Ben Schwartz Interview: ‘Space Force’
“Think about how much of politics is online right now through Twitter,” reflects Ben Schwartz about playing a media manager on the new Netflix comedy “Space Force.” He adds that managing social media “is a valuable asset for a company that wants to spin stories for good or for bad, and just try to get the word out about what ‘Space Force’ does to begin with.” Watch the full exclusive interview above.
On approaching this role the actor confesses they didn’t want him copying one of his most famous roles. He says, “One of the things we worked on in the beginning was making sure it wasn’t Jean Ralphio, who I played on ‘Parks and Recreation.’ We had to make sure the character is grounded and that comedy comes from character choices. My hair is insane right now but we made sure my hair was trim enough and I didn’t wear crazy cloths, but still he had a personality on his own.”
“Space Force” has been created by Greg Daniels and Steve Carell (both from ‘The Office). Schwartz explains that “it’s inspired by the idea of what opening a new military branch that revolves around space travel actually means.” At the center of the show Carell plays General Mark R. Naird who’s assigned to head up the Space Force and get boots on the moon. It also stars John Malkovich, who plays Dr. Adrian Mallory, the chief scientist who disagrees with many of the military objectives of the force.
Schwartz plays F. Tony Scarapiducci, who is the branch’s social media director. This role allows the series to parody the role of PR in military and scientific worlds. The actor explains that “the character doesn’t have a military or science background which is almost every single character in the show. He gets to be his own independent thing which is lovely. I bring a lot of energy into it because he is overly excited. He’s dealing with millennial aspects which General Naird could care less about, he didn’t even know how to work an iphone. In Tony’s world all these tiny things online mean the world to him. To nobody else they mean anything. The structure of playing that against people is very exciting.”
He reveals that one of his favorite scenes was “when me, Malcovich and Don Lake were interviewing potential people for space travel. The music of us playing together was so fun. I really enjoy when F. Tony has status in a scene. It’s really exciting to play because that’s where he wants to belong but he’s not quite there yet.”
It’s been a big year for Schwartz who won a Gold Derby award for Best Comedy Guest Actor of the Decade for playing Jean Ralphio on ‘Parks.’ Also, with his long-time comedy partner Thomas Middleditch he’s just dropped a long form comedy improv series “Middleditch and Schwartz” on Netflix. It will be eligible for the Emmys in the Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) category.
The seasoned improviser confesses that there is not a lot of improv on “Space Force” but at times there’s opportunities. “There’s one full piece of a scene we improvise. Tony makes a mistake and I go with Naird to talk about why I did what I did. On one of the takes Carell just went off. He’s cursing at me so loud. There’s so much intensity that you can’t understand what he’s saying. When I’m asked how that went I say ‘good, we worked it out,’ but it’s obvious I got killed outside. They ended up keeping that scene. That was a very fun improv piece.”