Search Party cast members John Early, John Paul Reynolds, and Brandon Michael Hall attended Paleyfest NY on Monday night for a panel discussion about the cult classic TBS series.
The show stars Alia Shawkat (of Arrested Development fame) as Dory, a 20-something drifting through life in New York City working as a housewife’s assistant. When she hears that her former college acquaintance, Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty), has gone missing, she latches onto the mystery. Dory’s doofus-y but well-intentioned boyfriend Drew (John Paul Reynolds) and her over-the-top dramatic friends Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner) fall into her mission as well. Each character provides yet another shockingly adept satirical profile of the self-absorbed millennial.
Fans of the dark comedy series will be pleased to hear that the show has been renewed for not only a long-awaited third season, but for a fourth as well. The show will also migrate from TBS’s streaming platform to HBO Max. Though we have to pin down an exact premiere date and schedule, season 3 of Search Party will premiere at the same time as the HBO Max debut in spring 2020.
We got the chance to chat with cast members John Early and John Paul Reynolds on the red carpet. Check out the conversation below.
SPOILER ALERT for seasons 1 and 2!
The Knockturnal: How does it feel to be at Paleyfest and to be featured this year?
John Paul Reynolds (Drew Gardner): It feels cool, I’m happy to be with John.
John Early (Elliott Goss): I’ve been here before when I was writing a play with my friend about the Bachelor and we came here back when you could – I think you can still do it – but it was like old TVs and you could watch archival episodes of things. We watched the very first episode of the Bachelor with all of the original commercials. It’s my favorite kind of museum where you can go into the archives and choose literally anything that’s ever aired on television. So I’m very honored to be here as a fan of TV.
The Knockturnal: Well we’re all very excited about season 3 and about season 4. Watching the show, it does a lot of things really well. Satire, comedy, cliffhangers. What do you think the show does best or what are your favorite parts of the show?
John Paul Reynolds: I agree. That is what it does best, where it can be a drama and it can be a comedy and they don’t really compromise on either of them, which is really hard to do because a lot of people try to force humor in dramas or they try to force drama in comedy. I feel like that’s a really big trend right now, where comedies have to be more, so they try to force drama. Search Party was ahead of the curve where they realized they weren’t mutually exclusive. And they have really good actors. The people they get are capable of doing both, which is really fun. People come in and they get the tone. It’s really cool.
John Early: I think it’s a really strong satire. There’s obviously a huge conversation about privilege in country and in the culture right now and I think this occupies a very irreverent, dark, scathing part of that conversation. I think it’s actually a good place for people who don’t feel they have the words to participate in the conversation and they feel anger at millennials, or they feel anger at the way millennials are portrayed, it’s a good place to get out a lot of that anger. It’s having the conversation and interested in that conversation, but doing it in a non-delicate way. I really admire it.
The Knockturnal: A big focus of the show is of course, self-absorbed millennials. They are everywhere in the show. As a millennial yourself, do you think it’s a fair representation?
John Paul Reynolds: Yes and no. I mean it’s TV, so I think everyone’s self-absorbed. There’s no selfless acts, really. But this definitely – it’s supposed to be funny so it’s a heightened version. I think it’s fun to play despicable people. And I think it’s fun that there’s an audience that likes to see it too. it’s like a train wreck.
The Knockturnal: The show definitely shoots something right in the heart, but it doesn’t feel insulting in its portrayal of millennials.
John Early: Totally, because it’s critical of millennials. It’s tough on millennials, but there are moments that are truly humanizing. So I think people like it.
The Knockturnal: In the same vein, do you feel like the characters are bad people or are they just regular people placed in bad circumstances?
John Paul Reynolds: Yeah I think it’s regular people placed in bad circumstances. I don’t think they’re bad people. I think they’re liars and people who are slowly going down a rabbit hole of insanity, but I don’t know how you would act if you were thrown into that situation. I guess I look for the endearing qualities in them.
John Early: People who have done a bad thing? It’s a good question. I think they’re all at different places on the scale. I think Elliott’s a bad person. I think he’s definitely a bad person. I think there are lovable things about him. Because of my performance. *laughs* But I think he’s a bad person. He’s really shitty to the people around him. He’s only looking out for himself. And in season 2 it’s all about how they respond to the situation and he is the most shockingly pragmatic. It’s as if – one thing that when we did the second season they said ‘we want it to feel like, the way he snaps into action, we want it to feel like he’s clearly covered up a murder before.’ And as an actor, I was never like ‘okay I’m going to imagine another murder’ but I was just trying to get straight into the admin of it. It’s clear that he’s thought about this stuff before which is insane.
The Knockturnal: Yes I find that very interesting. And Elliott kind of starts to lose it in season 2.
John Early: Which I think is his moral compass. He does have a moral compass. It’s just buried really really deep down under layers of very expensive clothing.
The Knockturnal: Can we expect to see that moral compass continue to be grappled with or just squashed in season 3?
John Early: It’s kind of re-squashed. Everything that came out in season 2, he kind of pushes it back down.
The Knockturnal: As poor decisions as they make, I feel like they’re very believable and even relatable at times. I’m not saying I condone anything but do you feel like you relate to the characters at all?
John Paul Reynolds: There are things that I relate to for sure. And then some things that I don’t. But again I don’t know. I’ve never been in that situation. I like to think that I would call the cops and not bury a goddamn body but I don’t know. But there are very relatable things about all the characters.
The Knockturnal: Anything about Drew in particular that you feel able to channel well?
John Paul Reynolds: I grew up in the Midwest so I grew up around a lot of Drews, a lot of these guys who had brothers and they’re sort of the status quo, and you don’t rock the boat in your family and you follow in the footsteps of your dad and you get married. And you have a normal stable life. That’s the point. So playing him was easy, like I get it. I’ve been around this a lot.
The Knockturnal: Are there any characters you feel able to channel really well?
John Early: Besides Elliott?
The Knockturnal: If there’s anything particular about Elliott that you want to share, then please do.
John Early: Oh, thank you. Sometimes I feel like Portia, a little bit. As an actress, I feel like Portia, an insecure actress. Sometimes I feel like Drew. I feel like I let people walk all over me. *laughs*
The Knockturnal: Do you get to hear a lot of feedback about the show or do you get to talk to fans a lot? I feel like there’s a lot of interesting conversations to be had.
John Early: We don’t really because it’s been locked away on the TBS website, like no one watches it, so no. Occasionally people send really sweet tweets and stuff that they love it, but there’s not much fan interaction. We’re too niche.
The Knockturnal: Like a cult classic.
John Early: Oh I love being niche. I want to remain niche.
The Knockturnal: From season 1 to season 2 there was a pretty serious sea change in the type of show that we thought we were watching. I think it’s amazing that that happens in pretty much one episode, but between season 2 and 3, I know you probably can’t share a lot, but do you think there’s going to be a similar reinvention of everything?
John Paul Reynolds: Yeah it’s more character-driven. Characters start to go even further. It pushes the boundaries of how much you’re willing to let characters get away with. They really test how much you’re going to like them because they start to do some naughty stuff.
Fellow cast member Brandon Michael Hall, who plays Dory’s blunt, hard-hitting journalist ex-boyfriend joined John Early and John Paul Reynolds after the red carpet for a panel discussion with Vanity Fair writer Yohana Desta.
Check out a promo for season 3 below: