Tuca & Bertie‘s Second Life: Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong Discuss the Show’s Unlikely ReturnImages courtesy of Adult Swim Comedy Features Tuca & Bertie
A year ago Tuca & Bertie was saved. Cancelled after one critically-acclaimed season on Netflix, the animated show from Lisa Hanawalt, which stars Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish as best bird friends, was rescued by Adult Swim. After a long wait the second season finally arrives this weekend, and the creator and cast not only feel they’re in a good spot, but seem excited that their much beloved project is still alive.
“We feel we’re at the right place. Adult Swim is a perfect home for us,” Haddish told us. “They like stuff that’s a little weird, and we’re a little weird but we’re grounded in reality and that’s the good stuff.”. This sentiment was echoed by Wong, who assured us she and Haddish had been friends since the “real Delia’s catalog days” of Clinton’s presidency, and have wanted to work together just as long.
“There’s been many discussions over the years of us doing like a spy movie, a version of like Demolition Man together. All sorts of stuff and this is the only project that has seemed to land,” Wong shared. I, for one, lament that we have been robbed of a Demolition Man remake with this dynamic duo (which one would play John Spartan, and which one would play Simon Phoenix?!?), but Tuca & Bertie is wonderful in its own special way. Being able to continue working on the show looks to be a boon for the longtime friends and Hanawalt, who feels similarly about where they’ve landed.
“Adult Swim was just like, ‘We want that. We’re gonna get it.’ They recognized the value of the show and they’ve just been great creative partners,” Hanawalt shared. “It’s nice to work with a network that understands animation.”
The cancellation thankfully didn’t scare off the cast, and Hanawalt remains firm in the fact that as long as they’re all together, the show should remain much the same as always. “I think for fans of the show, not that much has changed about it. Still have Tiffany and Ali and Steven Yeun, and a lot of our favorite guest actors and the themes are similar and a lot of the storylines are continued.”
A good number of threads do, in fact, get picked back up even in the early episodes of the newest season, with one of the biggest ones being the reemergence of Pastry Pete in Bertie’s life. When we asked Hanawalt about these more serialized elements of her show (since serialization in adult animation isn’t as common as one might think), she offered up, “I think serializing helps because in real life I feel like guys like Pastry Pete don’t go away. Even if you have a bad interaction with them they tend to come back. They don’t just disappear.”
As a matter of fact, she even pokes fun at the very fact that they don’t just disappear in one of the episodes made available to the press, where Bertie wishes aloud that bad men would just be sent to an island before she realizes they would just turn it into a fun island getaway of all the toxic men in the world.
As well as continuing threads, new ones have emerged too. Early on in the second season, there aren’t just hints of growing tension between the friends, but differing priorities too. “I think Tuca is looking for a love in her life and she’s worried that her friendship with Bertie is the thing holding her back from doing that,” Hanawalt said of some of the new direction. When we asked Haddish what she was looking forward to, she said, “I’m excited for [the audience] to see Tuca’s growth. Tuca is definitely getting more grounded and wanting more for herself. But also she’s realizing that her friend is also growing and probably going to have a family and getting a husband and all this and it’s like `Well, what am I doing for me to have a foundation as well?’”
She also added, “She does get involved in a relationship, maybe not the best or healthiest relationship, but she is trying.”
Wong, who voices Bertie, shared her excitement for the exploration of Bertie’s reaction to Tuca’s growth, saying, “I’m excited for—like, so Tiffany’s character, Tuca, gets into a serious relationship, and then Bertie has to deal with being a little bit neglected and ignored, and that’s something very real that happens in female friendships that can really cause a lot of hurt feelings.” All the while, she’s also dealing with therapy, trying to be a good friend, and of course her relationship with Speckle.
Continuing, Wong perfectly encapsulated the show by saying, “It’s the show that has boobs on buildings and snake trains, but really it’s about relationships and it feels very real and the exploration of it and the way that they explore those dynamics and relationships feels so fresh.”
“It’s just life stuff, but it’s a little heightened because it’s in cartoon form and a little bit easier to swallow,” Haddish added.
Hanawalt threw in that the new season is “kind of spooky season,” adding that there are “ghosts and hauntings throughout.” Across both interviews, a Halloween episode, which Haddish said was her favorite of the bunch, came up a few times and I suspect it’ll be the crux of all these ghost sightings.
Before letting them go, I asked the cast what it was like recording during the pandemic, since all of the second season was produced over the past year. “Trapped in a closet,” was what Wong had to say. Outside of a Dave Chappelle show that both attended, and a subsequent afterparty where Wong lost her voice and Haddish partied till the break of dawn, they didn’t see each other throughout production. They worked from makeshift setups in their homes with equipment that they “borrowed,” and that at least Haddish jokingly implied she’d be holding onto.
“I think I’m gonna start a podcast with mine,” she said.
There’s no doubt Haddish’s joke podcast would be a hit. For now, though, the focus is squarely on Tuca & Bertie, whose second season premieres on Adult Swim on June 13. You won’t want to miss it.
Moises Taveras is a former intern for Paste Magazine and the managing editor of his college newspaper, the Brooklyn College Vanguard. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.