The creators and cast of FXX’s The League have a long tradition of inviting their comedy pals, like Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Will Forte, and Seth Rogen to guest on the fantasy football-themed sitcom. But how did Heroes and Gotham star Milo Ventimiglia wind up on next week’s episode, “The Block”? And what roles are he and fellow guest star Nicky Whelan playing on the show, which is currently in its final season?
As it turns out, the pair portray characters in a Blade Runner-meets-The X-Files show-within-the-show called The Block, which Mark Duplass’s Pete attempts to binge-watch before its own finale.
“Creating the fictional sci-fi show The Block was some of the most fun I had writing on The League because it was so incredibly different than anything we’d done on the show before,” League cast member Paul Scheer, who penned the episode, explained in an email.
“Jeff [Schaffer, League co-creator], Jackie [Schaffer, League co-creator], and I were really adamant that it should feel real and not be a one-joke gag. So we really built out the world, shot a ton of scenes, and even had a two-page addendum in the script that broke down the show in intense detail, including terms that super-fans would use when discussing it, like ‘Synt’ which was essentially our ‘Frak.’
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“Casting was really challenging. Normally on the show we just choose our favorite comedic actors who we know can crush it. But, for this, we wanted these actors to be believable in the roles and also get the joke, which is harder than it seems. But we were lucky because literally the first two people that came to mind were Milo and Nicky. I’ve been a huge fan of Milo since Heroes and more recently Gotham. We had just done a short film together and we thought he’d be the perfect fit for this recovering alcoholic cop trying to find his family. Luckily, he was a huge League fan so it was a perfect match. Nicky Whelan is someone that I just think is so funny so I was really excited to get her to play Milo’s robotic counterpart — in the show she’s like Spock-meets-Scully. Which I knew she could handle because we worked together on NTSF:SD:SUV when I cast her as a Time Angel [a time-traveling Charlie’s Angel], and she was so good. She knows how to walk the line of playing into the drama but for comedy. She also was a fan of the show so it was an easy ask.
“They really got into their roles, they were improvising new dialogue that sounded better than a lot of hour-long dramas on the air. So, I guess what I’m saying is John Landgraf [head of FX], here is your backdoor League [spin-off] pilot, an hour-long show about a futuristic world taken over by robots. Who would have thought it.”
“The Block” airs Nov. 11 at 10 p.m. ET on FXX. See exclusive first looks at Ventimiglia and Whelan in the episode, above, and another of Ventimiglia, below.
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