Rob McElhenney and his fellow executive producers and writers had already mapped out a second season of “Mythic Quest,” and had written many of its episodes, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Suddenly, they realized the stories — which kicked off with the “Mythic Quest” officemates at the E3 conference — had to be revised.
“We had to essentially throw all of those scripts out and start over,” McElhenney tells Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast. “And we were happy to do it because the world had completely changed. We were going to come back and shoot another season of the show that it would have to at least reflect it, the realities of where the world is at right now and where it was, according to the narrative as it picks up in season two.”
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On this bonus edition of the Variety Awards Circuit podcast, we talk to “Mythic Quest” star and executive producer McElhenney about Season 2 of “Mythic Quest,” including how the show is focusing more deeply on supporting characters this year, and where things are heading as the show heads toward the season finale. He also talked about dropping episodes weekly vs. all at once, and about the longevity of his other show, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Later on, we chat with TV icon Katey Sagal about her recurring role on “The Conners,” as well as her recent but alas short-lived ABC drama “Rebel.” Listen below!
On “Mythic Quest,” McElhenney stars as Ian Grimm, the co-creative director of the popular (but fictional) video game of the same name. This season on “Mythic Quest” – the TV show, that is — Ian and his colleague/fellow creative director Poppy Li, played by Charlotte Nicdao, are working separately to develop a new expansion of the game, and the pressure’s on.
“Mythic Quest” returned for Season 2 on Apple TV Plus in May after two specials that served as bookends of sorts to the pandemic. Last year’s quarantine episode, shot completely remotely with iPhones at the cast’s homes, has been lauded as one of the best pandemic-related installments of any TV show. And this April, the “Everlight” episode signified the team’s return to the office.
“When we were talking about making this transition back in, we said, well, that’s, that’s all well and good, but how can we take full advantage of all the resources that we have to tell a really big and fantastical story that that will ultimately not only help us transition into the second season, but will just give us a really fun and optimistic view of the present and hopefully in the near future,” McElhenney says.
“Mythic Quest” moves on from there, however, and McElhenney says that was a conscious choice to not stay mired too long in COVID-era story telling. “When when we jumped into season two, we wanted to put the pandemic behind us, we knew that we would be airing during a time when the world was hopefully transitioning out, and that we wouldn’t be past it,” he says. “But at the same time that we felt that people would be kind of sick of talking about it and living in the experience, and they would want to look in their rearview mirror at COVID.”
As Season 2 progresses, there’s a greater focus on the supporting characters and learning more about them. That includes Nicdao’s Poppy, as well as executive producer David Hornsby as David Brittlesbee, Ashly Burch (who’s also a writer) as tester Rachel, Imani Hakim as tester Dana, Danny Pudi as head of monetization Brad, Jessie Ennis as the diabolical Jo, and F. Murray Abraham as head writer C.W. Longbottom.
“What we wanted to do was make sure that that in the second season, right off the bat, we started getting into the personal lives of some of the characters who would be considered supporting characters,” McElhenney says. “For example, the testers, they were essentially relegated to one very simple and not very complex storyline, which was are they are, aren’t they going to get together and fall in love. I just wanted to dispense with that immediately. In the very first episode of Season 2, we end that story. And then we move on very quickly from there to, what really makes these people tick, what do they actually want, now that they have each other?”
Then there’s Abraham as C.W. “He comes into every scene, he kills every time he walks on because he’s so funny,” McElhenney says. “He is certainly a fish out of water. What makes him so funny is that he does not belong there for so many different reasons. We wanted to tell his backstory, and we wanted to get into a little bit of what his life was like before he came to ‘Mythic Quest.'”
Hence the recent “Backstory” episode which featured Josh Brener as a young C.W. in 1970s Los Angeles. The ambitious episode brought to mind “Mythic Quest’s” Season 1 departure episode, “A Dark Quiet Death.” McElhenney says the show is challenging itself to do at least one creative episode like that each season.
“I think this is the function of where we are right now. As an audience, I know that I when I sit down to watch a show, I don’t want it to be the same thing, week after week after week, I appreciate the shows that take risks, and take you to places that you didn’t expect to go,” he says.
Meanwhile, McElhenney and the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” gang are back to work on new seasons of the long-running FX hit, and he says there’s no stopping them. “The world just keeps giving us pearls. I mean, what we try to do on ‘Sunny’ is to satirize current Western culture. And it’s there’s just a lot to satirize. It’s still fun for us, it’s still working with the people we love, the people we love spending time with, there’s still a massive audience out there.”
Also on this episode: Inspired by the life of Erin Brockovich today, ABC’s “Rebel” starred Katey Sagal as Annie “Rebel” Bello, a blue-collar legal advocate without a law degree. She cares desperately about the causes she fights for and the people she loves. Sagal also recurs on ABC’s “The Conners” as Dan’s love interest and now fianceé, Louise.
The Awards Circuit podcast spoke with Sagal prior to the news that ABC wouldn’t be moving forward with a second season of the show. But nonetheless she shared what drew her to the project, what she thinks of Erin Brockovich and how Sagal has been such a bad ass on camera in recent years. And yes, she also discusses why there hasn’t been a “Married… with Children” reboot.
Variety’s Emmy edition of the “Awards Circuit” podcast is hosted by Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Danielle Turchiano and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in television. Each week during Emmy season, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.
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