From The O.C. to Saturday Night Live: How Lonely Island's 'Dear Sister' came about
People probably remember Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” for one of two things: Either because the track featured prominently in the season 2 finale The O.C., which saw Mischa Barton’s Marissa Cooper shoot her boyfriend Ryan’s older brother, Trey — or because the Lonely Island used the song during an O.C.-inspired Saturday Night Live sketch by the name of “Dear Sister.”
The digital short, which premiered on April 14, 2007 (two years after The O.C. season 2finale), shows Bill Hader’s character, Keith, get shot by his friend Dave (Andy Samberg), kicking off a chain reaction that sees Keith shoot Dave back, Dave shoot their mutual friend Eric (episode host Shia LaBeouf), all three men shoot Keith’s sister (Kristen Wiig), and both police officers who arrive on the scene shoot each other. And with each resounding gunshot, the Imogen Heap song cues anew. (Watch the short above.)
With 10 years having passed since SNL served its own homage to that now-iconic teen show moment — and the sketch continuing to inspire more parodies — EW caught up with Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer to discuss how the sketch, which O.C. creator Josh Schwartz describes as the “ultimate tribute,” came about.
Mmm… Whatcha say we parody this?
SAMBERG: When “Hide and Seek” aired on The O.C., we all became somewhat obsessed with that song. I remember listening to it on headphones while we were shooting with Jimmy Fallon on the MTV Movie Awards when we were writers before we got SNL. I remember being on a stage at Universal where he was shooting the pre-tapes and Jorma had it on his headphones, and we kept being like, “God, that song is so cool.”
We couldn’t let go of the O.C. thing and that song, because Akiva, Jorma, and I were obsessed with The O.C. [The sketch] was 100 percent because of that the season 2 finale. It’s a classic moment, and we love doing digital shorts about movie and TV tropes. The “Gunshot That Happens Off-Camera, and Then Everything Cranks Into Slo-mo and Someone Realizes They Have Blood on Their Hands When They Look Up” is a move done a bunch of times, and we always really loved it.
We actually started shooting a version of that short before we got hired at SNL. But we never finished it. We got hired pretty soon after that. And one week when we were particularly desperate, I think I said, “Why don’t we try that O.C. thing again?”
TACCONE: We’d only gotten three or four gunshots in our version. Right?
SAMBERG: Yeah. Up to where Shia was in the SNL one.
TACCONE: It was originally me on the couch and Andy entering and shooting me.
‘We have a weird idea. Just show up.’
SCHAFFER: I don’t think we showed [that O.C. scene] to anybody [on the cast]. We just said, “Trust us. We have a weird idea. Just show up.” When Fred [Armisen] and Jason [Sudeikis] showed up in their cop uniforms, they literally had not even been told what they were doing. We just told them, “You guys are cops. Show up at this place.”
SAMBERG: Bill [Hader] loved it. For a lot of the early stuff, we would be working with Bill since we have a very similar sensibility to him. He’s a super cinephile as people now know. But he understood and loved it immediately as I recall… But we didn’t really have to explain that we were parodying The O.C. because the song was the only thing that made it 100 percent from the show. Everyone else kind of got the reference from other stuff too.
SCHAFFER: We knew that most people wouldn’t know the O.C. reference so we weren’t like, “This is only for O.C. fans.” We figured it was funny on its own to some degree. But we also knew it was just kind of a strange art piece cause it doesn’t really have a necessarily beginning, middle, and end in a traditional sense. It is kind of surreal and just taking apart a trope as opposed to telling a story in any normal way that someone would think of. It’s not a traditional sketch.
‘We’re gonna go artsy today…’
SCHAFFER: There wasn’t even any preproduction involved. The fake gun isn’t even from SNL props. It’s one that we personally owned. I forgot where I bought that plastic gun, but it was something we’ve had for years.
TACCONE: [The shoot] was pretty last minute overall because we really hadn’t come up with the ending of the sketch until we were in the room together actually shooting it, right?
SAMBERG: That’s so crazy. I forgot that.
TACCONE: The fear of not having an ending inspired us.
SAMBERG: How much of that ending did we come up with at that moment?
TACCONE: We had the cops come in, obviously, because we had the costumes and all that stuff. Then we just came up with the cacophony of sound thing on set… Did we have an alternate ending?
SCHAFFER: I think that was it. During the editing, I kept layering music and going, “Ooh We’re gonna go artsy today… This is like an independent film.”
SAMBERG: When we were editing there was a moment where we discussed whether it should go on for three times as long, where the cacophony of sound just continued and we made the audience sit there for a minute and a half while it played out.
TACCONE: We did shoot till pretty late. Right? Not as bad as some of our other shorts.
SCHAFFER: I remember [Jason] Sudeikis in his police uniform asleep on one of the beds in the hotel suite. I think we shot until four.
SAMBERG: That was one of the first times we went really deep.
‘Shout out to Shia!’
SCHAFFER: I don’t remember this but did we show Shia our original half-finished one? Or did we keep that one a secret?
TACCONE: I think we didn’t even have that available to show him. Was that on another computer in L.A.?
SAMBERG: I don’t think we did. I do remember that we tried to get him out of there before we shot the rest of it because he was hosting… But I feel like Shia was just like, “Cool!” He was really, really chill when he hosted.
SCHAFFER: He was just kind of up for anything.
SAMBERG: I remember when we started editing, we were all really impressed with how realistically Shia let his head hit the ground.
SCHAFFER: That’s a real actor. He kept his eye for the shot of his eyeball. We were like, “This is a real actor.” I remember thinking that not ironically.
SAMBERG: Shout out to Shia.
SCHAFFER: Yeah. We’re big Shia heads.
The Force It Awakened
SCHAFFER: I remember feeling pleasantly surprised that people got it. I’m not even sure what there is to get. But the audience seemed to enjoy it and cheer when it was over. That was a relief and somewhat of a surprise to me.
TACCONE: And that song holds up. Bon Iver did his own version of it on that new album.
SCHAFFER: We’ve never heard from Imogen Heap [about the sketch] but we’re sure it’s helped sell more singles.
SAMBERG: We have heard from their camp that we can’t have the sketch on Hulu.
SCHAFFER: That was just not for any real reason except that we didn’t pay for the rights. That was back before the Internet mattered. So when NBC would clear rights to a song they would clear it for broadcast and for reruns, but not for the Internet.
SAMBERG: It actually wasn’t originally called “Dear Sister.” The internet named it.
SCHAFFER: That is true. It was before things got put on the internet right away on SNL. We didn’t get to name it ourselves. We called it “The Shooting” all week and it was called that in the SNL rundown. But then because it wasn’t posted by anybody at NBC, it was only posted by fans and one of them just called it “Dear Sister” and that stuck to the point where we started calling it that as well.
TACCONE: There are a lot of copycat videos, which is cool. Homage videos on YouTube. People do it with other movies and they would make their own and stuff, which is awesome.
SAMBERG: It’s pretty great. There’s Platoon, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. All these moments where somebody gets killed, where you don’t see a gun.
SCHAFFER: Did somebody do it with Kylo Ren killing Han Solo?
SAMBERG: Oh my god. That’s a perfect one. Also, spoiler alert!
SCHAFFER: [Looking up the video] That’s not a real YouTube view count on the sketch at all. Look at the date I put that up compared to when it came out. That view count would be much, much higher had that been posted at the time. This was me a few years ago realizing that, “Oh, it’s nowhere online.” So I just went and grabbed it and threw it on our YouTube channel just to have it up somewhere. So that 14 million is what it got this far after it’s popularity. But I guess that is a testament that people are still looking it up if it got that many since the last three years.