Will Arnett, who starred in last season’s canceled Up All Night, returns to TV in the new comedy The Millers, premiering Oct. 3 on CBS. In the series from executive producer Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl, Raising Hope), Arnett stars as Nathan Miller, a local news reporter whose mom (Margo Martindale) moves in with him when she unexpectedly leaves his father (Beau Bridges).
Paste recently caught up with Arnett to talk about his new series, what exactly happened with Up All Night and how he felt about the controversial fourth season of Arrested Development.
Paste: How would you describe your character on The Millers?
Arnett: I think what’s going to be funny about this particular guy is that he’s a pretty bright guy. He’s a nice guy, but he’s a local correspondent who covers a lot of fluff pieces. He works for a small station. He has aspirations to be the anchor of that small station, but he’s not even that. He’s covering things like bike races and the filling of a sink hole, and he’s not exactly living up to his potential in his own life. So I think we’re going to see that frustration. There’s going to be a few surprises that I don’t want to give away yet, but you’ll get some idea of why his work is very frustrating.
Paste: What keeps you coming back to TV?
Arnett: You get to have an actual life. I just came off three months of doing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and something like that is so all-engrossing. It’s a marathon at sprint speed. Especially on a multi-cam show, the hours are a lot more relaxed and I look forward to taking my kids to school every morning. That’s my down time. That’s another reason I was very excited to do this show. It’s going to fit a lot more into my life.
Paste: Although it ran for two seasons, Up All Night went through many changes before it was ultimately canceled. What happened with the show?
Arnett: I don’t know exactly where it was. It’s one of those things. Even for us in the process, it just kind of fell apart. There were great people involved and I think there were a lot of good intentions to go forward in a different way, and it just never happened. Greg is someone I’ve known for a long time just socially and I’ve always wanted to do something with him, and at the moment that Up All Night really kind of came off the rails as it were, Greg reached out to me and it could not have been better timing. I feel so lucky to be a part of this. Ultimately, for me selfishly, it was the best thing that could have happened.
Paste: What did you think about the reaction the fourth season of Arrested Development received?
Arnett: I’m incredibly proud of Season Four. I know it got mixed reviews, but I thought as a whole it was a very, very complete piece of work that is very unique that I don’t think anybody has ever done. We’re all very proud of it. I think that people were expecting to come and it would take off from the last episode that they watched. My prediction is two or three years from now people will look at back, having seen them all and watched them all again, people will say, “Oh wow, I didn’t even really understand it.” I’m not suggesting that [executive producer and creator] Mitch Hurwitz is teaching everyone how to be entertained, but I do think that he was trying to do something different. Because it is so, for lack of a better term, outside the box and I do think the legacy will be years down the road, “Wow this was something that was very, very different and very bold.”
Paste: Were you surprised by the scripts and how different and dark the show was in its fourth season?
Arnett: I think it was a good way to go. I think we had to mix it up. I think we had to kind of reinvent it. I always likened it to a new version of a car that everybody loves comes out and everybody is, “Oh my god it looks terrible. The old one was so great.” And after a while you get used to it and you say, “Oh wait. It’s very innovative.” And I think that we had to go dark. You know audiences are so savvy now and you have to do something that’s different and make it interesting.
Paste: What do you think? Will there be a Season 5 of Arrested Development?
Arnett: It is something that I think everybody wants to do and I know that Mitch voiced his desire to do a fifth season. We had a lot of fun doing Season Four.
Paste: What have you learned from your years on TV?
Arnett: You learn from every experience. I had the benefit of working with some really, really funny people. Whether it was Alec on 30 Rock, who is one of the great American talents in my view, and from Jason Bateman who was, of course, the center of Arrested Development and arguably the straight man even though in Season Four he got to kind of go off the rails a little more. I’ve always maintained that Jason is the funniest straight man that’s ever lived, and that takes an incredible amount of talent. Jason has unbelievable timing. He’s personally one of the funniest people that I’ve ever known. The character of Gob only worked as well as Michael allowed him to. As crazy as something Gob was doing or as funny or whatever, it only worked if it was a tango, and Jason was the woman.