we followed with Unsolved in terms of the cases that we covered, like things that aren’t too recent, never make fun of the victims, or anything. Always just the circumstances or the people investigating because that’s usually where all the mess-ups usually happened.

And then, when it came to this new show, we were like, “Well, we do enjoy the process of trying to figure something out, trying to solve something with the information that you have, but now let’s just do it without any of the part where we have to feel icky or sidestep things.” And we’re hopeful that people who enjoyed Unsolved will still enjoy this show, and not be out there, you know, picketing for more gore. This isn’t going to satisfy the gorehounds out there on the internet, and that’s okay. So I’m excited for people to see it.

Image via Watcher

You managed to answer my next question, which was going to be, how did you decide which mysteries you wanted to investigate? And it sounds like what you’re looking for is the lighthearted, non-gore-filled fun that there is in the mystery world.

BERGARA: Yeah, and then also just the cases that still are extremely bizarre. In Unsolved, we also covered some of the cases that were a little bit more in the supernatural realm, and those always fascinated me, and those are definitely still something that we’re gonna be looking at here. Granted, now there’s the wrinkle of Shane hosting some of these episodes, so he might be not as keen into going into some of the more supernatural theories or causes, which I will be happy to remind him of as you’ll see in the episodes.

But no, I’m pretty happy with the lineup of cases that we have this season. And in the first episode is actually kind of like an homage to one of my favorite unsolved cases of all time that we did cover in Buzzfeed Unsolved, and I’m pretty stoked for people to see that one. I think it’s the season premiere, if I’m not giving away too much.

Oh, very nice! That kind of brings me to my next question, which is, I feel like anybody who loves true crime or mysteries, you always have that one case that you want to see cracked, or crack yourself. Like for me, it’s Jack the Ripper, I want to have all the answers to that. Do either of you have, like, the white whale that you can’t wait to turn on the news and have them solve this crazy mystery?

BERGARA: Oh yeah, I have a couple. The first one that comes to mind is D.B. Cooper, just because he was a funny guy. I think it’s really funny to steal a bunch of money, put on sunglasses, and then jump out of an airplane with seemingly no know-how of how to use a parachute. I think that’s really funny [laughs]. So, I would love to see that one solved. I really got knee-deep in the research on that one.

However, the case that I did end up researching the most in my tenure at Unsolved was the Zodiac. I don’t think I researched one case more than that one. For whatever reason, I don’t know, that one just always kind of spooked me. I guess because I’m a California native. Also, I love The Zodiac – not the killer, but the movie, the film by David Fincher, big fan of the guy. I think I watched that movie quite a bit, and just, like, really channeled my inner Jake Gyllenhaal. You know, a lot of sleepless nights poring over case files – digitally, of course. I didn’t have the actual case files. I found them online, though, so it felt cool. And I don’t know, that was one of the few cases where I felt like I had a pretty good idea of who did that, so I’d be curious to see if any of my hunches came close.

MADEJ: Yeah, I mean, I don’t really intend to infuriate, but – I said it many times on Unsolved – I love things remaining a mystery. I think that’s wonderful, you know? I don’t need the answers.

BERGARA: That’s not something you want to hear, though, from one of your lead investigators. If your dog went missing, and you went to the local pound, and they had, like, a dog detective, or something – not like a dog who’s a detective, but like a person who searches for missing dogs–

Like McGruff?

BERGARA: Exactly, yes. And then they said to you, Shane, “Well, I know you really miss your beagle, but why don’t you just let it be a mystery dude?”

MADEJ: Well I think an earnest effort has to be made. But if someone’s, you know– Like the Zodiac, that person nailed it, and we owe them that to let them, you know, sort of get away with it. Great job.

BERGARA: I’m pretty sure it was Arthur Leigh Allen.

MADEJ: Well, you can’t say that.

BERGARA: I can’t! Actually, I can. I said I’m pretty sure. I never said “it is.” It’s not, like, in fact. [To Madej] It’s also fun to discuss this kind of stuff when it appears there’s a corpse of the Professor behind you on that shelf.

Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej in Mystery Files
Image via Watcher

It does! [laughs] I was like, “That poor puppet.”

BERGARA: It looks like I just whacked the Professor and then dragged him in there in a rolled-up carpet and tossed him.

MADEJ: We’re running out of workspace here.

BERGARA: Disturbing.

So clearly we know that Ryan’s rabbit hole of research is the Zodiac; but Shane, do you have one that you started researching and you just went straight down the rabbit hole and you know way too much information about it?

MADEJ: No, I primarily reserve that sort of stuff for– it’s less to do with unsolved mysteries. I do rabbit holes, but it’s largely about, like, earlier this year I got really into beavers, and I read a whole book about beavers and watched several documentaries about them. It’s more like passing interests about the natural world and stuff like that, for me personally. But, one of the episodes in this first season is sort of to do with a natural phenomenon, which is, I think, sort of merging those two worlds.

I did spend plenty of time, I’m sure, when I was in high school and college reading Wikipedia pages about creepy shit that has happened. But I feel like as I’ve gotten older, I’m like, “ Eh! Life is scary.” So I’ll just yuk it up with my friend and read about beavers on my own time.

Well, there you go. That also kind of brings me to the compare and contrast of Ghost Files and Mystery Files. What is the preproduction like? Is there a lot more research for one versus the other, or what is the difference between the two?

BERGARA: Oh, there’s definitely more research for Mystery Files because Ghost Files is basically just like, “What’s the history? Why are these certain rooms said to be haunted by this certain person?” Whereas Mystery Files, I mean, you’re, you’re covering a larger gamut of information, like the case itself, the actual incident, what led up to that? Who are the people involved? Who are the suspects? Where is it at now? And then, of course, like all the other just general theories.

MADEJ: Yeah, because Ghost Files, the informational stuff on Ghost Files only takes up what, like, 20 to 30% of the episode tops?

BERGARA: I would say, yeah. Maybe even less than that, yeah. A lot more of it is the actual hunting of the ghosts. We’re not actually going out in the field and hunting down suspects in Mystery Files, or not at this point.

MADEJ: Mystery Files is very much an info dump on each of these things. It’s pretty wall-to-wall when it comes to dropping knowledge the whole time, with 40% inane banter, which is our bread and butter.

BERGARA: I gotta say, though, one of the cases from this season, I did end up going down a rabbit hole, and it’s one of the – without giving too much away – it’s a case about somebody who decided to do something just exceptionally weird. And it was so weird that it just really creeped me out, and it always has creeped me out, and I wish I could figure out who did it [laughs].

But I think that’s, I guess, the spirit that still remains from Unsolved in all of these cases is, there’s still that kind of motor inside of me of just, I can’t really stand it when I don’t know who did something and why they did it. And I think it’s like the opposite of what Shane said where he’s content to let it be a mystery. It drives me nuts. And I do think that driving me nuts part does come from a bit of arrogance, because there is a part of my brain – a broken part, I might add – that believes, truly, that I can solve it, that I have the know-how and the skill, and all I need is a MacBook and some free time. You get to see me live out that fantasy still, I suppose, “Let Ryan be crazy, 2023.”

There’s a new hashtag right there. To that point, are there cases that you have previously covered that still keep you up at night?

BERGARA: Oh yeah, plenty. And that’s another reason why, by the way, that we wanted to stray away from the more murderous cases. Because having to look at the case details of a lot of the crimes that we had covered in Unsolved, some of them still do literally keep me up at night, and I was like, “I’m not built for this.”

MADEJ: Ryan’s a hero. Ryan’s a hero, I’ll say it.

BERGARA: That’s not what I was going for [laughs]! I just don’t like looking at some of the details I have to look at. In this season of Mystery Files, I didn’t have to lose sleep over anything, which is great.

MADEJ: Yeah, it is nice because it was fun shooting this season, and all the stories feel like they do have that kernel of nagging mystery where you’re like, “What is going on?” It is scratching the same itch, but without the human misery.

BERGARA: Some of them, though, the supernatural ones at least, those still do kind of, if it pops into my head at night, it does keep me up. But that’s also just because I believe in some of the supernatural causes, whereas Shane just is like, “Oh, it’s a giant weather balloon,” or something like that.

MADEJ: Right.

Well, there you go. The next thing you can do is all the weird silver balls and the things that have been popping up in the sky in places, which we think are the balloons, but who knows?

MADEJ: Isn’t the government getting pretty chill with us lately? Aren’t they like, “Yeah, there’s UFOs out there. Don’t worry about it.” I feel like life has just been so crazy the past five years that they’re like, “Let’s start telling them about these things,” and nobody cares.

BERGARA: They probably did that strategically. They realized, like, this is a good time for an info dump that no one’s gonna read because there’s 8,000 other headlines on a Tuesday.

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Image via Watcher

Exactly. With the supernatural element still being incorporated into the Mystery Files, is there a chance that we’ll ever see a crossover between this and Ghost Files, where something you research in Mystery Files prompts you to incorporate it into a future season of Ghost Files?

MADEJ: That’s a great idea.

BERGARA: That’s a great idea, honestly. I might use that. That sounds really good. It hasn’t happened quite yet. I’m not sure how it would happen, to be honest, but I mean, that’s something to think about, especially if we’re trying to not cover cases that involve a human death as much. That is one of the unfortunate necessary variables in a ghost equation.

MADEJ: The leading cause of ghosts is death.

BERGARA: It’s human death. That’s true. That’s a fact.

It is a fact. It’s also a chance to get in touch with the demons. It’s time to summon them again.

BERGARA: That’s true. You know, we could do something that’s more in the demonic realm, or we haven’t covered any sort of alien cases in Ghost Files just because it’s not titular. But, you know, it’s something to think about. Maybe there is a demon angle there that might be interesting.

MADEJ: We are casting a very wide net on it, which is why we went with the Mystery Files name. Because we were like, “Well, there’s certainly some cryptids we want to cover. It’s always fun to talk about aliens.” But then, there were some historical cases that I don’t think made it in. I remember showing one to Ryan where I was like, “This is from like the 1500s, or something,” and Ryan was like, “Eh, just do that in Puppet History,” and I was like, “Yeah, probably.” But I think that’s the fun of the show is that it is an incredibly varied set of topics that all have sort of an air of, well, mystery about them [laughs].

BERGARA: Yeah, I think the mystery blanket is pretty apt just because there are just so many weird, bizarre things that have happened in the world that we don’t know why they happened. And it’s very much answering that question.

Is there a specific episode of Mystery Files that you’re very excited for fans to see?

BERGARA: Oh yeah! I think the season premiere, first, is one that I’m very excited for. And then I’m also excited for them to see the second episode, as well, because– I don’t think this is giving away too much, but we’re gonna basically trade-off. So one week it’ll be my episode and then the next week it’ll be Shane’s episode, and each episode is us explaining something weird that happened and then delivering the case, trying to figure it out, asking the other investigator to say who they think did it and whether or not it’s solved.

It probably goes without saying, Shane and I have very different presentational styles, and at first that really worried me, but after watching it all play out, I really do think it’s gonna be very refreshing to go back and forth between the two. Or we’ll get a lot of comments that are just like, “Hey, Ryan, you should hang it up. I think Shane should host all of them from now on.” And I’ll be like, “Hey, dilly dilly, dude,” and I’ll kick back in my little recliner in the basement and Shane will just tell me stories.

MADEJ: [Laughs] No, we were both privately very worried about the second episode, solely because that was the first episode where I was presenting to Ryan. And I was like, “I mean, we had fun shooting it,” but you never know how these things end up in the edit.

We were actually ghost-hunting a week or two ago, and I was just sitting by the pool in our hotel, fully in my ghost gear, watching a cut of it because I’d just gotten down to the lobby a little early before we were heading out for a hunt. And I was watching the edit, and I was like, “Wow, this turned out, this is working, it’s working!” Because it’s not only just the different presentational styles, but it’s a show that thrives on tone and atmosphere. So, some of the topics that are a little goofier, we were like, “Well, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays sort of being awash in sort of ominous synth music.” But it all works wonderfully, and it’s gonna be really fun, I think.

BERGARA: Yeah, I think people will enjoy the different kind of style while living in the same world between the two different episodes. It still mixes together pretty nicely, which is, I don’t know, I find it very satisfying, and maybe that’s just because, as one of the creators of it, it’s just like, “Oh, it’s nice to see that the cake came out pretty good.”

But that aside, there is another episode in the series that I’m pretty excited for people to see, and it’s definitely one of those that people will know immediately, and it’s a cryptid. I think that’s fine to say, it’s a cryptid. It’s a cryptid, but it’s also very much in that world of like, “Did this actually happen? Is this something that’s really happening, or are people just going insane?” But there’s a lot of details, and those have always really been some of my favorite cases I’ve ever covered in Unsolved, so I’m pretty stoked for people to see this one because we have not covered this particular cryptid before.

Ryan Bergara in Mystery Files
Image via Watcher

Oh, that’s a good clue. Speaking of the atmosphere, I love the set for Mystery Files. I was looking back through the pictures that were released when your show was first announced, and the aesthetic very much made me think of Taylor Swift’s Midnights, that kind of ‘70s vibe to it. But I want to know Ryan, how did you end up becoming public enemy number one?

BERGARA: Oh! You mean on the board? I think that’s just something that’s kind of settled unanimously in the collective consciousness of the company, but also maybe the world, I’m not really sure, and I’m fine with that.

MADEJ: It might have been after the post-production process of Ghost Files Season 1.

BERGARA: Yeah, I mean, there’s so many reasons. Let’s jump into the theories. The first theory is that, the second theory might be because I, you know, murdered the Professor, whose corpse you see rotting on the shelf behind you.

MADEJ: Oh, that’s true.

BERGARA: I think that’s probably the most likely cause, at least how I became public enemy number one on Tumblr. But, you know, there’s a variety of causes that we don’t have to get into here, otherwise I’d have to bill you as my therapist, and I don’t want to do that. I already do that quite a bit to other people, of course. Not multiple people, there’s one guy I talk to, I don’t have several therapists. I’m not like, “I’m gonna get a second opinion on what you just said with this other guy, and then I’ll get a second opinion on that.” Before you know it, I’ve got a cast of therapists. Just one, just one guy. Anyways.

Speaking of a set, what went into the design of it? Because it is very cool, and there seem to be a lot of fun little pieces to it.

BERGARA: You know, that is something that we’ve really got to give credit to the, to the Watcher staff, particularly, Annie Jeong and Brittney Lee. When we were thinking about the show, I gave a pretty baseline, like, “I’d like this to be in a basement. I’d like it to look like a madman’s den. I want it to look very like ‘70s, ‘80s.” A lot of the content I liked growing up now is very, you know, Stranger Things, Stephen King, that kind of stuff. I like those just because the protagonists and the people that were leading the investigation were children, and I think Shane and I are very much children [laughs]. So having it set in that world was very fun to me, and I just love the aesthetic.

I think I showed a clip of It, there’s a clip of It where he’s showing the history of Derry, and there’s Pennywise, and there’s a slide show and there’s a projector, and I was like, “I want it to feel like we are sitting in this den, and I’m giving the slideshow presentation,” and I want it to feel like this because I just also like the aesthetic of an old-school projector just because it has kind of an air of graininess and grit that I like, and you can kind of control pace with the clicks of the projector and things like that. So I showed them that scene and that was basically the information I gave them, and then they just ran off and nailed it. And they collaborated with a production designer named Billy Jett, and he and all of them knocked it out of the park. I showed up to set with Shane and I was like, “Wow, this looks incredible guys.” So, yeah, it was a very collaborative process, and that they did a lot of it.

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Image via Watcher

Are there any Easter eggs or in-jokes built into the design at all?

BERGARA: Oh, let me think. There are, I suppose, a couple. Honestly, we could have been a little bit better about that. There are a couple though. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that was like the main focus though, honestly. In Unsolved there were Easter eggs, but that only came as the show started to build its own lore. Whereas in this case, this is the first season. I suppose we could have built in other Watcher lore. There are some crossover elements of Easter eggs on the set, I’m just not quite sure if they’re visible because it’s one of those things where you put things on shelves and then you’re not really sure how much of it gets caught. But I suppose if there is a couple of seconds or two of shots of some certain shelves, there are some items that are left over. There’s one that’s very obvious, now that I’m thinking about it, though. There’s one that’s very obvious because I literally pull it off the shelf.

MADEJ: Oh, which one are you talking about?

BERGARA: Well, I can’t say that because then it’s not an Easter egg. Actually, you pull it off the shelf, and you give it to me.

MADEJ: Oh. The other fun set detail is that we told our production designer that we wanted a bunch of old VHS tapes.

BERGARA: No, wait a second! You can’t say this! That’s what I was thinking of, you can’t say this because now people are going to look for it. No, you can’t do that!

MADEJ: [Laughs] All the VHS tapes that we got were–

BERGARA: No! You can’t say that!

MADEJ: –they were like fake porn parodies.

BERGARA: Dude.

MADEJ: And he was like, “Well, you know, like the basement vibes,” and we were like, “Alright, well, we’re gonna turn most of these around.” [laughs]

BERGARA: Yeah, he did sure stock those shelves with a lot of VHS pornos.

MADEJ: None of them were, like, deeply offensive. They were all pretty funny titles, but we were like, “Well, we’re gonna turn some of these around and probably not have these on display because we don’t want people to think that Ryan and I just sit in a basement all day watching porn together.”

BERGARA: Yeah, together, weirdly, with the projector.

MADEJ: [Laughing] With an old project!

BERGARA: Which is the strangest possible thing you could do. There’s so many elements of that that are disturbing. But yeah, I spent about 10 to 15 minutes turning around each of those VHS tapes or adding some that were not pornos. I do think maybe one or two slipped in.

MADEJ: Yeah, so an eagle-eyed viewer may see something on the shelf somewhere. It’s a game, you know, it’s harmless.

Oh God, there’s no easy segue from that at all.

BERGARA: [Laughing] I can’t believe you said that. We did a good job of hiding it, man. We covered it.

MADEJ: Let’s see how good we did.

BERGARA: Let’s see.

Oh, my gosh. Well, I went to Twitter and asked for some questions from fans and there was a wide range of questions, most of which I would not ask, but there were a lot, unsurprisingly, about aliens, which I thought was funny considering we’ve talked about aliens quite a bit so far in this interview. But specifically Shane, you’ve made your opinions about ghosts very well known. We all know. But what would it take for you to fully believe in aliens, or do you fully believe in aliens?

MADEJ: I’ve also made my opinion known about aliens, but people just don’t seem to get it. I fully believe in aliens, which isn’t to say that I believe in every abduction or UFO sighting story.

BERGARA: In that you believe in none of them.

MADEJ: I don’t really spend a lot of time, like, reading about them. I would have to be presented with them. I know we covered a bunch of them on Unsolved

I don’t remember any of them.

BERGARA: Spoiler alert, you never believed any of them on Unsolved.

MADEJ: Wasn’t there one where they looked like the Minions? Like they were yellow, overalls?

BERGARA: There was one, yeah. I believe that was the first mention of what’s-his-face? The guy who got me into that Firestorm movie, or Firefly

MADEJ: Oh, Fire in the Sky?

BERGARA: Yeah, that guy.

MADEJ: But yeah, I definitely believe in them. I think the odds that there is no intelligent life anywhere in the universe is crazy. [coughs] I’m not crying.

BERGARA: He’s lamenting that there’s no intelligent life.

MADEJ: Yeah, the odds of that, of other life not existing, are too astronomical. That’s nonsense. Of course there are, I just am no fun in the sense that, Ryan likes to say that I’’m no fun because I believe they’re just bacteria. I don’t necessarily, I’m sure there are full organisms out there.

BERGARA: You certainly haven’t given any indication of that. You very much seem to think they’re prosaic little blobs.

MADEJ: I do think they’re probably, I don’t know, they’re probably no fun. They’re probably no fun! Do you think other, like– I don’t even want to know what they’re up to. They’re not making Coca Cola and smoking cigarettes and making rock ‘n roll!

BERGARA: They might be!

MADEJ: No, they’re not doing it!

BERGARA: Here’s the thing, I hate when people are like, “Aliens are just like–” Obviously, they could be way more intelligent than us. They probably are if they figured out intergalactic travel to come to our places. However, I do kind of scoff at the sense that there can’t be stupid versions of that species. Like, you think every one of them is a winner? You don’t think there’s one that was just cruising through Earth, crashed, and it was like, “Ah shit, I gotta get the fuck out of here now.” Like I do think there’s dummies out there. If you had a lineup of every human in on Earth, I gotta tell you, I don’t think all of them are gonna be winners. There’s probably gonna be a couple that will crash their dad’s UFO into Mars, or some shit like that if we were capable of that technology.

Shane Madej and Ryan Bergara in Mystery Files
Image via Watcher

I just have to connect the dots, though, because Shane said he’s no fun. And then he said aliens are probably no fun. So, is Shane an alien?

MADEJ: I mean, I’m fun. I have a puppet show.

BERGARA: Oh, I thought you’re gonna just say, “Is Shane no fun?”

No! Is Shane an alien? [laughs]

MADEJ: No, I’m too human. I’m definitely human.

BERGARA: I don’t like the delivery of that.

I’m just saying aliens would put on a puppet show because they’d be fascinated by the concept of puppets.

BERGARA: That’s true because they’ve been puppeting their whole life, so to speak.

MADEJ: Puppet History is just my way of studying humanity, really.

BERGARA: And it’s also a way of you, like, you know how when like a serial killer will often do something that’s very similar to the things they’re doing just as a way to kind of like let go of the steam?

Exactly.

BERGARA: Like for instance, a doctor will be a serial killer because they’d be able to kind of do the thing that they’re doing in a way. That’s kind of you with puppeteering because you’re, daily, puppeteering a meat puppet, in that it’s your human body, and then now you’re doing a puppet show. You’re scratching the itch.

MADEJ: I see. Yes, you’re right. Oh, so you’re implying that I’m like the little Men in Black alien where there’s a little tiny alien inside of my head.

BERGARA: I mean, you could be tiny, or you could be the same height, and then you just have skin over you like a Fortnite skin, if you will.

MADEJ: Or like in Under the Skin.

BERGARA: Fortnite skin. I did that for you because Shane’s obsessed with Fortnite now. I’m not obsessed with Fortnite. I’d like to make that clear if people are reading this. I made that reference for Shane, not me. I don’t play Fortnite.

MADEJ: It’s okay. That’s alright. But yeah, so I believe in them. They’re out there. I don’t know that they’ve ever been here though.

It’s good that you believe in yourself! This is another question I got from Twitter that at first, I was like, “Oh, this is really funny,” and then it kept me up at night. Would you rather be a ghost or mystery?

MADEJ: A mystery. Because then I’m asleep, you know? Then I’m dead.

BERGARA: Well, couldn’t you be a ghost and a mystery?

In theory.

MADEJ: Yeah, but either/or. Either/or, Ryan.

BERGARA: I think being a ghost would be pretty sick, honestly. For a couple of days, at least, maybe a couple of years.

MADEJ: I don’t think you get to pick how long you’re a ghost for.

BERGARA: Yeah, if I was a ghost for eternity I think that would suck. Unless, of course, other people became ghosts that I was a fan of, like, if Lebron James became a ghost, I’d be like, “Dude, sick.” I could play one-on-one with Lebron.

MADEJ: You think he’s going to hang out with you though?

BERGARA: I mean, how many other ghosts can there possibly be? There’s not that many, obviously, because it’s just like every building we go to there’s like, what, top, 10 ghosts maybe in that building? How many people do you think lived in that building? You see what I’m saying? I don’t think everyone becomes a ghost. I think just a select few.

MADEJ: And you think Lebron would play basketball with you specifically, as a ghost?

BERGARA: I mean, it depends what if there’s not a lot of ghosts–

MADEJ: You don’t think any other basketball players have become ghosts if he could become a ghost?

BERGARA: It’s possible. I don’t know, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I know how it works, but I would say that–

MADEJ: That’s true. You never pretend to know anything about how it works, so I’ll give you that.

BERGARA: Or maybe Steven Spielberg becomes a ghost, and I’d be like, “Hey, dude, let’s run a couple of lines.” Like, you know? You see what I’m saying? It could be like a collection of really interesting people that could keep you occupied for years, maybe.

This is true. I’m picturing the scene in Beetlejuice with the entire football team, like the entire basketball team of like all-stars, like fantasy league right there. I have to say, the Watcher social media team is next level. I am constantly impressed with how on top of things they are with what the fans are talking about, and they seem to be everywhere. But I am curious, in terms of bits that catch steam and become memes, have there been any from Ghost Files or Puppet History, or any of the other Watcher shows that you were really surprised that fans ran with?

BERGARA: Well, first off, gotta shout out Simone Malec. She is basically the social media team in one person, and she is fantastic, so kudos to her. But secondly, I’m trying to think of ones that kind of popped off that–

MADEJ: There was that time I dropped my monitor.

BERGARA: That makes sense to me that that popped off.

MADEJ: They still post that video every single day. There’s an account that posts it every day.

BERGARA: There’s that one shot of me from Weird Wonderful World, and I believe it’s the soda pop episode where I’m standing in the distance, or is it the bird-watching episode?

MADEJ: It’s in multiple episodes. That actually caught on because we regularly got shots of you at a distance standing, just emotionless, with your arms at your side.

BERGARA: [Laughs] And it just became kind of a thing because I look like that standing guy emoji. I’m trying to think if there’s another one that was equally perplexing to me. I’d have to think, I’d have to really think about that. All of them kind of have made sense. Oh! I guess there was one, but it didn’t involve our social team. There was that TikTok that exploded off of a video that Shane and I guested in, a Try Guys Keith video, where I made some joke about not being a sprinkles guy, or something like that. And then we had like a jokin’ back and forth and that audio became viral, and I don’t understand that.

MADEJ: Yeah, we largely don’t pay any attention to TikTok, at our own peril, you know. So we’re pretty out of the loop on anything that performs well on there. I mean, our social media person, Simone, does pay attention to TikTok, and we love TikTok very much, but Ryan and I really never look at the thing. It’s just another whole time loop that you can roll down. It wastes so much time.

MADEJ: Everyone I talk to is like, “It knows exactly what I want to see. I could spend hours on it,” and I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to continue to not engage with it.”

Shane Madej in Mystery Files
Image via Watcher

It’s so dangerous. But speaking of bits, is there anything in Mystery Files that fans can expect that might live up to the Hot Daga?

MADEJ: No, no, I’ve sort of taken all of my Hot Daga energy and channeled it into Puppet History. You know, that, I think, is that version of madness, but paired with my old history show, all rolled into one nice little package. Did that start on True Crime? Is that where that all started?

BERGARA: It started on postmortems on True Crime. It actually started on postmortems because we were discussing a case that particularly bummed Shane and I out. So to add some sort of levity–

MADEJ: Was it spontaneous combustion?

BERGARA: No, I don’t think so. I think it was a much sadder case, and we were both pretty bummed out, and you were like, “Hey, look, this is a hot dog guy coming by on a skateboard,” and that’s how it started. And then it kind of, you know, spiraled out of control from there. So, yeah, you know, unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on who you are – there will be nothing hot dog alike in the series, as low of a bar as that is to clear.

MADEJ: That honestly only lasted as long as it did because it was a weird little snowball of a thing where we started doing it, and then there were people on the editing team and the post team, like two or three people, who also thought it was extremely funny, and they bent over backwards to do the animation on it. Up until the very end, when Buzzfeed laid a bunch of people off, as they are known to do, and I animated the last, like, half season of it. And I was like, “This is untenable, I’m staying up every night of the week to do this little hotdog animation on my own.” [laughs] So, you know, we don’t currently have the staff to pull something like that off, but it was a joy while it lasted. But, you know, Puppet History is still out there, and that’s channeling all of my feral creative instinct still. So, we got that.

So when can we potentially expect more Ghost Files? It sounds like maybe you guys are recording Season 2.

BERGARA: Oh yeah, that’s gonna be coming fairly soon. That’s right around the corner. And we actually have a bonus episode this season, as well, so that’ll be coming even sooner, which will be nice. And that’ll just come as a surprise! It’ll be nice and fun. But, yeah, we are shooting Season 2 right now, which is why I seem particularly crazy or tired at the moment, probably. We just are on the heels of shooting for two weeks straight, so yeah.

Very nice! And Ryan, I feel like for like my last question I have to ask you about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania because I turned fully into the [Leonardo DiCaprio] meme of pointing at the screen when you pop up in that little cameo. But I’m curious, what was that like? Did you know you were going to audition for a Marvel film? Was it all clouded in mystery? What was it like?

BERGARA: It’s really funny because a lot of people on the internet, and I am almost shutting myself up as I say this because it is very flattering, that a lot of people on the internet seem to think that I was a cameo in the movie as if Kevin Feige got on the phone and was like, you know, he has my phone number, “Ryan, I need you to cameo in Ant-Man, and I need your wife as well. We don’t have Stan Lee anymore, and I’d like you to fill the shoes and be our cameo guy from here on out.” Which is absolutely not how it happened. I definitely did have to audition for that, and it was this funny thing where [Marielle Scott] and I—Mari is my wife— we got a call from our separate reps saying like, “You guys have this funny little audition for this Marvel film. It’s very small. It’s a small part, but it is fun because you both would be able to be in it. It’s a couple’s audition.” And so that was too funny to pass up, so we auditioned for it. We had like a page of dialogue and had to do this improvised scene. And we auditioned, and then we ended up getting it! [laughs] We thought it was the funniest thing on Earth.

Then we got to set, and it was cool being on set and meeting Paul Rudd and Peyton Reid, the director. And yeah, I mean, none of what we were doing on set made the movie. It’s all just that like one second of us raising a glass because we were Toasting Man and Toasting Woman. But no, it was a fun time, very silly. And also, when else are you gonna get the chance to be in a Marvel movie as a couple, like, in the movie? You are a couple, like, that’s too funny to pass up. And so yeah, it was a fun experience.

Mystery Files debuts on May 19. Check out the teaser for the series below:

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