Talking Happy Endings and NTSF:SD:SUV with Adam Pally

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Adam Pally has been a writer and performer in the UCB scene on both coasts for a long time now, but he’s got one of his first big roles debuting tonight, as Max in ABC’s Happy Endings. In addition, he’s also been writing for Paul Scheer’s upcoming Adult Swim show NTSF:SD:SUV with writing partner Gil Ozeri (who you may remember as the guy who watched all of Two and a Half Men straight).

I talked to him about working with a Wayans, playing a gay character as a straight guy, and the extreme differences between the shows he’s been working on.

So tell me about Happy Endings.

Sure, yeah. The premise of the show is basically there are six friends who have been friends since college and two of them are about to get married, but then they break up at the alter. And the rest of us have to kind of deal with that.

And what’s your character?

I play Max, he’s kind of the standard “dude, bro” best friend character who likes to drink and party and stuff, except he’s gay. And like very, very outward about it, you know what I mean?

[Laughs] Yeah.

And that’s just kind of his thing. He’s like, I like dudes, no big deal.

That’s funny, that seems like a different take than most gay characters on TV. To kind of treat it like he’s a bro who’s gay, as opposed to, like, the gay guys on Modern Family, for example.

Yeah, I mean he’s definitely like the most masculine character on the show, which I think is fun and cool and something I haven’t seen before.

Yeah, definitely. So how did you end up getting involved in the show? Did you just go out and audition? When did all of this come together?

It was last year during pilot season. I had just moved to LA and I was auditioning for pilots, and I got two pilots offered. I talked to Anthony and Joe Russo, who are the producers of this pilot, and they’re the people behind Community and Modern Family, and I just kind of felt like it was the funnier one, and the funnier character. So I went with that one.

That makes sense, that’s some good decision making.

In retrospect I think it was.

So a lot of the cast is just kind of a mix of new people and people who have been around, and one of them is one of the Wayans Brothers kids, right?

Yeah, Damon Wayans Jr. He was in The Other Guys and he’s also written and been on Def Comedy Jam and stuff. And he’s really funny, and actually his dad plays his dad on the show.

Oh, awesome.

Yeah, it was cool to be able to do scenes with Damon senior. And Damon Jr. is really, really funny, in a different way than senior. But the cast is great, it’s awesome, and I’ve known Casey for ten years, so it’s great to work with her. And you, I had known Coupe a little bit from UCB. And it was just easy, everything kind of felt easy.

So when did you shoot the series?

We shot the series this year, we finished at the end of December. We shot 13 episodes. They’re starting with six, and based on how we do on those six they’ll release the rest, and hopefully we’ll get a second season

Modern Family is pretty much as good a lead-in for a new comedy as you can get. It’s like the old NBC Thursday night lead-in, like Friends or something. They get so many viewers.

Yeah, yeah I hope so. And I also feel like our show is good, compared to the other shit on ABC.

[Laughs] Not a big Cougar Town fan?

I mean, I don’t mind Cougar Town, but Mr. Sunshine was a piece of shit. And Better With You is a big turd.

[Laughs]

And I feel like you can tell our show has that vibe of, like, Community or Arrested Development, because it’s the same people. And I feel like it’s nice to do something like that on ABC.

So what else have you been up to, what do you have going on right now since you’ve stopped shooting the series?

I wrote for Paul Sheer’s new show, NTSF:SD:SUV.

Oh, nice.

Yeah, that was super fun, and I got to play a part in it. And that show’s going to be great. It’s really funny, and starting in June on Adult Swim after Children’s Hospital. And that was great, to work with Paul. It was just like working with your friends every day. It was great to just be on set and pitch jokes. It was nice to be a writer after six weeks of working as an actor, which can be really intense. It was nice to kind of take a back seat a little.

What was the episode that you wrote?

My writing partner Gil Ozeri and I wrote an episode called “San Diego Day,” which is kind of a spoof of Die Hard, the way that Die Hard took place on Christmas. So it’s like a fake holiday called San Diego Day. And the president of the Navy, who’s played by Rob Riggle, gets drunk on San Diego Day Eve and a foundation called “Mother Europe” takes his heart out and replaces it with a bomb. And it’s up to Paul Scheer’s character, Trent, to replace the heart in time, while making it all around the city for San Diego Day.

So, a little different than the plots of Happy Endings.

Yeah, really different. The vibe of Paul’s show is much less pressure. I mean, each episode of Happy Endings costs, like, four million dollars or something. So when you mess up your line or you improvise something and it doesn’t work you’re like, oh shit, I just cost five thousand dollars.

[Laughs] Yeah, that’s gotta be a tough thing to have on your mind when you’re trying to do a take, right?

Yeah, it was, but I was so drunk that it was easy.

Oh, that’s your acting method? Just being drunk?

Yeah, for this character I tried to be drunk most of the time. Actually, the cool thing about it was that improvisation was actually encouraged. Like most of our show is improvised, which is really great and fun. I think you can tell.

So, with you playing a gay character on Happy Endings, are you nervous about how it’s going to come off, or what are you expectations for how that’s going to go?

I’m going to get so much pussy. [Laughs] No, I don’t know. I think it’s a funny part and I think that’s all that matters. I hate it, in interviews it’s the first thing everyone wants to talk about and it kind of just like, I really don’t think it’s a big deal. I think it’s a funny part and that’s the best part about the character. And as far as a fallout goes, I think that people are smart enough to understand that it’s a character. I don’t think I’m going to be typecast or anything. If I was typecast it would be great, because it means I would be working. [Laughs] I really wouldn’t mind. I’m not worried about anything like that at all. I really like the character, it’s really fun.

I don’t know, you could become a gay icon.

[Laughs] That would be great, that would be awesome. If that were to happen that would be the show was successful, so that would be great. And as far as a gay icon, I kind of already thought of myself as a gay icon? And I think most people who know me would agree with that? [Laughs] Including my wife. So it works out.

Yeah, it seems like you got it all figured out.

I got all the gay stuff figured out.