'It's A Little Bit Of Suspense When You Watch The Episode'
Tara talks to Anthony King, the scribe behind the Broad City episode 'Citizen Ship,' about creepy contacts, booze cruise hookups, and how they calibrate precisely how gross Bevers should be.
Hello, I'm West Coast Editor Tara Ariano.
Hello, I'm Broad City writer Anthony King.
How did you come to be a writer on Broad City?
I was talking to [series creators/stars] Abbi [Jacobson] and Ilana [Glazer], who I knew from my time at UCB, about the first season and how much I loved it, and to my surprise, they responded by saying "We're hiring writers for the second season, would you want to do it?" And I leapt at the chance to do it, so they read some scripts of mine, went back and forth, and they hired me; I was very excited.
You've written on other shows before.
I wrote on Best Friends Forever; Playing House, on its second season right now; and then worked on Wet Hot American Summer for Netflix.
Yeah, that's very exciting! How was that experience?
Oh, it was so great. It was just weird because [Michael] Showalter and David Wain have been idols of mine for years, so it was very surreal to be in a room with them, and really cool. They were really great guys.
Getting back to Broad City: what's the process of writing an episode? How collaborative is it, how much is it independent?
It's really collaborative. Abbi and Ilana ran the show, and they really know the kind of stories that they want to tell, and they're really focused on wanting to tell stories about being in your twenties and poor and in New York, and what that's like. They so know what they want, so it's a really collaborative room -- it's a very tiny room, not a lot of writers -- and so a lot of stuff was cooked in the room. And then when you have an episode, you go off and write the outline on your own and bring it back in, and the room collaborates, and then when you go to script, you write on your own, and you come back in and the room does a pass. And so all the episodes were really collaborative, which was fun.
I've noticed the names of people I know are writers on other shows -- like Chris Kelly, for example, who's a writer on SNL. Is it hard to get everybody together in the room, or does the writing happen in hiatus periods?
Yeah, I was between shows. We wrote for three months in New York, and so I just went to New York. Another writer on the show, Jen Statsky, is a Parks & Rec writer, and she literally finished Parks & Rec on Friday; on Monday, started on Broad City; finished Broad City on a Friday and started back at Parks & Rec the next Monday. So it just fit in perfectly for her. So we all went to New York for three months. All those writers are L.A.-based except Abbi and Ilana.
This season there seems to be continuity through the episodes more than in Season 1 -- there was the Val shout-out in the season premiere that then paid off later, and then in your episode, we see Ilana's "white power" suit jacket and Abbi's fancy dress from Season 1.
Did you even pay attention to the Val thing when you first saw it in the episode, or was it only in retrospect?
No, someone on the forums posted it. It went right over my head.
Until it happens, it's really meaningless, just some woman going, "Val!" There were other ideas thrown around, just little things for the fans, people who really love the show. And it's also the fact that when you're in your twenties, and you don't have any money, you do have, like, one dress, that you wear to fancy events. So that blue dress is Abbi's dress that she wears to fancy things. So some of it is for fun, but also some of it is to try to be a little truthful to what it's actually like to be those characters.
What was the genesis of the story in this episode -- Jaime getting his citizenship and going on a booze cruise?
All those stories are somewhat rooted in at least one of the writers' lives, or some combination of that. Abbi had had a friend who went through an immigration ceremony, and was talking a lot about that -- how everyone's waving flags and it's a really happy thing -- so we thought that could be a fun thing to show for Jaime, and then we also liked the idea of putting these girls with people they don't normally associate with, like these lawyers, because that's a big part of New York, if you ever go to Murray Hill, or now Williamsburg. And these girls would have no reason, normally, to interact with them, so that's all fun. And we also wanted to dive into Lincoln and Ilana's relationship a little bit, because I think a lot of fans are really rooting for them and so we wanted to kind of play with "where are they," "what are they." That's where a lot of those things came from.
Since you're based in L.A., I assume you weren't able to be on the set when they were filming.
No, I wasn't, I had gone back.
What is that like? I assume you're normally on the set to watch things you wrote get made.
It's weird. When I saw the episode for the first time, I thought, "Oh, cool, all the stuff made it!" You don't know. Every script is a little bit of a blueprint -- you don't find it on set; you stick pretty closely to it -- but you never know if something's not going to work. But all the episodes have been pretty close to what we broke in the room, which is nice. But it's a little bit of suspense when you watch the episode.
Especially since this is obviously months and months later!
Yeah, we finished writing last May. It was a while ago.
Let's talk about Bevers a little bit, because this was a big Bevers episode.
It is a big Bevers episode.
Is it hard to write for him because he could do anything? Or does that make it easier or more fun to write for him?
To me, the interesting thing about Bevers -- we talk about this a lot in the writers' room -- is that it's not that fun to just make him gross, because it's too easy, I guess. What I really like about Bevers is that he truly thinks Abbi is his friend.
Yes -- his sincere love of Abbi is really one of the best things about him.
Yeah, I mean, he really does love her, and doesn't get that she...hates him? Which I find so endearing, as much as it is annoying and frustrating. He means well, he's just an idiot. I love characters like that -- who are well-meaning but are complete screw-ups. You know, this is the second episode this year where we see Bevers outside of the apartment; in the first season, I don't think we ever saw him out of the apartment. And we wanted to play, also, with the fact that we never see Melody, and this is a boat that Melody invited her on, and we wanted to kind of see Bevers in a different light as well.
I had a question about Melody too, but this might be a secret of the writers' room that you can't answer. Obviously, she's going to be a character, like Vera or Maris, that we never see, but how much do the writers know about her? I feel like this episode was the most backstory on her that we've gotten.
I'd say a lot! For someone who's never been on the show, we know a lot about her. And there's been talk about how to play with her, and I think that'll be an ongoing discussion, because it's really fun to have this roommate who's never around -- and also very real.
There's definitely a discrepancy between Abbi and Melody's financial situations, and that seems to be a frustration for Abbi too, like, "Just move out, you have money! What's your problem?"
Yeah, exactly. Abbi feels like Melody should have her own place, but she's never around. And that's another thing to play with: those first-year lawyers are never home, they're always at work.
The places where all the people on the boat were having sex: was that based on knowledge of booze cruise boat floor plans, or...?
The fact that people were having sex is based on knowledge of booze cruises. The actual locations, some of those were, I think, found on set. We wanted to have the woman who let them on the boat in a three-way--
With the balloons!
I thought it was an amazing touch to have the balloons with her. To have the guy that Jaime kisses getting blown later was something we really wanted to do. We were trying to show the secret lives of some of these characters in the background.
The casting of all of those people -- the wardrobe does some of the work, but they really all looked like midtown assholes!
I know! That's something I'm constantly amazed at on Broad City: the production people. They do such great work.
The flag contact lenses: explain.
I can't remember who pitched that idea: I want to say it was Ilana. She thought it would just be so crazy to just end the show zooming in on Jaime's American-flag contact lenses, and it truly was! It's truly bizarre. I think the original idea was to have it be, like, a good minute- or two-minute-long shot, a really slow zoom on it so it fills the screen. I'm assuming it was cut for time, but that was the original idea, very strange and surreal.
Two last questions that we ask everybody. First, what is the most formative TV show of your life?
Oh my god. The most formative TV show of my life. You know what? Amusingly, it's The A Team, and the reason is, I, as a child, I think, first realized what story structure was, because it came on at 8 o'clock, and at 8:40, the A Team was always building something. So I started to realize, "Oh, these are all the same. No matter what's happening, they're all kind of the same," and I think it was my first understanding of writing, weirdly. So I think I would have to say The A Team.
That's a great answer. And what is your favourite show, leaving off ones you have actually worked on?
Probably Veep -- I think Veep is doing shit that nobody else is even getting close to. So good. There's nothing like those characters and the way that they do that show is amazing. They just put themselves in holes, like, "Well, I don't know how you're going to get out of this," and it's so fun. I can't wait to see her as President next season.
What did you think?