Posted in: Hulu, streaming, TV | Tagged: dan stevens, exclusive, hulu, interview, Josh Bycel, Mary Mack, Mike McMahan, Rick & Morty, sean giambrone, solar opposites, thomas middleditch
Solar Opposites EPs Mike McMahan and Josh Bycel discuss Valentine’s Day Special’s inspirations, Rick & Morty crossover chances, and more.
- Mike McMahan & Josh Bycel delve into Hulu’s “Solar Opposites” Valentine’s Special.
- Holiday specials tradition continues with inspiration from “Jingle All The Way”.
- Dan Stevens adds flair to the series as the new voice of Korvo.
- Potential for a “Rick & Morty” crossover discussed, with pros and cons weighed.
Solar Opposites creator Mike McMahan and showrunner Josh Bycel some tall tasks ahead in season four. First was addressing Justin Roiland’s replacement as Korvo, which they found in Dan Stevens. Second is how they would progress the dysfunctional relationship between Korvo and Terry (Thomas Middleditch), which they hope to address in the Valentine’s Day special on Hulu. The episode titled An Earth Shatteringly Romantic Solar Valentine’s Day Opposites Special keeps on the season tradition of a new holiday special, with previous seasons dealing with Christmas and Halloween. The two spoke to Bleeding Cool about how McMahan pitched the idea to Hulu about getting an extra episode into executives, how the stories aren’t simply one-offs but also integrate into the greater story, the flair Stevens brings as Korvo, season planning, and if McMahan wants a Rick & Morty crossover given what happened with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks.
How ‘Jingle All the Way’ Inspired ‘Solar Opposites’ Holiday Specials
Bleeding Cool: Mike and Josh, I know you have an established history of getting holidays lined up for specials each season, with Halloween and Christmas already knocked out. Why Valentine’s Day?
McMahan: When we started this show, we had eight episodes a season. Right around season two, I remember calling Hulu and being like, can we add an extra episode? They were like, “Why?” It was because I liked making ‘Solar Opposites,’ but instead, I said, “We have an idea for a holiday episode” They’re like, “Okay.” I was like, “Oh shit! We gotta write a holiday episode!” We did it, and I sat down and wrote the first Christmas special in 40 minutes and was like crying and laughing because I had a blast doing it. It was all based on the movie ‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996), which I had never seen. I was parodying a movie I hadn’t seen, and I would turn to the writer’s assistant and be like, “Did this happen in ‘Jingle All the Way?'” He’d be like, “No!” [laughs]. I’d imagined it, and then, we made it. It felt so good to do specials that every year we try to do another.
We did Halloween, and then we were like, “The characters have gotten to a place where if we do a Valentine’s Day special, not only do we get to do another special, which means we can kind of break the format of the show a little bit, but we also are going to be able to end the special with the characters having changed in a way with them getting married at the end of the special as we go into season five. A lot of the stories are affected by that. We don’t undo that. At the end of the special, it becomes a core character choice in the show, and it makes the show even funnier. That’s why we went with Valentine’s Day at this time.
Bycel: There’s not a lot of Valentine’s Day specials. We’re hoping that this one becomes like the Valentine’s special that everybody watches every year with their loved ones.
McMahan: The whole family, get grandma in there. We’re all watching it!
Are there other ones on the docket with future seasons you guys are considering?
We’ve got another holiday special, but I can’t tell you what it is for season five, and I’ll keep doing it. I love specials. There, I admitted it!
With season four, the biggest addition is Dan Stevens. Could you tell me how he meshes with the current cast and why he works so well?
[Dan] certainly brings the British, like we weren’t sure if we were going to use his American accent or his British. The British made us laugh so hard. He still gets Korvo as a character, like he gets the Korvo in his head, brusque overthinks things and has a temper. He also gets the emotional side of Korvo and that deep down, Korvo wants to be happy and wants to fit in. He loves Terry even though he can’t stand it in some ways. Korvo is a weirdly complex character, but he would be the last person to admit that that’s true. What Dan brings is he’s got an amazing voice which is incredibly sexy and funny to be hearing across from Terry, Jesse, Yumyulack, and everybody. We also like to throw in little British-isms, like we get to have fun. ‘Solar’ is a show where you get to chase the fun and have big crazy swings all the time.
Bycel: Which is, by the way, how we decided in a lot of ways is that we went down the path with the soundalikes, and we felt like ‘Solar’ is a show where anything can happen. If we find someone we love, why not take a big swing and make him?
McMahan: He’s also an incredible actor that sometimes we’ll have an emotional scene, and I’ll be like, “Okay, turn off comedy brain and turn on Oscar-winning performance brain and give us this straight for this scene as if you’re not in a comedy anymore or just these two lines.” He will give us such emotion and such pathos that, like hearing it come out of a blue alien’s mouth because he’s talking about dick cheese or whatever, is so funny. He’s a blast to work with, like we’ve been working with him a lot the last couple of years, and he’s a pro. He’s really funny.
Was there any instance where you had a concept you weren’t sure about initially, but the gamble paid off handsomely for the series?
McMahan: Josh, keep me honest on this, but usually, it’s we’re thinking 1 or 2 seasons ahead, but not further than that. What happens is with The Wall, it’ll be like, “I know that this season of The Wall, I want it to be a murder mystery. Next season of The Wall, I want to turn into a creature feature thing, or we’ll chase that stuff.” We’ll come up with a bunch of stuff, but sometimes we don’t know what order it’s going to be, how long it’s going to be. Sometimes we’ll be doing it, and we’re like, “I thought this was going to be a three-episode arc, but let’s keep it to one.” We’re trying to make the best show possible while looking ahead but giving ourselves the freedom to capitalize on the stuff that’s working.
With Silvercops, I came into it being like five episodes I want to do with this, and then a couple of Silvercops things would be like, “Wait, I want to stop here for a second. Let this dodge in a different direction” At the end of the day, it’s like any writing, you go in with a plan, and some parts of the plan end up being way better than you thought. Other parts of the plan end up being so boring and stupid that you cut them out and you must pivot. We’re always trying to think ahead but give us the freedom to find the funny in the moment.
Bycel: In terms of the Valentine’s Day episode when we first started, I don’t think we thought Terry and Korvo were going to be in a real relationship. There was the idea that they would always be in an adversarial one, and they would be bickering. They were they’re opposites, right? As the characters grew and we give depth to them and what Mike was talking about in that this hidden depth in Korvo, it felt natural, and it was fun to write to them as couples’ goals.
McMahan: Bickering but in love, right? That aspect of you can be opposites but love each other. You could be opposites of so many things, but you have each other. That ended up being a guiding light that I don’t think we had when we were being crazy aliens at first.
Do you think that at some point in the future, we might see a crossover with ‘Rick & Morty’ in some form or fashion, or is it important they stay within their universes?
I don’t know. Anything’s possible, and after the last couple of years, I didn’t think a lot of the stuff that happened to everybody could happen. It would be fascinating to see, but there’s also a part of me that’s like, “I like keeping them separate because I love ‘Rick & Morty,’ and I love ‘Solar.’ Crossovers, look, we just did this ‘Strange New Worlds’ and ‘Lower Decks’ crossover, and I loved it because I love putting characters from one Star Trek into another. That organically made sense, and I would always be worried that any crossover with ‘Rick & Morty’ would either be ‘Solar’s’ worst episode or ‘Solar’s’ best episode. You know what I mean? I’d rather keep those shows separate; keep doing whatever you need.
Also, all the ‘Rick & Morty’ writers – they’re doing their thing. They’re so brilliant. That show doesn’t ever need a crossover with anything. That show is The King, and our show is so weird and funky that the rule systems don’t quite match. They have that’s that similar DNA. They have similar design styles, but there’s something nice about keeping them separate. When I go back, and I look at ‘Simpsons’ episodes, where, like, (Jay Sherman from) ‘The Critic’ shows up, or Bender (from ‘Futurama’) shows up. I’m never like, “Fuck yes, I want to see more of that.” It’s more like when your parents meet your teacher or something, and you’re like, “I’m not sure, let’s keep home and work separate.”
The Solar Opposites: Valentine’s Day Special, which also stars Sean Giambrone, Mary Mack, Dee Bradley Baker, Josh Gad, Tiffany Haddish, Sagan McMahan, Nolan North, and Kari Wahlgren, is available to stream on Hulu.
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