Exclusive: We interview co-creator of The Awesomes Michael Shoemaker

The Awesomes is an animated superhero comedy on Hulu created by SNL’s Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker, who both serve as executive producers. It’s full of SNL and MadTV alumni (amongst others), including Kenan Thompson, Ike Barinholtz, Rashida Jones, Taran Killam, Paula Pell, Bobby Lee, Josh Meyers, Cecily Strong, Rachel Dratch, Will Forte, Colin Quinn, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, and Emily Spivey, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and more. Now into its second season and newly renewed for a third, we had the opportunity to talk with co-creator Michael Shoemaker, who shared his inspiration for creating the series, how they put the cast together, and what it’s like having a superhero show on the air during the current superhero craze.

You’ve been working TV for a really long time, particularly with SNL and now with Late Night with Seth Meyers. What was it that made you want to jump into animation?

Seth and I, when he came to SNL in 2001, we discovered that we were both comic book fans, like big comic book fans, and I had never really hardly met anyone who was. And we would go to comic book stores and then one day we kinda just had this idea- I like animation, I have kids that are kinda obsessed with animation- but, we really wanted to do a comic book show. We had the idea in 2007 and it took us years and years and years to get it on television.  We pinch ourselves all the time. It took a long time, we pitched it a bunch of places and we found the right fit with Hulu.

So, what’s on your comic book pull list?

I always like team books, so y’know, Justice League and the X-Men, but my odd favorite is The Legion of Superheroes, which has a very devoted fan base. I liked it because it had so many, so many different characters. A lot of that is in The Awesomes, just the idea- y’know, it’s team dynamic that just fascinates me.

For those that don’t know about The Awesomes, how would you describe the show?

Y’know, I feel like it’s a workplace comedy, but the workplace happens to be a superhero team. And, this particular superhero team, they were once America’s favorite, they were the greatest. But, then they were out for so many years and then all the good members left and it took one guy to rebuild the team. So, when we first meet them- everyone knows the name of The Awesomes, but no one knows these people and they all prefer the ones who left. It’s about proving yourself. In particular, Seth who plays Prock, who has to prove himself to his dad, who launched the team, and now it’s up to him to take it over. It’s really about family and history and there’s a love triangle – it’s way more complicated that it needed to be, but that’s what we like about it [laughs].

It kind of feels like a comedic version of The Watchmen. Was that an inspiration at all?

Y’know, it really wasn’t. I think the impetus was, like, I was reading Justice Society at the time and the X-men, and it was just to do an alternate universe of superheroes. I had read Watchmen, but the influence was things like the Justice Society, I would say- To do this and do it with people that we know. There’s also a little bit of an SNL metaphor in it in that it’s people commanding a team of diverse people who are really talented but you have to push them in the right direction.

The characters in The Awesomes are very distinct in powers and personality. Do you create these characters with specific actors in mind?

Absolutely. Well, mostly, yes. We always knew Kenan [Thompson] was Keenan. Kenan was Impresario from the first day we talked about it and Gadget Gal was Paula Pell, because that was the voice. But, the idea was based on, y’know, like in Justice Society The Green Lantern who was around during WWII, but has been rejuvenated; Captain America has been put on ice, like that comic book trope of ‘you can’t let a hero die, even though they were around to fight Hitler’ so, the idea was that it would be a woman who was rejuvenated and that was a voice I knew that Paula could do. And, Concierge was always [Emily] Spivey and always had that same kind of attitude. Ike Barinholtz was Muscle Man – he was the guy we wanted right away. And, Rashida [Jones] was one of the first people who we said ‘oh, she’d be a great love interest for Seth’ so we just kind of built it around and imagined all those people that we know and love as superheroes.

Was it difficult to get the SNL cast to play into these roles?

Nooo. [laughs] It was just ‘hey, we’re doing this thing later, you’re in it.’ It’s like SNL when you’re doing a sketch and you see people in the hallways and you’re like ‘oh, I have this thing and you’re in it. I’ll show it to you later,’ and they’re like ‘Ok, great.’ [laughs] They’re all our friends, so there was not a casting process.

That’s got to be comforting to have a group of people to pull from. I’m sure that makes the creative process a lot easier.

Oh, it’s fantastic. And also, I think they trust us.  When we can see something, like ‘oh, this will be good for Dratch’ or ‘oh Spivey will be funny for this.’ We know all of their voices and now they’ve become the characters. So, when they come in, it’s one take. They do it so well. They’re always really good at that. But, they come in and they all do it separately, because they’re, y’know, famous [laughs]. And, they do their lines and they’re so good at it, so quick at it. Right away, they get it, even though they barely know the story.

You’ve got new additions to the cast with this season, including Amy Poehler, Will Forte, and Maya Rudolph. Do you have a dream list of people you’d like to bring in going forward?

Yes, next season. Well, I can’t tell you yet. Again, it’s all people we know. We’ll be pulling on the rest of our friends. I can’t believe we haven’t had Fred [Armison) yet. There’s still plenty of people that we know who are really funny that we will use for things.

With superheroes being at the height of their popularity right now, do you think that makes it easier or more difficult for a show like The Awesomes.

I think it’s great. We conceived of it before they were at their popularity. And then these movies came out and we’re like ‘why isn’t our show on?’ And now is the time. It certainly doesn’t make it hard to write. You know what it does? It makes it easier for the show, because we don’t explain why superheroes exist in this universe, they just do. We don’t have to explain all their origin stories. People take it for granted-team of superheroes, I know what that is. It’s very easy for people to accept, you don’t have to say, like, that they all came on a rocket from Krypton. It’s just, ‘oh, what’s that guys power? Okay.’ So, it does help.

I’m curious if there’s a pressure since it seems like everyone is trying to get in on the superhero craze now, even though you’ve been developing The Awesomes for years…

It’s like comic books. There’s millions of ‘em, but that doesn’t stop anybody. I don’t think it makes it harder for anybody. I don’t think anybody that works at DC would be afraid to create a new character because there’s so many. It doesn’t stop you in any way. We had this team that we knew was different from other teams and we just kept going. I don’t think it’s bad, I think it’s great that there’s so much of it. As a fan I love all that stuff.

Me too, I’m the same way. So, the show has been renewed for a third season by Hulu and I’m curious what you and Seth have cooking for season 3…

Well, we said we wouldn’t discuss too much for season 3 and it’s so episodic that I can’t say too much, because things that are revealed near the end…Season one was making the team be good and season two is the fact that they are good and that America kind of accepts them and then season three tests that, I’m gonna say.

Well, the show’s a lot of fun and I really wish you guys the best of luck going forward with it.

Thanks so much. It’s a really fun season and we’ve got a lot of help on it. The first year was just me and Seth and Judd [Winnick] and now that we’ve had more people it’s really opened it up and it’s great. The people that come in understand- Alex Baze, who’s our head writer here- we said ‘you want to write an episode?’ and he’s like ‘sure’ and he just understood the characters right away. It’s so nice that people can watch that first season and can get who they are, that they’re clearly drawn. You don’t see a false note coming from any of these writers. It’s so gratifying that, like, ‘oh, they know how this guy talks and this is how that guy talks’ so getting into the third season it seems like a breeze, and that’s because you can get help from all places.

The Awesomes is a really fun show and a nice little escape from the mostly “serious” world of superhero stuff out there now, so if you’re looking for a breather from all the big-budget extravaganzas and small-screen serials, give it a shot. The Awesomes, season 2 is available for free on Hulu now with new episodes every Monday, as well as on Teletoon at Night in Canada.

Source: JoBlo.com

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