‘A.P. Bio’ – Eddie Leavy and Sari Arambulo Interview on NBC’s New Comedy

A.P. Bio Eddie Leavy and Sari Arambulo
Eddie Leavy as Anthony, Nick Peine as Marcus, and Tucker Albrizzi as Colin in ‘A.P. Bio’ (Photo by Vivian Zink/NBC)

NBC heads to high school with the new half-hour comedy series, A.P. Bio, starring Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt. The series airs on Thursdays at 8:30pm ET/PT and follows Howerton’s character, Jack Griffin, as he does everything except teach Advanced Placement Biology to a class of overachievers anxious to earn good grades. Jack’s a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who feels it’s beneath him to teach school and so he spends the class time forcing the students into working on fixing his personal life.

Eddie Leavy and Sari Arambulo play Anthony and Grace, two of the students not actually being taught biology by Jack Griffin. Teamed up on a recent conference call, Leavy and Arambulo discussed working with Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt on A.P. Bio, their characters, and their own horrible experiences with teachers.

A.P. Bio’s Eddie Leavy and Sari Arambulo Interview:

We see a lot of Glenn’s character Jack’s home life. Do we get to know much about Anthony and Grace throughout the season? Will we learn what they do after school hours and what their lives are like?

Sari Arambulo: “I think that, yes, we definitely as episodes go on we get to learn more and more about the kids. Specifically their home life as well as their personalities. I think you’re already starting to get a glimpse of Grace and I feel like the last episode that just aired you kind of get a sense of what kind of character Grace is. She is very smart and sweet and is on the student council. So, that’s definitely one of her passions. She loves to be in student government and is super organized.

It’s definitely interesting to see that side of things. And then I believe that in next week’s episode it’s the parent-teacher conference, so that’s when you’ll really get to see our home life. It was really fun to meet my onscreen mom, and same for Eddie. I think he had like both your ‘onscreen parents’ were there. So as the episodes go on, I think that you really get to start to see the kids home life and just learn more about them.”

Eddie Leavy: “Yes. And just going off of that, so next week yes you will see sort of all of our parents in a parent-teacher setting. But also, you know, I think up until this point from what viewers have seen we’ve been mostly on campus or in the classroom. And again in later episodes as we sort of get on our feet a little more and we start appearing in different locations, you know, some of our favorite episodes I think to shoot when we were actually outside of the classroom.”

Sari Arambulo: “Oh yes.”

Eddie Leavy: “[You] see what our characters were like outside of the classroom and sort of in a real world setting. So, I think the best is yet to come in terms of character development and being able to sort of see more of our characters in different scenarios. So, yes, it’s a lot of fun stuff to come.”

Sari Arambulo: “That reminded me of one of, I think, our favorite episodes we shot would be for me it was ‘House Party.’ Eddie, I remember that was so much fun to shoot with you and the rest of the cast. And we really got to – this is a later episode, I don’t want to give any spoilers away – but it’s just a really fun setting to see the kids outside of the comfort zone in this party. So, yes, stay tuned.”

Have either of you had any really horrible teacher experiences in real life?

Sari Arambulo: “I think I might. I still go to school so it’s super fresh for me to think of professors in my life. I think one that sticks out to me is in – I also study Cinematic Art at USC and one of my professors was insane. He was just super…like, he’s great, like, this is the class that everyone takes. But he is just super dramatic, kind of similar to Jack Griffin in that sense. Just over the top, super dramatic. He like has an entrance when he comes into the classroom. And if you ever participate, he’ll remember your name. It is a huge lecture hall and he’ll remember your name and then continue throughout the course of the months that you’re taking the class he’ll just continue calling on you even if you don’t know the answer. He’ll just right on the moment just call on you. So it was definitely, a nerve-racking experience to be in his class which is kind of similar to Jack Griffin.”

Eddie Leavy: “Yes, I actually have memories of getting […]a substitute teacher fired once because she was so horrible. She was verbally abusive of the kids…”

Sari Arambulo: “Oh my gosh.”

Eddie Leavy: “…in my class that we, like, honestly the kids rallied together and talked to our parents. And this was in, I think, middle school. We rallied together and we told our parents and we got her fired because she would just say the nastiest things to us. Called us idiots and dumb and gave us horrible grades for no reason. So I’ve definitely had, you know, an experience. It wasn’t as comical as A.P. Bio but definitely dealing with…”

Sari Arambulo: “It’s kind of similar to A.P. Bio, I must say.”

Eddie Leavy: “Yes, except your teacher was charming and wonderful. But, you know, this woman was pretty horrific and we got rid of her. So, yes.”

Sari Arambulo: “Way to go.”

Can you talk about your audition for the show?

Eddie Leavy: “Our experiences were similar yet different. I had one audition for the majority of the creative team. The casting directors were there, Mike O’Brien the creator was there. Some of the other executive producers were there. So they were all in one room and I thought it had really went well. And it was a really quick turnaround, you know, I auditioned and I think I found out in a day or two that they wanted to cast me as the part of Anthony.

And then the next week I remember we had a rehearsal with our director Oz Rodriguez. We started shooting shortly thereafter. So it was a pretty painless audition process, which is not normally the case. It was awesome and, you know it was a lot of fun.

Sari Arambulo: “Yes, awesome. For me it was actually pretty similar to Eddie’s situation just slightly different. I came on after the pilot was shot. […] And I remember it was two pages, super short and sweet. I went in, saw the casting directors that I kind of previously knew from another project, and just read it once, was on tape with casting, left and then I had two other auditions that day so it was kind of just out of my mind. I wasn’t really thinking about it, and then I remember finding out literally the next morning that I booked the role. And then I was on set three days later, so it was really great to have such a short and sweet audition process. I loved it.”

Eddie Leavy: “And if I may add for you how it’s really interesting to see sort of the evolution of our characters as this moves on. Obviously, you know, when they’re auditioning in the beginning they have an idea what the characters may be like but, you know, they sort of let the characters evolve when they cast the actor. I know initially my character of Anthony was supposed to be this very sort of nerdy, sort of Lord of the Rings obsessed type of character. And then Mike O’Brien the creator after we had wrapped the pilot he just sort of saw who I was and saw me at the wrap party and he was you know, ‘I just saw who you were in real life and we decided we needed to take Anthony in a little bit of a different direction that’s just more true to who you are.’

So, it’s really interesting how characters or the idea of a character can sort of start off one way but then when the actor is cast in a role they can sort of bring them to life and then it can sort of go in a different direction. It’s been really cool to see that process and to get the script every week and just see how we sort of are intertwining with our characters was a lot of fun.”

Is it easier for you to play a character who’s more closely aligned to you?

Eddie Leavy: “Well, yes. I mean, definitely. Anthony definitely is probably a little more blunt and honest than I am in real life. But it’s definitely a lot of fun to feel you see yourself in the character and to just bring it to life. It just gives you a level of comfortability. Again, we shot this show for 3 1/2 months. I think we just got to know these characters so well and we were able to have a level of comfortability on set where we were able just to play – every week we had a director but we were able to just play with the director and bounce off each other’s energy.”

Sari Arambulo: “Yes, I just want to bounce off that. I think that we really were so lucky and blessed to have these writers who really almost tailored the characters to our personalities and kind of got to see…they saw us as people. They kind of translated that into our characters, which is really great.

Like, for example, all I really knew about Grace is that she was just sweet in the classroom, cute girl in the high school in the Biology class. But then I guess as they started to know me, they realized I was super sweet and nice so they started playing upon that more which is really great. And then they really paid attention to our relationships as well, like as people with the cast members. Eddie, I remember we just hit it off right from the get-go and I’m pretty sure the writers started to notice we always wanted to be together sitting together.

There was this one episode where they kind of just started – they gave us this one moment in the house party episode that’s going to be coming up, they just gave us this amazing moment where it was just us two. And you just kind of see our relationship and our friendship grow. So, I just think that it’s so amazing just to see the writers really take advantage of the actors and like what we can bring to the table, which is awesome.”

What is not going to happen as the show continues?

Sari Arambulo: “That’s an interesting question.”

Eddie Leavy: “We’re never going to learn biology.”

Sari Arambulo: “I was about to say that.”

Eddie Leavy: “That was said in the pilot, we stick to that. We are never going to learn biology. And is Jack ever going to really be nice?”

Sari Arambulo: “Be nice?”

Eddie Leavy: “There are moments.”

A.P. Bio Poster

What’s it been like working with Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt? Have you learned very much from them?

Sari Arambulo: “I loved working with both of them. We spent so much time with Glenn because of course with all of our classroom scenes he’s teaching, I guess not teaching us. So it was really fun for me as an actor just to kind of learn from him, really study his comedic talk on set, and see his process and how he really takes on the lines and makes them his own and his improv. It was just really great for me as a learning process. So, he’s really great.

This last episode that just aired which was where there’s a whole car situation and student council. I loved that week because it was great because I got to spend a lot of time with Glenn and just kind of learned about his life. We would just have great chats on set. It was really great to have that special time with him.

In terms of Patton, he is amazing. Such a pleasure to work with. Honestly, the nicest man. Every time I see Patton I just want to give him a hug. He was the nicest. And I was so starstruck by Patton at first. I remember the first table read I freaked out because I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is Remy from Ratatouille who is reading all these lines!’ and I’m obsessed with him. And, of course, I was just freaking out.

But I actually saw Patton…a really random story…long story short I saw Patton at a restaurant months before I booked A.P. Bio. I was starstruck. And then it turns out I booked this role and Patton is my principal. So I finally mustered up the courage to talk to Patton about it. And I’m like, ‘Patton, were you at this restaurant?’ It’s In My Sole and he was the nicest, sweetest man. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you go to that restaurant too!’

He spent 40 minutes with me, I’m not kidding, and we just talked about food and great restaurants in L.A. Honestly, just the nicest man. I have the nicest things to say about both of them.”

Eddie Leavy: “Yes. I mean, I pretty much will echo exactly what she said. I mean I think the biggest takeaway was just learning from them. Again, we were in that classroom with Glenn a lot and just such an established actor and comedian. He sort of comes in every day and does his thing. What better acting class than that? I think for us it was just such a profound learning experience seeing his process, seeing how he approached the material, how he would do things differently every take. Same with Patton.

I mean, Patton I feel has just the most amazing comedic timing. He would improv and it would just…he was so simple. But it was so brilliant just to see his commitment to Principal Durbin. I think for me it was just incredible to spend months observing them and watching them. And, again, they’re just lovely people. Sari said it all. But, yes, the nicest so it was a pleasure.”