Amy Poehler: Wet Hot American Summer prequel is 'the right amount of dirty and weird'
We are fast approaching the halfway mark of summer, but for some people, the season of sun won’t officially begin until July 31, when Netflix will release Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Created by David Wain and Michael Showalter, the eight-episode prequel to 2001’s big-screen cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer welcomes back all of the original adult cast members—yes, including Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Rudd—and introduces a bevy of new characters played by famous folks like Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Jason Schwartzman. You can learn all about the return to Camp Firewood in the latest issue of EW, but right here, you can check out a Q&A with Poehler, who spoke to EW during our February visit to the WHAS: FDOC set. (While the movie was shot at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the set was recreated at the Calamigos Ranch in Malibu for the prequel.) Read on to see what the Parks and Recreation alum had to say about revisiting her Wet Hot role of hard-edged thespian Susie, what to expect from Susie and Ben in the coming season, and her interest in shooting even more episodes down the country road.
It’s a little cold out there today. Did that remind you of the old days of shooting the movie?
We’ve been in this cold warehouse — and outside — and it reminded me exactly of exactly when we shot [the movie in Pennsylvania], which was rainy and cold and we were all in shorts. The only difference was that then we were staying where we were shooting so you could actually go back to your bunk. There are so many different things about shooting now and then. One is that we’re all 15 years older. The other is that there were no cell phones when we shot the movie… There was just one pay phone and no one was on a laptop.
When people weren’t on their cell phones and laptops, what has been the vibe on set?
It’s been really cool. Because the people that are shooting the series love the movie…. It does have that vibe, that feeling of, “Can we pull this off?”, which I think can be important in comedy. It’s so much better than it being this gigantic, luxurious, indulgent production. You can feel a scrappiness to it that was in the original film, which was good. And it’s just the right amount of dirty and weird…. It’s just been a lot of us laughing and talking about the past 15 years. It’s very strange that you get to punctuate your life in that way, circle back around and be like, “Look at these same people!” Just like the shooting of the film, it feels really fun, and also no one is taking it too seriously, which is important. I mean, we’re saying ridiculous things.
Everyone talks about it feeling like a reunion.
Very class-reunion-y. Everyone is feeling super happy to be there. Everyone is lot older and little bit more relaxed. And everyone is a little less hungover. Maybe. I can’t speak for everyone. [There’s] lot more sharing pictures of kids and dogs, a lot more of ‘Where are we going to dinner?’ whereas 15 years ago, it was a lot of smoking and sneaking around and going into town to buy booze. And it’s really nice. I’ve been lucky to work with David and Michael [Wain and Showalter, the show’s creators] in various ways through the years, but I think that it was nice to be reminded: The legacy of that movie is in many ways the cast that was assembled, so it was nice to assemble them again.
What was it like to slip back into this character for the first time?
It was weird. The entire experience of Wet Hot from beginning to end almost feels like a bonus track. The fact that we got to do it, the fact that it was made, the fact that it was good, the fact that people continue to like it, and now we’re doing this—t all feels like extra cool stuff. It was just really fun and silly to be back in the outfits… When I turned the corner to the set and saw the replica, I was overwhelmed. I was like, “Whoa.” It was really cool. Really cool.
Michael Showalter said it took him a couple takes of a scene to get back into Coop’s skin. How about you?
I don’t even know if I’m even in it, to be honest with you. I don’t think I gave the character of Susie much thought. [laughs] But when I was with Bradley today, it really came back. Today we were backstage, we had to dress up like raggedy Ann and Andy and do a dance routine and Bradley and I were just going over the steps. And it was like “Oh, yeah, I remember this — taking themselves really seriously and being really into the idea of American theater.” It’s really funny. Susie is a toughie. She just does not take s—. There is a funny line we were shooting today where [a character] just screws up and she was like, “We don’t make mistakes here. You’re out!’ [laughs] That was fun. So I don’t know if I’m in — the wig and the outfit help.
What did you and Bradley say when you first saw each other in costume today?
What’s been nice is I’ve seen him over the past couple months and been like, “Oh, I’ll see you at Wet Hot.” Honestly, I’m just really excited everyone has made it back. It’s so exciting and cool…. We were in the trailer and we were just laughing and looking at old pictures of ourselves and Bradley was like, “Dude, we’re hanging in there! Fifteen years later but we’re looking pretty good!” And I was like, “That’s true! Not bad. Things could be worse.” I’m wearing a wig, which I want a lot of people to know, because my hair is not as short or as blonde as it used to be. There’s a lot of men wearing wigs, but I’m also wearing a wig. Honestly if given the chance, I will always go with wig.
I thought the feathered hair looked great.
Even though this takes places in the ’80s, I feel like Susie is a little behind the times.
Did Bradley snap back into it too?
Yes, I have to say that Bradley seemed like he snapped right in. The man has excellent training. I saw his Broadway training at work. It was fun that we were making jokes like, “Here’s how you do it on Broadway,” and then I was like, “Oh. Bradley actually is on Broadway. [laughs] He does know.”
You were there for the cast live-read in 2012 at SF Sketchfest, which was the last time you were technically in the role. But what was it like to get a call from David saying that they were actually going to do more Wet Hot? Was it just, “Sure, why not? Sounds fun!”?
Totally. In between that time, David and Paul [Rudd] and I went and made a movie They Came Together. And during that time, David was like, “I think we’re gonna do something with Wet Hot,” and it was like, “Oh my god…” That idea of getting everybody together again — everybody was excited. I was certainly excited. And then when I heard it was for Netflix, I was like, “That’s perfect.” It was a perfect way to not only just logistically be able to get everybody, but also from the point of view of being able to parcel it out in a way — I don’t think another feature would have been the way to go. And I think everybody is really excited to watch these episodes in a row, like how people watch television now.
So, what new sides of Susie will we see?
We’re going to see that she’s a sexual person. Maybe in the movie, you were like, “What’s her deal?” And then in the show, you realize, “Ahh, she’s not getting laid.” And it’s bothering her. She’s like, “Why doesn’t my boyfriend like me?” Her boyfriend, played by Bradley, is just not into it…. And then enter Claude Dumet [a Broadway director played by John Slattery who comes to Camp Firewood to stage a staff musical]. She’s very impressed by his long list of credits.
If there is a season 2, would you do it?
Oh, for sure. David and Michael and Netflix do it the way I like to do it, which is just fun and fast.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp