Interview with Brandon Johnson of Adult Swim's 'NTSF:SD:SUV::'
[Update: This afternoon Adult Swim that "NTSF:SD:SUV::" was renewed for another season.]Brandon Johnson plays the very stern, very committed, and very procedural Alphonse on Paul Scheer's acronym-show-parody extraordinaire "NTSF:SD:SUV::" which will have its season finale on Adult Swim tonight at 12:15 a.m. You've seen Johnson regularly on TV in great little roles on everything from "Arrested Development" to "The League" (he was fantastic!) as well as a regular cast-member on the too-short-lived "Funny or Die Presents..."
We managed to talk to Johnson and write up our chat before tonight's season finale. In addition to being a great comedic actor, Johnson is also an avid cyclist and you might see him riding all over Silver Lake and Echo Park as well as the canals down around Venice. "I also love biking downtown because it's flat but I highly recommend any of the coastal cities, but I really like Venice because I get hungry and they have more food choices there." Nice! Before our talk got derailed by our mutual bike-geekery, this is what Johnson had to say about "NTSF:SD:SUV::":
Thomas Attila Lewis: This show looks like a lot of fun to make.
Brandon Johnson: It really is. One of the great things is that only Paul [Scheer] knows until the last minute who is going to be walking on the set as a guest star, and then it's "Oh my God, that's Jeff Goldblum!"
TAL: That was a great episode. Was that a favorite of yours?
Brandon Johnson: Yes, he's a favorite of mine, I've seen his band play [The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra!] and he puts on a great show, so to have him on the set was amazing. He's a late riser, which in set talk means, as the day goes on the more energetic he becomes. He's like [Christopher] Walken in that he can dance and sing, but people don't know that. You know you love him, and then you see him do that and you love him even more.
I'm now with some new people in the whole Hollywood sphere. There are some 10-year veterans like Paul and June Diane Raphael but we have some celebrity co-stars who are amazing in teaching us all that there is no phoning in, there is no getting tired, "If you're lucky you'll be working at my age." The season has been great because it's been full of little lessons like that.
TAL: Can we talk about your character Alphonse for a minute?
Brandon Johnson: Let's do that!
TAL: We've seen him over-react and shoot a dolphin multiple times...
Brandon Johnson: I don't know that he was overreacting... That's what he would say! He would go on to say "Did you know a dolphin can swim at a speed of 65 mph and that if they hit you with their bodies they can kill you? They fish in teams and pairs like wild dogs. Maybe YOU wouldn't shoot one but how do I know he doesn't have a gun? They're very smart."
TAL: Alphonse is a blast because he's just so committed. He never seems to have that human-like shadow of a doubt. He reminds me a bit of Lance Reddick's character in "Fringe."
Brandon Johnson: I'm not familiar with that, I feel awful.
TAL: Well, it was hilarious to see "Fringe" going into other universes and then "NTSF" went into another dimension this season.
Brandon Johnson: Yes, we can do these things, but we're already so looney on the show that if we just nail these caricatures then the writing will do the rest of it. I think about L.L. Cool J, I also think Ice-T, I think Anthony Anderson on "Law & Order." What's great about "Law & Order," and I'm a huge "Law & Order" fan, is that Anthony Anderson's character, who was introduced towards the end of the show, if they found a body at an ice cream store he would say, literally "Well, I guess he found that 32nd flavor." I was like, these writers are just trying to come up with one-liners at this point. I really zoom in on the one line that you might get in a scene, but it's that one crazy line that I say with such anger and conviction.
TAL: If you look at these shows that you're parodying, the lines you say are so incredibly familiar but you change just one word, or perhaps you say one word a little differently and that's where the humor is.
Brandon Johnson: Right — we have to crank it up a little bit because everybody is familiar with the format. We've had decades of cop shows, but now the procedural is relatively new, to look at the mind behind the crime and showing the procedures to solve the crime. The average American now is an armchair criminal psychologist and we're able to play in that world so that they can see we're making a shout out to "24" for example.
TAL: "24" is definitely an influence on the show, Paul has said as much, but you guys really deliver with the random shots to other parts of the world or little blips of meaningless computer graphics that look like they should be doing something.
Brandon Johnson: Yes, we put so much into building that up as well as the plots to chase someone down all over the world, perhaps to Columbia, and we're ready to grab him but the entire premise is unraveled because of some obscure international law, like the fact that Ohio didn't become a state until 1834, or something like that.
There's the format, there's the beautiful misdirect, I'm a big fan of the device, and I think people know it enough to go "This guy that's carrying the knife, he's not the one that did it, it's the daughter!" [Laughs] People are savvy, they know what a cop show should look like and how it should work, and that's what we're having fun with.
Also check out our interview with show creator Paul Scheer and don't forget to watch tonight's season finale of "NTSF:SD:SUV::" on Adult Swim at 12:15 a.m.