TBS’s SEARCH PARTY held a red carpet last night in New York. The carpet is part of their Emmy ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign. The Knockturnal was lucky enough to chat with many of the stars, as well as the creators and executive producers.
WARNING: CONTAINS SOME LIGHT SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE.
SARAH-VIOLET BLISS (co-creator), CHARLES ROGERS (co-creator), & LILLY BURNS (executive producer)
THE KNOCKTURNAL: I know you had Michael Showalter as a professor at NYU, and then were brought in to work on WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY OF CAMP. What was the experience like of being brought up that way?
SARAH-VIOLET BLISS: It was awesome, because we had someone who was really rooting for us on our first huge job. That was really comforting. It’s scary being in your first writer’s room, and that made it a lot better. And it was also such a fun show to work on, our humor really meshed well with it. It was like a dream.
You guys also did an indie movie together, FORT TILDEN. How would you say it was different going from writing an indie movie to an indie TV show? Was it different?
CHARLES ROGERS: In some ways, it’s completely different, because TV is the big leagues! (laughs) When we made our feature film, we really made it on our own. Like, on student loans, coming out of film school, and that was very much in a vacuum. I’d say it’s a completely different experience, working with a network, having an audience. The fact that people in Tel Aviv are watching SEARCH PARTY right now is surreal to me. But it is similar, in that TBS has allowed us so much creative control. It doesn’t feel so different, in that we’re still making what we want, which is really cool.
Lilly, you’ve produced a lot of great comedy series set in New York (BROAD CITY, DIFFICULT PEOPLE, YOUNGER, etc.) For this show, and for other shows you’ve produced, how much do you think New York is an influence, and helps to define the voice of the comedy?
LILLY BURNS: I think that New York is a really unique place, in that it’s really hard to live here. It’s sort of painful, and everyone here is suffering in a little bit of a way. So there is some realness and grittiness to everything that takes place in New York. I think shooting here, and actually shooting in the streets, mimics that actual grittiness. You can never approximate New York by shooting anywhere else. I think it adds a lot of texture and flavor to a show. You can sort of tell when a show is faking New York – it feels too bright and quiet and clean. I really like the real feeling of the city.
How much do you think the show is defined by how the characters are all twenty-somethings? How does their age change or influence the way they go through this?
ROGERS: I think the comedy of these characters is that they’re sort of blind to themselves. I think that’s a part of growing up, learning who you are, and the self-awareness – HOPEFULLY, your self-awareness increases as you get older. I think that’s sort of intrinsic to what’s hapless about these people, and why they’re not equipped to cover up a murder, or sleuth, or any of the things they have to do.
You blend a lot of different tones – comedy, mystery, and drama, especially at the end. Was it difficult to blend all the themes and tones together? Did you try at first to do a more direct take on the Nancy Drew angle? I know a lot of the promo pics especially lean into that.
ROGERS: I mean, we started with just our voice, and the comedy, and the way we look at people. When we partnered up with Michael Showalter, Lilly Burns, and JAX Media, they had the idea of adding a mystery bent to it. It was kind of a marriage of genre, hook, and sensibility. Once you have all the writers, and actors, and everybody come together, everything sort of makes itself, and you realize you’ve discovered this tone that’s really special and different. I think the Nancy Drew element, more than anything, is just dressing on top. It was something where it was fun to frame it that way. We’re planning what that is for season two right now.
Season one ended on a very big cliffhanger. How have you guys approached going off of that, especially where all the characters are emotionally following the twists with Chantal and Keith?
BURNS: I think the tone of the show fundamentally changes between the first and second seasons. We’ve just been looking at how to approach the world from that angle. If season one is Nancy Drew, we’re talking about season two as Hitchcock, because there is no going back from what happened in [episode] ten. Now it’s a world of real consequences and real repercussions, which maybe didn’t really exist in the first season.
ROGERS: I also think there’s been a conversation of whether season two is too dark, and if the themes are too dark. Since we started treating it like that, I think this [second] season is funnier than last season is. I think it’s actually okay to be darker if it’s funnier at the same time.
BLISS: It’s just the blend of people who are not equipped to be in this situation – both seasons have that – but in this season, because the stakes are higher, it’s even funnier.
ROGERS: Bigger stakes and floundering.
BLISS: (laughs) True.
JOHN REYNOLDS (Drew) & BRANDON MICHEAL HALL (Julian)
THE KNOCKTURNAL: John, you play this very stereotypical “nice guy” character that, if this were an early 2000’s rom-com, would probably be the protagonist. But on SEARCH PARTY, you’re shown as more of a grating presence for Dory. What’s it like to tread that line?
JOHN REYNOLDS: I think they’re kind of one and the same, you know? I think there’s a huge difference between being kind and being nice. Drew’s quintessential nice. He wants everything to be fine, and doesn’t really want things to change that much. It’s sort of like taking after your dad, or your parent’s generation, like, “can’t everything just be fine??” Inherently, when he does that, he’s not listening to anybody, especially Dory. I think that lends itself to a lot of their communication issues.
THE KNOCKTURNAL: Julian is probably the most self-aware of everyone’s faults. Is it at all therapeutic to be the one who tells the characters behaving terribly that they’re behaving terribly?
BRANDON MICHEAL HALL: Yeah. I think the therapeutic element is just being honest. You’re just constantly being honest with yourself and those around you. So I think that’s the big therapeutic moment. But also, it’s kind of his downfall too.
THE KNOCKTURNAL: You both are in this twisted love triangle with Dory, taking this journey with her. What’s it like to be that side character in this other person’s journey?
HALL: I think Julian tries to use it for his own benefit, in a way. So it’s good, in some cases, and bad in the other. Once again, he’s using his honesty to his detriment, but he’s also using it to propel his career. It hurts Drew’s character a lot, because- I mean, what would you say?
REYNOLDS: I mean, it’s funny, because in the first couple of episodes, I feel like that’s a big part of the dynamic. Then it kind of fades away, and only pops up as a device, almost, to prod Drew. I think in any relationship, there’s an element of jealousy that never goes away. I was watching that movie 45 YEARS – it was a really cool dynamic. It’s this older couple, and then forty-five years into their marriage, the wife finds out the husband was married before, and she’s jealous. There’s a lot more to it, but even just that small moment of that first sign of jealousy, is really interesting. That is a big thing, but to feel so jealous, it’s like – wow. I wouldn’t know what that would be like, forty-five years down the road with my girlfriend or something, because sometimes I get very jealous as well.
You’re in a pretty rocky place at the end of the season, both with your relationship with Dory, and the things that you all see-
REYNOLDS: And do!
Exactly. So what happens going into season 2, both with Drew’s relationship to Dory, but also just Drew as a person?
REYNOLDS: I mean, for Drew and Dory, without getting too into details, I’d say they don’t go too far from each other. But yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of layers – he’s a murderer, and he’s also going through a breakup. He has a lot of jealousy, and anger, and resentment towards her. So I think he wants to prod at her, and get his attention back. There’s a fine line between compartmentalizing and also trying to actually deal with reality.
Julian was left out of the action in the finale, but can you talk about how he continues to socialize with these characters following the things that they do, and how he handles the news?
HALL: Yeah. I think it all filters through Dory, because that’s the only person he really communicates with, other than Drew. I think his dynamic is filtered through her, and her relationship to her friends, and his own personal opinion of them.
ALIA SHAWKAT (Dory) & MEREDITH HAGNER (Portia)
THE KNOCKTURNAL: All four of the main characters are narcissistic in their own ways, but in very different ways. How do you think your characters’ narcissism varies?
MEREDITH HAGNER: Well, I think Portia’s narcissism comes from a deep desire to be liked. It comes from a well of insecurity. I think it’s that overcompensation – like, she has moments of feeling like she’s deeply depressed, and she feels like the ugliest and worst actor. The way that she then overcompensates for that is by appearing to be so overly confident, and act like she thinks she’s the best thing ever.
ALIA SHAWKAT: And I think Dory’s narcissism is, at least through the journey of the first season, more of a surprise – or maybe other people noticed it. But she’s someone who’s convinced herself that she’s not like everyone else. Unlike her friends, she’s more considerate of other people, and more quiet, and her opinion isn’t as important. Helping out friends, thinking that’s a way to be more selfless, and be a better person. But ultimately, in my opinion, she kinda ends up being the most egotistical of all of them. By not caring about how it affects people, the actions she takes, but thinking it’s for the greater good. But she’s a lot more delusional than the others are, and a lot less self aware of how she’s actually treating people.
You’re almost playing a Nancy Drew-esque character. Did you think about that at all when approaching the character?
SHAWKAT: You know, when it comes to the Nancy Drew stuff, I think that was more of a stylistic choice. Because it has to be, at least for me, very specific when it comes to character choices. Whereas Nancy Drew is more of an idea of a kind of person. So the plot is sort of similar to a Nancy Drew story, but I think Dory is more someone who… well, any kind of character who’s finding themselves through something. So I think she’s developing her confidence, her voice… even the way she dresses, and acts, and who she has sex with. All these things, through this idea of something bigger than herself. Which, not to spoil everything, but ultimately ends up not being real, and that’s when she’s like “oh shit, I’m actually worse than everyone else, in a way.”
Meredith, you play an actress playing a Hispanic cop. What was playing that character like? Did you find it at all reflective of your experience as an actor?
HAGNER: Well, I think part of the humor of being an actress is being game. And a struggling actress, which I have some experience with, at certain points in my career, is the desire to be like “I’ll do anything, even if it’s offensive.” I don’t even think she registers that it’s offensive. But like, I played a 16-year-old, asking my mom about tampons, when I was 23. So for me, there was a similar feeling of “well, I know this is sort of not what I want to do, but I’m just happy to have a job.” There was a lot of humor in it, for me to play, because I’ve had experiences like that. I like to think of Portia as me, having gone down a slightly scarier and different path.
I’ve seen a couple different articles claiming that Dory might be the new voice of our generation-
SHAWKAT: Did my mom write that?
I was wondering, for both of you, do you think that the show embodies the voice of our generation? Especially the jaded way it approaches grief, and how we handle it?
SHAWKAT: I think it’s a very over-reaching goal to say we’re the singular voice. There’s obviously a lot coming out. But to be ONE of the voices is already flattering enough. I think that it definitely is meant to, and successfully, does get across the jaded, but also… we weren’t taught? Not to use that as an excuse, but I notice so much that, with what’s happening in the world, there’s a lot of crazy things happening right now, and it almost feels like a movie. And people respond to it as if it’s a movie. I think it’s because people don’t understand something unless it’s literally closer to their face than their phone is. That’s a hard, small, literal place to get to. So with this disconnectivity, if that’s a word, I think it’s an interesting thing to comment on. Because we don’t talk about the specifics of what’s happening in the world, like we’re not up to date talking about politics, but in a way, it’s a perfect metaphor for what’s happening. Everyone is still reacting to it, and you kind of panic more about yourself, and become more ego-based, and become more scared about your own balance. The truth is, we’re not connecting enough, and we don’t know how to help other people. It’s quite a helplessness that I think is happening. But at the same time, I think young people are our future. (laughs) I think there’s a wave starting of a numbing feeling that we’ve had for a while. Feeling disconnected, and reaching for things bigger than ourselves. It’s a wave that’s starting to touch our ground and affect us.
HAGNER: I also think there are aspects of social media in our generation where narcissism and voyeurism meet. There’s a real aspect of that to our show, and I really believe that. Not with these characters, but with the world, there’s narcissism and voyeurism, and they’re intersecting. With Dory’s decision to lead us in this quest to find Chantal, for all of us, I think there is an aimlessness, and just a deep desire to be appreciated and understood. It’s weird, “the voice of our generation.” I think what our show is doing, what I feel is exciting, is that there’s a specific tone I’ve never seen before. And when it brings forth these millennial questions in a completely different way… yeah.
SHAWKAT: It’s a new voice.
Speaking on the unique tone, the ending very funny but very dark. If you can get into it, how do your characters move forward from this event? How do they process what’s happened to them?
SHAWKAT: Well, it is a mystery show, so we’re trying to keep it under wraps. Not to make us seem so self-important, but we’re also still figuring it out as it goes. We’ve just started shooting the second season. It’s a question I ask myself, as an actor, and just as a fan of the show too. What is, at the same time, the most realistic way to react to it all, and also how would these people react in this world? It’s kind of a marriage between the two, which is why the tone was so specific. Because there’s a lot of reality based in the friendships and even in the things they say, but it is kind of ludicrous what happens, and some of the comedy comes from really silly, over the top stuff. What I think I can say is the four main characters are definitely processing it very differently. It doesn’t bring them as much together as… well, I don’t know if anyone thinks killing someone brings you together. I think they’re surprised at how they all pull away from each other, and they’re learning how to get back at what’s important.
HAGNER: It is an interesting thing too, because of our characters, especially me and John [Early], and playing with the tone of how THAT happening to these people affects them. But I will say the heart of all the humor in this show is that there’s so much groundedness, and this really affects them in a real way.
Season 2 is currently in production. Be sure to check out the full first season!