'Arrested Development': David Cross and Portia de Rossi talk new season, Tobias and Lindsay
”Arrested Development is another in a long line of shows that came before it that were slightly ahead of their time. Maybe six, seven years from now, it will get its second coming.” –David Cross to EW in November 2005
Crosstradamus proved to be pretty darned prophetic. That ambitious, weird little family comedy may have been too whipsmart for its own good in the mid-aughts, but more people discovered it in its afterlife, and on May 26 (3 a.m. ET/midnight PT), Netflix will officially raise the show from the dead by releasing 15 new episodes. “I’m not a spiritual or religious person, but it is a blessing. It is a rare opportunity we’ve been given,” says current-day Cross, who is reprising his role as misguided thespian-in-training Dr. Tobias Fünke, “husband” of the self-serving socialite Lindsay Bluth Fünke (Portia de Rossi). Echoes de Rossi: “To take all that time off and to go back to something that was really special and unique to begin with, and for it still to be special and unique now is incredibly cool…. I just never thought I would get to hang with those people again and to say those amazing, funny lines again.” After reading our story about the show’s much-anticipated return here, check out these bonus quotes from Cross and de Rossi to avoid numbness of the extremities, short-term memory loss, decreased libido and/or complete shutdown of the pituitary gland.
On Arrested’s premature cancellation in 2006
CROSS: It took the industry a couple of years to catch up to the change in the way that people viewed and received their television entertainment. I truly believe that if everything was shifted up a year and that show ended one year later, it could’ve easily come back. A lot of people already knew the sea change that was coming and it was never going to go back to simply Nielsen box as a way to discern how many people are watching or what that means. The fact that the DVDs made a hundred million dollars… I think if we were one year later, we could’ve been on the air for six, seven years. But we had some unfortunate luck with that.
On making new episodes under the weight of the show’s legacy
DE ROSSI: Never for a second did I think “Ugh, maybe we should just leave it the way it was because everybody loved it and we shouldn’t mess with it.” Mitch [Hurwitz, the show’s creator] could resurrect those characters for the next 10 years and it would all work. I was never precious about leaving the series and our legacy the way it was because, you know, it’s the Bluth family. I just feel like we could always check in with them and it would always be great.
On slipping back into character
CROSS: I think the first thing we shot was me in an airplane bathroom, and that might have been a little like, “Oh, I better watch some episodes and remember this and that.” There wasn’t a whole lot I did, but one of the things that I would do for Tobias is just take the contractions out of his speech. I get the script and I would just take all the can’ts and turn them into cannots. Isn’t become is not and won’t is will not. But outside of that, it was boom, right back into it.
On shooting the intricate, interwoven episodes, with script changes and pages coming in at the last-minute
CROSS: It was shot like a movie that you were never given access to the script for…. It’s very Yoda-like. You just trust that what you’re not able to see quite yet [Mitch] has already got and it makes sense and you just have to go with it.
DE ROSSI: Look, I had a meltdown, absolutely. (laughs) I think all of us as actors had a moment where things came kind of unglued for a second. At one point I remember I had all the episodes on the floor of my trailer, and they were all open to pages and I kind of went Beautiful Mind crazy trying to map everything out. I had arrows and diagrams and it was so crazy. And then I thought, “Oh, I just have to let go completely and show up to set and be present.” And all I need to do is to try something different…. Going to set and having an outline, an idea of what you’re doing, and then just working with the material, working with Mitch and the other actors, became so collaborative, so freeing.
On the new season
DE ROSSI: The Bluths were hit pretty hard in 2006. And so we all went our separate ways and tried to recreate our lives in a way. That’s where the new episodes start, with us going our separate ways for whatever reason and with whatever little money that we have and trying to make lives for ourselves.
On what viewers can expect from their characters in the new season
CROSS: It’s no secret that Tobias and Lindsay had a difficult relationship. Very tenuous. On again, off again. They never seem to be on the same page, mostly because it’s a relationship whose foundation is based on lies. Tobias and Lindsay separate for a little bit, and you will see Lindsay’s journey and Tobias’ journey and, of course, they interconnect. I, like Lindsay, went somewhere to find myself. And I did find myself and then I also meet somebody and have a relationship with them.
DE ROSSI: I don’t know whether consciously or subconsciously, she has stumbled into an age where she is trying to find out who she really is and what feels right to her. She’s a little bit less accepting of the way things are and she’s seeking something more in her life. And so that takes her certain places, and introduces her to certain people, and she is trying to be more honest with herself about who she really is. My two episodes start out with the vapid, self-serving Lindsay that we know and love, and then we end up pretty much where we started, but at least we tried.
On the desire to make a movie or another season of the show in the future
CROSS: I’d do whatever it was…. I would work with all these people forever and ever if I could.
DE ROSSI: To prepare for [this season] I had to go back and watch all the episodes, too. It reminded me how uniquely funny and just how unique that show really was, and there will never be another show like it. So, it’s up to us to make more of them because they were really brilliant. And these [new] episodes are really, really brilliant. They’re just hilarious funny. And it was so easy for us to just fall right back in so I can’t see us having trouble in the future if we get called to do a movie or even more episodes. I’d be totally up for that.
On how to consume the episodes, which are being released at the same time
CROSS: I’d have everything laid out. I’d have my wine and peanut butter and pretzels and put my phone on quiet, and then I’d probably look at my wife and go “Ready? Okay.” And then take a breath, hit play and then there would probably be a little bit of squeal — I couldn’t help myself but it just came out a little bit when the ukulele starts playing — and then I’d just sit there with a grin and watch it. I will tell you this: Don’t freak out when you’re watching it, don’t overthink it because I guarantee you, you will watch it again. Everyone will watch this show more than once. You’re going to pick up new stuff, I’m sure there will be some chat rooms where people will have figured out certain things that those guys laid in there, so just enjoy it. Enjoy it once and you can study it later. The test won’t be for a month.
‘Arrested Development’: The writers’ room was like a ‘psycho killer’s apartment’