Fran Kranz in "The Cabin in the Woods"
Lionsgate Fran Kranz in "The Cabin in the Woods"

Why He's On Our Radar: The Joss Whedon fanclub is already no doubt familiar with California bred actor Fran Kranz, thanks to his winning turn as geeky programmer Topher Brink in Whedon's now-defunct, high-concept Fox TV series "Dollhouse." Now, two years after that show wrapped, Whedon is responsible for Kranz's big-screen breakthrough as Marty, a stoner with smarts, in the post-modern horror blast "The Cabin in the Woods," penned by Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed).

Kranz has waited two long years for his big break to hit the screens. As you're probably well aware by now, "Cabin" was originally slated for release two years ago (back when "Dollhouse" was still on air), but after original distributor MGM filed for bankruptcy, it remained in limbo until Lionsgate swooped in to save the project. 

More About Him: Kranz, a Yale-trained thesp, has done his share of theater and supporting work in film and TV. Film credits include M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," "Training Day" starring Denzel Washington, Ridley Scott's "Matchstick Men" and the cult fave "Donnie Darko." He can currently be seen on Broadway Mike Nichols' critically acclaimed revival of "Death of a Salesman," opposite Andrew Garfield and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What's Next: During Whedon's off-time from shooting his upcoming blockbuster "The Avengers," Whedon had Kranz play Claudio in his black-and-white modern take on "Much Ado About Nothing." Shooting's wrapped on the film and it's currently seeking a distributor.

How do you get into the Joss Whedon club?

(Laughs)  I just auditioned for Joss like any actor. I knew his name, but I hadn't seen any of his stuff, which probably helped me going in. When you go in for someone you admire, then you're kind of screwed a little bit. It doesn't help to be starstruck.

The little bit I read of the "Dollhouse" script I read, I thought this guy was cool. He's a very cool guy. He has a very warm, intelligent vibe.

There's no tricks! I wish there was a formula. He's got such loyal fans, but he's also got such loyal employees. I think it's a testament to him; it trickles down. It's his personality that makes people want to be their best. He has a fanbase community, but also an employee community. When I meet someone that's worked with Joss, I think that I'm going to like them. When I meet a fan of Joss', I immediately feel like I'm around a kindred spirit.

I had faith that it was going to come out. But it got to the point where it was embarrassing. I was like the crazy person who kept talking about "Cabin in the Woods," and everyone was like, "Fran needs his medication."
From the sounds of it, Joss only works with those he feels a kinship toward.

There's a joke that if Joss doesn't like you, he'll just kill you on the show. I had heard that before, that he has no problems writing people out of shows. For the most part, on "Dollhouse" or on "Cabin," there were no sour grapes.

I can't put a finger on why he's been so nice to me. It's not like we're best friends. But if he has a gathering, I'm generally invited. He likes to do play readings at his house, and that's how "Much Ado" came about. We read "Midsummer Night's Dream" one night, and I played Francis Flute. I'd be lying if I said we had this serious bond. I just feel lucky and -- I hate that word -- humbled.

In "Cabin," I'm playing the stoner slacker guy. There's a lot of opportunities to be silly and have fun; I did, but I took it really seriously. I took it as, 'this can be a breakthrough role for me.' When on set, I wasn't some weird, serious, shut-in method actor, but it wasn't lost on me how great of an opportunity it was.

This film's been in limbo for what seems like forever. How have you been coping, especially given that this marks your big-screen breakout?

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult. I had faith that it was going to come out. But it got to the point where it was embarrassing. Even my parents were like, "Is it really even good?" I was like the crazy person who kept talking about "Cabin in the Woods," and everyone was like, "Fran needs his medication."

In between, "Dollhouse" was canceled. I've been doing a lot of a theater, and I did a movie here and there. I did a pilot I was fired from! The period in-between was not the best. So the way my career trajectory was going was very positive, and then all of a sudden it was not -- no joke.

I think Drew [Goddard] and I were able to commiserate on it in our own way. It was difficult, but in the same time it's in the right hands now. Lionsgate gets it and they love it. I think it's all for the best, I really do. All movies take a while, this one just took longer. I made it!