The rumour mill says that Chevy Chase walked off set at the end of filming for Season 3 because he refused to do something. What did he refuse to do?
He refused to do the “tag” for the Digital Estate Planning episode (the 8 bit video game episode). In the scripted tag, Abed comes to Pierce with the thumb drive he took, and says “Pierce, I’ve been able to adjust some of the code for your Dad’s video game and I’ve made a version I think you might like better.” He puts the thumb drive into a laptop in front of Pierce. We cut to the laptop screen, where we see Pierce’s avatar on a front lawn with the giant floating head of Cornelius. Every time Pierce presses the space bar, his avatar throws a baseball to his father’s head, which gives him a thousand points and a “great job, son!” Pierce presses the space bar a few times, pauses, then leans over and embraces Abed and we fade to black. When Adam Countee pitched that tag, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks, and in point of fact, my eyes are getting watery describing it to you. It was the most important part of the episode and possibly one of the most important moments of the season. I was very upset to hear that it wasn’t shot because someone didn’t feel like shooting it, especially since it was literally the last day of shooting, which meant we’d never be able to pick it up. I regret nothing about how upset I got. My job was to care about my show.
Why did he refuse to do it?
The answer I heard from the people on set was that he didn’t think it was funny. After he realized how upset I was about it, he said things in voicemails like “there was no script” (untrue) and “I have a weird relationship with the name Cornelius” (dumb, he had no dialogue in the tag). The real answer, I believe, is that he wanted to go home because he was tired. He probably didn’t realize he was permanently damaging the episode by doing so because he often walked off set and then we would just pick up his shots later in the week. But this was the final shot of the season. The sets came down after he walked away. So this was the one time in three years that his personality caused unfixable damage to something I really held valuable.
In Season 2, Pierce turned into a villain of sorts. Was this a reflection of how you and the other writers felt about Chevy Chase or a coincidence?
It wasn’t a reflection of how we felt about Chevy, it was a reflection of how we felt Chevy would be best used. I adapted all the characters to the actors as we went on – Annie was nothing more than a Tracy Flick ripoff on paper, but by episode 6 of season one, Alison Brie and the writers had evolved the character, using Alison’s flavors. I don’t see Clark Griswold when I look at Chevy, and I certainly don’t hear Fletch when I’m listening to someone tell me how much like Fletch they are. As I’ve said, I think his best performance was in the Dungeons and Dragons episode. I think what makes Pierce – and Chevy – heroic – is their unwillingness to surrender. There’s a voice inside of us screaming I DON’T WANT TO DIE, I DON’T WANT TO BE IGNORED, I DON’T WANT TO FADE AWAY, IT’S NOT FAIR IT’S NOT FAIR IT’S NOT FAIR. Pierce, in his best moments, channels that voice, for the sake of all of us, so that we don’t have to say these petty things. Much like Eric Cartman or Archie Bunker. It was a failed experiment that we back off of at a certain point because it felt like fans were wondering why anyone would ever hang out with such a monster.
do you think chevy understands most of the jokes on the show?
Did NBC make you cast Chevy Chase, or was it something you intended to do from the start?
Sony made us. I’m not saying it was the wrong decision ultimately, but the honest answer to the question is that Pierce was literally the only role for which nobody else was considered after the actor we cast put his hat in the ring. Even McHale had to “test” against two other great guys. The short list of people I wanted to see about playing Pierce: Fred Willard, John Cleese, Patrick Stewart. That’s a juicy role, man, there’s a LOT of brilliant old dudes out there, but in the end, Sony felt (accurately) that Chase was a household name. And I remember Krasnoff saying to me, “listen, you make the decision on your pilot that gets you a series order. You take these things one step at a time.” And there was wisdom there. Vile wisdom, but it’s a vile industry. And I think the writers and Chevy ended up creating an unforgettable character.
Given Chevy’s notorious reputation, did you have worries about his casting when the show first started?
yes, I had severe worries. He’s never worked with anyone twice. I thought it was dangerously cocky of us to think that our show was going to be the only trailer in the trailer park to be exempt from a historically documented tornado, and I figured the punishment for our hubris would be annihilation. I was happily somewhat wrong – he didn’t make making the show very easy but he didn’t ruin it and I thought his character was a big part of why the show was good.
If Chevy Chase and a stray dog were trapped in a burning car, and you could only save one of them, what would you name the dog?
Who is the best person in show business that you’ve ever worked with?
I’m going to go with Joel McHale. I’ve written the most for him and he has endured the most at my hands and he has been the most professional, dedicated, loyal, passionate actor in spite of having the right and the clout to be less than so. He is a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good actor, a good comic, a good friend, a leader to the rest of the cast and he has a penis the exact size and shape of a crowbar.
Who’s the funniest cast member off-screen? I bet it’s Leonard.
they all have different senses of humor. I would never answer a question like this while I was over there but now that I’m gone I can probably just say DONALD WAS MY FAVORITE! DONALD WAS MY FAVORITE!!!