I was lucky enough to spend the past weekend hanging with the warm and engaging creators and cast of one of my favorite shows ever, the late, great Party Down. The Alamo Drafthouse sponsored The Ultimate Party Down Marathon, and the event was a total blast for all involved. Tune in all week for more coverage from the event including Q&A, videos and pics, and tomorrow we’re giving away a copy of this gorgeous Mondo poster by Scrojo created just for the event and signed by the writers and cast!
I got to sit down with cast members Adam Scott (Henry), Ken Marino (Ron), Lizzy Caplan (Casey), Martin Starr (Roman), Megan Mullally (Lydia) and Ryan Hansen (Kyle), along with creators Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and John Enbom. Just assume [laughter] in between and during every answer. It was a good time.
Do any of you have a favorite moment that was improvised on the show?
Enbom: The “Ain’t Got No Belt song.” [Marino and Hansen singing the blues in “James Ellison Funeral”]
Hansen: [singing] “I ain’t got no belt!”
Marino: I’m surprised they left in the line from the end of that episode where I say something like, “I’m not sure why, but I have an erection.” I was like “Oh, they’re actually going to use that, okay.”
Mullally: Ken and I improvised that thing where it was supposed to sound like we were having sex in a tent. That was fun. [“Precious Lights Pre-School Auction.”]
Marino: That was fun.
Scott: I remember that. That entire episode was really uncomfortable, too.
Mullally: I remember I ate one of the prop cookies, and everybody was like “Gasp!”
Scott: We only got seven for the whole episode.
Mullally: They were from season one, the same cookies.
Marino: Ryan stabbed an extra.
Caplan: Oh yeah!
Hansen: Hey, don’t say I stabbed an extra.
Scott: But that was an improv!
Marino: That was an improv. It’s in the theme.
What’s an idea for a catering event that you guys wish you’d gotten to do on the show but didn’t?
Etheridge: The Japanese wake. An entire episode where nobody spoke English, or there was like a Korean family having a wake, having some huge drama going on but no one spoke English so no one understands what’s going on, because nobody speaks the language. The waiters felt uncomfortable.
Thomas: Dog wedding. That was an idea that many times was offered. That was the card that kept coming up.
Etheridge: But then we’d have to get a lot dogs. A lot of dog wranglers.
Thomas: And Christopher Guest sort of did the dog world and dog-obsessed people so that might be a high bar.
Enbom: I wanted to do, like, a jet propulsion lab space control party where they’re landing the Mars Lander and it just goes blank. [laughter] But then they still have to have the party. Everyone’s got noise-makers and hats. They’re still going through with it because they booked two hours for the catering event.
Caplan: And when we were kind of slowly figuring out that we were getting canceled, because they wanted shows with more swords, to do catering at a Spartacus wrap party.
Scott: More sandals and swords shows.
Thomas: When we were canceled, we offered to set the show at Medieval Times. We thought that might help.
You filmed at a lot of different locations on a small budget. What was the weirdest?
Enbom: The Van Nuys Elks Lodge. [in “Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh”]
Thomas: Well, let’s not say that. We don’t want the Van Nuys folks to start crying.
Enbom: I think they’re big fans of Badass Digest there. At the Elks Lodge.
Thomas: Well, shooting on the Queen Mary. [“Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen”]
Etheridge: That was fun. I even stayed on the Queen Mary one night. It’s haunted.
Scott: We’re talking about locations?
Marino: Yeah, the weirdest location. What is the weirdest location…
Hansen: You’ve ever done it.
Enbom: A bed.
Scott: Yes, a bed.
Mullally: Well, that orgy episode was crazy. [“Nick DiCintio’s Orgy Night”]
Marino: That was more just kind of the weird, creepy atmosphere.
Mullally: Well, because there were all these atmosphere people, you know, the extras. But they were really just standing around in their underwear. I was on the couch with this one couple, and they were making out, and I was supposed to feel uncomfortable. And I really did feel uncomfortable.
Caplan: What about that place, the “Investors Dinner,” where it was like a porn house? Remember that? That’s a good episode. Remember there was nothing in the cupboards and it was really weird? That was crazy.
Rob, can you talk about working with Starz versus other networks?
Thomas: Yeah, all of us can. The greatest thing about working at Starz is that we got almost total creative freedom. We were very used to making television and you get these notes, and [with Starz] we would use them if we wanted to and not use them if we didn’t want to. And at the same time we were working at Starz, I was doing a show on ABC [Cupid].And trust me, there, you are expected to use the notes. You know, it’s the difference between being happy and proud of your show and being made miserable and made to feel like a hack. But I cannot afford to live on Starz.
Thomas: So it’s a trade-off.
Scott: I remember you guys would come to our set as a vacation from the ABC show. To come to a pleasant environment.
Thomas: Yeah, that’s largely why I’m in Austin again. I wanted to be tempted to never work for ABC again.
Do you all feel that you interact differently with catering staff now that you’ve worked on the show?
Marino: [joking] Yeah, I treated them like shit.
Scott: Yeah, I was horrible to them. Now I’m less horrible.
Starr: I went the other way.
Scott: Yeah, I did. No, definitely.
Marino: So you were kind of an asshole before?
Scott: [joking] I was kind of an asshole before, and now I’m a total asshole.
Marino: I’ve had a number of experiences now where I’ve been places where there was catering and the waiters were like “Hey!” I think it’s a well-liked show with caterers.
Starr: I’ve found the opposite. I get an attitude sometimes from caterers. Because they’re like, “We’re not fucking like that. Who the fuck do you think you are?”
Starr: Yeah, in all honesty. Maybe they just hate me in particular, and they love Ken.
Thomas: One of the most awkward conversations I’ve ever been in was at a party, and there was a kid behind the bar and I was talking to him. And he was asking me what I was working on now. And I started talking and I said, “It’s this show about actors in Los Angeles and they’ve maybe been chasing their dreams too long.” And I just entered into this conversation and I could not get out of it, because it was exactly who this person was, behind the bar, struggling, not sure whether to give up, and it sounded like I was lampooning his life.
Did you see it dawning in his eyes, as you were talking to him?
Etheridge: I was there. [joking] Rob kept going and going, and this guy was just crying.
Thomas: Yeah, I had no idea how to get out of that conversation. I think I just walked away at that point. I fled.