Wet Hot American Summer: Jason Schwartzman and Josh Charles talk joining the prequel
The wettest and hottest part of the summer will arrive this Friday: Wet Hot American Summer returns with an eight-episode prequel set on the first day of camp in that magical summer of ’81. Sure, Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix, July 31) boasts the return of all of the original adult cast members – Cooper! Poehler! Rudd! Banks! Meloni! Garofalo! So many others! – but also worthy of note is the list of new cast members, which includes Jason Schwartzman, Jon Hamm, Josh Charles, Kristen Wiig, Chris Pine, Lake Bell, and Jordan Peele. You can read all about the return of Wet Hot in the latest issue of EW, but below, we bring you some bonus quotes from our conversations with two of those new recruits, Schwartzman, who plays straight-laced boys head counselor Greg, and Charles, who plays a preppy jerk of a counselor named Blake at rival Camp Tigerclaw across the lake.
On being asked to join the Wet Hot prequel:
JOSH CHARLES: They knew I was a fan, because I’m a fan of them and I’ve worked with them on Stella, and I’ve worked with David [Wain] on Wainy Days, and Mike [Showalter] and I are pretty close, and I went to camp with Michael Black, so these guys have been in my world for quite some time. I’ve just known them in New York for so long – and I’m friends with a lot of people in the film – so they know what a huge fan I am, both of theirs and specifically of the film. I think it was clear that I’m always game to work with them and do something silly. I love doing comedy and it’s great to get the opportunity to do it just to remind people that as an actor you do different stuff. When Michael reached out to me, I don’t even think he finished his sentence, I was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m in. Let’s do it.’ We have to figure the dates out, and, it was a crazy time, my wife and I just had a baby, but I was like, ‘We’re going to do it. We’re going to make it work.’
JASON SCHWARTMAN: It’s like if a band made a record that was one of your favorite all-time records, and then 10 years later they said, “We’ve got some new songs that are kind of related to the ones we were doing then, and the whole band’s back together and we got some other players and how do you feel about bringing some gear down and playing with us?”
On the decision to do a prequel instead of a sequel, which was set up at the end of the movie
CHARLES: It sounded like not quite what one would expect, so it sounded great. And I think those guys are so smart. The scripts were really, really tight and funny, and had such a great flow to them and all these great characters. That’s a real feat to be able to bring back all the original people and then weave in all these new characters – there was a lot of flowing storylines – you’ve got [the Camp Tigerclaw] storyline that’s sometimes like the C-plot going through these episodes, and then all this other stuff intersecting, crossing – that takes a lot of work, just narratively. I was really impressed that they were able to do that and make it really funny.
SCHWARTZMAN: Everyone has aged in real life, but we’re doing something before that time. When I heard it was a prequel, there was a power outage for a second in my brain. And then everything restarted. It rebooted. I was like, “Whoa. That’s heavy.” What’s amazing is it totally all works. As random as certain things seem, it’s really not random at all, and it’s so well thought-out… Everything connects.
On this version of Wet Hot standing on its own:
SCHWARTZMAN: What was successful about the scripts I read – and what I was feeling and observing on the set – was there didn’t need to be the other movie for this to be interesting and fun. It’s its own thing. A greatest hits or anything like that is, in theory, resting on something else and saying, “Well, people who like this will like that,” and there’s a lack of effort to fully make things completely engaging, because you’re drafting off the other one in some way. This, to me, is not doing that at all. Partly because there are so many new characters. It’s not like it’s just getting the same people together and doing the further adventures of these characters. There are completely new characters and completely new story lines. And all the other characters, even if it wasn’t a prequel, if it was a sequel, I guarantee you their storylines would be completely new in a way. So it’s not a continuation. There are new things happening.
On what it was like for Schwartzman to go from Wet Hot fanatic to cast member:
SCHWARTZMAN: I used to buy it for people on DVD and give it to people as a gift. So when I was telling my cousin, he was saying, “I’m just imagining you on that set, and you’re just probably smiling from morning until night.’ He’s like, “It’s like a joke, it’s like a dream for you.’ And it really is… It was so surreal just to look around and then be in the scenes. There were definitely a couple times when I would miss a line because I’d be like, “I’m in a room, acting in a scene with all these people. What’s going on? This is crazy!”
On what to expect from Greg:
SCHWARTZMAN: He’s a boys’ head counselor; he would maybe like to be head counselor one day. He likes this kind of power. I don’t think he’s a dick or a snob, but I could see maybe he could come across that way, only because he doesn’t like to break the rules. He’s less likely to be invited out to a secret dinner or something with the other counselors. He’s a bit more of a fuss bucket. But he is a part of a major development and a major mystery, which I think that he doesn’t have time to relish in intellectually, but I think he loved it because he’s helping. And he wants to help. He’s a counselor’s counselor.
On what to expect from Blake:
CHARLES: He’s a character that’s meant to be a villainous rival to Andy [Paul Rudd] and his girlfriend is Katie [Marguerite Moreau]. He’s got his cronies. He has a little bit of a psychopath quality to him that he blows his cool pretty quickly. There’s some weaponry that I might have that might make people laugh… You see the differences between the camps, one that’s more grounded and these kids are doing arts, and there’s these really rich, WASPy kids, burning money and eating caviar.
On Blake’s super preppy outfit, which features a triple-popped collar:
CHARLES: That was when I knew I had made the right decision coming to play with these guys. I was having a costume fitting, and we were talking about doing a double-popped. Showalter is sitting in the trailer, and he’s like, “I think we should go triple.” They had to sew the collars into the shirt, because otherwise it just would’ve been too thick. But those kind of things helped to unlock the silliness of playing the guy.
On the future of Wet Hot franchise:
CHARLES: They introduce so many new characters, and new possibilities to the story, the story could just keep going. It’s a lot of fun.
SCHWARTZMAN: They could just keep making tons of these. The characters are silly or goofy at times, but you care about all of them. And I could watch any of these characters do anything. I could watch 100 Wet Hot American Summers. But no more. That’s it.