In 2012, the adorable, foul-mouthed teddy bear, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), made his film debut and quickly became the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time. Now, the outrageous Ted and his thunder buddy John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) are back in Ted 2, as Ted finds himself in a fight to be declared human, and not the property of someone else. In an attempt to sue the state and win Ted the rights that he deserves, they enlist a young, medical-marijuana aficionada named Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) who believes that Ted is entitled to the same freedoms as any American.
During a Skype roundtable with two other outlets, while writer/director Seth MacFarlane was in London to promote the film, he talked about not wanting to repeat the same movie twice, his great working relationship with Mark Wahlberg, how this particular story developed, why Mila Kunis (who was in the first film) didn’t return, Tom Brady’s cameo, recreating New York Comic-Con on a soundstage, making adjustments to Ted’s dialogue in post-production, and the chances of a Ted 3.
Collider: Did you have any hesitation, going into a sequel?
SETH MacFARLANE: Only as far as that I didn’t want to repeat the same movie twice. Purely selfishly, as somebody making the film, I didn’t want to do something that would be an experience that would be un-engaging for me, or that would rehash the same material twice. When you’re working 15-hour days, that’s not something I would be game for. I wanted to work with these characters again, but ideally tell a whole new story.
How hard was it to convince Mark Wahlberg to return?
MacFARLANE: It wasn’t too hard. We both had a great time with each other, the first time around, and we had a great working relationship. The two characters have really strong on screen chemistry, I think. So, it didn’t seem to be that hard of a sell. And the second one was equally as smooth. He’s a great guy to work with.
Did you set out wanting to tell this deeper story about Ted having to fight to be recognized as a human, just to have the same right as everyone else and not be considered someone else’s property, or did that develop out of many other ideas you went through first, but decided not to go with, for whatever reason?
MacFARLANE: It was a merge, accidentally. The first draft was actually going to be John and Ted trucking a pot shipment across the country, but We’re the Millers came out while we were writing it, and it was the same story, so we had to scrap it. When I was shooting A Million Ways to Die in the West, I was reading the John Jakes North and South series, in my spare time, and there was a section about Dred Scott, which jogged memories about my high school history class. I thought, “That might be something that could provide a germ of an idea for an interesting sequel,” given the fact that the question of Ted’s rights and his status would come up, if this were a real scenario.
Did you ever have any thoughts of bringing Mila Kunis back?
MacFARLANE: Initially, she was in the sequel. But when We’re the Millers came out, we just had to throw everything out and start from scratch. The story that we wrote required this young lawyer character. I had just worked with Amanda [Seyfried] on the Western, and just had a great experience with her. She’s really funny, really magnetic, and is just somebody you want to work with, every day. She’s just a real team player and a fucking soldier.
You have a lot of cameos in this film. Was there anyone that you wanted, but couldn’t get?
MacFARLANE: No. Amazingly, everyone we went to said yes.
In Tom Brady’s scenes, there is a mention of Deflategate. Was that a line added after the fact, in ADR?
MacFARLANE: That was an ADR line. That all happened after we shot the movie.
Did you run that by Tom Brady first?
MacFARLANE: You know, I actually don’t know. I didn’t. Hopefully, somebody did. John, as a Boston character, is defending Tom, so I don’t think it will be a problem.
When John and Ted are in Tom Brady’s room, trying to get a sample, they lift up his sheets and there’s a glow, which reminded me of the scene in Pulp Fiction. So, are Tom Brady’s balls in Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase?
MacFARLANE: You know, Frank Rich asked me the same question. I don’t know. Who the fuck knows?
Is Liam Neeson playing his Taken character?
MacFARLANE: He’s not, no. He’s just playing a weird dude who believes that there’s some shadowy organization somewhere that is monitoring this particular type of purchase.
You’ve been to Comic-Con many times, yourself. How did creating and going to Comic-Con for the movie compare to going in real life? Is it fun to wreak all kind of havoc without getting in trouble for any of it?
MacFARLANE: Yeah. It was interesting because Comic-Con was all on a soundstage and we treated it the same way they treat the actual Comic-Con. We called a lot of different vendors and studios and comic book companies and toy companies and said, “Just send us everything you have. We’ll put it in the movie. It’s free advertising for you, and we’ll build a convincing set.” But, that was fun. It was a massive soundstage. I’ve never really seen anything like it. Our production designer did a really nice job of duplicating that environment.
There are pop culture references and jokes throughout this film. Do you develop those with the script, or do you have them and try to plug them into scenes?
MacFARLANE: We don’t shoehorn anything in. The only thing that’s disconnected to the story is the opening sequence, and that’s designed to be exactly what it is, which is a big, fun, splashy opening credits fantasy sequence that ideally tells the audience that it’s going to bigger and more fun, from the get-go. You break the story first, and then you go into the specifics. When they get to New York, we need to establish Comic-Con and lay that thread in, so that when we show up later, it doesn’t feel like it came out of nowhere. So, these Star Wars characters in costume, walking across the street and John, Samantha and Ted having an altercation with them fit that story requirement, for example.
With the first movie, you talked about reworking some of Ted’s dialogue in post and after test screenings. Was there less of that, this time around, since you were more aware of what worked for this character and what didn’t, or did you take the same liberty with the sequel?
MacFARLANE: It was about the same amount. Even if you know a character really well, there’s no formula for what jokes will work and what won’t. I asked Norman Lear about this, at one point. I said, “Does it ever get to a point where you can predict this and you find what that equation is, so that you know beforehand what joke is going to work and what doesn’t?” And he said, “Absolutely not. You’re guessing, all the time.” All you can really do is gauge what you think is funny. If you throw it up in front of enough audiences and they laugh, as well, you’ve hit the mark. If you don’t, you’ve gotta cut it.
How did you convince Mark Wahlberg to let a wall of sperm fall on him?
MacFARLANE: Mark is a game guy. He’s a professional. If it’s funny and it works in the story, he’ll get on board. He’s a trooper.
Are you already planning for Ted 3, or are you waiting to see how the audience responds to Ted 2?
MacFARLANE: It’s all based on appetite. If Ted 2 does as well as the first one, it means people want to see more of these characters. If that happens, then there would likely be a Ted 3. The franchise, to me, is one that’s more character-based than premise-based. If you look at it like episodes in television, if you have characters that people like and they want to see them, again and again, you can tell any number of different stories. If there’s a desire for it, than yeah, we would do a Ted 3.
There’s definitely been a lot of talk lately about extreme political correctness affecting comedy and the way comedians tell jokes. As someone who seems pretty fearless in his comedy, do you not worry about offending anyone in particular, as long as you are an equal opportunity offender?
MacFARLANE: I should be asking you guys this question. Most of the outrage comes from not the public, but from the media, the press and writers. Nobody sets out to offend or shock for the sake of shocking. You set out to get laughs. And comedy is not always pretty. I think Seinfeld made a valid complaint recently when he said things have gotten out of hand. But I don’t think it’s coming from the public, at large. I think there’s a maelstrom that’s being stirred up by the press who, in many cases, are screaming at people to be offended at things they otherwise would just take as jokes. I think there’s been a little bit of a mis-characterization of the way the wind is blowing. I don’t think that it’s something that’s coming directly from the public. I think if you asked an average person, “Were you offended by this joke in this comedy?,” I’m trying to think if I’ve ever been offended by anything I’ve seen in a comedy, and I don’t think I have. I’m offended by things like corporate pollution and animal cruelty. Those are things that offend me. There’s a disconnect there. Is there anything in the movie that you found you would sit down and write that it’s objectionable and offensive and shouldn’t fit in comedy?
I didn’t, no. I thought it was funny and laughed quite a bit.
MacFARLANE: Not to sound overblown, but if you use the scientific method and screen it for as many audiences as you can, and as many different kinds of audiences as you can, and in as many different places as you can, the results are inescapable. If there are certain jokes you like that are getting gasps of horror, they’ve gotta come out of the movie because you’ve crossed the line. If there are jokes that are getting big laughs, but that are potentially offensive, the audience has told you, collectively, that you’re not crossing the line and it’s actually okay.
Ted 2 opens in theaters on June 26th.