In executive producers Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels (Parks and Rec, King of The Hill, The Office) and Dan Halsted’s (Garden State) sci-fi comedy, People of Earth, freelance journalist Ozzie (Wyatt Cenac) finds himself working on a piece about a support group for people who have been abducted by aliens. After spending time with the group leader, Gina (Ana Gasteyer), his skepticism slowly turns into a realization that he, too, may be an “experiencer.”
Standing out among the group of eccentrics is Richard Schultz, a paranoid and neurotic experiencer suffering from a severe case of denial about his current state of life, played by the wonderfully funny Brian Huskey.
Let’s talk about Richard Schultz.
Let’s do it.
We get to know a little more about Richard in episode three, and we kind of find out what brought him to the experiencer group Star Crossed. What is about Richard that drew you to play him?
It’s interesting, a lot of the cast members as we’re shooting started to talk about how there were elements in our characters that either made sense we were playing those characters or we had a fascination with or, you know, might just be sort of how we are, but I really was attracted to the level of denial he’s in to keep his life in check. For him to not admit his wife has left him and sort of attach it to this other horrible thing that has happened to him, this very confusing thing of being abducted, he essentially is not addressing both issues fully. He’s sort of leaning into, ‘Oh, the aliens! She wouldn’t leave me normally.’ I think that’s such a human quality, like, everybody has it. I’ve always been really interested in to what degree everybody’s mind will allow them to get away with anything. I think in a drama that level of denial will allow someone to become a murderer or whatever, but in a comedy it allows someone to just not see what everyone else sees. So, I was attracted to his level of denial and his kind of issues with authority. I think that’s really funny, too. That was a long answer!
It’s great! As you said, we learn the true state of his marriage and a little bit about how him and his wife were abducted – is this something we’ll look into more in season one because it seems like there could be some pretty important information there not only regarding the aliens but for Richard and how he got to where he is.
Honestly, I’m not sure how much we can reveal about the storyline unfolding, but what we discover about Richard and the circumstances around his wife definitely feed into his relationship with the reptilians in particular, and that is to say he might encounter some reptilians again this season, so maybe they’re not done with him quite yet. Maybe, question mark?
You’re really setting up all my questions for me, this is great! As you mentioned, there are different types of aliens: the Reptillians, which Richard explains him and his wife were taken by, the Grays and a Ryan Gosling/Legolas-type being –
Yes, the Whites.
Right. In the first episode, he explains the Reptilians could be anybody, which seems to set the tone for the show and foreshadow maybe what’s coming. I know you can’t spoil anything but could it be some of the experiencers ?
It could be. That’s all I can say. At this point, there aren’t any that I know of, but I’ve also said – during shooting, I would ask the creator, ‘is this going to happen, is that going to happen?’ and he would say, ‘I’m not sure…’ He would be very knowingly teasing me knowing right now that’s not happening but any storyline could change at any minute. That’s what’s really fun and interesting about shooting it. A situation comedy is usually ‘are they or aren’t they? Is he going to say this funny thing or this funny thing?’, but in this one we get to ride the Sci-Fi genre twist and turns storyline, which is really fun. It makes the table reads more exciting.
If you had to pick someone from Star Crossed to be an alien, who do you think it would be, in your own opinion.
Oh gosh. From Richard’s perspective, he would probably be suspect of maybe Chelsea (Tracee Chimo) – Richard is suspect of anyone in an authority position, so worst case…if he and Gina ever butt heads, at some point he would suspect she was a reptilian. For Richard, anything that doesn’t go his a way is a sign the Reptilians are interfering with his life. So, if she maybe pushed back on him or took him to an uncomfortable place or embarrassed him, he’d be like clearly she’s a Reptilian in hiding. I feel that way about Ana Gasteyer anyway. I have my doubts about her being a human.
Talk about the dynamic between all the experiencers and how it bounces between supportive and competitive. How is that going to play into the revelation of experiences that start happening to some of the members in the first few episodes?
I’m glad you point that out because I think that’s a funny dynamic. It’s supportive and almost competitive as you have with Kelly (Alice Wetterlund) and Chelsea and I’d say Richard and everyone else. He think his experience trumps everyone else’s experience. I think within that group, they kind of struggle just being within the group. It’s kind of a situation where you’re seeking support from these other people but you also resent one of those people. I think that kind of informs the dynamic between them. It goes back and forth between help me and i don’t wanna be here with you. I think Ozzie is very much in that place, he has the most objectivity, ‘I really don’t want to be an experiencer’ and we’re sort of further along in the process, we’re like ‘well, we are and we’re not thrilled.’ Honestly, Gerry (Luka Jones) is the only one that wants to have that experience.
Do you think there’s ever a point where some of the members are so competitive they start to imagine new experiences?
Yes, possible. That is a big question mark with Chelsea and Kelly and their encounters with the White. I find it interesting Yvonne (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Nancy (Debra McCabe) also have encounters with Reptilians, but they don’t have the same over-the-top investment in what the Reptilian is and what kind of threat they are, and I think that’s because Yvonne is very reluctant to admit this has happened to her and she just is kind of messed up by it and I think Nancy is just grateful to be around people because she’s very lonely.
I want to talk about Father Doug (Oscar Nuñez). It’s interesting Star Crossed is hosted in a Catholic church since believing in aliens is a gray area for Catholicism. How do you think, or how does, Father Doug influence the members of the group, if at all?
To me, Father Doug operates as the voice of reason of the outside world. In the first season, we don’t see as much of the Star Crossed members out functioning in the world and how this alien dilemma plays out for them. I think the first season is a lot of seeding plot points that are going to play out, so, to me, Father Doug is kind of the straight man and the audience of being like ‘I don’t totally doubt it but I’m not totally comfortable with how weird this is.’ I think the good thing about him being a priest is he can’t turn us away, essentially, he can sort of be like, ‘I’m not on board but I can’t say no.’
Overall, how would you sum up People of Earth? Why should people tune-in?
Oh, a lot of pressure. A lot of pressure there, Sarah. Well, for one, it has an incredible cast; two: it has an incredible cast doing an incredible script; and three: an incredible cast doing a funny and interesting script that goes above and beyond your normal sit-com because it has a lot of twists and turns and elements that come up that you want to see what happens in the next episode. It’s the kind of show, if you’re into binge-watching this will be a great kind of binge-watching show once it’s put up on TBS’ website, question mark? I don’t know. I do think it’ll hook people in and they’ll want to see what happens next and what happens next. Oh, and the last thing is I am in it. That’s probably the main thing.
Naturally. Yes, of course.
Naturally. I should’ve led with that.
Well, you’re a humble guy.
You know, I’m amazing at being humble. I’m probably the most humble guy next to [Donald] Trump out there. The best.
I have to ask: Do you, yourself, believe in otherworldly beings?
I will say this – this might be a cop-out – yes, I believe there are otherworldly beings. I think it would be kind of arrogant for us to think we’re the only ones and I think it would be kind of sad because we’re not doing a great job at it. There has to be other life out there. Who knows if they’re as evolved, but there has to be something with legs out there. But, who knows. We could just be some version of alien life that’s already left this planet and gone out and they keep coming back to check it us, and we’re the most primitive version of it. I don’t know. I hope aliens will become fans of this show and that’ll sort of bridge our two cultures together. That way, we can have a commonality to talk about this show and they won’t come and invade our planet. That’s the original intention of the show, to bring universal peace, right?
Yes, and another great reason to tune-in.
Yeah! If you don’t tune-in, it’ll lead to inner galaxy war. Don’t do it, guys. Don’t put that on your head.
Don’t miss the two episode premiere of People of Earth Monday, October 31 at 9pm ET on TBS.