Iconic comedian David Cros tells us all about his upcoming IFC series that finds Todd Margaret destroying London one bad life choice at a time
David Cross has a strange reputation. Some consider him abrasive and too hyper-intelligent for his own good. Even he acknowledges that he can be a supreme dick on the not-so-rare occasion. A man with no patience for the dulling of American, he's really not a bad guy at heart. He's a comedian after all. And very approachable when not being scrutinized about some of his more lofty career choices such as Alvin and the Chipmunks. Sometimes, people have a problem with his attitude simply because he never hides under a fake façade. He's just a dude, and that authentic average Joe enthusiasm sometimes throws people for a loop.
Approach David Cross as an admirer and a fan, he's as cordial and polite as any Southern good ol' boy could ever hope to be. Just don't ask him about the Arrested Development movie. He's the one cast member that truly thinks it will never happen. He's tired of talking about it. And the recent box office failures faced by his co-stars this summer, Michael Cera with Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Jason Bateman with The Switch, only seem to drive more nails into the coffin that is his attitude on the subject.
Tobias Funke fans shouldn't fret, though. It won't be long before you're all clamoring for a big screen version of David Cross's latest endeavor The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Cinematic in its scope, and increasingly addictive, it may just be the best new comedy of the fall television season. Cross, who created the series himself, stars as Todd Margaret, a lowly American office temp who is accidentally sent to London with the task of selling Thunder Muscle energy drinks to a nation of citizens who want nothing to do with its toxicity. The title doesn't lie. Once Todd arrives in the country, he makes one horribly bad decision after the next, and his life begins to fall apart like an amazing maze of Dominoes set up in a Mid-West convention center.
Its an amazing spectacle to behold on every level, and no one else could get away with it quite the way David does. He's an agile acrobat of embarrassment, and he's becoming one of the greatest physical comedians of our time. Rather than talk about the past glory of Arrested Development, he's quite excited about sharing this new potential enterprise with his fans.
We recently caught up with David Cross to chat about the series' upcoming six episode run, which kicks off this Friday night, October 1st, with In Which Claims Are Made and a Journey Ensues. Here is our conversation:
For once, here is some truth in advertising with this show's title. I've only seen episodes 1-3, so tell me, how poor do Todd Margaret's decisions eventually get by the time we reach episode six?
David Cross: These decisions get pretty fucking massive. /tv/the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret/Episode Four is not as major. But then /tv/the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret/Episode Five starts getting crazy. By the end of /tv/the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret/Episode Six, as we will see in the last twenty seconds, every poor decision he has caused is in one tight space. And it's kind of a cliffhanger. How the fuck is he going to get out of this one? The first three are a warm-up. They get way worse. Things just start compiling and compiling.
So Episode Six is a cliffhanger. Does that mean we're going to see a second season of Todd Margaret?
David Cross: That is up to IFC. I have a story. When that entire story is told, the show will be over. The order was for six episodes, and this story hasn't been told in those six episodes. So, hopefully they will pick up the second season. I feel pretty confident that they will. Then we can get closer to the end.
It's interesting that you say its IFC's decision to bring you back for season two. It was my understanding when this series first premiered on Channel 4 in England, that American audiences would never see it. What changed your mind about bringing it to the states?
David Cross: The idea was to do a show in the UK that was for the UK market, that could potentially be sold to America. I did a pilot for British television. They would decide if they wanted to commission it. Once they had the pilot, we went to American channels to find a co-producer. IFC came on and said, "We love this, we'd love to be a part of it." So, it will be airing both in the States and in the UK. As you might imagine, the American company had more money than the British company. So, IFC really makes the decision on this. That's how they came to have this position that they are in.
Blake Harrison is your co-star on the series, and he is pretty great. But in the pilot that has been around on the Internet for a while, the part of your business partner was played by Russell Tovey, who is now the werewolf on the extremely popular Being Human. Why the switch, and are we going to see a whole new first episode this Friday night?
David Cross: Yes. This is different from the pilot. We had to get a different actor. Because it took so long to get an answer, and to figure everything out, we lost our original Dave. By the time we got an answer from IFC and Channel Four, so much time had passed that we lost Russell Tovey. He was in the middle of shooting Being Human, and there was no way around it. We tried to figure out a scheduling change. We tried to work around his schedule. But they shoot in Whales, and there was no way he was going to be able to do it. So we had to recast. But it is in no way a reflection on Russell Tovey.
But now you have Blake Harrison, who is so great on The Inbetweeners, as your Dave. Were you a fan of that show before casting him here?
David Cross: Blake Harrison is great. I'd seen The Inbetweeners. I didn't really study it. Or watch tape of Blake. He came in, and I'd seen a little bit of it here and there. I didn't feel it was important for me to see every episode. This is a different character. He is a bit sharper here. The character is sharper, and more suave than he is on The Inbetweeners.
You strike me as a cat lover. Is the very last shot of the first episode strategically placed there to piss off one particular person in your own life, or were you looking to alienate a whole group of people? Or were you simply saying, 'If you can't handle this, you better not come back for any more episodes?'
David Cross: There is a story. It will become apparent in future episodes why I showed that.
So you weren't trying to alienate the cat lovers in the audience?
David Cross: No. Not at all. Though I have to say, I love the idea that someone would get so upset at a fake, dead cat that was shown for ten seconds, that they wouldn't watch any more episodes. That is the kind of shit that brings a smile to my heart. That there are people who would go, "I'm not going to watch any more. They had a fake, dead cat! Boo hoo!"
I believe one of your live albums is recorded in Eugene, Oregon, and now you have this character who is from Oregon, representing with Duck colors at the beginning of each episode. What do you find fascinating about the state, and why do you think it's influenced your creative decisions, in regards to who Todd Margaret is?
David Cross: Not to sound like a dick, but I'm not fascinated with Portland at all. I love Portland. I enjoy it. But the only reason I put him in Portland was because it was the smallest, furthest, most away city from London, in America, that I could get. And it was a city that might actually have a company like Dynamic Integrated Solutions. So I stuck Todd in Portland.
What were the European audiences perception of Oregon? Or did that even matter to the story at all, as far as they were concerned?
David Cross: Portland, Oregon doesn't add anything. It's not a character in the show. There is no importance assigned to the fact that he's from Portland. They know of Oregon. It's like our perception of Birmingham. We know it exists, but I've never seen pictures of it. They know that Portland is a small town in the Pacific Northwest, somewhere near Seattle. There are a lot of woods. Look, there is no importance. And I don't think anyone watching the show has thought about it. They'll be disappointed if they are thinking about it. Again, it was just to put him as far away as possible, in the smallest city. That way, we didn't have to explain certain things.
I think, beginning with that one spectacular fall in Arrested Development, you've become one of the finest physical comedians of the past two decades. And that prowess continues throughout this series.
David Cross: I love doing that stuff. If its done right, it's funny. I really do love it. Some people think that started on Arrested Development, but I used to do shit like that all the time on Mr. Show. I'd always ask to do my own stunts. I love doing them. They are so much fun. As long as you don't make it the centerpiece of your episode, and you have some other stuff in there, I thing it's a lot of fun. And again, I enjoy doing it.
How careful are you about doing your own stunts? Do you throw yourself into it wholeheartedly? Or do you look at what happened to Chevy Chase as a precautionary tale?
David Cross: (Laughs) No. Believe me, I am not a masochist. I don't have a high pain threshold at all. But I feel that if it doesn't hurt a little bit. If it doesn't make that cringing sound, then it's not working. It comes from jumping bikes, or skateboarding. You fall down, it kind of hurts. Its like a mosh pit. Everyone needs a mosh pit in their life. You're sore and you're bruised, but you don't really think about it. It was just kind of fun. Those things have that quality to them. At least for me. I like it. I like getting hurt. Not really, really hurt though.
I love watching you do some of those falls. It's hilarious because it looks so amazingly painful. I want to ask you about another project. At the time you were shooting Year One, you mentioned that you were working on a new series with Bob Odenkirk. Is that still in the works?
David Cross: We did it. We shot it. We were really happy with the script, and the cast. We shot it. That night, we did two tapings. It was a pseudo sitcom. So it was on a sitcom set. A bunch of fans were there. It was a great audience. It was a great experience for everyone. For HBO. For Bob Odenkirk and I. For the rest of the cast. For our friends. Everyone that was there said, "Wow, this is awesome! This is going to fucking rock!" Everyone was quite excited. And then! This has never happened before...Bob and I went into edit it, and we couldn't capture that energy and feeling that we had in the room, on TV. We tried so many different versions. We tried different openings, "What if we try this? What if we take this out? What if we don't do that? Can we make it this way?" We tried a bunch of stuff. It wasn't the worst viewing in the world. But it was tough. We resigned ourselves. We all felt the same way. We didn't know what to do. We tried this, we tried that. Everyone would see it, and shrug. It wasn't bad. It wasn't unfunny. But it didn't kick ass, like it felt it did when we shot it. Bob Odenkirk and I said, "I don't think this is the way to go. We'd rather do this." The this was the more Mr. Show type elements we'd brought into it. "That was what we'd like to do and concentrate on. We appreciate HBO giving us four hundred thousand dollars to make a failed experiment. Can we do it this way instead?" They said, "Well, we don't have any money left this year. But Maybe next year." Then we never heard from them again. It wasn't anyone's fault. Some people think it was HBO that wasn't interested. But it was really us who said, "This is not working."
Do you think that Pilot will pop up somewhere in the future? Do you think it will make its way onto the Internet at some point? Or is this something you never want other people to see?
David Cross: I wouldn't mind it. Especially if fans go into it knowing the brief backstory I just told you. They can judge for themselves. And you can see where the potential is in it, for sure. There is just a huge difference in being in that room, watching it live, and then watching it on TV. I don't know what it was. But I wouldn't mind someone seeing it. That has been around for two years now, at least. If someone hasn't put it up by now, I certainly don't have a copy of it. It could be lurking out there, somewhere. I'd guess that HBO has it hidden somewhere. Who knows.
And someday it will pop up. Didn't Bob used to do failed TV pilot screenings?
David Cross: Yeah. I never really participated in that. He did a couple of TV pilots. It wasn't the same as David's Situation. The difference with those other pilots is that those were things he wanted to have go. We are the one's that took David's Situation off the table and said, "Please let us do something else."
What is the future for you and Bob? And Mr. Show? I know you guys had a movie you were trying to get made for a longtime. Hooray for America. Have you ever considered updating that? Or reuniting in some form?
David Cross: Nah, that ship has sailed, my friend.
Before you go, can I ask what you are planning with the second season of Todd Margaret? Is it going to be a continuation of what we are seeing now, or is it going to be a whole new scenario?
David Cross: No! God, no! What I was saying before is that we'll go until we reach the end of the story. Every single episode picks up with the next day. Where we leave off, season two's first episode would pick back up the very next day. Then we would go to the next day, and the next day, and the next day, until where he is in court, heading for prison, as we see at the beg. That will be the end of the show. But that is not the end of season one.