It was one of the greatest camp stories ever told. And now a new chapter is being written. On July 31, Netflix will release Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, an eight-episode prequel to 2001’s cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer from co-creators David Wain and Michael Showalter. (Wain directed the original film and co-wrote it with Showalter, who also starred in it.) So how did this return to Camp Firewood, which welcomes back all the original cast members— including Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, and Paul Rudd—come about? Read on.
From film to series: “We always knew it would be great to get together again with this amazing cast of people, and as we were just getting serious about putting the story together, Netflix was emerging with a medium that could be watched all at once,” says Wain. Adds Showalter: “It was a really exciting way of rethinking how we might do a follow-up. We didn’t want to fall into that trap that the sequel doesn’t make good on the original. This felt like it was totally its own thing.”
The premise: The film took place on the last day of a summer camp in 1981, but the TV show time-trips you back to the first day. “We’re taking this silly story that we told 15 years ago and building unexpected origins to everything that you saw on the last day,” Wain says. First Day of Camp will also reveal how characters wound up at Camp Firewood. “We show you how Bradley Cooper and Michael Ian Black’s characters meet,” says Showalter, adding, “We do explain why there is a talking can of vegetables.” But, notes Wain, “it’s specifically designed so that you can fully enjoy this without ever having seen the original movie.”
The new characters: While it was a coup to get all the main players from the film back (“We had gotten a thumbs-up from everyone before talking to Netflix. It was important that everyone be a part of it,” says Showalter), the series will introduce plenty of new faces. “Josh Charles, Kristen Wiig, and Rich Sommer play the preppy rival camp counselors at Camp Tigerclaw,” says Showalter. And his character, Coop, starts the summer with a different lady love. “Lake Bell plays Donna—the girlfriend of Coop—who just got back from Israel,” says Wain. “I play an Israeli soccer counselor who poses a threat to their relationship.”
For more on the most anticipated shows of the summer, pick up the June 12 issue of EW.