We recently had an opportunity to visit the set of the new series, which films in Pasadena, California on the campus of the former private college, Ambassador College. We had a chance to speak with several members of the cast including Drew Seeley, Hartley Sawyer, Julianna Guill, Chris D'Elia, Tim Jo and Tim Meadows. Upon arrival we were given a tour of the massive campus by members of the cast including Guill, Sawyer and D'Elia. The College, which closed its doors in the early '90s, serves as the set for the series and its gorgeous architecture and sprawling green grass makes for the perfect setting for the colligate themed show. Not only did we have a chance to check out some of the dorm rooms, which came fully equipped with '80s memorabilia like cassette tapes and a Purple Rain poster, but we also took a walk through the frat house set that includes a working swimming pool.
After our brief tour, we sat down with the cast to discuss the new series. Actor Drew Seeley, who plays freshman student Jason Wilson, began by discussing some of the '80s references that the series will have. "The writers are real good about making sure that any references we have that are period are right. If it is a movie they always check it to see," he said. "We did one where we were coming in and getting excited for a football game. We started doing the Monday Night Football theme and we had to check to make sure it was on then. Yeah, they are meticulous about it. Then there are the jokes in the pilot where we are going to go learn about electronic mail, whatever that is. That kind of time period stuff."
"I will go on record saying I didn't even know it was taking place in the 80s until after I got the part. Yes that is how much of an idiot I am," joked Hartley Sawyer, who plays freshman Brian Sommers on the show. "I knew obviously after we shot it. I got the role and someone says something about '86 and I was like, '86 what are you talking about. Then I read it again, and I got more excited."
"It is weird. I keep waiting to see who the diva is going to be and there has not been one," added Chris D'Elia.
D'Elia plays stoner Stankowski, a student that has been attending College much longer than the usual four years and he had this to say about his character. "He's a thirty-one year older stoner that loves college and won't leave. They are not even sure he is enrolled in any classes. He is wise, kind of in a way, or at least they think he is. He gives them advice and all this stuff." The actor went on to discuss the writing on the show. "We all look forward to the table reads. It is actually a really big highlight of the week because we are legitimately excited, I know I am and I think everyone else is too, to see what happens next because its always really funny to me and it is always really exciting to find out," said D"Elia "I find myself, and I am sure everyone else feels this way, I will just laugh so hard at stuff happening to other characters and other storylines that I am not even involved in because I just think its funny." Sawyer continued to discuss the writing. "They're really good at being open to our ideas, which is cool. I don't know if that happens on lawyer shows and CSI but it's really cool for us."
Comedian Tim Meadows, best known for his work on Saturday Night Live and in the films The Ladies Man and Mean Girls, talked further about the writing on the show. "Like these guys were saying, the scripts have all been really funny. The only input, well my experience so far, will be when we are filming. Sometimes when we have an idea or we have a line that doesn't come off well, they have been willing to change stuff. Even the thing in the pilot where I said I was divorced was not in the pilot script. I improvised that. Then your whole thing about your character comes from that." The actor went on to discuss why he decided to take the role on the series. "The script was funny. I read the script and it was a funny pilot script. I thought the character was kind of interesting. I don't know what else...It was work. I am not going to pass it up. If it was an offer on a shitty show, I wouldn't have taken it, but it was an offer that was a good script. I think it's a combination of different characters coming together. Different types of characters coming together and having to work towards certain goals, new friendships being developed. It is that classic sort of you know the way stories are written and developed."
Actor Tim Jo, who plays another one of the freshmen, Chang, discussed his excitement to be working on the show. "The crazy thing is a lot of our cast is fresh faces, very new. This is my first job and a lot of people's first jobs. So to be a fan of everybody because they are so talented and so on point, but then to off set that with these veterans; I think that is going to be interesting. You see Hartley and this is his first show, you see how on he is. Everyone gets a chance. Then to play with Tim, it feels good to watch." The actor went on to talk about what he liked about the character when he first read the pilot script. "Not to get too into the political side of it, but as an Asian-American actor I have always played very emasculated characters or someone that doesn't do much. When I read the script, I thought, wow the writers are really smart. They are not being racist but they are brining race to the forefront of my character, by really crashing down all these barriers and stereotypes," Jo explained. "To get the chance to play a character that does that, I feel really honored to be able to do that for Asians. The reason I got into acting was because I had never seen an Asian actor besides the guy from Sixteen Candles. He did a great job in the role, but my dad grew up in the 80s. Chang is more like my dad than like me."
Jo continued by telling us about one of his favorite days on set so far. "I am very awkward. I am not as smooth with girls as Chang is. The scene in the first episode where we go and see the Asian fraternity is crazy. So, the first AD chose this really beautiful tall Asian girl to take my hand and be the girl to come and dance with me. So he says action and we go in. We do the scene and she's dancing with me. Then we do it again, but this time she pulls me close and says, 'I am feeling bad right now.' We are not wearing any microphones and so why does she say that? So I keep dancing and it's just very awkward," explained Jo. "When he says cut, I just walk back to my first mark and I didn't make eye contact with her for the rest of the time. But I suppose that was a great moment."
We asked Meadows if it was planned or a pure coincidence that so many of his former SNL buddies are appearing on the show? "No it is a coincidence! I didn't know Cheri was doing that mother role until I was actually on the set and I saw her name on the sheet. I said, fuck that's smart casting. Brad Garrett plays the father. Every week is like that. Because when we do the read through they are never there. I haven't had one scene with them. All my scenes are with the kids," Meadows explained. "I didn't even know Andy Richter was going to be on this thing. I know Andy and Kevin pretty well. I talk to them every once in awhile and I play golf with Andy a lot." In closing, on the subject of guest stars, Guill had this to add. "For me, I have just loved Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard). I am just enamored by him."