Even on the phone, Will Arnett’s deep baritone is instantly distinguishable. “Hey man, did I wake you?” the ‘Running Wilde‘ star’s voice booms from the earpiece. It’s 8 am, and Arnett is driving from his home in New York City out to Port Washington, Long Island, where the mansion his character, Steve Wilde, calls home is located.
While there’s a dash of Arnett’s suave demeanor and sarcasm present in Wilde, the similarities end there. “I’m driving myself,” Arnett told Fancast. “There’s nothing worse than being in the passenger seat,” adding “I keep it very real” when we remarked how un-Wilde that was. And so, over the next hour or so, we were privileged to ride along with the funnyman during his morning commute.
Topics for discussion were how many servants a billionaire should have; how to properly run an oil conglomerate like BP; Drea De Matteo joining the cast; his response to all the critics who slammed the show; and why ‘Running Wilde’ isn’t supposed to be like ‘Arrested Development.’
Congrats on the new show. That house you film in looks insane.
Yeah, it’s nuts. It’s about 45 minutes from the city and [it's] called the Guggenheim estate, out in Sands Point. It’s a beautiful Dostoevsky-style manor. If ever there were a place that could be haunted, it would be this one. It looks like people were kept against their will in the basement.
How many servants would you have if you had a mansion that big, and what would their various roles be?
On the show, a lot of shots happen in the house, and you’ll see domestic help scurrying in the background. Like, across the atrium, you’ll see someone scurrying up the stairs. We just wanted to have a sense of constant movement from all these people who keep Steve’s life afloat. If I were to have this financial independence, I would take the number of hired help and double it. [Chuckles] It’s funny; we were doing a scene yesterday and it was the arrival of Steve’s stepmom. She was supposed to come in the big front door and I’m headed to open it when I stopped and said ‘Hey, as Steve, I’m not going to open the door to my own house.’ Our first AD agreed and so did the director and at that moment I realized I’m more demanding than Steve Wilde. [Laughs]
Steve Wilde is called an insane playboy in a lot of the media write-ups— how would you describe him?
I would say he’s an Insane Clown Posse playboy. [Laughs] No, that’s not true. I think he’s a playboy who has been given every potential advantage in life and he’s untethered in terms of his responsibilities and in his emotional life. It’s been underdeveloped. He’s never been forced to be accountable for anything and now he’s got this woman [Keri Russell] in his life that’s forcing him to become a better guy. On a personal level, he does have generosity going at his core; Steve just needs those embers to be fanned.
Fa’ad, your neighbor on the show, is quite eccentric — any odd neighbors in real life?
I think it’s an easy, kind of sitcom-y thing as to have the wacky neighbor…
[Ed. Note. A deep, familiar voice pipes up while Arnett is speaking] May I say something?
Sure. Who is this?
It’s Peter [Serafinowicz]. I’d say I’m more of a zany neighbor [Arnett and Serafinowicz crack up laughing]
Arnett: And that zaniness is what we’re going for. We carpool, in case you couldn’t tell.
Fair enough. Since Peter’s with you, both you guys have incredible voices…
Arnett: Peter has a beautiful lyrical voice.
Serafinowicz: [in a high-pitched, squeaky, nasal-y tone] Thanks, man. Thanks a lot.
Arnett: Well…not this morning, he doesn’t. In all seriousness, we are trying to get as many deep voiced people on the show, and we’re starting with Peter. [Laughs]
You’re well on your way. How would Steve Wilde do running a real oil company, such as, say, BP?
He’d run it into the ground.
How is that different than what BP really did?
Well, they ran it into the ocean. Seriously, Steve’s not a great businessman. He’s never had any proper schooling; that the audience has seen. I imagine he’s paid his way through every educational situation so he doesn’t have a lot of business acumen. He wouldn’t even have been in the position to mess up a company like BP. They wouldn’t have been at a profitable drilling hole with him at charge. If he had that kind of access, he’d be like a sultan of Brunei’s brother with a yacht and two dinghies, named Nipple One and Nipple Two.
When does Steve finally hook up with Emmy? There’s a ton of sexual tension there.
You know, I’m not sure. There are real feelings between them, but she’s so hurt by her experience in that house when they were younger and she blames Steve for having not stuck up for her back then. I don’t think she’d ever come back and let Steve into her life, but she knows her daughter needs it and the situation. Emmy’s doing everything she can to not feed into a romantic relationship with Steve. She knows this guy’s a jackass playboy who screwed her over once and he’ll do it again if she gives into him.
Is it true that Drea De Matteo is playing your stepmother? That’s a pretty cool choice.
Don’t sound so surprised, Sean. We’re all created equal. I think when we started talking about who this would be, we all agreed she’d be a great choice. She’s not the first name that would pop in your mind for playing a stepmom in a comedy, granted, but she’s done this really great job. Once you understand who [her character] Didi is and see it through Drea’s portrayal, all will become clear. Drea’s a really good actress, and she is funny. She brings this interesting edge to Didi that’s needed.
And will we ever see Steve’s father? He’s just mentioned but never shown.
I think so.
Who will play him?
Michael Imperioli. [Laughs] No, I can’t ruin the surprise for myself.
Because you don’t know yet?
[Laughs] Yep. When we started writing the pilot, we had Steve’s father in various drafts as a presence that was there both physically and emotionally. And then versions where he was this essence of a being, which is where we ended up leaving it. We like him being this ball-busting, omnipresent dark force looming in Steve’s life. We do have a few real ideas for who would play that role though.
What do you have to say to all the people who compare ‘Running Wilde’ to ‘Arrested Development’?
I think that’s it unfair to compare a show that’s only a few episodes in to an entire series of shows. I couldn’t be prouder of my experience on AD. I was so fortunate to be part of that, and it makes me happy to know that people enjoyed it, and look back on it as a quality program. But we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. If we’d made ‘Arrested Development 2.0,’ they’d have said ‘you’ve made AD 2.0? Can’t you do something else?’ And if we made something else, they’d say ‘why don’t you make AD 2.0?’ Mitch [Hurwitz, creator of 'Arrested Development' and 'Running Wilde'] said it best: We did Arrested Development. Now, we’re trying to do something new, so why are you mad at us? It’s not surprising and it’s not unexpected. There are fans that are upset that because they liked AD so much that they’re overlooking what we’re doing here with ‘Running Wilde.’
What do you say to those fans that fall into that category?
Stick with us. This show is redeeming in other ways. It is something else and it will live on its own voice. It’s going to be compared to AD. Mitch [Hurwitz] has a style where he does some things the same way, and it’s a style I enjoy and find it fun to be a part of. But I feel like it’s lazy when the reviewers or critics simply compare us to AD. There was a tremendous amount of backlash when the reviews came out and some were really vicious.
Were you surprised by the critics’ reaction to the show?
I can’t write the reviews for my own show. I will say this: as the show started to unfold episode after episode, the response online has been better and better. Twitter and other social media have revealed people saying ‘I heard this show was bad but I watched it and liked it!’ I think a lot of assessments of us were very lazy. The critics simply pile on and echo each other’s sentiments and they don’t really examine the show. There’s literally scolding from various viewers. I think our show looks different from any other comedy that’s on TV. For better or worse. We do have a unique vibe on the show and that’s starting to be more apparent. These reviewers are the same people who complain about Hollywood ‘s crappy sitcoms, all the new mutli-cam shows with formulaic scripts that never try anything new. They pan that, then they also kill a show like ours right out of the gate. There’s not much of a middle ground with these guys and it’s counter-intuitive. But that’s life, right?
You’re not just an actor in ‘Running Wilde.’ You’re a writer and producer and co-creator and a star. Do harsh reviews hit home thrice as hard in that case?
You try to not take it personally. If I were to read a story about an actor who’s talking about his hurt feelings when he reads a bad review, I’d be like ‘Boo hoo. Get over yourself, champ.’ That said, when it’s you they’re talking about, no – it doesn’t feel great. Listen, you should feel entirely free to not enjoy this show. That’s fine. But do so quietly and in the corner. [Laughs]
One final question: when I was doing some quick fact checking on IMDb, your height is listed as 6’ 2.5.” Do you really need the 1/2??
Look, Sean, I like to be fair and honest. I believe that’s important. I wouldn’t want some 6’3”-er to come around and say, ‘Hey man!’ and criticize me. Full disclosure is the best policy, don’t you think?