Written by Erica Oyama and directed by Ken Marino, the web series Burning Love, which can be watched on the Yahoo! Comedy Channel, follows fireman Mark Orlando (Marino) as he searches for the perfect woman. The scripted comedy series features an impressive line-up of comedic actors from film and television, including Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Michael Ian Black, Adam Scott and more. Viewers will get a front row seat to the champagne toasts, candles, heartbreak, bubble baths, chocolate, hair extensions, betrayal and spray-tans. And if that’s still not enough, you can follow its leading man on Twitter at @burninglovemark.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actor/writer/producer/director Ken Marino talked about how this whole idea came about, why he wanted to direct it, the appeal of doing a web series, how they got such a great line-up of actors (including a hilarious A-lister cameo), how much improvisation went on, and whether anything was too outrageous. He also talked about what he’s writing now, how his dream project would be to do an adaptation of the comic book Axe Cop, gave an update on the Party Down movie, and said how much he’s looking forward to Comic-Con. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
KEN MARINO: My wife wrote the script. We watch the show and we watch shows like that. I have to admit that we watch a lot of reality TV. My wife was pregnant with our first child and there was a marathon. She would watch marathons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and then she just got this idea. She wrote this fake teaser of a show like that, that she said she thought would be funny to do for the web. Adam Scott and his wife, Naomi, were also fans of it, so we were going to do it together. And then, as she wrote it, I was like, “Let’s try to do a series out of this.” So, through Abominable Pictures’ John Stern and Mike Rosenstein at Red Hour and Paramount, we got some money to shoot for a day, and we shot the sizzle reel. And then, once we shot that, we shopped it around. Yahoo! was very interested in it, so we got into bed with them and made sweet, passionate internet love.
What made you decide to direct it?
MARINO: When we wrote it, it was a small little project. I like directing, so I said, “Yeah, I could direct that.” My wife may have asked, or just might have insisted and told her that she couldn’t ask anybody else. I’m not sure how it went down. But, yeah, I just thought it would be fun. I have a clear idea of how I would want to do it. It actually came in really handy, being in it and directing it, because we shot it in eight days and we were moving really, really fast to get in all of the material. It was 120 pages of material, and then with improv, it was probably about 170 pages. But, there was no time where I was like, “Okay, the director needs to talk to the actor. Now, the actor has to ask the director some questions.” We didn’t have any of that downtime.
MARINO: There are 14 episodes. It’s a whole season. It’s a big journey for Mark Orlando. There are highs, there are lows and there are middles. There are middle-highs and middle-lows, or low-middles. There are middle-middle-high-lows. It just goes everywhere. It runs the gamut between high and low, and I think I covered most of them.
And of course, unlike every other Bachelor, he’ll end up married (note the sarcasm in my question)?
MARINO: You have to tune in to all 14 episodes to see what happens to Mark Orlando, but I promise you that it will be a satisfying ending to his journey. Maybe not for him, but certainly for you.
MARINO: That was all (my wife) Erica’s idea. I don’t know what came first, the title or the fireman.
With so many film and TV actors doing web series now, is there a specific appeal to that medium for you? Is it the creative freedom that you get?
MARINO: Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it. You’re doing it on a bare bones budget, but what you get with that is that you’re under the radar, you have a lot of creative freedom, and you can have a singular voice. You’re putting out the purest version of what you want it to be. Not to knock on when you’re not under the radar and you’re working on stuff, but the more money and the bigger the venue, the chances are that there’s a lot of people who have a lot of opinions about it and sometimes it’s harder to get your vision through. On the internet, you’re given a little bit more freedom. The people who are involved with creating stuff on the internet are encouraging that. They want something fresh and new and singular, in a sense.
MARINO: There was a full script. There was a 120-page script of really funny material that Eric churned out, so we stayed true to that. But, when you have really funny improv men and women there, doing the parts, it would be silly not to ask them to then open it up a little bit and see where it takes you. Everybody threw out some amazing things, but it all stemmed from a really strong script.
Was it difficult to get through some of these scenes without laughing?
MARINO: There were times when we were laughing, and that’s always fun. In the scenes with Michael Ian Black, I remember us laughing at some really stupid things, but that’s part of the fun. If it cracks everybody up, then you know you’re doing something right. The beauty of shooting on something that’s not in front of an audience is that you can just cut out the times you’re laughing. You can cut to the other person and try to use that moment, right before you break. There’s an energy to those performances. There’s a reason people were laughing. There was something very special. That little extra something was in that line delivery or in that improv, so you try to use that stuff. There were moments that were hard. It’s hard to say, “Will you accept this hose?,” with a straight face. But, I said it a number of times, so at a certain point, it became common place.
MARINO: Actually, I was holding something over the head of most of the people involved, so ultimately it was a gigantic game of blackmail chess. I basically called all of them up, showed them Polaroids or photos or some sort of incriminating evidence that they didn’t want to get out, and then, all of a sudden, they were happy to do it. You know, the real answer is that I’ve been very lucky to get to know so many funny, talented people and they’ve become friends. So, I have the luxury of calling them up and being like, “Hey, do you want to do this?” Nine times out of ten, they’re like, “Yeah!” And that one person is, of course, dead to me now.
Is it possible to go too far when you’re spoofing something like The Bachelor? Was there anything you wanted to do that was too outrageous, or did anything go?
MARINO: We pushed the envelope in a couple of places, and then watching it, there were certain things that were just in poor taste or maybe went a little too dark or that was a slightly different type of humor. And so, in the editing room, we would pull that stuff out. But, the best way to do comedy is to not filter yourself, and then you could always fix it later. You want to be able to push the envelope. Really, the interesting thing about it, to me, is that it’s a slight exaggeration of what really exists. It’s not so extreme. We were hoping to tonally create the real feel and vibe of a show like that.
Are you currently working on writing anything right now, or is there anything you’ve written that you have ready to go into production?
MARINO: David [Wain] and I are writing a script that we’re in the middle of. I have a couple of writing partners. Erica and I are writing some stuff. Joe Lo Truglio and I are writing some stuff. So, there’s stuff that we’re working on. Is it ready to go out right now? They’re all in different places, so some of them yes and some of them not so much.
MARINO: The stuff I write with Joe Lo Truglio tends to lean towards horror-comedy and horror. The stuff I wrote with Erica and David tends to be more comedy.
Do you have a dream project, either as an actor or as a writer?
MARINO: One of the things I would love to do is Axe Cop, which is a comic book. I would like to be involved in Axe Cop, someday. I would also love to be in a Western. Should we redo Blazing Saddles? No, we can’t do that. I think there could be another Western comedy. That’s what I want to do. I’ll have to write that up.
Are you also hoping to direct a feature, at some point?
MARINO: I hope to direct a feature very soon. That is a big goal for me. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting that opportunity.
MARINO: I know they’re writing it. I know everybody behind the camera and in front of the camera is dying to do it. In my head, it’s only a matter of time. As far as the reality, I hope it happens.
Are you looking forward to returning to Comic-Con again this year and having thousands of fans screaming and applauding for you and treating you like a rock star, or does that totally freak you out?
MARINO: Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t feel like there’s tons of fans screaming and treating me like a rock star, but if that is the case, who wouldn’t want that? I like Comic-Con. It’s always nice to talk to people who are fans of Children’s Hospital. Hopefully, there will be some Burning Love fans there this time, too. It’s always nice to talk to people who are enjoying it. That’s part of the reason you do it. You want to make people laugh, so when people come up and say, “Hey, that was really funny! I enjoyed that!,” how could that not make you feel good?
Burning Love has new episodes on Yahoo! on Mondays and Thursdays. You can watch episodes here.