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Chris Elliott and Maria Thayer Compare Acting Techniques and Talk How 'Eagleheart' Has Gotten Even Deeper and Stranger In Its Third Season

By Todd Gilchrist | Indiewire November 15, 2013 at 10:36AM

Chris Elliott and Maria Thayer give each other a hard time as they talk starring in the third season of their relentlessly funny and strange Adult Swim series "Eagleheart."
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Paz de la Huerta and Chris Elliott in 'Eagleheart: Paradise Rising'
Adult Swim Paz de la Huerta and Chris Elliott in 'Eagleheart: Paradise Rising'

Given how silly the show is, do you have a philosophical core for your character? Or is there a continuity to his behavior in your conception of the character that underlines who he is?

CE: To be honest with you, in terms of my technique, no, there's absolutely nothing that I would think about in terms of this character. But, having said that, this third season, I did have an opportunity to play him a little more guilty, I guess, with a bit of a conscience. But no, I could go on talking about my approach for hours [laughs].

MT: I feel like when I first got this job, I did stuff like that.

CE: You did, really? Like a backstory? This is interesting to me. Are you serious? Do you do that for everything?

MT: Well, something like this that I'm going to spend this much time on, I'm going to be like, well, what is Suzie's family like?

CE: So that's what I should have done?

MT: I'm saying it might have helped your performance. I'm just saying [laughs].

"Like a backstory? This is interesting to me. Are you serious? Do you do that for everything?"

Did it help your performance?

MT: No! [laughs] You think that she's the sensible one, and then she'll shoot those drugs or she'll just shoot some random person without thinking about it.

What are your favorite hallmarks of your character, whether it's a certain behavior or just something that's become one of their trademarks?

CE: For me, I like playing him kind of Clint Eastwood-esque. There aren't a lot of levels to him, so it's fun to play that to me, you know? Occasionally, I get goofy and stupid, but in general, compared to my past 30 years' work, it's the most level performance I've ever done. He pretty much reacts the same to everything, and it's always very 1970s misogynistic. And if I did any backstory on the guy, that's where he's stuck -- he's stuck back there. But, I forget your question--

MT: What are the hallmarks? I liked that word, "hallmarks."

CE: Weren't you in a Hallmark Hall of Fame thing?

MT: I hate you [laughs].

CE: Maybe that's why you liked that.

MT: That's why I wanted to bring it up again, because I couldn't wait to talk about it. [sighs] I don't want to talk about it.

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CE: It was like Santa had a daughter, right?

MT: You are like the worst person.

CE: Like "Daughter Santa."

"Miss Claus?" [The name of the film is actually "Annie Claus Is Coming To Town."]

CE: "Missy Claus?"

MT: Both of you! [laughs]. I'm shutting down. 

CE: It must be getting ready to broadcast, because that's a holiday thing.

MT: Of course, I'm sure it is.

CE: You're the one who brought it up! You wanted to get a plug in for it.

MT: I didn't. I just wanted to ask--

CE: Well, you did, and we did it. Shamelessly.

Well done. But are there things in your interpretation of the character that the writers have integrated into his or her behavior?

CE: Well, I am cynical and negative most of the time, and that's definitely played into a lot of my lines and throwaway things, me just not even giving a shit that I'm in the scene [laughs]. That's partly because they know I don't, and it's also because that's the character. In terms of the three of us, Brett, you and me, you are the most sensible of the three of us.

MT: I was the one that did the character breakdown. I had my research, and I'm sure Brett didn't.

CE: Mmm-hmm. And you were on a Hallmark Hall of Fame thing.

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MT: And I did it for that, too.

CE: Oh God, you didn't, did you? Really?

MT: No. I don't think so.

I'm going to look this up.

MT: No! [to Elliott] You're the worst!

CE: "Suzie Claus." [laughs] But yeah, I think that dynamic obviously bleeds into the development of the characters. We're all friends -- Michael, Jason, Andrew, Brett, Maria and I -- and the way we hang out does sometimes reflect the way we are on screen. 

MT: I mean, Brett and Chris would give me a lot of... shit. Sorry.

I believe they would give you a lot of shit.

CE: This is interesting. I've never heard this before. 

MT: And I felt like in the second season it got worse, and then it became part of the character. Like Suzie would, I don't know, just do a lot of eye-rolling. So did Maria, probably. 

At this point, do you have a favorite episode or storyline?

MT: Of the past two seasons, I just love the death punch. I laugh at it every time. But I like the show so much.

CE: I like this season -- and it sounds self-serving, obviously, because we're about to embark on the third season. But to me, the show has evolved to what it should be. The show has evolved into this real fantastical thing that works on lots of different levels. It's not like I wish the show had started like that, because it couldn't have. It had to go through two seasons to get where we are this season, and I don't know where it goes next. But the storylines that are developed in this season are my favorite so far. I love episodes -- I love the "Little Dude" episode that Maria was prominent in. I do like the death punch one a lot. But just looking at this season three as a whole, I think it's my favorite. 

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Not necessarily in terms of topicality, but are there conventions of this type of show or storytelling in general that you would like to satirize or deconstruct?

CE: There's plenty to satirize and plenty to parody, but the relationships that were developed in this third season almost harken back to a 1930s kind of movie. They're really classic relationships in this third season. It's not as insane. It's not as totally out of the blue, and reactions aren't just funny for being funny. As much as there is satire and parody, I don't look at this season as having a lot of that in it. I know that we did "Death of a Salesman" already in episode one, but it feels more to me like we're working around a relationship with these characters.

If it goes any further, that's where I hope it would go, more than the parody aspect, actually -- finding other situations to put us all in, maybe even outside the Marshal's office completely, which is pretty much how the third season ended up. We're not the ones actually thinking in terms of parody.

MT: Yeah. Like we could do a parody and not know, you know?

CE: And people could be making fun of us and parodying us and we would not know that also. [to Thayer] Well, you wouldn't.

MT: [laughs] See what I mean?

CE: It's awful. It's not a good work environment.

MT: It's a hard job [laughs].

CE: Hard on her. It's a rough, tough time.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Chris Elliott, Maria Thayer, Eagleheart, Adult Swim





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