‘Those Who Can’t’ Maria Thayer and Adam Cayton-Holland Exclusive Interview

Adam Cayton Holland, TJ Miller and Maria Thayer
Adam Cayton-Holland, T.J. Miller and Maria Thayer in ‘Those Who Can’t’ (Photo Courtesy of truTV)

On Thursday, February 11 you met Those Who Can’t, four educators failing comedically to inspire the youth they teach. Created by the Denver comedy troupe The Grawlix, the three comedians are joined by Maria Thayer as librarian Abbey Logan. Andrew Orvedahl is gym teacher Coach Fairbell. Ben Roy is short-fused teacher Billy Shoemaker and Adam Cayton-Holland is sensitive, thoughtful Loren Payton.

We spoke with Thayer and Cayton-Holland after their panel for the Television Critics Association. In upcoming weeks, you’ll see the teachers protest, band together to save their vending machines, and even do a horror episode. Those Who Can’t airs Thursdays at 10:30pm ET/PT on truTV.

Maria Thayer and Adam Cayton-Holland Interview:

When the three Grawlix were developing the show, did you all know which characters you wanted to play, or was it ever in flux?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “No, we knew because we did a web series and all those characters are the worst exaggerations of our actual personalities. I would be the kind of pretentious idiot. Ben would be the emotions on his sleeve screamer and Andrew would just be the dumbass.”

Maria Thayer: “That’s pretty accurate, getting to know them.”

Maria, is your character volatile in every episode?

Maria Thayer: [Laughs] “I don’t think so.”

I mean that in a good way.

Maria Thayer: “No, I don’t take it in a bad way. She has her moments but I think she can keep it together once in a while.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “Yeah, every third or fourth episode she holds it together.”

How intense are those frantic crowd scenes?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “They’re intense. It’s hard dealing with extras. Everyone was great. Just when you do a crowd scene, it gets harder and harder because there’s a lot of pieces to maneuver. In terms of the classroom scenes, the kids are awesome. We had ones we were pulling out from nonspeaking role to speaking role because they were shining. So those are fun.”

Maria Thayer: “A lot of the same extras came back. It was exciting, after week eight you’d see a lot of the same faces. I always get nervous when there’s a lot of extras because I feel I need to be perfect. It’s like I have an audience for a play that I haven’t prepared for.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “You’re classic theatre girl.”

So how was the protest scene in episode two?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “Took a long time. I lucked out because I wrote myself into tailgating that in the back of a truck. So me and Kyle Kinane were just hanging out in lawn chairs in a truck having fun, relaxing.”

Maria Thayer: “That’s right, and it was like 4,000 degrees that day in Van Nuys, which is always 4,000 degrees in the summer. So they were just hanging out drinking and we were marching around screaming. Ben and I were getting into a fake fight.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “We’re just lounging in the shade in the back of a flatbed truck.”

Maria Thayer: “I was so jealous of you. I would like to be written into the scenes more like that if I can put in a formal request in season two.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “When we were filming, I was like, ‘This is the smartest thing I’ve ever written. Me in a truck tailgating in the shade.’ More of these scenes.”

Did the show escalate really quickly from the pilot?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “Yeah, I think we were shooting for the moon pretty quickly, but we definitely gelled as a cast. I think we got our mojo going pretty quickly, so by the time episodes five, six and seven come out, it ratchets up pretty fast.”

Maria, how did you meet these guys?

Maria Thayer: “I met them in Portland, Oregon in the back of a van. We were at a comedy festival. It was a bunch of comedians and improvisers and I was there to promote something but it was sort of strange that I was there. I got in this van to go from the hotel to an event or the opposite and these guys were in it. We started talking and that was three years before they finally cast me.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “We hazed her for a solid three years.”

Maria Thayer: “To see if I was tough enough.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “She broke down several times, kept coming back.”

Maria Thayer: “Yeah, sure. You can break down but you just can’t quit.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “And that’s an important Hollywood lesson.”

Where did master baking come from?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “Honestly, the director, Roger Kumble in that episode, did the movie Cruel Intentions. We knew I was going to be cooking rock candy meth and he was like, ‘I want to show you something.’ He showed me this Charlie Chaplin clip and it’s kind of racy for a silent film. He’s got his back turned and he’s shaking a martini and it looks like he’s masturbating. Then he turns around and it’s a martini and I was like, ‘That’s hilarious.’ He was like, ‘I want to do this with you but you’re stirring a bowl.’ Out of that jerk off joke, master baking somehow was born. I love that. I was like, ‘This is the smartest d*** joke. I’m referencing a Chaplin silent film.'”

What’s the horror episode?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “The horror episode rules. I won’t give away any spoilers. It was the first one we shot with Bobcat Goldthwait who’s amazing and we all loved him and he loved us. He directs two episodes this season. I won’t explain how it happens but essentially teachers are being killed and we’re locked in the school and it’s after hours and we’re running for our lives. It’s great. We shot it with mostly flashlights.”

Maria Thayer: “Like lighting each other sort of. All I want to do is a horror film.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “They’re kind of easy because it’s just like, ‘Oh no! Run!’ and you just run.”

Maria Thayer: “I feel like you have to have one of those things where your cheek shakes.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “A twitchy lip or something. It was fun. I love that episode and it came out really well, I think.”

What other funny stuff is coming up?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “There’s a lot of nudity. There’s car chases, literally.”

Maria Thayer: “Slapping, a lot of violence. I realized that I love slapping.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “These characters hit each other a lot. I don’t think real teachers should hit each other this much.”

Maria Thayer: “No, real teachers shouldn’t.”

Did you really hit Andrew when you slapped him?

Maria Thayer: “Yeah. I think I really hit everybody that I hit.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “Andrew got beat up. The Coach Fairbell character, he had to do the most stunts. We really beat him up, which was great. We had a stunt coordinator. We had the same stunt coordinator who did Zoolander 2, came from Zoolander 2 to do our show.”

Did you ever have any teachers like Those Who Can’t?

Maria Thayer: “I definitely had some subpar teachers. I had some sleepy teachers, some teachers who really didn’t care which I don’t think the Those Who Can’t teachers [don’t]. As Adam has said, they care.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “Our teachers are definitely lackluster but they do care. They’re trying in their misguided ways. I had lots of bad teachers. I went to a public high school and I had teachers that were so bad they got fired for many bad, illegal things. Mostly, I had a teacher who was kind of pretentious and thought he was a writer. I definitely took that on a little bit.”

I had all those teachers you’re describing too.

Adam Cayton-Holland: “That’s the great thing about a high school show. It’s pretty universal. Everybody had some facsimile of high school they can relate to.”

Maria Thayer: “And it’s a time you don’t forget either. You really remember.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “It’s so formative.”

Where is the school you’re shooting at located?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “The actual high school is Van Nuys High School. Where they shot Fast Times at Ridgemont High and where I learned Marilyn Monroe went for a while.”

Maria Thayer: “The kids there are very nonplussed. If there was a television crew where I went to high school in Apple Valley, MN, we would all be crying with excitement. They don’t care at all.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “They rent this school out a ton so the kids are just like, ‘Great, Hollywood film shoot going on at school. I gotta get to class.’ So it’s funny how they just don’t even bat an eye.”

So they were in session?

Maria Thayer: “For some of it, yeah.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “When we filmed the pilot, the entire time it was in session, which is fun. It adds a certain lifelike feel to it but it’s kind of sad how seasoned and just over it these kids already are.”

Maria Thayer: “The person who was most excited I met was the school librarian. She was like, ‘I’m the librarian. You’re playing me!’ She was very excited but the kids not so much.”

Adam Cayton-Holland: “If I went to that high school and I graduated, I’d be like, ‘Move me anywhere real. I’m leaving L.A. Move me to a real place where things actually happen and a wall doesn’t just get removed because it was a film set.'”

I saw Sarah Michelle Gellar’s episode. Any other guest stars?

Adam Cayton-Holland: “T.J. Miller, Susie Essman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Peter Stormare, Michael Madsen, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182. Lots of good guest stars. We lucked out this season. Really, really cool.”