The actress who plays Penny Hartz on the ABC sitcom discusses the Season 1 DVD, the episodes airing out of order, Season 2, and much more
While most TV series premiere in either the fall or mid-season, the springtime months of March and April are becoming more and more popular to launch a new show. The Office, Southland, and Parks and Recreation are just a few shows which have found success after launching in this non-traditional time frame. The latest success story could very well be the ABC sitcom Happy Endings, which debuted in April and was swiftly picked up for a second season in May. Season 2 kicks off on Wednesday, September 28 at 9:30 PM ET, right after the Emmy-winning comedy series Modern Family. I was recently able to chat with series star Casey Wilson, who plays Penny Hartz, about the upcoming second season and Happy Endings: The Complete First Season, which hit the DVD shelves today. Here's what she had to say below.
This mid-April premiere slot is starting to grow in popularity. Did you know at all, in the beginning, that's where they were eyeing the show to debut?
Casey Wilson: No, but we were very excited to find out that we were going to premiere this year after Modern Family. That's such a great spot. We've been so under the radar and the underdog in the sense that, we've almost been working on this for two years. We premiered in mid-season last year at 10 PM on a Wednesday, and we didn't have any promotion (Laughs). I think that's really a testament to how good the show is that, the people who were watching, I think really did like it. That's been really amazing, to see how we've moved up on our own.
Was anybody signed on when you first went in to read for Penny?
Casey Wilson: The only person who was signed on was Damon Wayans Jr. Then I found out, during my audition process, that Adam Pally got the show. He and I had been friends since the Upright Citizens Brigade. We had performed there together, in New York. We weren't super-close friends, but I knew he came from the same comedic background, so I was really excited when he got the show, and then I got it. We were the first three and then Eliza (Coupe) and Elisha (Cuthbert) and Zach (Knighton).
Are you able to use any of that UCB improv background, or is the show tightly scripted?
Casey Wilson: The show is tightly scripted, and we have amazing scripts, but then our creator (David Caspe) will allow us to improv on the set, which is really fun. First of all, improvising won't work unless it is tightly scripted and you have a good story to work off of. There are hardly any network shows, at all, where you're allowed to utter one line of improv on, so it's pretty cool. You see that a lot on Adult Swim and on more alternative comedic shows, but hardly ever on a network. I think that's really a cool part of the show, and part of why it feels so real.
I was also interested to learn that when they aired the first season, it was actually out of order. The DVD will be the first time that fans get to see the episodes how they were meant to be seen.
Casey Wilson: I was laughing because people act like it's Lost or something (Laughs). It's a sitcom. That's what's also so great about the fans of the show. They were up in arms about this thing. Adam said, at one point, one of his friends told him that it basically seemed like all of our characters were schizophrenic, in the order that they aired them. First, our friends break up at the alter and we're fine with it for about six episodes, and then we go back and process and grieve (Laughs). Now we're really upset. We've had enough time to digest and really process this.
Do you think it did serve the show well though, to have it in that order? I read they wanted to do that because the network wanted each episode to stand alone more.
Casey Wilson: I think it does work. I think they wanted to because we're such a new show and they just wanted to put our best foot forward with our best episodes. They were basically aired on the order of their strengths, and I think that was smart.
There was also an episode that initially didn't air during the season, although it was shown later. What was the decision behind that? Did you find out at the last minute that it wasn't going to air?
Casey Wilson: Well, they always told us they were only going to air 12, and we made 13. It wasn't that we didn't like that one, but they just aired 12. People really loved the show, so they just decided to air it.
It's a nice little bonus for the fans. That's cool. Can you talk about what an average day on the set is like, and what it's like to work with this cast?
Casey Wilson: It's great. We work really long days, like 16-hour days, so we really legitimately feel like a real family, or at least like a group of friends that are too close, because we see each other every single waking moment of every single day. Everyone has a very brotherly or sisterly vibe and it's fun. I'm really close with everyone, especially Adam. Damon is so funny and we just laugh all day long. It's like, 'Are we really getting paid for this?' It feels a crime. A crime against America that we're able to do this. It really does. We're all so grateful and lucky. We're just six comedians and we all just have fun and make fun of each other and eat craft services all day. I wish I could make it sound like it's a hard living, but it's really not. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
You hear the 16-hour days... but yeah, you're hanging out Elisha Cuthbert and Damon Wayans Jr. all day.
Casey Wilson: Yeah, it's not heavy lifting to hang out with Elisha Cuthbert.
Can you talk a bit about the new season which starts up next week?
Casey Wilson: Yeah, it's going to be an amazing season. I think everything is even funnier. We pick up exactly where we left off, and everything seems pumped up, in a way. Megan Mullally comes on and she plays Penny's mom, my mom. She's so funny in the episode. We tried to just, I think, embrace what everybody loved about the show and just keep doing it.
Is Megan just on for one episode, or is she going to have a little arc?
Casey Wilson: Well, we've only shot five so far, and she's in one. I hope she comes back, she probably will. She's so funny. She killed it.
She's funny in anything she does.
Casey Wilson: She's ridiculous. Seriously, she's ridiculously funny. She's unacceptably funny (Laughs).
Are there any other guest stars from the first five episodes that you can talk about?
Casey Wilson: We have some, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to say. Oh, we have Fred Savage guest-starring in the premiere, and he's directing the episode as well. That's really fun. He's a real diva, though, as an actor. Let me tell you (Laughs). He's got a real attitude problem.
Well, I guess it's good that he's directing himself then.
You also have a role in a movie coming out next year called My Mother's Curse. That sounds like a really intriguing premise. Can you talk about your role in that?
How long did you work on that for?
I know you're also a writer, so are you working on anything in that area? Would you possibly write an episode of Happy Endings?
Casey Wilson: I don't know. My writing partner (June Diane Raphael) and I, just last week, we sold a show to ABC that we're creating ourselves. It's called Walk of Shame, so I'm working on that. Honestly, we have such great writers on Happy Endings that it's freeing. It's almost a relief to just have fun and get to act, and then write my stuff with my partner. It's great to just show up on the set and be an actor.
Walk of Shame. Does that title mean what I think it means?
Casey Wilson: Yes, it does (Laughs). There's no double-entendre, just a single-entendre.
Are you in the casting phase right now then?
Casey Wilson: No, it just got picked up and we're going to write the pilot, so we're in the development stage.
Are you aiming for a college-aged cast?
Casey Wilson: Yeah, it's a bunch of kids who just graduated from a college in New York City.
Finally, what would you like to say to the fans of Happy Endings about why they should keep tuning in for Season 2 next week, and why they should pick up the DVD this week?
Awesome. Well, that's about all I have, Casey. Thanks so much for your time and good luck on the new season.
Casey Wilson: Thank you! Take care.
You can watch Casey Wilson as Penny Hartz on Happy Endings, which kicks off Season 2 on Wednesday, September 28 at 9:30 PM ET. Happy Endings: The Complete First Season is currently available on DVD shelves everywhere.