Following a fun and frightening first season, Stan Against Evil will return with a second season this fall on IFC, and while at Comic-Con, Daily Dead took part in roundtable interviews with series creator Dana Gould and John C. McGinley about collaborating on a show that mixes humor, horror, and a character who wants no part of either.
How much method acting is involved in hanging out in the lounge chair, drinking beer?
John C. McGinley: It's not something I'm unfamiliar with. It would be a rocking chair for me, but I'm not unfamiliar with that. I think I'm a little more physically active than Stan is. I think Stan, he's tired. Being a cop in New England for 27 years, he's tired. He didn't go out on his terms, he went out being fired. And some of us have been fired from different jobs, whether it was a high school summer job or whatever. Most of us have been fired from something, and it sucks. And there's no way you can't look at the man in the mirror every morning and go like, fu**, I suck. I can't believe I got fired. I don't think he went out on his own terms.
One of my favorite parts about Season One was the dynamic between Stan and his daughter. It was a lot of fun. You get to have some fun with that relationship, returning to that relationship in Season Two?
John C. McGinley: Yes, but I think one of the learning curves for the producers and the writers from season one is to—and this is the ultimate compliment, almost like Johnathan Winters or Don Rickles—to give Deborah, the actor, as much rope as she wants. And to not confine her, the actor, in too tight of parameter in the construct in the expository part of the story. She doesn't have to do the who, what, when, where, how. Let her do the Jonathan Winters stuff, cause she's so gifted, and you don't want to call cut on her but, because the show is 21 minutes and 35 seconds, some of Deborah's stuff, which is genius, gets cut. And so to not do that this year, we catered to her strengths, and she steals every scene she's in cause she's amazing.
So what's it like balancing the producer role with being the lead actor and being the leader on set, how do you go through balancing that?
John C. McGinley: I think the number one thing I can do for the actors on the set is get them the scripts, eight scripts in five weeks, a month ahead of time. So I can encourage Dana to wrap things up a little bit, and give the actors a chance at consuming all these words so that they own them, so we get down to Georgia, we don't have to pull a rabbit out of a hat every waking second of every day. And so that's what I can do the most for the actors, is I can get them the texts early.
So in other words, on Scrubs I'd be handed a two-page, single spaced rant for Dr. Cox on the way to the set and it just became panic acting, which you can do, but it's really emotionally expensive and it's a panic. Most of us don't like to be in a panic. And so when Billy Lawrence, who's one of my dearest friends, he just likes to write late. And then you get the scripts, and they're so good, and I'm so competitive that I wasn't gonna let him write two pages single-spaced for anybody else.
And so I just, I guess you can sharpen up that memory muscle somehow, and so on Scrubs, the actors got the words at the last second, and it just became an exercise in pulling out of your ass something when someone called action. And it was very desperate. Stan doesn't have the same sense of desperation in Atlanta. It's too hard. It beats the living shit out of you.
So, since we've been talking about monsters, what is your favorite for the show, and just in general, monsters?
Dana Gould: Well, when I was a kid, growing up, I wanted to be The Wolf Man. You know, a guy with a lot of guilt. Yeah, I could relate to that, growing up, Irish Catholic. That made perfect sense. So The Wolf Man was sorta like my alter ego when I was a kid. And I love An American Werewolf in London. I finally got around to doing an homage to it this year. I try to stay away from zombies, because that's been done really well. You might not need more. I think that's covered. But I loved that, and I loved the show The Night Stalker when I was a kid. They had great monsters on The Night Stalker, again all practical. There's a lot of Doctor Who influence on the show too, the newer episodes of Doctor Who. The tone of our show is very similar, the relationship, with Stan and Evie is very similar to the doctor and his companion. And I'm not saying I'm as smart as Steven Moffat, because I'm not, but there's a lot of influence in that.
You know, from a creative standpoint, you've had to work within guidelines before, but IFC seems like a pretty good place for Stan Against Evil. Is it nice to have that kind of freedom when it comes to writing characters and developing storylines?
Dana Gould: Yeah, from beginning to end I don't think this process would ever happen to me again. I kind of had this idea of like, just as a thing to do, and I was gonna do it as a digital short just for myself. What if I had a horror movie and just put my dad in the middle of it? And he would behave the way my dad would in a horror movie, which he wouldn't give a shit. It wouldn't bother him. And then, I was gonna play my dad, and I was gonna have Greg Nicotero from The Walking Dead, he's one of my closest friends, and I was like, can you make me look 70? "Yeah, sure." "Okay, great."
And I was gonna do it, and then I just happened to be having lunch with Pete Aronson at IFC, who's just a friend of mine. We weren't having a business lunch, we were just catching up. And he just said, "You should write a funny X-Files. That'd be good for you." And I went, "I just did!" And I pitched it to him, and he went, "Well, could you change A to B, and C to D, and D to E?" And I said, "Yeah, I could do that." So I went away and I brought it in and I pitched it, and they bought it in the room, which has never happened.
And then, I was very fortunate to get a dream cast. At IFC there's a lot of creative freedom. They know what the show is and they let you do the show that you want to do. It's absolutely a team effort. Their notes are always... they're few and they're great. Because you need other eyes on a project. You can't just be up your own butt. And the limitations come from when we do this show on a budget. This is like a low-budget movie. And the limitations of having to do it on a budget, I think nine out ten, always make the show better. Evil Dead 2 I like more than Army of Darkness. Army of Darkness had the much bigger budget, but I like Evil Dead 2 better.