Interview: Will Arnett

The actor looks back at Arrested Development and forward to Running Wilde
By RYAN STEWART  |  September 14, 2010

MAKING IT NEW “In a lot of ways, this show is almost a romantic comedy. We never had that on Arrested Development.”

When it went off the air, in 2006, Arrested Development had already cemented its status as one of the great TV comedies of all time. And though many have tried (Modern Family and 30 Rock, most notably), no show since has been able to match its blend of ridiculous characters, rapid-fire punchlines, and constant callbacks to jokes from previous episodes. Now, Arrested Development’s creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, and one of its principal actors, Will Arnett (who played clueless magician GOB Bluth on AD), have reunited in Fox’s Running Wilde, a show with many surface similarities. Both of Arnett’s characters (on Running Wilde, he plays a lonely rich trust-fund guy trying to reconnect with his high-school sweetheart) are self-absorbed and immature. Both shows use voiceover narration; both feature David Cross as an incompetent. And in both, the nominal “straight” character (here played by Keri Russell) has just as much of a crazy side as everyone else. But there are also differences, as Arnett pointed out to me when we spoke by phone.

How has shooting gone so far?
It’s been going really well. I’m really happy with the shape that the show is taking. We’re just starting to find our groove.

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of shows start to get better and better around the fourth or fifth episode.
What’s very difficult — if you were to ask a person whose job it was to create a TV show, like a writer of some sort, to create a perfect pilot episode, I don’t think that they would necessarily do it in a way that you’re used to seeing a pilot on TV. The idea of a pilot, especially a comedy pilot — the deck is stacked against you, because you can’t just tell jokes and be a comedy. You have to serve a lot of different masters. You have to tell a story, you have to introduce all these characters — you have to do all of these other things before you can even start getting into writing funny scenes. That seems like it’s the most important thing to the powers that be. So that’s kind of a tall order. Oftentimes in TV comedies, you’re starting in the hole, and you’ve got to fight your way out of it.

Is David Cross going to be a series regular, or is he just a guest for the pilot?
Oh, no, he’s around. He’s on the show. Whether he likes it or not. I’ve never even asked him how he feels about it. [Deadpan] And, frankly, I don’t care. We had always wanted him on the show. He was supposed to do the original pilot, but he was stuck behind the volcano, the volcanic ash.

I notice that you’re credited as a writer. How much of a collaborative process has it been so far? Has it still mostly been Mitchell Hurwitz and Jim Vallely?
I wrote the pilot with those guys. Originally, I thought that Mitch was going to write it, and then he told me that I had to do it too. He kind of made me do it, you know? I had never written a TV show before. I’d written a few things — nothing that’s ever been made. I’m not one of those people that’s like “I’m a writer,” or “I need to do this.”

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