IFC’s STAN AGAINST EVIL, now available in its entirety on IFC.com and IFC on Demand, comes from people who have impeccable genre credentials. Star Janet Varney, who plays Evie Barret,new sheriff in a town beset by monsters, is the voice of Korra in THE LEGEND OF KORRA and has guest-starred on WAREHOUSE 13, as well as being a regular on YOU’RE THE WORST. STAN AGAINST EVIL creator Dana Gould was a writer/producer on THE SIMPSONS. Furthermore, Varney is a big fan of the original TRON; Gould not only can quote verbatim from the original 1972 THE NIGHT STALKER telefilm, he sometimes dresses as Dr. Zaius from PLANET OF THE APES for public events.
DANA GOULD: Fathom Events just showed PLANET OF THE APES in theatres. At the beginning of the screening, Ben Mankewicz interviewed Dr. Zaius. And it was me. I have access to that makeup. And it was funny, because he just interviewed [me] like I was an old actor. Like, “How’d you get the movie?” “I was doing WITH SIX, YOU GET EGGROLL at the Pasadena Playhouse …” It was really funny.
ASSIGNMENT X: You’ve said the character of cranky small-town ex-sheriff Stan, played by John C. McGinley, is based on your father. Did your experience writing for Homer Simpson give you any insights into Stan as well?
GOULD: What influenced me from [THE SIMPSONS] was the density of jokes in terms of, the average sitcom script, quote-unquote, they like you to have three laughs a page. THE SIMPSONS, it’s seven. And so what I tried to do with STAN is to really layer it. Like if they’re reading a magazine, it’s a funny magazine. If they drive by a sign, it’s a funny sign. And to just really pack it with those little moments of, “Wouldn’t it be funny if …?” The other show that I think really influences STAN is TWIN PEAKS, just in the odd quality of it, in just keeping things a little off-kilter. It’s the show I made because it’s the show I wanted to watch. My favorite [SIMPSONS Halloween] “Treehouse of Horror” episode is the parody of THE OMEGA MAN, and then the one based on THE WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast from 1938. It’s just great to have something on television that, when you watch it, you think, “Oh, this show respects my intelligence, this show thinks I’m smart. I love this.” And that’s where I think THE SIMPSONS sort of bleeds into STAN AGAINST EVIL.
AX: The character of Evie is sort of from the real world, as opposed to from the horror world, but she doesn’t seem to be from the same part of the real world as Stan. So can you talk about combining two different real worlds, plus the horror world?
JANET VARNEY: Yeah. A lot of that is still a creative question/inception question, but knowing that we were going to come at it grounded, knowing that [Stan] is based on Dana’s dad, who was very much in the same world as I am now, that didn’t feel like so much of a challenge, because I do feel like this life is still full of people that you come across for one reason or another, and just go, “Oh, okay.” It’s funny, because there are moments when you think, “I’m in a different movie than you, but we’re just both at the grocery store together in real life.” And that’s what makes interactions for me in life interesting, is the sort of being crushed together with somebody that you sort of don’t even know. “I know we’re both speaking English, but are you crazy?” And I think there’s just so much of that with Stan and Evie, but one of the best things about it, and when you get into these situations, these funny pictures and situations, is when you become reliant on that person, the sort of begrudging bond that starts to form, and great comedy comes out of that, too. It isn’t just two people who loathe each other, it’s two people who don’t know what to make of one another and have to figure something out quick.
GOULD: Yeah. The interesting thing about the two characters is that they desperately need each other. And out of that need, they form a bond. Also, Evie does two things to Stan. She’s underlining a void in his life. She has the job that was his self-identity, and he’s also lost his life partner. And so it’s not a romantic void, but there’s a paternal sense to their relationship, despite the fact that she is the walking symbol of his loss, because she took his job from him.
VARNEY: At the end of the day, he has a family, he has a daughter, played wonderfully by Deborah Baker Jr. But for all that Stan and Evie don’t have in common, he still has more in common with Evie, even if it’s him having to deal with the fact that she has replaced him, she still understands that part of his life in a way that his daughter –
GOULD: Doesn’t. Yeah. At the same time she is his adversary, she is his partner in this mission that they have, and she also has to somewhat babysit him.
VARNEY: [laughs] Yeah.
GOULD: An example – years and years and years ago, when I was living in San Francisco, my girlfriend at the time was from Berkeley. And her parents were Berkeley hippies, and she was a California Berkeley girl. And we were in Boston, and we were going to see Nelson Mandela speak on the Esplanade. He had just gotten out of jail. And we got in a cab with a very stereotypical Boston cab driver, who warned us, “I’d stay away from the Esplanade today – they’re going to be out in force.” And looking at her, looking at him, it was like seeing somebody meeting a Martian, seeing somebody who really didn’t know that these people were real. And now imagine those two people having to get out of a terrible situation together. Oil and vinegar.
AX: Does every episode of STAN AGAINST EVIL have big monster moments?
GOULD: Even though it’s a half-hour comedy, every show has giant stunts. We have monsters, we have giant stunts, we got a lot of use out of an air cannon, we flipped a car over driving, we rolled a car, we have a monster shop.
VARNEY: A lot of goo.
GOULD: Yeah, an air cannon full of goo buckets. Every show is a little horror movie with all of the effects that you would expect to see.
AX: How did you decide on what sorts of monsters to have, and do you have more than one sort of monster?
GOULD: Yes, we do. A lot of it was by process of elimination. “I’m not going to do a vampire, because it’s been done to death. I’m not going to do a zombie, because it’s been done to super-death, and it’s done really, really well [laughs], so I’m not going to go there.”
AX: Zombies being very big on TV currently …
GOULD: Not only currently – currently seven miles down the road from where we were shooting in Georgia. And Greg Nicotero from WALKING DEAD is literally one of my best friends. And there was a period of time when Greg was going to direct an episode of the show, and they said, “It can’t have a zombie in it.” He’s contractually obligated to directing zombies on his own show [laughs]. So I wanted to come up with a sense of an army of demons, which I thought would give me a lot of license. And then it was just like, we literally went through this book of demons, and I was like, “Oh, that’s good.” There was a spider demon, there was a goat demon, there was a big demon.
VARNEY: So it was like a Chinese restaurant menu – “I want that, I want that …”
GOULD: It was exactly like that. Or ordering from McDonald’s when in China – “I’d like that, I’d like that, I’d like that.” And then there were other tropes that were just stories that I wanted to tell. We have a time loop episode, which I’m fascinated by, like GROUNDHOG DAY, where people keep having to get through a dangerous situation and get a little bit farther every time. There is an episode that’s based on the Hammer film TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, where three libertines inadvertently resurrect Dracula, and they have to deal with the aftermath. And in our episode, we have three Goths that inadvertently summon the spirit of one of the main antagonists of the show and have to deal with that. So because I have a fan’s knowledge of these movies, I got to go back – “Oh, this will be our TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA episode, oh, this will be our DOCTOR WHO time loop episode.” There’s a lot of that.
AX: What would you most like people to know about STAN AGAINST EVIL?
VARNEY: It is a show created, produced, written, starring, director of photography, directed – everyone involved loves horror and loves comedy, and you can feel that through and through. It’s just in the DNA of the show, and people who love that stuff are going to get it and appreciate it.
GOULD: If you like to scream and you like to laugh, and you only have half an hour, this will take care of both.
This interview was conducted during IFC’s portion of the 2016 summer Television Critics Association press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with STAN AGAINST EVIL creator Dana Gould and star Janey Varney on Season 1