“It was loose plots at best in Childrens Hospital,” actress Erinn Hayes says, laughing as she reminisces on the Adult Swim cult favorite. In that show, which aired for seven seasons between 2010 and 2016 (and began as a web series in 2008), relationships would begin and end in succinct 11-minute episodes, only to start anew with another partner the next week. People would die and be brought back to life with little-to-no explanation episodes later. Meta behind-the-scenes news episodes would introduce the actors behind the characters with their own backstories. Movies would be parodied, episodes would take place in the ’50s, ’70s and in the U.K, and the whole thing inexplicably took place in Brazil (“which, of course, as we all know, is where we are”). Malin Åkerman’s character, Dr. Valerie Flame, was secretly Jon Hamm all along. It was as chaotic of a show as you’d ever seen, filled to the brim with more jokes in 11 minutes than other comedies have in a full season.
But because 86 episodes produced, well, 86 different plots, Childrens Hospital was ripe for a spin-off—what’s one more storyline?
Rumblings of a half hour show first started to develop about a year after the final episode of the Adult Swim classic on April 15, 2016, which wasn’t given the chance to bow out on its own terms. Though virtually all of its cast members moved on to other projects (Corddry to HBO’s Ballers, Åkerman to Billions, Megan Mullally to a reboot of Will & Grace, Hayes to Kevin Can Wait, Henry Winkler to Barry, and others to the David Wain-helmed Netflix Wet Hot American Summer seasons), their great experiences working on the quirky satirical hospital show—Hayes once remembered Winkler saying, “One day we won’t be here making this show, and we’ll remember what a wonderful time we had. It’s like coming to summer camp with our friends.”—led each cast member to immediately want to join whatever that spin-off may be, schedules permitting. Once Netflix gave the green light, everyone (excluding Mullally) was on board for at least an episode or two, with Hayes and Huebel chosen as co-leads.
“I love these people,” Hayes says, who revives her character Dr. Lola Spratt in Medical Police. “Everyone just always got along and enjoyed each other thoroughly. There was never weirdness. It was so fun throughout because I got being in it so much with Huebel and I. The end at the hospital with everyone there, it was just so nice. We didn’t know Childrens Hospital was going to end—that last season, we just figured we were going to come back for more so we didn’t appreciate it as much as this time, knowing how truly special this group of people is. We took every moment to just appreciate each other and have fun.”
Instead of the rapid-fire 10-plus jokes-per-minute pace that Childrens Hospital maintained throughout each episode, Medical Police slows things down a bit, exploring a single plotline throughout each 22-minute chapter. Exploring a character and telling fewer jokes isn’t something necessarily new to Hayes—she’s been in dozens of other movies and TV shows as a working actress, after all—but things were a bit different with this cast and crew than before. It’s a bit more, dare I say, normal. But don’t worry, that same slapstick, Airplane!-esque humor still shines through.
“It was a little disconcerting at first,” she explains. “The other thing that took a little getting used to was the fact that some of this Medical Police is actually straight action. In certain moments we’d be like, ‘What’s the joke? What are we doing? What are we commenting on in this?’ and they’d be like, ‘No, in this one, it’s just a fight sequence’ or ‘In this, we have to get out some information so it can move our story forward.’ Doing an 11 minute show with an A, B and C storyline like Childrens Hospital that we were used to—there was no time for that! You had to multitask. Everything was a joke. That took a couple days and then we settled into it. The fear in doing this kind of comedy is our audience is just used to joke, joke, joke, joke, joke. But audiences are smart. They can take a little breather with you and have a fight sequence and then end with a joke.”
And those fight sequences were new for Hayes, too. Stunt people were used throughout, and, while Childrens Hospital had a stunt coordinator, he got to do a lot more this time around. While its predecessor was a manic take on hyper-dramatic shows like Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Medical Police plays much more like a satire on a action movie or spy thriller, like Macgruber with more doctor jokes (“We are the police and we’re doctors, which makes us… cop doctors,” goes the trailer).
Hayes even tried to see how far she could take her character’s—and her own—lack of fight training. “It was super fun to practice disarming somebody with their gun,” she says. “Rob Heubel’s character, Dr. Owen Maestro, he was a cop before he was a doctor and that’s his backstory [alongside Detective Chance Briggs, played by Nick Offerman in Childrens Hospital]. Lola wasn’t. I did have a couple times where I was like, ‘Should she come in holding the gun way too low in a way that no one ever holds a gun?’ and they’re like, ‘Come on, Erinn, that’s way too much! Everyone knows how to hold a gun!’ There were certain things I wanted to push a little farther and they were like, ‘No that’s dumb, stop.’”
While there’s loads more action than ever before, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still loads of laugh-out-loud gags throughout. And that includes a prominent use of a movie poster from the forgettable 2015 Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway film The Intern in one of the final scenes (“It was so fun to walk onto a new set and be like, ‘Are you kidding me? Look at this! What’s happening here?’”). There are hilarious guest stars aplenty—Jason Schwartzman with a bizarre accent that’s impossible to place! Craig Robinson! Jon Hamm!—and the scripts are as funny as ever as Hayes and Huebel struggled not to break (“I do think you can totally tell that I was barely keeping it together,” she says of a certain scene with Craig Robinson). And don’t worry, while the show, of which 10 days were filmed in Zagreb, Croatia, takes place all over the world—“We are global! We’re not just Brazil anymore everybody!”—the principal Childrens Hospital is still in Brazil.
But that infamous Childrens Hospital joke almost didn’t make it into Medical Police: “We made sure, we had to have the ‘From Brazil, which of course, as we all know, is where we are,’” Hayes explains. “We were like, ‘Where are we putting it in?’ I don’t think it was in the initial script and when we were doing the driving scene, we were like, ‘We don’t have it in anywhere else but this would be the place for it.’”
Above all, it’s refreshing to see the cast of Childrens back together in the hospital again, even if the hospital itself is slightly different. “We just go to old, defunct hospitals that are about to get torn down and just be the death knell for them,” says Hayes. “I’m sure the place we shot it at is already torn down; every other hospital has been.” That cast, from Ken Marino’s Dr. Glenn Richie to Lake Bell’s Dr. Cat Black, finally gets the chance to say their true goodbye that they were denied in 2016.
“It was so much fun to get this group of people together again,” Hayes says. “Our last days shooting in Los Angeles before we went out of the country, we did the finale with the hospital and those were some of the most fun days, just sitting in the break room with everyone and catching up. It felt like old times.”