CS Interview: Garant, Lennon & Yarbrough discuss Reno 911! revival
Just in time for the premiere of the long-awaited Reno 911! revival on Quibi, ComingSoon.net got to partake in a video conference call with co-creator and co-stars Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon along with star Cedric Yarbrough (The Boondocks) to discuss the seventh season and possible future for the cop comedy.
Alongside seeing the return of most of the series’ original cast, the latest season of Reno saw some high-profile guest stars join the series including Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell, BlacKkKlansman), who the three poured endless praise upon.
“With Paul Walter Hauser, he’s a genius, he was so good,” Garant said. “He’s a fan of the show, so he kind of knew who we were and sort of what to expect. But that guy’s a stone-cold genius, he was so funny, we sat him in front of the station and just one at a time walked up to him without any real plan and man he was funny.”
“I did the first one with him and he was brilliant, he was ready to go,” Yarbrough said. “But the thing about the show now is that we kind of have a brand, so like with guest stars that come in, they know what to expect, they know the tone of the show, it’s not like what we did 17 years ago when we were still figuring it out. We have a formula now to plug in great people that we already like and Tom, Ben and Kerri do an amazing job in finding people that can hang. There haven’t been too many times where it was like ‘Whoa, that person didn’t work out at all.’”
“Yeah it didn’t happen this year at all,” Lennon noted. “I think what we recognize when people join us, because Ben and I met August of ’88, so it has been a little bit. But I think when people come to us like Paul, for example, what we really just want to see is ‘Are you as batshit crazy committed as we are?’ [Laughs] I think the characters are all absolutely the dumbest people in the world, but they’re also very, very sincere. Paul comes in and he’s like the smartest person to cheer for. Suddenly we have one functional, adjunct member in Paul Walter Hauser.”
“Amongst us, he was the alpha in every way. He was the smartest and the most fit and the most confident,” Garant joked.
“It was also great because Paul came and brought a different energy than a lot of our other guest stars,” Yarbrough explained “It’s a different thing where you can relax and he’s the guy, as opposed to what we usually do, our guest stars kind of run around we kind of do that for them, we kind of make sure they stay within the parameters. But with Paul it was very much reversed, we were all weirdos and he just kind of was normal.”
Despite being off the air for nearly a decade, Lennon recalled that those available have reprised their roles for various events, including “a little USO tour” and whenever there’s an event celebrating law enforcement, which he says is to thank those “who tolerate us pretty nicely.”
“We actually do the characters a fair amount, but it was really a weirdness when we were all there together for the first time, that felt pretty amazing,” Lennon described. “The fun thing about everybody is that everybody got really good at Reno 911, then we took 11 years off where everybody got really really good at their own shows, so by the time everybody came back, it almost had an Avengers-kind of vibe of improvisation. It was like, ‘Wow, everybody has gotten so sharp.’ The first time I saw Niecy at all this year because of scheduling being so hard, she was dressed as T.T., so she just walked up to me on the streets in plain view while I was in those shorts and she had those big, weird pendulous boots, and we just hugged and were like, ‘Alright, let’s do one of these.’ We didn’t think about it real hard, and you could probably tell that in the episodes.”
“I was nervous the night before, the week before, just because we didn’t have that long of a schedule and I was really worried that it would take us a week to warm up,” Garant recalled. “Like it used to take us two or three days to kind of warm up and we would always start with material that we wouldn’t necessarily need. We would start with like Big Mike or something where if this didn’t work out, it was okay, because we were gonna go through ten Big Mikes and one of them would be useable. But we didn’t have that this time and the very first piece we shot was David Holmes and Wendy and Kerri and as soon as they opened their mouths, they were great. As soon as they opened their mouths, I was totally not nervous anymore. They just hit the ground running so hard and like every word out of Wendy’s mouth was just fucking hilarious and perfect.”
“It was a little emotional for me, because I gained like 20-30 pounds, so trying to put that costume back on, shit, man,” Yarbrough laughed. “I’ve enjoyed myself these last 11 years, man, it’s different when you’re rich and you can eat whatever you want, it’s so awesome. But Tom nailed it that we’re like weird Super Friends coming together and we’re all bringing our weird powers and we’ve all had really great life experiences and now we’re all bringing them to this show that we all love. I was a little scared about whether we could capture lightning in a bottle again, but we all still really dig hanging out together and trying to make each other crack up.”
When looking at how the world’s changed in the years since the series’ debut on Comedy Central in 2003, the three discussed how they pay attention in the writer’s room and how they have the “conversations about how do we stay true” to the show’s “wildly inappropriate” tone of the film while still addressing what’s going on societally.
“I think that weirdly we do address a lot of things that are going on, but sometimes you may not even notice because they’re generally upbeat,” Lennon said. “We do have a piece about body cams on cops, we have pieces about how to arrest kids that are swimming in a pool, there’s weirdly lots of social stuff addressed. We opened with the Second Amendment gun show, so I feel like weirdly we address a lot of social topics and things, but with the absolute dumbest coating on everything and I don’t think it’s a preach show in any way. My character hasn’t changed at all, my character’s just Viggo Mortensen’s outfit from G.I. Jane and Al Gore’s voice.”
“We talked about all that stuff, because like Tom was saying, the subject matter is dark,” Garant said. “It’s murder, it’s meth, and I threw a cat into a fucking air conditioner, but for that it’s so light, it’s really upbeat. But we’ve talked about it, there have been so many waves in the time since we’ve been off the air of like anti-police sentiment, there have been like three waves of it. The cellphone footages and the Black Lives Matter and all of this stuff has happened and we knew we couldn’t just ignore that, but we also knew we couldn’t be preachy or grim. So we went through and really tried to do material about crazy white people calling 911 because they saw a black guy.”
“Just speaking as one of the actors that is a person of color, I don’t necessarily worry about if we’re going to be able to handle a given topic in the right way, but I do make sure that we’re responsible,” Yarbrough noted. “If I felt like anything was ever odd, or weird, or was coming at it a crazy way that I don’t think we could do this at all, I would pipe up and say something. That’s one of the great things of working with Tom, Ben and Kerri and the rest of the cast is that we can talk about something that I don’t feel comfortable about doing. The great thing about this show is that everyone gets it, whether we’re talking about homosexuality, whether we’re talking about race, whether we’re talking about women’s issue, everyone gets a chance of being offended, if they choose to be. But we’re all just weird on the show, it’s an example of looking at humanity and being able to laugh at it.”
While any kind of return for the beloved characters has been longed for by fans, one of the most hoped-for reunions has been a sequel to 2007’s Reno 911: Miami, which was a modest box office success but didn’t see the level of reception the trio and 20th Century Fox were expecting, causing the long-discussed project to be shelved…until possibly soon.
“I’m really really proud of that movie, Ben directed it, we shot it in Miami, The Rock was in it when he was only the world’s strongest man not the universe’s strongest man, so it’s like an interesting time capsule,” Lennon recalled. “But it happened with us at Fox a couple of times that the Reno 911! movie was testing so through the roof and that people were losing our minds that they were like, ‘We gotta have a part 2.’ So that’s when we wrote the outline that you know as SOS, which is basically Lord of the Flies. It’s basically we’re transferring a prisoner somewhere and we end up on an island and it was exactly like the Lord of the Flies scenario. But then what’s interesting is the Reno movie did well, but it didn’t do well enough to merit a sequel, which was a bummer, because we were so excited to do that movie. We actually have two ideas for Reno sequels, I hope now that we’re back we’ll do them both. One was Reno 911! SOS and then we wanted to do another movie, which was basically very much just Die Hard set in the Paris Hotel Las Vegas, and the reason we wanted to do it was so that the title would be Reno 911!: Miami Paris Las Vegas.”
With comedy seeing various rises and falls over the years on the small screen, there have been a number of chances in the past to bring back Reno 911! for fans, including shortly after its original cancellation when, as Garant explained, “the regime that fired us got fired and the new regime wanted us back.” However, despite the excitement from Comedy Central to try and bring its beloved series back, everybody wasn’t feeling the same about it.
“We felt it was just too soon, everybody’s careers were really sort of taking off without the show and it felt like a lateral move, it felt weird to go back to the same network,” Garant said. “It just felt like, ‘Meh,’ it didn’t feel like a triumphant return, it felt more like, ‘Oh they must have needed work, they must have wanted back.’ Then with Doug Herzog, who’s hired us 100 times, was at Quibi and he called and said, ‘Come here, it’s this new weird platform, you will get no notes.’ We didn’t and we know Doug and that he’s true to his word and there’s something about it being in a new place, in a new format, that we said sure. And then we walked in and Doug said, ‘We’ll totally stay out of your hair and give you the money and just do more Renos,’ and we knew he was the one person on Earth who knew what that meant.”
“You can’t underestimate the fact that Doug Herzog really made this happen,” Lennon said. “It was kind of neat, because we went into Quibi and the interesting thing is Quibi was pitching like, ‘We’re going to do movies, we’re going to do all of these things’ and we were like, ‘Well that all sounds well and good,’ but the one thing we knew when we heard about the Quibi format is that it’s the ideal Reno 911! format. We are the Lay’s Potato Chips of programming, just have a couple and then you’ll feel a little sick.”
“We’re a sketch show, it was a perfect place for us where they pitched us little things,” Garant continued. “We actually had one of our editors put together the coconut nut clusters episode. We were like, ‘Hey, see if you can make this episode six or seven minutes.’ An editor did a pass of it and it was great and we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we should be fine, we should do this.’ And we don’t have to recap the plot after the commercial breaks, which slows stuff down. ‘Boy this scavenger hunt’s really interesting,’ we don’t have to do that anymore and it’s really 30 seconds here and 40 seconds there that are gone and it really helps, it’s really great.”
“As for me, coming back, Reno 911! was my first big gig when I moved out to Hollywood,” Yarbrough warmly recalled. “Meeting these guys as I got off playing something was pretty amazing and being able to return to your first, we all want to do that. I was all about it and let’s face it, the show’s an adult cartoon, it’s like Bugs Bunny. You don’t want a half-hour Bugs Bunny.”
Though the trio expressed a lot of excitement about the possible future of the series with Quibi and in film form, they did deliver one of the saddest bits of news for this season that is due to a frequent occurrence in Hollywood: scheduling conflicts.
“Nick [Swardson] wanted to do the show, but this is just a real unfortunate bummer of timing, but back when we were shooting and the world was open, every point Nick was on tour,” Lennon explained. “I don’t want people thinking, ‘Oh Terry’s coming,’ because logistically it just didn’t happen and it’s a bummer, we obviously miss and love him and it just happened to not work out logistically. It’s a bummer because we were also supposed to have Natasha Leggero one day, we were going to throw her off a plane as her famous pants-less character. Anyone you don’t see it was probably just a scheduling issue because we went very fast and furious.”
“It’s basically six episodes’ worth, seven or eight episodes’ worth of the whole length of show, which wasn’t enough. There was a lot of people that we had stuff for and then realized we don’t have the time,” Garant noted.
The Reno 911! revival series will feature the return of the original cast led by writers and creators Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Kerry Kenney-Silver. Joining them are Niecy Nash, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Cedric Yarbrough, and Carlos Alazraqui. Ian Roberts, Joe LoTruglio, and Mary Birdsong. Guest stars this season include Dave Holmes, Patton Oswalt, Tim Allen, and Ron Pearlman.
Reno 911! lets viewers ride shotgun with the courageous men and women of the Reno Sheriff’s Department as they lay down the law and put their lives on the line. The Reno 911! camera doesn’t blink — and when the bullets start flying, the Reno Sheriff’s Department will be right behind you.
The classic mockumentary comedy series, which ran from 2003 to 2009, featured dialogue that was mostly unscripted with the cast relying heavily on improvisation. A movie adaptation, Reno 911!: Miami, was released in 2007, earning over $22 million at the worldwide box office from a $10 million budget.
Artists First’s Peter Principato will serve as executive producer alongside Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher of Jersey Television. Wendi McLendon-Covey will also produce. Comedy Central’s new studio-production arm, Comedy Central Productions, will produce the seventh season for Quibi.
The Reno 911! revival series will debut its seventh season on May 4. Three episodes will premiere on launch day with all-new episodes launching weekdays in the app.
Quibi is currently offering a 90-day free trial for a limited time for those who download the Quibi app and sign-up by April 30.