The PaleyFest Fall TV Previews, which celebrate new and returning series with preview screenings and panels, began this week in Beverly Hills, Calif. On Friday night, a live audience got a sneak peek at Hulu’s Future Man, a half-hour sci-fi comedy series executive produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Matt Tolmach and James Weaver. Rogen and Goldberg are experts in the raunchy comedy (This is the End, Pineapple Express, Superbad) and Future Man fits perfectly into their oeuvre.
The show stars Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) as Josh Futterman, a janitor and gamer, who encounters warriors from the future (Eliza Coupe, Derek Wilson) on a mission. The future is bleak and brutal and the trio must jump through time to save humanity. The series is a funnier bedfellow to Rogen and Goldberg’s other series, AMC’s Preacher. (Read our report from the Preacher set here.)
Although Future Man is in the final stages of post-production, we learned a few things about the show from the screening and Q&A with cast members Hutcherson, Coupe, Wilson, Ed Begley, Jr., and Haley Joel Osment and executive producers Matt Tolmach and Ben Karlin.
Future Man was originally developed for the big screen.
Tolmach told Paste backstage that Future Man was originally developed as a film feature. “Because of the setup of the character and the world, there were so many more avenues to explore. The world has changed in terms of R-rated movies, and how hard it is to get those movies made, and finding those audiences. I think we all just felt there was so much great stuff going on in television. This is an insanely good idea for a show… We landed at Hulu because they seemed to laugh the loudest in the room.”
Namechecking the classics…
Throughout the evening, the cast and creatives namechecked a number of films that influenced Future Man, including Back to the Future, Terminator 2, The Last Starfighter, even Rick and Morty.
Josh on Josh…
Hutcherson described Futterman as a great character, who’s a gamer, but not necessarily a slacker. “What’s cool about him is that he has a hero’s journey, but it’s not the typical, ‘Oh, at the beginning, he’s a weak dweeb, and then he’s the most badass fighter of all time.’ He maintains his truth throughout the entire season, and that’s what helps propel the mission forward [through his] genuine care for people and keeping a moral center. That is very important.”
Begley was aboard before reading a word.
“I heard Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were involved, and they’re friends of mine—I worked with them on Pineapple Express—so I was drawn to the material,” Begley said during a backstage interview. “Then, I read the script. Kyle [Hunter] and Ariel [Shaffir] wrote an incredible script. It’s just brilliant. And to play Josh Hutcherson’s dad was a terrific treat for me. I greatly admire him from The Hunger Games. He’s an amazing actor. And to work with my friend Glenne Headly—she’s been my friend for many years—so everything about [the show] was delightful.”
On Headly’s untimely passing…
Headly, who plays Josh’s mom Diane in the pilot and several other episodes, passed away in June. Her death profoundly impacted the cast and crew. “There’s no script on how you deal with grief and loss,” Tolmach said. “She was a member of this family. And is. So it took time for people to heal and to deal with it.
“There’s a way in which [Headly’s death is addressed] that makes sense in the show, by the nature of the different time [periods]. But it was devastating, devastating. It was a tragedy.”
Haley Joel Osment is racking up those comedy credits.
Osment plays Dr. Stu Camillo, a foil for Futterman (in the pilot, anyway). The cast and producers didn’t reveal a lot about the character, but Osment’s been honing his comedy skills lately, with turns in Silicon Valley, Teachers, The Spoils Before Dying, The Spoils of Babylon and Comedy Bang! Bang!
“Especially with Spoils of Babylon, I couldn’t believe I was able to be on the screen with those people, doing something that ridiculous, too. It wasn’t a normal comedy. Those guys were just incredible… Getting to work with Kristen Wiig and that whole cast, you just sort of pick up where comedy comes from. I also got to work on Comedy Bang! Bang!, and that group of improvisers. Scott Aukerman is just amazing, and that empire he’s created that’s just been so influential on all these types of comedy. I always just made sure to watch how he did what he did on set as a creator and as a performer.”
Eliza Coupe fights the patriarchy as “Tiger.” Sort of.
Backstage, Coupe said that her character, Tiger, indirectly challenges the stereotypes of female crimefighters. “She doesn’t have a reference to patriarchy,” Coupe said. “She’s the leader of the resistance and in charge of a whole army… I don’t fight in dumb outfits that are like leotards and like little things—come on, you can’t fight in that—I have like legit warrior gear, and I’m in pants most of the time. That alone speaks volumes without saying anything.”
Coupe told the PaleyFest audience that Rogen described Tiger to her as an “angrier version of Sarah Connor” from the Terminator films. “Oh I can do that… that’s Eliza…” she quipped during the panel.
Brushing up on Shakespeare…
Derek Wilson, who plays the warrior Wolf, is a classically trained actor who’s performed in more than 20 of Shakespeare’s works. “I just played Richard III a year ago,” he said backstage. “What’s funny—the reason I did Richard III, and I did it at a small theater, I did it at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey—but the reason I wanted to play him is because I thought it would teach me something about Wolf.”
Bodily fluids play a role in the pilot.
In a memorable but gross scene in the pilot ripped from the Rogen-Goldberg playbook, semen is used as a visual sight gag. “I did break the rules of no on-set photography,” Osment admitted to the Paley audience. “Because I did text my friend a picture of the wardrobe table that just had jars of [fake] cum.” Karlin added, “Semen does play an integral part in the story. It’s not just gratuitous semen jokes…. despite the serialized storytelling, trust me, semen comes back in a big way.” (Yep, he said that.)
Future Man premieres November 14 on Hulu.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.