Fox’s bizarre What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage half-hour series is one of the summer’s most meta comedies. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to name a single series released in the past couple of years to which the “meta” label so perfectly applies.
The series features Fred Savage as the host of a Talking Dead-type aftershow that focuses on a non-existent series, The Flare. The aftershow pulls in members of The Flare cast as well as recognizable guest stars to share their thoughts on the series that, again, doesn’t actually exist.
Savage was joined by The Flare actors Shiri Appleby, Tyler Ritter, and Kevin Zegers at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con where they did their best to explain how they approached their characters.
Shiri Appleby described the pitch for the show as Fred calling and asking to meet for coffee. He didn’t even need to describe the series for Appleby to agree to What Just Happened??!. She initially wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into, but now says the series is her dream job. “I didn’t really know what was going on and I got to wear my own clothes – and it was pretty mellow,” said Appleby.
“Shiri was in the pilot for us and to build a show on the foundation of a show that doesn’t exist, that foundation has to be as solid as you can make it,” explained Savage. “We needed to get someone for that show who was a phenomenal actress, someone who instantly brings credibility and gravitas to a project, and someone who you’re just genuinely fans of. And Shiri just checked all those boxes.”
Appleby was the first person Savage and the creative team thought of when casting the series. “I just couldn’t believe she agreed to do it,” said Savage. “She was our first yes, and that just sent us on our way.”
The make-believe series The Flare has a lot of fans among viewers and among the What Just Happened??! cast. “We really want to make The Flare. We really want the show The Flare to be its own show, but that’s what’s been so fun about it is you can just put stakes into it and commit to it and you didn’t have to shot the last 30 minutes,” said Appleby, laughing.
“Doing one scene at a time allows you a lot of freedom. Things don’t necessarily have to track,” confirmed Savage. He also revealed an added benefit is it means they can be super flexible with actors’ work schedules.
Because there aren’t any real specific beats to hit, the actors aren’t always sure what their lines mean. “You’re like saying lines like, ‘Wake up,’ and you’re like, ‘Wake up from what? Why is he sleeping? What do I need him to wake up for?’ It could be anything. The possibilities are endless,” explained Appleby.
When casting the series, pulling in guest stars, and gathering the behind the scenes team, Fred Savage’s mantra was, “I want people we don’t deserve. In front of the camera, behind the camera, people that we can’t get…people that you’d say you’re crazy to ask them to come do it. But that’s what I wanted. That was the mantra.”
Savage has nothing but compliments for the cast and their dedication to the project and to delving into the world without the normal amount of information on their characters. “For any other actors in lesser hands, they probably wouldn’t care what the shows about, show up and read lines, fake it. But all of these characters have really found – sometimes we write it in the scenes – but a lot of times the homework was left to them to figure out why.”
Check out the video featured above for the complete interview with Fred Savage and Shiri Appleby. They discuss more about The Flare, the guest stars, and having Avengers: Endgame spoiled before it was released. (It ties into What Just Happened??! since the running gag is that Savage’s host character always has upcoming episodes spoiled.)
More on What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage:
- Interview with executive producers Jon Cassar, Matthew Silverstein, and Dave Jeser
- Tyler Ritter and Kevin Zegers team up to explain What Just Happened??!