He replaces a familiar face — and tussles with Alyssa Milano

Finally, 16 years later, it’s 10 years later.

Wet Hot American Summer returns to Netflix next week with something long promised: a 10-year-reunion. At the end of 2001’s smart-stupid indie movie about summer camp counselors in 1981, we received a fleeting glimpse of the decade-later gathering. Two years ago, Wet Hot did get around to reassembling the gang… for a prequel series that depicted the first day of camp instead. So now the time is right for that proper reunion, with an eight-episode time warp to 1991 in Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.

[SPOILER ALERT!] The gang’s all here: Amy Poehler as haughty theater nerd Susie, Paul Rudd as cocksure douche Andy, Christopher Meloni as unstable chef Gene, Adam Scott as Susie’s secretly-gay boyfriend Ben — wait a second! That’s Bradley Cooper’s character! And that’s one of the first of many absurd jokes this season. Cooper wasn’t available to reprise his role, as he was directing and starring in A Star Is Born, but the producers had already devised a juicy story line for the character, so they did the only logical thing that they could — they cast their friend Adam Scott in the role, with the onscreen explanation that Ben had in fact undergone some minor cosmetic surgery.

Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

“I’m reminded of the sequel to Vacation, European Vacation, and there’s someone else who played Anthony Michael Hall’s character, and it’s just sort of ridiculous,” says co-creator/star Michael Showalter, who also points out the trickery in the prequel where Cooper’s limited availability led to a sequence where we saw Ben DJ-ing in a ski mask later in the season. “I like unapologetically just swapping out the actor. The idea that seemed so silly was that he had a nose job and is worried that people won’t recognize him, and the joke is that everybody recognizes him completely and says that you can barely notice it. Essentially what we’re saying is: If Bradley Cooper got a nose job, he would look like Adam Scott.” (Cooper wasn’t available for comment about the casting substitution, but co-creator/director/star David Wain said that the four-time Oscar-nominee thought it was funny, and that a future incarnation of Wet Hot could very well include him again.)

Scott seemed like the right replacement for the role, as he “fell into the sensibility of what we did effortlessly,” says Wain. “His deadpan just kills me.” A Wet Hot superfan, Scott was tickled to play along, especially after a scheduling conflict prevented him from joining the cast of First Day of Camp. “David just texted me and said, ‘Can you do Wet Hot?’” recalls Scott. “He gave me some rough dates and I just said, ‘Yeah, totally,’ and he said, ‘Do you want me to call you and tell you about the character?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t care’ — because I wanted to do it because I love Wet Hot so much, not that I don’t care. So then the next day he was like, ‘Okay, here it is,’ and he told me and I thought, ‘Well, that’s insane, but without question I will see what I can do. Sounds fun.’ I would’ve come on and just stood in the background.”

The swap, of course, also creates a value-added bonus of a Parks and Recreation reunion (and A.C.O.D. reunion, if we’re getting really specific) between Scott and Poehler at the beginning of these new episodes. “The character’s name is Ben [like in Parks], so we did have a moment where we see each other and she screams ‘Ben!’” recalls Scott. “And we were both like ‘Whoa, okay. Hold on.’”

Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Scott is joined in Ten Years Later by several other new additions, including Mark Feuerstein, Sarah Burns, Melanie Lynskey, and Alyssa Milano, with Milano entering his orbit for a story that rocks… the cradle. You see, Ben and McKinley (Michael Ian Black), now with child (!), hire a nanny, Renata (Alyssa Milano), to watch their baby, and she is very attached to the child — maybe too attached.

“McKinley is being cajoled by another character that, in a movie, typically, that person would be a psycho nanny, and so he starts to get into his head about it,” says Showalter. “There’s the question that we’re playing: Is she or is she not a psycho nanny?” Adds Wain: “The storyline takes a lot of twists and turns, and keeps twisting and turning all the way to the very end. There are some dark moments we enjoyed playing purely dark without any real joke to it, which we like to do.”

Scott, meanwhile, was able to a fulfill a lifelong dream in that plot. “The great thing was that I got to work with Alyssa Milano, which was super fun,” he reports. “Alyssa and I have this epic fight scene, and at one point she has me on the ground and she’s on top of me. In between takes, I was just lying on the ground and she was on top of me and we were just chatting — waiting for lighting or something — and I had to stop and just say, “You know, Alyssa, I have to tell you that if 11-year-old me could look into the future and see what’s happening now, I’m not sure I would have made it through the year. Like, this is AMAZING.”

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later streams on Netflix beginning Aug. 4.

Wet Hot American Summer
  • Movie
  • 97 minutes