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John Reynolds on Search Party and Stranger Things

The quirky improv maven talks about the new seasons of Search Party and Stranger Things before New York TV Festival

Photograph: Courtesy Mark Schafer

Satires of Brooklyn may be a dime a dozen these days, but TBS’s loopy, droll series Search Party stood out in its 2016 debut by making its cast of indulged twentysomethings solve a mystery. At the center of the pitiful shenanigans were Dory (Alia Shawkat) and her lunkhead boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds) who ended the first season committing a crime of their own. Before Search Party previews the second season (starting November 19) at the New York TV Festival on October 23, we spoke with the very funny comedian about Drew’s adventures and his experience playing Officer Callahan on our favorite TV show of 2016Stranger Things.

Have you heard unexpected responses to Search Party?
I’m always stoked when I hear someone say that their mom or dad loves the show. It’s such a different demographic, and it’s nice to hear you have fans you didn’t expect. There is something that is a little timeless about Search Party; it’s a pretty standard story, and I think the only actual pop-culture reference in season one is to Patricia Arquette, which people of all ages can get.

Do people seem to empathize with the characters or enjoy the schadenfreude?
I like to think it’s a little bit of both. It’s a bummer if people say of these characters, “I hate them so much, they’re so pathetic.” But there are so many shades of me and my friends in these people. Maybe you hate them so much because you see yourself in them.

Drew is simultaneously clueless while being the show’s (relative) moral center. Who is he based on?
I don’t think he’s based on one person. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and I based him as a guy I would know in the Midwest who sees his brothers grow up a certain way, and wants to maintain that status quo with his family, and doesn’t want to be in any spotlight. Throughout season one, he was trying to maintain the relationship with Dory, give her a little space and pull her back a little as well. There are a lot of moments where he’s not very endearing, especially in the pilot, when he was mansplaining. It was a balance to keep him endearing throughout the season while keeping him unlikeable and truthful.

Season two ends with a game-changing cliffhanger. How does Drew change in the new season?
It’s a different path for him, and for everybody. Season one was about Dory bringing her friends into this mystery that seemed inconsequential, and at the end of season one the consequences are huge—it’s a life-or-death situation. Season two picks up right where it left off, and it's about them getting out of the situation, compartmentalizing and dealing with the consequences of their actions. In season one, Drew has likeable moments and is proven to be redeemable, but by season two he is a murderer. It’s a different balance to maintain with the character. I wonder if people will still like him. He doesn’t have those nice boyfriend moments with Dory, because he he has unbelievable anxiety to deal with.

When you filmed season one of Stranger Things, did you have any idea how big the show would become?
I had no idea. I don’t think anybody did, which was part of the fun. It seemed like it was going to be this cool nostalgia-driven mystery. You have no idea when you’re making something if people will like it. People don’t recognize me from the show, so I still have a huge amount of anonymity, which is nice. I’ve had people come to my shows saying that they were just watching Stranger Things but they don’t know who I am. And I’m like, Do you not recognize me? It’s been amazing. I’ve been grateful to see it play out.

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