British comedian Peter Serafinowicz seems to gravitate only toward projects that lure in an obsessive geeky following: He’s a member of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost crew (Shaun of the Dead, Spaced); he co-created the classic mock-science series Look Around You (out on DVD today); and he even voiced Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. (He’s also a damn funny Twitter user: serafinowicz.) What better way to follow this all up than by joining the Arrested Development extended-family cult? Last week he was signed on as a regular to Fox’s new fall comedy series, Running Wilde, which is created by the AD brain trust of Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Valley, and stars Will Arnett and David Cross; Serafinowicz will play Arnett’s billionaire nemesis. We called Serafinowicz in London, just as he was frantically trying to hail a cab.
How did you wind up on Running Wilde?
I became good friends with Will Arnett a few years ago — Edgar Wright introduced us. Edgar’s a real, I don’t know what the term is for these people, who introduce people to other people …
Yeah, a connector. I’m a bit like that as well, but he just loves it, and his recommendations are always spot-on. In any case, when I saw Will in [Arrested Development], I thought he was good — perhaps a bit too good. We had sort of similar careers in that Will and I both had done lots of voice-overs. By the way, I’m just going to jump in a cab — [to a cabbie] You free? I’m just going to … [mutters] Oh, fuck you then. London cabbies are just horrible.
Are you in the cab as you say that?
Oh, no, I’m not that horrible. [Laughs.] Anyway, we just wanted to work together for ages, and when Will had the idea for this, he said, “I’d love for you to be in it.” These things rarely ever work out. But, somehow, this one did.
Was the part written for you?
The part was written with me in mind, which I’m very flattered about, and, uh … oh my God, there’s a fucking Bugatti, a modern one. It looks like it’s from outer space. Clearly some Arab billionaire guy is driving it. It’s quite funny, that’s kind of my character in Running Wilde: This guy who I guess is Oxford-educated but is from the Middle East somewhere, a bit vague. He’s got all this money, it’s the combination of limitless wealth, boredom, and stupidity. It’s just so much fun. Just hang on a sec … [He speaks to a cabbie, and all seems well. He gets in and shuts the door.] Great. Now I can actually hear you.
Do Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett have a shorthand on set, since they’ve worked together so much before?
There is, but I don’t quite know what the code is yet. I’m starting to decipher it. Doing the pilot was such fun, I just thought it was the perfect job. Also, it’s literally been my life’s ambition to work in New York [where the show is shooting]. I grew up watching Sesame Street — anything that came on the TV that was New York–based, I would video it. Documentaries, Woody Allen films, Martin Scorsese … all I wanted to do was live in New York, that was it.
What do you make of people’s skepticism about the pilot, which has leaked online?
What annoys me is when people damn it before it’s even had a chance to air. You do a pilot and you have to change things. That’s the whole point of a pilot, to figure out what works and what doesn’t. But to be honest, it is something I love — that instant feedback has not been possible before, like, now. You can see a show is trending on Twitter … I just hope our show can live up to the expectations of people who love Arrested Development. It’s a classic. Now I’m going to be in their new thing. It’s daunting. But they’re such nice, beautiful people, the friendliest and most welcoming. The creators have got such big hearts. Everyone these days is so snarky, so “over it” all the time. Of course everyone’s super-duper funny, just “on” all the time, but underneath it all is this huge heart, which comes from Mitch and Jimmy and Will.
Is there an example that comes to mind?
People wanted desperately to work on the show again. What I remember was everyone smiling. Everyone. From the actors to the caterers to the third assistants. Everyone was smiling and happy all the time. We overran every single night, by a couple hours sometimes, and that’s something people don’t do unless there’s a huge amount of good will. Most things you work on, people on the whole are pretty nice, but I’ve worked with some shitty, shitty people. That sort of eye-rolling attitude of people being sarcastic all the time — I don’t even know what I’m saying now.
With the release of Look Around You on DVD, what’s next for the series?
I’d love to do Look Around You: The Motion Picture. People don’t say that anymore: “The motion picture.” It’s so evocative, so grandiose.