Four weeks into Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, and Kevin is about to face his greatest challenge yet when he’s tasked with helping Lucille, an altogether unlikable human. (Hey, the universe never said this whole “saving the world” thing would be easy.) In doing so, Kevin is also going to have to face that fact that he hasn’t always been a great person, either. The result is an episode that is equal parts funny and moving, and ultimately, the show’s strongest hour thus far.
EW got showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters on the phone to discuss the hour and what’s still to come. (Plus, watch an exclusive sneak peek of the hour above!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It feels like this week’s episode is where the show really finds its groove.
MICHELE FAZEKAS: When you’re on any new show, much of what you’re doing is trying to figure out what the show is episodically and also trying to teach other people — and the studio and network — what the show is. So part of what you’re doing is teaching yourself what the show is and teaching others what the show is. The funny thing about this particular episode is, it was a struggle at the script stage because there were certain people who didn’t think it was a good idea to have an unlikable person that [Kevin] had to help. They didn’t think that was going to be funny and they didn’t think that was going to be emotional.
TARA BUTTERS: We knew it could be funny. What I love about this episode so much is we’re talking about being judgmental. Everybody thinks, “I wouldn’t do that” or “I wouldn’t help this person.” But if you’re truly saying that everybody deserves help, then everybody deserves help. But we [relay that] in a non-preachy way. We do it with humor and we do it with [Kevin] seeing his past mistakes and realizing everybody deserves help.
FAZEKAS: We clicked into what the show can be in this episode.
BUTTERS: It also really highlights Jason’s [Ritter] physical comedy, which I love.
FAZEKAS: And the fact that he can do the running man.
BUTTERS: Moving into episodes 5, 6, 7, and on, it really is a good example of the tone of the show, in that we can go from true physical comedy into a very emotional scene and have a very real conversation. I think that really does capture what the show is, even in some ways better than the pilot, because in the pilot we were dealing with a more somber subject matter.
Are we going to see more of Yvette’s story moving forward?
FAZEKAS: Definitely. She has her own fully developed life. She’s just, at this point, not telling Kevin everything. As we get further into the episodes, we’re really going to get into it in ways that I hope are really fun and unexpected.
BUTTERS: The fact is, we’ll meet more of her friends, we’ll see more of why she’s really here…
FAZEKAS: And find out what she’s not saying.
BUTTERS: All that really comes out starting with episode 6, we start to get a lot more of that and we really delve into Yvette, and it affects her relationship with Kevin. There’s a lot of really fun stuff coming up that will lead us to our Christmas break episode.
We haven’t talked since the pilot. Now that you’re getting into the season, have there been any major changes to the story, any deviations from your original plan?
BUTTERS: Before we started writing the season, our writers’ room sat down and broke out in broad strokes what the first nine episodes were. Those tentpoles I think we’ve pretty much hit. We’ve added things and we always go wherever the best story is, so there’s definitely surprises that have come along the way. Jason makes me smile so much…
FAZEKAS: I want people to watch the show just because he is so good.
BUTTERS: He is so good.
FAZEKAS: The physical comedy is something we lean into more because he’s so good at it.
BUTTERS: He balks at nothing.
FAZEKAS: He will do anything if it’s funny. He’s got so many weapons in his arsenal.
BUTTERS: And he can cry. We’ve had studio execs say, “I had to rewind and watch that three times because I was laughing too hard,” and then in the same episode, he and JoAnna [Garcia Swisher] make you cry. That’s the stuff where I enjoy it so much on a personal level that anywhere the writers suggest we go and it makes sense, we’re all on board. I can’t stress how much fun we have.
FAZEKAS: One of the things that comes up in episode 4 is Yvette starting to fall asleep. That was actually a new wrinkle to her character that came up in the writers’ room that doesn’t really change anything so much as enhance where we’re going with her character.
BUTTERS: In episode 5, there’s this great scene between Kevin and Reese and it really takes a page out of Michele’s childhood with her uncle, and it’s just that idea of the silly things we will do to get someone to open up or to talk to you.
FAZEKAS: He’s trying to get Reese to talk and they’re sitting outside roasting marshmallows and he’s like, “If you don’t tell me, I’m going to shove this entire marshmallow into my nose,” and he starts to do it.
BUTTERS: It’s so funny, and, as goofy as it is, it’s really grounded because it’s the way that you talk to your teenagers and try to get them [to open up]. It’s so real.
Kevin (Probably) Saves the World airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.