Executive produced and written by Groundlings alums Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf and Rachel Ramras, the TV Land comedy series Nobodies revolves around the three, as they desperately try to land one of their famous friends for a feature script that they have developed. The series is a hilariously funny look at what people will do for success and fame in Hollywood, as well as just how tough those two things can be to achieve, and it features many of their ultra-funny friends and fellow Groundlings alums, including Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, who also directed the pilot.
During this interview with Collider, show creators Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf and Rachel Ramras, along with executive producers Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone and showrunner Michael McDonald (MADtv), talked about how this show evolved and came together, the fun of working with friends you’ve known for 20 years, the tremendous responsibility of making this show work, making each other laugh, exploring the absurdity of this business, the challenge of scheduling guest spots, and what being a part of Groundlings has meant to them.
Collider: How did this end up happening, where you are now all making a show together?
BEN FALCONE: Hugh, Rachel and Larry brought an idea to me, and the first idea was called Mr. First Lady and it was a movie.
HUGH DAVIDSON: We were so ignorant.
RACHEL RAMRAS: We weren’t ignorant, we were lazy. We wanted to attach Melissa [McCarthy] to a movie idea and get paid to write it, which I’ve heard happens.
DAVIDSON: But, with famous people. And we were unfamous and had never written a movie, so why would anyone do that? So, we had lunch with Ben and told him our idea.
RAMRAS: We thought it was a funny idea.
DAVIDSON: Melissa was the President and her husband was the First Lady, and he was a funny character. And Ben was like, “Well, Melissa is going to be making movies for the next three years. This lunch is pointless.”
FALCONE: Melissa and I were actually working on The Boss, so I would have had to have pushed that aside. So then, they came later with another idea. They said, “Look, we’ve gone around and pitched Mr. First Lady and it was pretty sweaty.”
RAMRAS: They kept asking for that script that we wouldn’t write!
DAVIDSON: And we kept saying, “Push the briefcase of money across the table, and you’ll get the script.”
FALCONE: And then, they pitched me the idea that became Nobodies, that’s loosely based on their lives. It was about three friends who write in the animation field, and the way they described it to me was that they’re watching as their friends go on to do things. Larry and I had done a thing before that was sort of based on his life, and I really like stuff that’s based on reality, so I thought it was a good idea. And Melissa loved the idea, so we brought it to TV Land and they said yes. So, we shot the pilot, and then Mike [McDonald] directed and did everything for the rest of the episodes. That was it. It was pretty simple, if I describe it that way.
Michael, as the showrunner, how does it feel to be the guy that has to wrangle everything together and get none of the credit for it?
MICHAEL McDONALD: I don’t know if I want any of the credit! No. It’s awesome and terrifying, all at once because there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility with directing any show, but when it’s your friends, the added burden is that you want to a good job. I always want to do a good job, but I really want to do a good job for my friends because I value their opinion more.
Did the show turn out anything like what you thought, when you had those initial conversations?
FALCONE: It’s interesting that you ask that because we had that feeling for the pilot, which was not with Mike yet, and then we saw the first two episodes come back and, speaking for Melissa and I, we were like, “Holy shit, this is so great! This is the show we wanted to make!” They all did such a great job. They wrote every episode, they star in it, and they gave so much effort and time. So, to see people that you love do such a great job, it was a little overwhelming to see that it had turned out so well. From my end, anyway.
MELISSA McCARTHY: You work so hard on things and sometimes you can just somehow miss the tone. So, when you do all of the work, and then somehow it stays in that little magical area, that’s what we find funny. There’s a reality, a self-deprecation and a sweetness in this messy, convoluted thing, and somehow it’s all in there and it’s funny and you like them, in spite of themselves. It’s all these people that you love, and there’s really something in that. I think you can feel that there’s history when you watch it. It made me really laugh, and that’s always a great thing.
LARRY DORF: Besides directing and producing, Mike also plays a character that made me laugh out loud, several times. He plays our therapist, and they get a group discount because they’re a team. Athletes go see a sports psychologist, and we need a writing psychologist.
Is it cathartic, in some way, to explore scenes that show the absurdity of meetings in this business?
RAMRAS: You’ve just gotta get to the next meeting.
DAVIDSON: That’s true, of every aspect of this. With some game shows, they give you the option to go home with your $800, and I would do that. I would never keep going. And then, it’s $2,400 and that’s great. That always seemed like so much. You should go home! With this, when they said, “Could you write a script?,” I was like, “I’m happy with that. I’ll write the script. I don’t care if they ever make it.” And then, they ordered a pilot and I was like, “Put the pilot in the trash. It’s fine!” Each time, I was ready to go home. It’s crazy that it just keeps stumbling along. We never think past that one thing. That’s all you care about.
DORF: And I’m always worried about the next thing, like it’s never good enough. We made the pilot, so I started to worry about whether they’d pick it up. And then, they picked it up, and I started to worry about whether they’d pick it up again. I can never celebrate any moment.
FALCONE: So, I’m the one who calls because I’m the conduit, and I got to give them good news. I said, “First, they’re going to make a pilot.” Rachel and Hugh were like, “Yeah, great!” And I said, “Larry, have a drink and give it a night.”
DAVIDSON: I walked the dog and when I got back to the house, Larry was pacing and upset. We got into a giant fight, the three of us, because he was panicked. He went crazy!
McCARTHY: The good news is that, to write this, you only need to put a tape recorder, anywhere near the three of them. Anytime Larry says something, you just have to write it down.