Will Arnett's new series Running Wilde continues to struggle with low ratings, but fans remain supportive. Will had a lot to say about creating a show, balancing comedy and romance, and staying funny under pressure when Gawker.TV interviewed him recently.
Whether it's his unmistakable voice, his mastery of the role of the clueless jackass, or his recent efforts to graduate to a lead role in Running Wilde, Will Arnett is always hilarious and always awesome.
So I heard you guys recently wrapped up production for Running Wilde, right?
Yeah, last night we finished up episode 13. So we're kind of wrapped up, but we're – and I can't believe I'm uttering this sentence – but as I tweeted yesterday, we are in limbo.
The show has had trouble in the ratings, but there is such a huge following on the internet, even a petition to keep the show on the air. I'm curious what you think about how we judge a show's success these days and maybe how that should change. What's your take on that?
Well first, what I'm going to take off the tip of your question is that you think it should change, because any reasonable person can gather that perhaps it is time for us to change how we determine the success of a show. There are five thousand Nielsen boxes that measure the TV viewing audience, and the ad rates – we're talking billions of dollars – are determined by this flimsy system that could arguably A, be really easily manipulated, and B is totally inaccurate and it's not a real sample of what's out there. People get their entertainment from all sorts of sources. Even if you were to say that the Nielsen is a good representation of what people watch, it is not a representation of how many people watch a particular show, so I don't know, maybe it's time we start taking our shows to different medias, maybe broadcast is not the place. But having said that, I'm not saying that as a put-down to broadcast networks, because I do believe that is a viable place. We need to revisit the way we measure the audience, because if they can't admit that they're totally out of touch, then they're even more out of touch. And if they admit they're out of touch and they're not doing anything about it, then there's got to be some sort of benefit to them to continue doing it this way. That's my feeling. So I don't know what to do. I know there are people out there who watch our show, especially online where we have found a tremendous following. More and more we feel like if this show is given a chance, we will eventually be victorious.
How can you stay out of all that pressure and just focus on continuing to make a good show?
Look, that comes with the territory because I'm involved in the show on every level and I really take it to heart. Initially the reviews for the show held us up against Arrested Development. The pilot was held up against the entire series of Arrested Development, which is insurmountable, we were destined to fail in that sense. And the critics…the idea of reviewing comedy is absurd to me in the sense that if I were to read a review in a newspaper that says "this comedy is great and you've got to watch it and it's really funny," chances are that my comedy sensibilities aren't in line with the person writing that review, and chances are that a lot of people, especially in the younger generation, are not aligned with the person writing the review of that comedy. If they're going to tell me I won't like something, I'm almost guaranteed to love it. Thank you for having the opposite effect on me.
Obviously this show is your baby. On top of being a creator and star of the show, you're also a writer and producer. How does that add to both the sense of pressure and reward you get?
In the practical sense it just adds to the workload, but I'm certainly not the first person to do this, so to me it's been tremendously rewarding in so many ways, and any kind of negative effect from the ratings and reviews and all that kind of crap is far outweighed by the tremendous enjoyment I've had out of doing all the different aspects of the show. For me it's great to be able to try to shape the show and it's been a challenge to get the show off the ground and help it find its voice. Even though I do have a lot of job titles, along with that I am part of an ensemble. I'm really part of a team, whether it's working with Mitch Hurwitz or Jimmy Vallely or any of the other writers or actors on the show, whether it's Keri or Peter or Mel Rodriguez…it really is a team effort, so it's been a very rewarding experience. I really feel that from week to week we got better at figuring out where the show lies, where the story lies, and what works and what doesn't work, and it takes a while. And I think that when we wrapped last night, I really felt like if that was the last episode then we ended on a high note. I think it's going to be a really strong episode. I'm very very proud of it.
How was the whole experience of creating a show and seeing it get on TV? Aside from your character Steve Wilde, was there a certain character or idea that you were really excited to see on screen?
Fa'ad was a character I was very excited about. We wrote that character for Peter Serafinowicz knowing what his strengths are. He wasn't as known as much stateside as they say, but he's a friend of mine and someone I'm really familiar with, and he's a hilarious performer and he's quite well-known in the UK. For me, what was actually the most challenging was trying to play a character that's a little more centered than I normally play, more of the center of it rather than the jackass who comes in, which is kind of the part Fa'ad gets to do. But you couldn't ask for a better guy to do it, Peter Serafinowicz. He's just amazingly hilarious.
How challenging is it to successfully be the comedic lead of the show and also the romantic lead at the same time? Is it difficult to keep a balance?
It's new for me. I've spent my career, if I can even call it that, coming in and simply being a goof-off, and now I kind of have a double duty, I have to try as much as I can to be more the center of the show and guide the story more and relate on a romantic level to the Emmy character. It's been much more of a challenge than I thought it would be.
Why did you decide to use the voiceover on the show, and why did you choose Puddle to do it?
That was kind of a process that unfolded over a period of time. We wanted there to be a family element, no matter how unorthodox. We found that by creating the character of Puddle we were able to see a side of Steve that we might not otherwise be able to see, and see him relate to a child, and even further than that, see the story unfold through the eyes of a child. Because if anything, the characters who are the most alike are Steve and Puddle because they've both grown up in very sheltered environments. So it was something we wanted to explore; we didn't want to just tell a story. I mean part of us would love to just tell it like a dark comedy and a shot at the super wealthy, like to just ridicule that entire idea especially when we live in a country where the divide between the has and the has-nots has never been larger. There is a part of me that would like to be able to explore that in a real adult way, but unfortunately I don't know if America wants to see that. It seems like there is a real desire for sentimentality that's unearned. It just kind of starts sentimental, you don't even know why, you meet characters and all of a sudden you're in a very special episode of whatever and the whole thing is scored with really sappy music and you're like "Wait a minute, I don't even know these fucking people." You haven't earned it, and on top of it you haven't told any jokes. Great. Okay, well why am I watching? I'd rather watch an emergency broadcast system.
It's interesting you say the show is a shot at the super wealthy. It's hard to relate to Emmy if you're not a perfect person, and it's hard to relate to Steve if you're not a billionaire.
Maybe that sentiment is felt by a lot of other people, and maybe that's reflected in the ratings. I guess we could have had a character that was more relatable in the way that you're talking about, but at the same time, I'd rather want something that is new. Maybe that takes a while to get used to. I think that you have to kind of figure out a way to get invested in our show a little bit, you've got to figure out your own way in. If you do start watching, I think you will be rewarded…by the way I can already hear the comments section. It'll be like just some dude in like Williamsburg writing "Well then why don't you make it funny then, you fuckin' loser?" I love commenters who feel the need to say that. By the way, can we make a proposal right now that if you want to comment, you have to include your name and your address? Wouldn't that be fantastic?
I'll be sure to propose that. So now that the first 13 episodes of Running Wilde are done and its future is uncertain, if you do get to make more episodes, what are you excited to explore?
I think that there are a bunch of stories that we didn't tell yet because we were so bogged down with trying to introduce these characters and trying to stay on this main story that it was difficult for us to really go out and off and have fun in any kind of direction, because we had to stay true to exploring Steve and Emmy. Once we are able to get a little breathing room, there are lots of stories that we'd love to get into. I'm very excited about episode 13 where we finally meet Steve's father, who of course had to be played by Jeffrey Tambor. So that went really well, Jeffrey was so fantastic.
What's frustrating is not knowing what we're doing, because we're at episode 13 and we don't know what our future is, and we really strive in episode 13. So for that reason I hope that we can continue on, because a lot of things came together. Mitch directed episode 13 – he never directed an episode, never directed an episode of Arrested – and everything kind of came together. So it would be unfortunate if it were the end because now I feel like we know what the show is.
What shows are you watching on TV right now, and more importantly, what video games are you playing?
Well first of all, today is the day that Call of Duty: Black Ops comes out, so I'm very excited about that. I don't have it yet because I'm traveling today, but I hope that I'll be able to track down a copy because I'm really looking forward to spending hundreds of hours in my TV room. And I would watch Parks and Recreation when it comes back, I'm excited about that.
Arrested Development movie updates?
We're in the midst of Running Wilde and we're unable to focus on anything else, but it is something we plan on doing. I can't really speak to Mitch's timetable but I would suspect that it's going to be sooner rather than later now, I will say that.
David Cross said in an interview that he knows the storyline and it's "awesome."
Yeah there's some really funny stuff, some really funny ideas being kicked around. It's Mitch's call on how anything goes.
Can you give us a hint? A taste? Something?
I really can't, it would be far too premature. But if it goes in the direction Mitch is suggesting, it'll be super hilarious.
Running Wilde airs Tuesday nights at 9:30PM EST on Fox.
Megh Wright is a writer, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. When she's not watching reality competition shows, writing letters to her friends, or craving a caramel Frappuccino, Megh can usually be found on the streets of Soho running errands. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is available for even the creepiest inquiries here.