David Cross talks 'Todd Margaret'
January 10th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

David Cross talks 'Todd Margaret'

The best show you're not watching is back!

The second season of "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" debuted Friday night on IFC, picking up right where the first season left off.

Created, produced, written by and starring David Cross ("Arrested Development," "Mr. Show") and Will Arnett, "Todd Margaret" focuses on Cross's Portland, Oregon office temp Todd. He's recruited by his boss Brent Wilts (Arnett) to head the London sales division of Thunder Muscle - an exciting new energy drink (Like drinking ten lightnings!) that just happens to be toxic.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6NgB7Vy_9c%5D

In over his head because he knows nothing about sales, or the UK (despite his constant insistence that he spent his summers in Leeds), Todd is responsible for selling Thunder Muscle (It will give you the strength of 20 ponies!) to the people of England.

Brent mistakenly believes the British are crazy about energy drinks, telling Todd: "Ya know what they go [expletive] [expletive] for over there? Energy drinks. They can't get enough of it. It's like [expletive] crack to these people."

On the season 1 DVD extras, writer Sean Pye says it was important to Cross that they treat the audience like comedy fans – intelligent people who need not be pandered to.

For example, in one scene, Todd joins a tour group of hearing impaired visitors and pretends to speak sign language and says something very offensive. Cross chose not to subtitle the exchange, figuring that not only was it funny as is, but that if people really wanted to know what was said, they’d look it up.

We talked to David Cross about what to expect in "Todd Margaret's" second season, working with his former "Arrested Development" co-star Will Arnett, and what he was really drinking when he downed those "Thunder Muscle" drinks.

CNN: How did "Todd Margaret" come about? What inspired you to set the series in London?

David Cross: "Todd Margaret" exists because I was approached by a British production company about creating a show for me to act in, co-producing it with Brits, having an English co-writer, and doing a show in the UK for the UK that could then be sold to the States. That's how it started. I was in London doing a stand-up run when I was approached. It came to the United States later. So I actually shot the pilot, which aired in the UK on Channel 4, before IFC even saw it.

CNN: Thunder Muscle (Have the strength of Zeus!) doesn't really exist, so what were you really drinking when you downed all those cans in the pilot?

DC: We did not repeat this mistake in season 2, but in the pilot - which we had to re-shoot - we had to replace the Dave character. When we were shooting that episode, we only had a certain amount of Thunder Muscle wrapping that the production folks had made for the cans. Because energy drink cans are that standard, skinny size, we couldn't just use something like orange juice.

So I was really cracking those cans open and I literally chugged about six of them for that first take and it was awful. It gave me a terrible headache, tasted nasty, and it really did make me jittery and kind of crazy and it had already been a long day of me yelling and screaming at myself. That was a real energy drink I was pounding and it was just awful. I literally had to have them go get some beers for me (Carlsberg) to down just to even myself out. I'm not even joking. I wish I was kidding. It was awful.

CNN: What's in store for season 2?

DC: It's, in a sense, more of the same. The story is very linear and everything takes place the next day. There is an end, this series wraps everything up. Because of the nature of the show, I would urge viewers to watch season 1 before season 2. It will not make any sense, they won't enjoy it. Everything is answered. All the mystery things are wrapped up. You get an explanation for everything. It was always ending here. Before I wrote the pilot I knew how it was going to end. It was never pitched as open-ended. It's a story. We'll tell the story and that'll be that. Which I think makes it unique for a TV show.

CNN: The scene from season 2 that seems to be getting so much attention is the Jon Hamm robot scene. Can we expect a lot of him?
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDDDJ4q2YYg%5D

DC: Of course! That's the scene IFC wanted you to see so that it would get all the attention! Because Jon Hamm's in it! I believe he's in four [out of the six] episodes.

CNN: Do you prefer the six-episode, British-style format?

DC: Absolutely. This is serialized and tells a story - beginning, middle and end - that I always knew what the ending was. We wrote everything before we started shooting. It's the best way for a story like this to work, especially because of all the logic problems and the fact that every episode takes place the next day, which means, you know, some days when banks are closed or you can't get mail or something like that - it becomes an issue, so we would have these logic issues we'd have to go and address.

So being able to write everything before we shot it allowed us to catch as much as possible in the writing stage. Then we'd be on-set sometimes and go, "Hey wait a second! He wouldn't have this briefcase yet because he left it at the thing and it's only the next day and he can't get back because he has no money and the guy took his clothes so we have to figure this out... " So we were able to address issues like that.

CNN: Do you stick to the script, or is a lot of the dialogue ad-libbed?

DC: A ton of it is ad-libbed, but there are so many important details that even some of the actors are not aware of. For example, why a certain line needs to be said and I tell them, "Trust me, it's gonna come up five episodes from now for a different character so you do have to mention this thing." And those are the only rules.

Story-wise, nothing was really improvised that was important to the exposition. A lot of the stuff between Brent (Will Arnett) and Doug (Spike Jonze) was improvised. They're tremendous together. And it's a disease with me! Thankfully I'm a producer on the show as well as acting and writing in it, so if the producer me would yell at me the actor, the actor part of me would threaten to leave and then the producer part of me had to go "Alright, you can improvise," which is good, because it's a problem I have. I can't not do it.

CNN: Do the three of "you" - actor, producer and writer - all have different voices during these arguments?

DC: Yes. I clear the set, have myself fired - I have to talk to my manager. The producer me would have to talk to my manager about the writer me, which is confusing to the manager because he's in L.A. and there's a nine-hour time difference.

CNN: What is it like working with Will Arnett again?

DC: I have yet to meet him. He's digitized in. He does all his stuff from L.A. and then it's green-screened and we work around that. So I'm looking forward to meeting him, I've heard he's really funny, I love his voice, and we basically hired him because of his work on the GMC car commercials.

That and Lamisil. He's really good with Lamisil.

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