In ‘The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,’ David Cross plays bumbling American office temp Todd Margaret. In a stunt no doubt enviable to Tobias Funke, Margaret bluffs his way into an executive position at the London branch of a new energy drink, Thunder Muscle, and misfortune ensues. Created by, written, and starring Cross, the pilot originally aired in the U.K. Tonight, the comedy premieres stateside on IFC (10/9c). In an interview from Los Angeles, Cross spoke about being reunited with his ‘Arrested Development‘ co-star Will Arnett (who plays Todd’s boss), and what to expect this season.
How did this show come together?
I was in the U.K., and long story short we just kind of came up with an idea. It’s not really that interesting. I wish I could say, ‘The Queen was a huge Arrested Development fan.’
Do you see any similarities between this and NBC’s ‘Outsourced?’
I don’t think there’s a real comparison. Whereas ‘Outsourced’ is a comedy based on something that really exists, there is no incompetent fool going to London and running an energy drink company.
Will you be flexing your physical comedy skills in this show?
There’s definitely a few episodes where I get to experiment with that. I love doing that type of stuff. I do my own stunts. I’m banging my head, falling on the table, falling into someone’s breakfast. There’s an episode where I’ve lied in an earlier episode about being allergic to nuts and I have to pretend I’m allergic to nuts. Then I’m caught eating nuts. And then I’m shot and start spazzing out.
How much is improv versus scripted?
It’s all scripted pretty tight, but we were very encouraging to all the actors [to improvise]. That’s why they were hired, too. They’re all adept at improvisation. I’d have to look at what we wound up using in the editing bay, but every episode has some amount of it in there.
Will [Arnett] seems like he’d be a great improv actor to play off of.
Oh yeah. He’s also great to write for.
His voice accounts for so much of his humor.
It is major masturbation material for me. I just listen to his GMC commercials and get off.
Would you qualify your relationship with him as a bromance?
On screen, no. But in real life…I mean, we used to, but then we made the mistake that so may friends do when they make love. Then things got awkward. But now we’re back.
Amy [Poehler] didn’t mind?
No, no, she filmed it.
You’re working on this, Fox’s ‘Running Wilde,’ and you’re still doing standup. How are you managing to juggle it all?
It’s a problem I’m quite happy to have. The other thing is there’s a massive difference between running a show and producing it, and acting in a show. For me, when I’m just acting it’s like vacation. It’s super fun and I don’t have to worry about anything else – just that everyone’s laughing.
Do you have more seasons of ‘Todd Margaret’ mapped out?
Oh God yes. I have the story all mapped out. Where it’s going, where it ends. The reintroduction of other characters. The thing is, every episode takes place the next day. At some point I can’t be 53-years-old playing a 40-something. I could easily go three to four seasons.
It seems like you cast a lot of your friends in guest roles [girlfriend Amber Tamblyn, Janeane Garofalo]. Were those calls easy to make?
Everyone on the show was a big Anglophile, as I am myself. I have a real passion, love, respect, and excitement about great British comedy. Whereas most people might not be aware of the comedy culture in the U.K. all these people were excited about this. And, you know, they all had similar feelings about me and my work, and trusted that it would be interesting. And the cast is just f–king top notch. I mean, they’re great people to work with. It really elevated what I think was already really great material.
Did anyone surprise you?
I don’t know if surprise is the right word, but impressed – not that I didn’t think they wouldn’t be anything great, though. Will and Spike [Jonze] in episode 6, I can’t give anything away, but the acting is just really good. Everyone’s good throughout, but their scenes added a real three dimensionality to the characters that I didn’t see when I was writing it.
Can you tell me one word that’s said in the scene?
Is there anyone who you wanted to get but wasn’t available?
Matt King. He was in the pilot as a taxi driver and I was hoping to get him back but wasn’t able to. I’d love to get him. Also, Tilda Swinton. She was supposed to do this thing where I go to get a liquor license in episode two. But she was in South Africa shooting. I’ll have something for her in series two, if I get to series two.
OK. Time for the requisite ‘Arrested’ question. There’s been so much talk about the movie, but do you even think it’s a good idea at this point, given how long it’s been?
You know what? I kind of vacillate between whether it is or not. But I also don’t care because I’d still want to do it. There are some funny ideas out there. But I cannot give anything away. I swear to God I can’t. There are some very interested ‘Arrested Development’ meta, trippy, dovetailing stories going on. And I do think everyone would come back.
‘The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret’ Premieres Friday, October 1 at 10/9c on IFC.