Starz, a cable network best known for screening films, is branching into producing series -- and one of the most promising, Party Down, premieres at 8:30 p.m. tonight. The show is about a hapless bunch of starving actors fronting as caterers as they wait for their big break -- and Adam Scott, a familiar face thanks to movies like Step Brothers (he played Will Ferrell's younger bro), told me all about it in the following Q&A, conducted during his recent promotional visit to Starz's Englewood headquarters.
Westword (Tyler Nemkov): How did you get involved in Party Down?
Adam Scott: Rob Thomas, Paul Rudd and I have been friends for years, and we were bouncing this script around for a long time. A couple years ago, we did a homemade version and forgot about it. But out of nowhere, Starz wanted to turn it into a series. It came together completely accidentally.
WW: Starz is not thought of as a place for TV shows. Did any of that process into your decision -- à la Jon Hamm in Mad Men?
AS: When you're starting in this situation, you have the opportunity to kind of define yourself within the network. I think Starz has been really smart, much in the way AMC [the home of Mad Men] was a couple of years ago. The audience doesn't need to be huge and expectations are lowered a little ratings-wise because that stuff doesn't really matter anymore. With funnyordie.com and YouTube, this is the kind of show where people will just find a way to watch it.
WW: Does the show parallel real life for you?
AS: Well I never was a caterer, but I did deliver pizzas. As far as base humiliation goes, acting is a tough business. It's a tough, embarrassing thing to do for a living when you're starting out and you better not have any ego or pride, because that will be wiped away clean by utter devastation. The writers locked into that and perfectly articulated it -- just that feeling of being a nothing in the entertainment industry.
WW: This show seems to be part of a new style of comedy, relatively free-flowing and abrupt. How do you feel about being a part of this?
AS: Yeah, it's my favorite kind of comedy to watch. I think we are in a golden age of comedy right now and I'm just kind of flattered to be there. I feel like these guys are just geniuses, and if Party Down can be somewhat of an offshoot of that movement, we'd all be flattered to be thought of in that way.
WW: What's it like working with Paul Rudd? Seems like one of the more strange, hilarious people ever.
AS: It's great. He's a total weirdo, but I've known him for about fifteen years and he's a terrific guy. We have similar sensibility in comedy, and having the opportunity to work together was great. He was busy during the shooting, but if we do a second season, hopefully we can get him in a few.
WW: How was working with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers?
AS: At first it's terrifying, to try to improvise with all those people: Will Ferrell, John Reilly, Rob Riggle. On that set, I learned not just about comedy, but acting in general. Those guys want everyone to be great, and they'll just do anything and see what sticks. But those guys are so hilarious. It's just pure joy to be on a set like that. Everyone is just trying to make each other laugh. Adam McKay, Will and Judd [Apatow] are the funniest guys around. They just know how to craft comedy. I would honestly come home with stomach cramps from laughing so hard.
WW: Did people treat you differently after Step Brothers? You played a character that was easy to hate.
AS: Well, thanks. It's really fun to get recognized for Step Brothers. It's been funny, because the majority of people recognizing me are under the age of thirteen, and it's a pretty dirty movie. But then I remember when I was that age and I was watching Caddyshack, Blues Brothers and The Jerk. It's so cool that I was in one of those kind of movies and these kids are watching. I still can't believe I'm in one of those kick-ass comedies.
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WW: Where does your inspiration come from? Who are some of your favorite actors?
AS: Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie and it's why I wanted to be an actor. I'm probably not the only one who feels that way about that movie; I don't think I'm alone there. I get inspired by movies like The Jerk and Three Amigos, which is fucking brilliant. When I got older I got into Scorsese and John Landis and the Monty Python comedies in the '80s.
WW: You smoked a joint in Step Brothers and in an episode of Party Down, you smoke another. Do you ever smoke weed for inspiration?
AS: I used to a lot. I grew up in Santa Cruz, and it was a right of passage. You know, like most people my age, I used to smoke lots of pot, but now I have kids. I don't have time, but I wish I did. I wouldn't wake up. I would just sleep constantly, and it would be terrific to watch TV all day and eat Hot Pockets and bonbons.