John Malkovich and Ben Schwartz take us on a slight detour

Jack Shepherd
John Malkovich and Ben Schwartz in Space Force

This world feels a little surreal right now. While some countries are gradually easing out of lockdown, many people are still spending the majority of their free time at home. Netflix has been a form of salvation – hours of content ready to keep subscribers entertained. And, thankfully, the streaming service keeps releasing new series, including Space Force, a comedy from the team behind The Office. 

Through lockdown, I've been lucky enough to continue working from home, which has meant conducting interviews via Zoom calls. For the upcoming release of Space Force, I spoke to John Malkovich and Ben Schwartz, who appear in the series as the scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory and social media guru F. Tony Scarapiducci, respectively. 

Unfortunately, my work space is my bedroom, giving interviewees a look into my house – and, of course, myself a look into their homes (Malkovich is sat in a study with an impressionist painting behind him, while Schwartz is sat in front of a plain white wall). With that in mind, then, you may understand why Zoom interviews can be quite a distraction, and why, then, my interview went on a slight tangent. Here's my Q&A with Malkovich and Schwartz, edited for clarity. 

GamesRadar+: Hi guys.

John Malkovich: How did you feel about having to make your bed today? Were you, like, super-pissed off about that? Or are you just like, "OK..."

I hate to admit this but I didn't actually make my bed. That was my partner.

Ben Schwartz: Oh, I love it! Even better.

Malkovich: That's great, Jack. We know the type of person you are. We get it.

We take it in turns!

Schwartz: Jack, when you said you work with GamesRadar, does that mean you deal with video games as well?

I do deal with video games occasionally.

Schwartz: We'll talk later.

We will! How are both of you?

Malkovich: Well.

Schwartz: All things considered

How are you keeping entertained at the moment?

Malkovich: Taking a lot of walks – although the nicest place to walk here, where I am, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is Mount Auburn Cemetery, which is very pretty, but that's been closed for the last two months.

Schwartz: When you're walking, John, is it throughout or across the perimeter of the cemetery?

Malkovich: You walk throughout it. It's huge and very beautiful. It's just the most fantastic plants and shrubs. A really lovely, old cemetery. There's a pilgrim's row, in fact. So it's quite lovely. There are very old-growth trees, and all that. But it's closed down. So I'm walking, reading, watching TV, talking to friends – mostly. Like everybody, I think.

Schwartz: Yeah, same thing. TV – watching a lot of Larry Sanders. Watching a lot of older movies that I missed like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Harold and Maude. And then a lot of video games. A lot. I beat Chrono Trigger again, and I play Mario Kart every weekend in something called the Tournament of Champions where me and my 11 friends go online and play each other, and keep our stats from week to week, as if we're playing a basketball season.

Malkovich: And that's what game?

Schwartz: It's a game called Mario Kart 8. It's a racing game where everybody's on these little karts, and we play it through Nintendo Switch.

Malkovich:  Oh my God, my son would love that. I'll have to tell Loewy. You'll have to tell Loewy.

Schwartz: I will. It's over. He's involved. He's invited to the tournament [laughs].

Malkovich: Mario Kart day. I'll tell him. 

Is that on Switch or is that Wii U?

Schwartz: That one's Switch. How dare you think I'm still using Wii U.

Who knows?

Schwartz: How dare you, Jack.

In this economy.

Malkovich: Come on, man. You don't even make your own bed!

Schwartz: Come on, man.

Malkovich:  Who are you to be hurling insults?

I was not trying to make it an insult! One of my past times has been watching Middleditch & Schwartz on Netflix.

Schwartz: That's great! That's great, man!

It was so, so funny. So thank you for keeping me entertained.

Schwartz: Thank you for watching. That one means a lot. John has come to a live show. Every member of John's family has come to a show in three different cities. I feel very fortunate. I've been improvising for over 20 years, and there's never been a special of this size before. So it's a big deal that people— and also different countries. The idea that you're watching it is huge for us. So I really appreciate it.

To talk about Space Force quickly – I was wondering, did you hear about the real Space Force or Space Force the show first?

Malkovich: I think I heard that President Trump wanted to do a Space Force. I kind of picked it out of the atmosphere. But I didn't really pay much attention to it. And then I got the script. So that's how I heard about it. But Space Force wasn't even funded until after… [pause] Had we shot it all by then, Ben?

Schwartz: It might have been. I'm not sure.

Malkovich: We were shooting, anyway. I think we were shooting. 

Schwartz: Same. I heard the announcement. And then soon after, I saw the advert for the TV show Space Force – this little promo that they did a year ago, or whenever it was. I was like, "Oh, man, that show is going to be incredible." [laughs]

And then slowly as we were filming, more and more things kept getting revealed from the actual Space Force. It's a crazy thing where, in real time, so many things were revealing themselves that we'd already filmed, and stuff like that.

Space Force is so inherently funny as a concept anyway. Considering Middleditch & Schwartz was all improv, was there much room for improv on this?

Malkovich: Ben may have a better idea than I do. But I think that most of the things that are left as scripted. There was a decent degree of improv, but I don't think that many are left in the cut.

Schwartz: Yeah. I think we played a little bit. As the season went on, we got a little bit more leeway. And I feel that if we get a season 2, John and I are just going to go on the road with a two-person improv team [laughs]. John and I are now very comfortable with each other. I feel like there's a lot of room for playing, all within our characters, and stuff like that. So I think it's just growing as the episodes keep going.

I've been asked to wrap, so just one quick last question for Ben, because we were going to talk about games. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, have you heard anything new?

Schwartz: I wish I could tell you. We have not been greenlit yet for a sequel to that movie which was the highest-grossing domestic videogame movie of all time. I'm hoping that we find out soon. I know that times are very unique right now, and it's a weird time, so there's other things to worry about. But I'm hoping that we get greenlit soon, because I think that if we could jump further into the universe of, you know, Sonic, and what we have in the other characters there – there's so much stuff to do. My fingers are crossed, but they have not told me I'm doing it again. So we'll see.

If Jim Carrey doesn't return for Sonic 2, you've got a great Robotnik right here.

Schwartz: Oh, God. I would put John Malkovich in everything I ever did. The idea that I've witnessed him do a 30-minute comedy and absolutely crush, means that he's invincible. You could put him in anything, and he wins. He's the Thanos of acting. He's all-powerful. He's collected all the stones, and he can snap his fingers whenever he wishes.

Amazing. Thanks for sparing some time to speak to me.

Malkovich: Thank you.

Schwartz: Lovely to meet you, Jack. Thanks for talking.

Space Force reaches Netflix on Friday, 29 May