“Reboot” creator Steven Levitan admits that having a cast stacked with Hollywood veterans, including Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, Rachel Bloom and Paul Reiser, was almost like having a second writers’ room when it came to war stories for the show’s inside-Hollywood view of rebooting a beloved, 20-year-old sitcom.
“We would just be sitting around talking and then someone would say this, ‘Oh, this reminds me of the time this has happened,’ and then [the writers] refined it in next week’s script,” laughed the “Modern Family” co-creator at the premiere of his new Hulu series, held on the Fox lot that also serves as the backdrop for the show.
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Levitan told Variety he doesn’t think the show bites the industry hand that feeds it too hard. “I didn’t feel like I was being mean spirited because I wasn’t trying to be, I wasn’t trying to take anybody down. We all have to sit around and say and do ridiculous things sometimes in this business,” he explained. “So to dig into that, I thought it was all fair game.”
“But when there’s a situation where it calls for some hypocrisy to be pointed out or whatever, I’m not afraid to do that,” he added. “But right now I love this business, I’ve been very fortunate to be in this business and I wanted to do … let’s call it a friendly roast of this business.”
Key says he doesn’t just know actors like his character, “I might have been him a little bit when I was younger.” More talented than the show-within-a-show deserved, Key’s Reed Sterling balances his insecurities by name-checking his Harvard acting school cred. “I have not been that actor, but I have met those actors when you sometimes go, ‘So did you want to tell me again where that was that you went to school? Because I didn’t remember the first six times?’” he laughed.
“If I see or experience it, then you have to know that Steve Levitan has like triple-seen and experienced it,” said Greer. “It’s sometimes pretty accurate. Scarily accurate.”
Greer says she recognized the fear and loneliness fueling her character Brie, returning to acting after several years away from soundstages, a vulnerability that balances her narcissistic flaws. “You want to root for her, so if there’s nothing to root for, then I don’t know that people will keep tuning in. And I think with the characters Steve’s created, he’s given everyone something to root for.”
As the up-and-coming showrunner who revives the sitcom to exorcize old personal demons, Bloom related very directly to her role. “The way Hannah reenacts her trauma in the art she makes is very one to one with what I do,” the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star and creator revealed. “I have the theory that she came up with this show in therapy and then was like, ‘Wait — should I actually pitch this show?’ So that specificity to her point of view as an artist really resonated with me.”
As both the star and creator of his own TV classic “Mad About You,” Reiser has seen and heard his own share of Hollywood absurdity over the course of his career, admitting that “Reboot’s” knowing dialogue hit home with him.
“The line that killed me is when the young executive from Hulu goes, ‘I’m new to humor.’ ‘What do you do?’ ‘I’m head of comedy.’ I went, ‘I’ve had that conversation!’” he revealed. “I remember meeting with a new head of comedy at a network who two months earlier was the head of drama. I went, ‘What happened in July? Did you get funny over the summer? Because I don’t see it.’”
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