When Netflix representatives asked us which Arrested Development cast members we wanted to interview for 20 minutes, the choice was unanimous: Michael Cera or David Cross. When Netflix asked if we wanted to interview them both at the same time, we felt as happy as Lucille Bluth running into Gene Parmesan. So, without further ado . . .
OC WEEKLY: This show has a huge fan base and has been regarded as an immensely intelligent comedy show. What do you think separates Arrested Development from other comedy shows on television?
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DAVID CROSS: So much, really. There's the sum of the parts and then the whole, and they're both smart, dense . . . It's a show that rewards the viewer; it's a show that rewards multiple viewings—the jokes and the individual moment-to-moment pieces, of which there are so many, in 20 minutes . . . but also how the totality of all that and where the characters get to go. I think there aren't a lot of shows like that. There's this heart to it and this intelligence behind it that it's almost for the comedy nerd: the person who appreciates all these different levels of comedy, and I think that's rare in television comedy. It really does begin and end with the writing; it's not simply a series of jokes.
What was your perception of Orange County before you did Arrested Development?
MICHAEL CERA: I never had any perception of it, and in relation to this show, I never considered it was about Orange County.
DC: I've done standup a couple of times at the Irvine Improv. . . .
MC: I saw a movie there once. . . .
DC: I've been to several Angels games at Angels Stadium, and the ersatz-ness of that stadium could not typify its environment better. Of all the ballparks, you have really great stadiums that are those modernized, old-school things, but Angels Stadium is so plastic and Disneyland-esque that it's kind of perfect. But yeah, Orange County, to me, is just a lot of wealthy skate punks bitching about shit.
MC: We did set the stage for The O.C.
DC: Long Beach is part of Orange County, right? I know a little bit about Long Beach. There was a really good poetry scene, and Derrick Brown used to publish his Write Bloody books there. I like Long Beach; I like any place where you're definitely in Southern California, near LA, and there's zero LA about it.
Michael, any clue about what George Michael's major is at UC Irvine?
DC: . . . And how does it relate to Orange County?
MC: [laughs] Well, we actually shot those scenes at Occidental College, the first two letters is OC, so it's all a beautiful marriage of Orange County. But he goes to UCI, and I think the joke about it is that he's the only non-Asian there. He's actually majoring in OC Ethics? [Laughs.] I don't know if I could tell you his major because I don't know myself.
What do you think his major would be?
MC: Hmm, cryptozoology, with a bachelor's in incestuous morality.
DC: I didn't know that was a course. . . .
MC: He rallied for it to be a course.
Do you guys have any influence over character developments in the show?
DC: In the very, very, very beginning, when I got the script. Outside of that, it wasn't really necessary, and you were lucky enough to put it in the hands of these amazing writers, show runners and creators, and they'll ask you sometimes, "Do you think Tobias would do this?" But it's all there. I can't think of anything where I said, "Tobias wouldn't do that." But they've got it; they know the character.
MC: Mitch is very collaborative and open, but for the most part, you want to go where they're going.
Jason Bateman stated that the tone of the new episodes was darker and had more of an edge. Would you guys agree?
MC: I see what he means. . . .
DC: I think in the sense that people get really low. . . . Every character reaches a depth, a low point in their lives that we didn't quite see in the original series, if that's what he meant. . . .
MC: I think in the previous seasons, it was pretty dark, too. I mean, we see you pulling your teeth out of your mouth—that's horrifying.
DC: But there's a deluded, crazed aspect there. We saw in seasons 1 and 2, there are some low points for Michael there, and every character has that bad place, but it's more apparent in this incarnation of the show.
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Arrested Development was one of the first comedy television shows to utilize the faux-documentary approach, but this style is so pervasive in television shows now. If it were a reality show and these characters were real, who would want to watch it?
DC: Just people in Orange County. But only people in Orange County.
MC: The wonderful people of Orange County! The most esteemed taste in California belongs to the people of Orange County. [Laughs.]