LOS ANGELES – If you thought the chemistry between Craig Robinson and Adam Scott happened overnight, you haven’t seen “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.”
There, the two stars honed their comic timing and realized there might be something else they could do.
Enter: “Ghosted,” a new Fox comedy that finds them as polar opposites recruited by a secret government agency (known as The Bureau Underground) to save the human race and deal with the paranormal.
Robinson plays the skeptic; Scott is the believer.
“The first time we met, Craig actually said, ‘Hey, we should do something together someday,’” Scott recalls. “I was blown away that he knew who I was but also that he would want to do something with me, because I’m such a fan of his.”
While both have other gigs (Scott is on “Big Little Lies,” Robinson is on “Mr. Robot” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), they warmed to the idea of a buddy comedy, one that isn’t afraid to test the limits of absurdity.
Because it’s a TV show, there’s a limited budget (no Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for this series); they’ve had to rely on other methods to find the humor.
For the show’s pilot, they had money to add effects. For the series, says Executive Producer Kevin Etten, “planning ahead becomes crucial. We’ve said we’re going to be doing a lot of shooting over creatures’ arms because we can afford a really good arm.”
Akin to film comedies from the 1940s and ‘50s, “Ghosted” depends on the chemistry between its stars.
“A show like this could quickly devolve into parody if not handled correctly,” Creator Tom Gormican says. “One of the things we’re doing is leaning on all of the actors’ comic and dramatic skills. Even when crazy things are happening….these are real scares. And these are real people reacting in real ways.”
In short, it’s a paranormal reality show “drawn out to its comic conclusions.”
To get there, directors frequently let Robinson and Scott improvise.
“The scripts are great,” Scott says. ‘We do a bunch of scripted takes but then we all kind of mess around. We may use it. We may not. But I think it’s a good thing to keep all of the actors excited and having fun.”
The two played around so long on one episode the director finally had to yell stop: “This show isn’t going to be 90 minutes long.”
Interestingly, the characters’ first meeting was improvised.
“We had a scene in the pilot that was not quite working on the page,” says Etten. Director Jonathan Krisel handed the assignment to Robinson and Scott and, says Etten, “they were able to just go and do it.”
When he was on “The Office,” Robinson found writers were able to pick up on the actors’ voices when they riffed and were able to write to those strengths.
“I would like to see how that happens with this show because we play all the time,” he says. “Sometimes the writer will catch something and you are just like, ‘Oh, man.’”
Because producers want to keep the series’ fear factor high, they’ll often cut a scene just just to preserve the tension.
“We felt the laughs would end up bigger if you keep it really tense,” says Etten. “And then there’s the release of the laugh or the scare.”
“Ghosted” airs at 7:30 p.m. Sundays on Fox.