The voice of your favorite rat chef is now the voice of your favorite imaginary blue horse. Well, probably your favorite imaginary blue horse.
Syfy announced the casting of Patton Oswalt in the title role in the network’s upcoming adaptation of the graphic novel Happy!, which stars Christopher Meloni as a grumpy and corrupt ex-cop who teams up with a “relentlessly positive, imaginary, blue winged horse named Happy” in order to find an abducted girl. Oswalt replaces previously announced cast member Bobby Moynihan, who scored a main role on CBS’s fall series Me, Myself & I.
Oswalt’s announcement was made during the Happy! panel at Comic-Con by Bryan Taylor, one of the show’s executive producers, along with Grant Morrison (who penned the popular four-issue graphic novel series with Darick Robertson) and Patrick MacManus (who will serve as showrunner).
Moderated by EW’s own Tim Leong, the panel kicked off with a first-look trailer at the insane show, which is probably best described as a gory Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-adjacent buddy cop fantasy that finds “the most cynical man on Earth teamed up with the most unlikely, optimistic creature available,” said Morrison. Meloni plays rock-bottom cop-turned-hitman Nick Sax, who suffers a heart attack during a job and wakes up with the ability to see Happy, the imaginary friend of an abducted young girl, who appears to Nick in a bid to help him rescue her. “He’s like Simon Cowell on drugs,” said Morrison.
“Before I did the Law & Order gig, I was on a show called Oz, and, you know, he wasn’t an upright citizen,” said Meloni of the heinous but good-humored character. “What I find extremely attractive about Nick Sax is that when you find someone at the bottom of the barrel, they’ve got nowhere to go but up, but the climb up is, you know, you’re climbing up. You’re trying to get out of this dark emotional hole. I just find that journey towards redemption, towards salvation, towards change…I love those journeys. As an actor, it’s always fun to explore because there are a million things that can trip you up. There are a million roads to take.”
Considering that his most frequent conversations are with an imaginary horse, Meloni says he actually relishes the opportunity to be his own scene partner during principal photography: “It’s fantastic. It’s awesome. They’re never late to set. They always know their lines. It’s really kind of nice because you kind of get to control the scene. So yeah, I must say, it’s a luxury.”
Further footage of Meloni’s violent escape from the hospital seemed to confirm that there’s no lack of blood or violence in the television adaptation. “There’s a new kind of show that you’re going to start seeing on Syfy that’s a little different than what you might be used to,” said Taylor. Morrison went a click further and insisted that the show shouldn’t necessarily be judged solely on its surface layer of bleakness; in fact, it could be far more uplifting than viewers might expect. “This isn’t nihilistic darkness,” said the author. “This is funny darkness. This is the darkness of cynicism, the darkness of satire, the darkness of sarcasm, rather than that bleak miserable rain falling all the time. We would never say it’s a dark show, but Happy always has to be contrasted with a really messed-up world to get that pop.”
And Morrison, who is pure geek royalty because of the popularity of his graphic novel work, is also clearly excited about his beloved series becoming a vividly graphic crime-comedy thriller, even if it’s not the most well-known of his oeuvre. As Crank director Taylor recalled, “One day, when Grant was on set, we walk onto this stage, and there’s a guy in a squeaky, fetish-red kind of prawn, poisonous insect costume, getting a blowjob from a hooker in angel wings, and I said, ‘Grant, did you ever dream in 50 years in this business, of all of your magical and wondrous creations, that this would be the one brought to life?’ It was a proud moment, I think—I saw a little tear in his eye.”
Morrison perhaps dreamed slightly differently. “I thought I was going to grow up to be Shakespeare,” he laughed. “It was funny because most of the stuff I do is mostly science-fiction oriented, and Happy was my attempt to do a crime story. But I couldn’t write a traditional crime story… and it was weird that this was the one that got picked up. But I think it’s also a really good entry for me [into television] because it has touchstones everyone recognizes. I think it was an easy sell. Once people got past the horse, they saw a show that had things that they could recognize.”