INTERVIEW: "Fantastic Four" EP On Character-Driven Approach, Sequel Plans
Comic Books, Film
Adult Swim’s upcoming animated series Mr. Pickles is the heartwarming story of boy and his dog, who go on adventures in their small, quiet town. There is one minor catch, however: The dog is evil, and frequently wanders off to mutilate, kill or hump an assortment of victims who have stumbled in their way.
Mr. Pickles and his happy-go-lucky owner Tommy Goodman are joined by the rest of the family, including their poor grandfather, who seems to be the only one in the town aware of the dog’s deranged behavior.
Ahead of the show’s Sept. 21 premiere, the cast and crew met with reports to reveal the origins of Mr. Pickles, and the crazy, mined-up town the perverse pooch calls home.
Creators Will Carsola and Dave Stewart are longtime collaborators who have grown foot-long beards over the past two years. The show’s premise began as a “write-off,” with the two trying to outdo each other with crazier stories and ideas.
Although Mr. Pickles may have its roots in Lassie, the creators were asked whether it could be compared to another TV series, Dexter, whose morally challenged hero killed people who deserved it. “Not really,” Carsola replied. “But we do have a rule for the show that everyone Pickles kills is deserving one way or another.”
“He doesn’t kill someone because they’re bad,” Stewart added. “It just happens to be that way.”
In one of the episodes previewed, Tommy and Mr. Pickles befriend a Bigfoot that turns out to be an ex-mafia member genetically modified by the government and placed in witness protection in the woods outside Old Town. While he won’t be a recurring character, Carsola teased, “I snuck him into the background of an episode, but I’m not going to tell you which.”
“The world is more about the town characters,” Stewart said. “Every episode is a new theme and idea.” So don’t expect a new twist on a mythological character every episode.
“There is an origin story,” Carsola said. “It is figured out.” However, the answer as to why Mr. Pickles does what he does won’t be revealed in Season 1. Still, he said “there are some clues in the first season.”
The producers praised the voice cast, which includes Kaitlyn Robrock as Tommy, Jay Johnston (Sarah Silverman Program, Bob’s Burgers) as Tommy’s father, Frank Collison (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) as his confused and tortured grandpa, and Brooke Shields as Tommy’s mother.
For guest stars, the show’s creators turned to many of their favorite performers, casting Iggy Pop as a cowboy bounty hunter and Tracy Morgan as a white 90-year-old wannabe rapper. Other guest stars include Amy Sedaris, Joey Lauren Adams, Dave Foley and John Waters.
The show features a lot of graphic cartoon violence and funny, yet extreme, situations, but surprisingly cable channel executives have yet to step in and tell the creators they can’t do anything specific.
“We have had some kickback on certain … lovemaking scenes. Mr. Pickles and various things, various animals,” Stewart said. However, Adult Swim has yet to tell them no, with Carsola joking that they were instead instructed to, “put a bush in front of the guy, or, do not thrust with the object.”
The conversation shifted gears as voice actors Collison, Johnston and Robrock joined the gathering, offering their own thoughts on their characters and the content of the show.
Although a longtime Adult Swim fan, Robrock admitted she was a somewhat shocked by the show and by her audition. “It was so out of left field, because a lot of my auditions came from Disney,” she said, adding that she’s having a lot of fun with Mr. Pickles.
A veteran of stage, film and television, Collison has never had a role quite like Grandpa. He said the show “has scenes that remind me of Hieronymus Bosch,” the 16th-century painter known for his depictions of sin and the failings of man. “It’s very dark and subversive,” the actor said. “I like that it’s subversive.”
Johnston is no stranger to animation or over-the-top comedy, but when asked if he was surprised by any of the violence, he replied, “I was surprised by how funny is.”
“For me personally, my taste is not, I would say, to go this far with violence because it becomes boring.” However, he continued, “It’s really done well. It’s funny and over the top in a good way that’s supported by the writing.”
Asked if there’s room for ad-libbing in the animated series, Robrock said, “Yes, they actually encourage it.” The actress gets the scripts in advance and writes notes in the margins for different ideas and jokes she could try in the recording booth.
Collison shared that after they have read the lines as written, the actors then try alternate takes. “What’s another way to say, ‘He touched my hoo-ha?’ He touched my dingaling!”
Mr. Pickles premieres Sept. 21 at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on Adult Swim.