Adam Scott interview: ‘Party Down’

When Adam Scott was cast as struggling actor and cater waiter Henry Pollard on the Starz comedy “Party Down” back in 2008, there was a bit of art imitating life. Up to that point in his career, Scott had appeared on countless shows (including “Veronica Mars,” “ER,” “Six Feet Under” and “Party of Five”) and in supporting roles in major films (“The Aviator,” “Step Brothers,” “Knocked Up”), but hadn’t yet broken through to mainstream success and name recognition.

“I connected very directly with the character in a lot of ways,” Scott tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview of getting cast on the series. “I think for everyone in the cast, we all had this connection to the predicament all these characters were in – it’s part of what bonded us to the show and to each other so intensely back then: This show about this specific thing made us feel better about that specific thing. And it was really good and super funny, and so fun. We just never wanted to stop making it.”

Unfortunately, they did. At least for 13 years. But in this era of revivals and reboots – and after so much conjecture about “Party Down” getting its all-star band back together – the stars aligned and “Party Down” returned to Starz this year for its long-awaited third season. Picking up in real-time, 13 years after audiences last saw the characters, the new episodes once again focused on the Party Down catering company, where creatives on the fringe of Hollywood struggle to find their big break.

“It’s all credit to [co-creator, executive producer, and writer] John Enbom in making sure the show still felt like the same scrappy little show,” Scott says of the approach to the new episodes, which don’t miss a single creative beat from the show’s previous seasons. “I think John’s idea was to make it feel as if ‘Party Down’ has been going this entire time. We just haven’t seen the intervening seasons and we’re picking up on ‘Party Down’ Season 13. We just skipped all those other seasons. So it just kind of felt like we were just putting the needle back down on the record.”

While so much stays the same in the universe of “Party Down,” including the iconic pink bowties that are part of the Party Down wardrobe, much has changed for the characters in the last decade. Henry, the actor, married and divorced and is now teaching students at a local high school; his former love interest, Casey (Lizzy Caplan) hit it big as a performer on “Saturday Night Live”; and Party Down team leader Ron Donald (Ken Marino) is, well, still trying to earn respect as a manager – he’s just a decade older. (“Ken, I think, is the funniest person in the world,” Scott says of Marino. “And Ron is my favorite character.”)

“You always feel like a kid when you’re around your parents as an actor – no matter what success you may find, you’re always going to feel like that out-of-work actor who can’t get arrested,” Scott, whose career exploded in the last decade – including earning two Emmy nominations for the Apple TV+ drama “Severance” – says of returning to play Henry. “That feeling that I kind of equate with Henry is easy to find. But the cool thing is that it’s been 13 years for the character too, and has been around for a bit – having some blood under the bridge – he’s changed a bit and has a macro view of his life. He has moved on from a lot of the things that were causing him so much angst and pain back then. Some of those wounds get reopened over the season, and the character is the same guy, but there’s a difference to him. He’s settled. And he’s kind of put a couple of fires out when we find them. So it was fun to find the original pathos of the character, but then kind of find a new color.”

Discussion about a “Party Down” reboot or return has been ongoing almost since the show was first canceled in 2010. Back in 2012, there were reports that the original cast – which also included Martin Starr, Megan Mullally, Jane Lynch and Ryan Hansen – would reunite for a movie. When that didn’t happen, it seemed like the show would remain a cult favorite gone too soon. But Scott has previously credited a cast reunion at the 2019 Vulture Festival for reigniting the possibility of a revival. By January 2021, Scott, Enbom, and fellow executive producers Rob Thomas, Paul Rudd and Dan Etheridge were doing weekly Zoom meetings about the new episodes. Not that it was even a guarantee the show would actually happen despite the scripts, Scott says.

“We had some COVID scares, and the whole thing almost got scrapped. Like if one more person got COVID, we just were out of time, and we would have had to just walk away,” he explains of those early days of production. So it was a “huge relief,” he says, once it was apparent the show would continue.

“But when I stepped onto the set, I realized I hadn’t really considered how this was going to feel because we’ve been so busy getting it ready,” Scott adds. “So when I actually walked on the set, and there was a scene with Ken Marino in front of the Party Down van, I was a little overwhelmed. It was very moving, but it was also just strange. It felt like zero time had passed. But all of our lives were so different back then. I had two babies, and now I have two teenagers. It’s just a completely different world.”

Due to scheduling issues, Caplan was not able to participate in the Season 3 episodes. But her character, Casey, makes a surprise appearance in the final moments of the season finale – and the indication is that her relationship with Henry will continue in whatever future episodes might exist.

“We certainly like left it hanging,” Scott says of the Season 3 conclusion. Starz hasn’t yet announced that “Party Down” would return for Season 4, but Scott is optimistic.

“I hope we can find another six weeks where everyone’s available because that ended up being the feat of engineering,” he says. “But I think we can do it. I would love to and I know everybody wants to do it too.”

“Party Down” is streaming on Starz.

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UPLOADED May 9, 2023 8:30 am