No one quite knows how to make fun of you like your family does, something put front and center at the “Arrested Development” Season 5 premiere, held Thursday night at the Netflix FYSee space in Los Angeles. After months of public scrutiny and speculation as to what was to come after the five-years-delayed return of the Emmy-winning comedy, the cast and creator Mitch Hurwitz presented a united front and a familiar bond.
This was present even while the occasional joke or jab flew by. It was a tone set by Hurwitz’s opening remarks prior to the screening: “I have so many people to thank and so many people to be disrespectful to, I don’t know where to start,” and continued during the following panel — mostly between Hurwitz, Will Arnett, and Jason Bateman.
On the red carpet beforehand, the cast was jovial: Arnett jumped in on IndieWire’s time with David Cross to say hello to his co-star, and Cross complimented Arnett on his new glasses. “I feel old,” Arnett replied.
Cross tapped his own glasses. “I got these when I was six.”
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At that moment, Hurwitz stepped beside IndieWire on the press line and began interrogating Arnett and Cross about their involvement with the latest ongoing Trump scandal. “Just about Michael Cohen,” he asked, “Did you have any idea your name would come up? How do you know Michael Cohen, what was your name doing there–“
Arnett played along. “We happened to be at the same bar,” he said of his “rendezvous” with Cohen. “And I said ‘Is this your briefcase?’ And he said ‘no,’ and I said ‘it must be,’ and he opened it and said ‘there’s a hundred grand in here,’ and I said, ‘okay, must be yours,’ and I walked away.”
After screening three episodes, the full cast (minus Michael Cera, who is currently starring in the play “Lobby Hero” on Broadway) and Hurwitz sat down for a 20-minute panel. The conversation bounced between mutual appreciation for everyone’s talents (Hurwitz made special note of how Alia Shawkat has become a serious creator over the years) as well as plenty of irreverent commentary.
For example, Arnett reflected on reading the pilot for the first time on the way to the audition: “I remember thinking this script, somehow… 15 years from now, I’m going to be in a contract dispute with Fox.” The audience and panel laughed. “I don’t know how I nailed it.”
Hurwitz took a moment to poke fun at Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed the original pilot and have since gone onto become pretty successful directors. “Which is shocking,” he said of the “Avengers: Infinity War” helmers, “because they’re not very good.”
Also, Hurwitz made reference to “The Office” star Rainn Wilson, who originally auditioned for the show in 2003: “He’s doing fine. His show stayed on the air.”
Arnett then mentioned casually knowing Tony Hale before shooting the pilot, through Hale’s now-wife/then-girlfriend Martel Thompson, who worked as a make-up artist, in Arnett’s words, “in New York.”
It was then that Hurwitz made it awkward. “Martel worked on ‘Saturday Night Live.'”
“Thanks for bringing that up, Mitch,” Arnett said.
Bateman jumped in: “Oh, Amy was on that.”
The reference to Arnett’s ex-wife Amy Poehler led to some uncomfortable laughter, including Arnett’s own. “Yeah, no, it’s it’s fine.”
The panel moved on from there; Tambor was relatively quiet, though he did mention, in response to how often the cast still gets recognized today, that he’d received two chocolate bananas from hotel room service that day. He also remembered an instance before the pilot was even written, encountering Hurwitz heading into a coffee shop with a legal pad to “make some notes about a family.”
“Yeah, a family I was suing at the time,” Hurwitz joked.
Hurwitz played off the compliments he received over the course of the night, but on the red carpet, his cast made it clear how deeply they trusted him, a faith born of the show’s original pilot. “We read the pilot and were like, this is a real work,” Tony Hale said. “So when you see it you’re like, ‘Oh, I can really trust this guy.'”
When asked how closely the pilot matched up with that original script, Hale said that he believed it was pretty close. “Actually, I remember that we didn’t really improv that much, because we knew he had a specific way he wanted it done. And so we followed his lead.”
For Seasons 4 and 5, though, the scripts have been a lot more loose, as Hurwitz tends to find much of the show’s comedy and structure during editing. This means that, on a daily basis, the cast wouldn’t be entirely sure how what was being shot fit into the big picture.
“When I read the scripts I don’t really get them, there are so many pieces,” Tony Hale told IndieWire. “I’m a visual learner, so I think when I see [the episodes] tonight I think I’m probably going to finally get it.”
During production, he added, “many times I’m wearing something and I’m, like, ‘I don’t know why I’m wearing this.’ But it makes sense when I see it.”
Jessica Walters was immediately willing to follow Hurwitz, she said, “because the minute you meet him you know smart he is. Honestly, acting-wise I would trust him to tell me what to do in a heartbeat — and I don’t feel that way about a lot of people I’ve worked with. Less is more with him and I appreciate that.”
Portia de Rossi, who has largely retired from acting lately but returned for the new season after being convinced by Hurwitz, said that “I trust him with my life. I always have, and that’s the truth. No matter what, I know what he’s doing will be fantastic. And without that, it wouldn’t work, but we all feel the same way and we’d all do anything for him because of it.”
Cross said of the experience that “You know you’re in good hands and trust the process and trust all the people involved.” While recently he’s become more focused on directing his projects, when it comes to “Arrested,” he said that “this is one of the easier things to walk away from and say, ‘I did my stuff, I’m going back to New York now.'”
“And nine months later, you’ll find out what you shot,” IndieWire said.
“Exactly,” he replied.
“It’s the greatest thing ever,” Bateman said. “That’s why I’m so excited to go in and see this. He kind of put us all in the back of the station wagon and drove us to the grocery store, and we got to shop and fill up the cart with him, but we have no idea what he went back in the kitchen and cooked.”
Based on the laughter, the premiere audience loved what they saw. Meanwhile, Netflix subscribers will get to see Hurwitz’s complete meal on May 29.