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LAist Interview: Megan Mullally of Adult Swim's 'Childrens' Hospital'

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Somehow the producers of Adult Swim's "Childrens' Hospital" manage to transform beautiful Megan Mullally into this troglodyte - she tells us how in our interview.
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Rob Corddry's "Childrens' Hospital" is on Adult Swim tonight at 12:00am, that's also known as midnight, and while it's one of the weirdest and most irreverent programs on televion, it is backed by an incredible cast, including multi-Emmy and multi-Screen Actors Guild award winning Megan Mullally. The rule at "Childrens' Hospital" seems to be that the well-being of their little charges comes last and ego comes first. This rule is most enforced by Mullally's Chief, a character that seems to be a sociopath's sketch of Dr. Kerry Weaver of the long-running "ER." Chief is not only disabled, she is spectacularly disabled, not only physically but emotionally - and it's hilarious! Whether or not Mullally is on broadcast TV in shows like "Will & Grace," "30 Rock," and "Parks and Recreation" or on cable in "Party Down" and "Childrens' Hospital," she brings a fearlessness to every character she's given, she is the person that you will be watching in whatever seen she's in.

In our conversation, we managed to touch on "Childrens' Hospital," "Party Down," and her frequent collaborations with husband Nick Offerman ("Parks and Recreation") who will also be appearing in this season of "Childrens' Hospital."

Thomas Attila Lewis: I think what you're doing in "Childrens' Hospital" is hilarious.

Megan Mullally: Thanks, it's fun!

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TAL: Is it? I wanted to ask about that. I understand that the production schedule is pretty compressed - you go through your episodes in a short period of time, am I correct in that assumption?

Megan Mullally: Yes, we shoot an average of 8 or 9 pages a day because we shoot an 11 minute episode in 2 days. But that's not much worse than a regular, 22 minute episode, which is shot in about 5 days. It's really fun, I never really think of it as hectic, we're always laughing and screwing around.

TAL: It seems like it as Rob Corddry comes up with some pretty amazing stuff for you to do.

Megan Mullally: It's so great to have guys like Rob, and David Wain - to have those guys at the helm of this show is pretty incredible. I feel like these people, they're this sort of new wave, that's exactly what it is, it's the next wave of big comedy and it's starting out in this kind of, obscure forum. Adult Swim isn't the most easy to find or popular network - so we're starting out in this cult way. But I think these guys are going to have big futures in more commercial venues, maybe in film and other television shows down the road.

TAL: You have a lot experience, what do you think will happen in that kind of transition. Your show is on at midnight, you can do what you want, it's on Adult Swim, what do you think would happen if an ABC would say "We would like to have your show" - what do you think would happen?

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Megan Mullally: I don't think that's the way it's going to happen. Networks like Adult Swim are going to break everything open, so that maybe in 5 years you'll see some shows doing what we're doing on more established cable networks and in maybe 10 years you'll see it on broadcast networks, if broadcast networks are [still] around in 10 years. I see it happening in that order rather than seeing an ABC try to put "Childrens'" on network. Even though we don't say dirty words, the same standards and practices apply to "Children's" as they do to other shows - but it's the way in which it's done... mainstream is not ready for that yet.

"Childrens'" does surprisingly well [in Nielsen ratings] for that hour on basic cable and then there's a huge number of people who are watching it on the internet.

TAL: It also seems that these number counters haven't made the adjustment to count these people accurately.

Megan Mullally: I don't think it's accurate! With a show like "Party Down," that show didn't get great numbers when it was airing on Starz but the minute it came out on Netflix it went crazy. That's when I started hearing from everybody about "Party Down."

TAL: I loved that show!

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Megan Mullally: We were talking about it this weekend because there was a "Party Down" marathon in Austin and we were all there for it. We were talking about Starz, and of course we have opinions that are prejudiced, [but] they didn't know what they had because that's a show that has done very very well when it came out on DVD.

TAL: It's great to see your fearlessness in doing shows like "Childrens'" and in "Party Down" which looks so free and natural. Real conversations that people would have in situations that were extremely real if you know anything about Hollywood and how difficult it is for people to get work [a situation that all the characters were facing].

Megan Mullally: That's what I'm hearing people respond to now. The thought that there really aren't happy endings is real. It is a comedy, there are funny moments, many of them in every episode, but there's also a poignant quality to the show and I think that's appealing to audiences. Everybody can relate.

TAL: Am I correct in understanding that you're a friend of Laura Innes?

Megan Mullally: Yeah, we went to college together!

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TAL: What does Laura think about Chief and the similarities between [her character from "ER"] Kerry Weaver and Chief?

Megan Mullally: Right! When I got the script I emailed her and told her I got this script and the character is an extreme version of her character on "ER" and she said "I think that's great." She watched the web series and called me and told me she thought it was hilarious. Now Laura herself is funny and the fact that she thinks the show is funny is very good.

TAL: It's an homage to the iconic character she created.

Megan Mullally: It's so funny that I've known her for so long because Rob Corddry didn't know that we knew each other, that was the fluke!

TAL: And then there's the funny thing twist [in "Childrens'"] that Chief is desirable because of her disability - how twisted is that? It's a statement about how twisted we are. What you do with Chief speaks on so many different levels.

Megan Mullally: I think I'm starting to run out of options of how to get more and more disgusting every season, if you have any suggestions I'm taking them. It's very freeing - it takes me 10 minutes to get ready and that's no exaggeration. The thing that takes the longest is putting on my hunchback which is really sad. My hunchback is terrible, it doesn't even look like a hunchback. Every season we try to make it look good but it never does.

TAL: I don't think we've heard that complaint since Charles Laughton was on a set.

Megan Mullally: I love Charles Laughton - that's so funny! Yeah, I don't think that there are many actors out there who can complain about their hunchback, but what can you do? I don't wear any makeup and I slap that wig on - it is very freeing. Not only am I not wearing any makeup, they're not pulling any punches in the way I'm lit. They aren't doing me any favors or throwing me any bones, it's all out there.

TAL: It's also a pleasure to see you working in another venue with your husband Nick Offerman [both in "Parks & Recreation" as well as "Children's Hospital" where he has a cameo this season]. How does that work on your way to set in the morning? Is there some discussion about the crazy stuff that you're going to be doing that day?

Megan Mullally: We feel so lucky to be able to work together. We met while working on a play in 2000 in Los Angeles. We work together a lot. He did an episode of "Will & Grace" and we've done a bunch of other things together over the years, a couple of plays, TV shows, a movie. You know, it's just funny that this is the biggest platform and certainly the most fun characters that we've played together. We have practiced disgusting kissing techniques, alarming ways of making out with each other, punching each other. It's been really fun and I can't believe we get to do it. It's so lucky and crazy. The fact that I got to play Karen on "Will & Grace" and he gets to play this character [Ron Swanson] that has become already an iconic television character. What are the chances of that happening?

TAL: You have an amazing household!

Megan Mullally: It's crazy! Nick is such a great actor and a great man and this is all so well-deserved. He's just having the time of his life, he really is.

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"Childrens' Hospital" airs at Midnight on Thursday on Adult Swim, episodes can also be viewed online.