Rob Benedict: I always loved Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, that’s as deep as it went for me, but I was a huge fan of those characters and the subsequent movies made about them and the comic books. I always found myself identifying with sidekick characters, like Robin. I have a brother who’s 6’4” so growing up in his shadow as the little guy … I’m little now, but then I was little-little, like they thought there was something wrong with me.
Lizzy Caplan: I never knew your brother was 6’4”.
Benedict: Yeah, he’s 6’4”. He set records at basketball in high school. And I came in and they’re like, “Oh … maybe theater?” [laughs] So I always identified with “the buddy.” So that was where that all came from in my mind.
When you established this world, you wrote a superhero story in a comedic way where it seems that the characters are all living in a normal world where there are superheroes. What made you want to write a superhero story that way?
Benedict: Yeah, exactly. The whole thing for me was an allegory for where I was at in life and ultimately an allegory for anybody who’s getting older and feeling, questioning what their real purpose in life is. What’s your purpose? For me it became that being an actor was all I’ve ever done and all I’ve known to do, it’s what I’ve trained for, I feel like it’s all I’ll ever be good at. So it was that realization of, “Oh my God, it’s too late for me! If I quit acting, I’m not qualified to do anything else! No one else will take me!” There’s some young whippersnapper who’s much more qualified. That’s what it came out as. So the fact that it was, for me, kind of an allegory, I wanted these to be real people, not some … I didn’t want to create a fake city. For me it took place in L.A.; it was just in L.A. where being a superhero was just another profession, like being an actor.
Did you write this with these guys in mind?
Benedict: I wrote it with these people in mind and went out on a limb to ask them to do it because these are all very busy actors and they’re all friends of mine, but it’s such a passion project for me, I’m like, “You know what? I’m gonna go for it. This is my dream cast.” And they were all able to do it. It was amazing. And look at all these people, they’re fantastic! So, yeah I really did write it with all of them in mind. It was great. It was such a gratifying feeling that they were able to do it.
You talked about this is where you were in your life and you come from the fandom of Supernatural, which I’m sure affected you a lot. Did that affect your character? Because who’s going to have a bigger fandom than superheroes?
Benedict: Early on there was a draft where he’d started abusing his … like he was stoned one day on the job and he just sort of let himself go. Some fans see him and they’re like, “What’s going on with Max?” Yeah there was definitely that element earlier in it. Yeah, the whole Supernatural thing has really opened my eyes to the fandom and being here at Comic-Con, too, which we did last year, too, that whole thing. I think in Supernatural, the thing that people identify with is the real person in these characters. They talk to each other like real people and that’s why I think it really connects with people. If anything, I think that’s what effect it has had on me.
Can you talk about how your characters fit in? I’m guessing Kid Loco is another sidekick. We’ve heard about Sidecar Willy. And then for Bailey, is she the only non-superpowered character in the show and how does she work in?
Caplan: Yeah, I guess I am. I meet the Max character when he’s in the depths of despair and I hopefully – no, I know how the story ends [laughter] – I help him see in fact that he’s a valuable guy, and a valuable guy to me.
Jason Ritter: I make him feel the exact opposite. When he gets booted out of being a sidekick to his hero, I’m the new guy that comes in and makes him feel not valuable and replaceable. I basically have the exact same uniform, but shinier.
Benedict: Yeah, they made the exact same uniform and then they made his all shiny and new. Mine’s all dull and faded. We actually took a great picture, it’s Ron Livingston, it’s us on either side and he’s all shiny.
Did you draw any characters from the new heroes?
Ritter: I think, because my character is not a good or nice person, it was more about him … it was all about the presentation, like, “I am a good guy!” and imagining what that looks like when reading a comic book. He has no real desire to be an actual good guy. He just wants to be a big famous hero.
Benedict: We were thinking about the TV show – Michael and I have all these ideas about spinning this into a show – Kid Loco, the fame goes to his head and he’s in like fur coats. [laughter]
Ritter: That’s tough. There are some that are my favorites of all time but I feel like there are already people doing better ones. Spider-Man has always been one of my favorites. I don’t know. Maybe I’d be Rusty Brown from Chris Ware’s graphic novels and see if anyone recognizes me.
Benedict: There are very specific things here that people are dressed up as and you’re like, “What are you?” And they say, “Uh, hello!” My problem is that some of my favorite characters don’t have great costumes, like Luke and Han Solo, I would love to go as Luke and Han Solo. I went as Han Solo for Halloween one year and my buddy was Chewbacca and we got split up [laughter] so now I’m just a dude in a vest with a gun. “What are you, like …?” “Oh, right, so I’m like … Harrison Ford.” I’ve got to rework that.
Would you guys be willing to wear your costumes out and walk around?
Caplan: Did you bring it?
Benedict: I didn’t. I should’ve. We would’ve rocked that. My hope is that next year people are dressing as those guys.
Where are you hoping to place the show?
Benedict: Right now we see it as a cable show or even the internet. We really like the Burning Love model which started on the internet and switched over. Michael and I sit down and talk about it, the Kid Loco story, it just spins into episodes. It’d be great if it could be … like the Burning Love thing is cool, too, because you can get actors like these guys that are working all the time to come in and do a one-off. It’s that kind of world where you can introduce a new character and then they’re gone.
Do you feel like the mediums are different? House of Cards just got nominated for Emmys.
Benedict: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s a different landscape than it was two years ago or so, so it’s totally legitimate to do it that way, and doable. You can keep it kinda edgy. This isn’t a network show.
Caplan: There’s a really good time and place for it, and it’s really awesome to see it working; like the Veronica Mars thing was amazing.
Benedict: Happened in like two days.
Caplan: But I get like seven Kickstarter requests every day.
Ritter: My favorite thing with Kickstarter is with musicians who are trying to record a CD or something and they’re struggling. I’m basically saying, “I want to buy your CD and I’m buying it before you make it.”
What about the Party Down movie?
Caplan: I don’t know. I’m hoping that it happens. Clearly the Veronica Mars thing made us renew hope in it. I’m not sure what that wants to be. Talking about the Burning Love thing, I don’t know if Party Down wants to be a movie or an Arrested Development kind of thing. Just getting to do it again would be amazing in any form.