After scoring success with hits like Cobra Kai and Origin, YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is launching a new comedy series, Champaign ILL. The series stars Adam Pally and Sam Richardson as members of a hip-hop entourage who are forced to find their own way in the world after their best friend and meal ticket, Lou (Jay Pharoah) is killed in a tragic accident.
We spoke with Adam Pally about the foundations of Champaign ILL and he shared some insight into building an unusual comedy protagonist, as well as building a friendship with his co-star, Veep and Detroiters star Sam Richardson, among several other topics. He shares his comedy inspirations and explains what makes YouTube different from – and similar to – traditional television networks.
All ten episodes of Champaign ILL debut December 12 on YouTube Premium
Tell me about Champaign ILL.
This is a show from me and the creators of Happy Endings, David Caspe and Daniel & Matthew Libman. We decided we wanted to work together, and we were looking at a bunch of different ideas, and we really related to this character that wasn't necessarily "the guy," but was next to "the guy." Those guys tend to be the most entitled. Once we nailed that down, it became about this hip-hop entourage, because we thought that would be a really funny place to play entitlement.
"Entitled" is a great word to describe Ronnie. It must be so freeing, as a comedian, to get to play a character who is so jolly and fun to watch, but also so overtly unlikable in some ways!
I think the fun thing about playing a character like Ronnie is that it's very true to life; nobody is likable all the time. Good people do unlikable things, but that doesn't make them bad people. It was awesome to get to do that.
How do strike the balance of making viewers want to watch him, but also making him someone we want to see fail?
That's an interesting interpretation. I think, if anything, you want to see him fail because that would be more fun to watch. I'd say that's a positive to me.
I was on the floor during the gambling scene in episode three.
That was one of my favorites. I really love that episode.
You and Sam Richardson have an amazing chemistry. I already see you two as an iconic comedy duo.
Wow, that's high praise! I think the world of him. I learned a ton. Just the way he reads a line is so funny to me. It was amazing to work with him.
He told me that you knew each other but you weren't close before the show, and I almost didn't believe him. What's it like, as an actor and a comedian, building up a rapport with a new co-star?
It's always different. I think you have to remove expectations in both positive and negative. All of these relationships happen organically. You have to just let it happen. Sam and I got to know each other, and we were like, "oh, we have a very similar upbringing," in a lot of ways; different in others, but we were able to just click in right away as if we were going out on stage to do an improv piece.
The third star, he doesn't have as much screen time since he dies in a tragic and hilarious moment, but what was it like bringing Jay Pharoah into the show?
Jay has such a wild, different energy from me and Sam. It was so nice to understand that that is, usually, what it's like with a friendship like that. I've been in a lot of dynamics where I've been one of three, and everybody brings their own thing to it. Sometimes, when you're a duo, you kind of share a mind. It was exciting to have someone who's so naturally funny and talented, my God! The impressions and the voices, they had me on the floor all night.
Jay has only a few scenes in the first three episodes; will he have a bigger role going forward, in flashbacks and visions and things like that?
Yeah, he comes back quite a bit. It's always fun and surprising. I've watched most of them in a sitting, and you start to get this real, heavy feeling in your chest every time you think Jay is going to show up, because it means so much.
You come from an improv background, and the show has these great outtakes at the end of every episode. There's definitely a lot of improv on the show. You have such a great, biting sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed the Peter Berg joke in episode two!
That's a Libman Classic. Happy Endings certainly had a lot of Libman Specials, as well.
Tell me about having a safe environment on set? Do you ever feel you might get in trouble? Or do y0u feel free to experiment?
I definitely feel, sometimes, like I could get in trouble. I try to feel free, and hope that if I were to get in trouble, I would be able to apologize honestly. I don't know if any of us are free of trouble, eventually, in that way, but I would hope that I would be able to see and know if I were doing something wrong.
Do you feel some sets are more open or safe than others when it comes to taking those kind of creative risks?
No, I would say that's an excuse for when people do something wrong. I think, again, you have to know what your moral compass is, and what you're doing; if you do cross that line, you have to take ownership of it. Being on a more comfortable set, you still have to be the same actor. I certainly don't want to provoke. I only want to entertain.
And you do. I'm always entertained when I see you on television. You've been around the block! From Happy Endings on ABC, to Making History and The Mindy Project on FOX, and The President Show on Comedy Central, now you're on YouTube, which is sort of a new player on the scene. Do you feel like it's different than working with other networks, or is it, on the set, day to day, just making a show?
Some stuff was different, but I've really only worked on network TV in that way, for the most part. For me, the major difference was getting to shoot ten episodes of the show before anyone sees it. You're not adjusting to the ratings or the comments; you're just making the thing you want to make, and then you see where the chips fall. That's a new thing for me, and I was excited by that. I was excited to not have to worry about the pressure of the outside. You can just focus. But then, at the same time, they were a lot like a regular network. They have development executives who said "no" and all that stuff. I would say it was a really good working relationship. I don't know what their plans are. I don't know how Google runs YouTube, I don't know what goes on in Silicon Valley, but I know we made a great show, and I love it, and I'm really proud of it.
Who are some of your acting heroes, inspirations, who were some of your favorites growing up?
My number one is Gene Wilder. I love him. I think I know every line to every Gene Wilder movie. And I really like Steve Martin. I think Steve Martin has a real eye for beauty in his comedy, which is... A lot of his comedy is not going for a laugh, but it's really beautiful. Like, L.A. Story is a beautiful movie, and Bowfinger is amazing. Steve Martin is up there. I love Howard Stern. He's one of my big comedic idols because, I don't know, the important things matter to Howard, and the unimportant things don't. I don't know, there's something about his comedy that was very much a north star. And then, I guess, Amy Poehler is probably the next voice I hear in my head when I'm thinking, is this going to be funny? I think, would Amy laugh at this if she was watching me on stage when I was 19? Those are my big heroes.
It was so great to talk to you, thanks so much for your time.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now officially Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The animated film, which sees Miles Morales team up with several other Spider-People in a reality-bending adventure, is shaping up to be one of the biggest hits of the holiday season. Of course, the recognition and popularity of the source material all but guaranteed Spider-Verse would do well commercially, especially with the box office currently going through a bit of a lull. In addition, it appears Sony has a bona fide critical darling on their hands, with Spider-Verse currently riding waves of positive buzz.
The film already took home the New York Film Critics Circle's award for Best Animated Feature, and it's also been nominated in that category for the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards. In all likelihood, it'll be in contention for the Oscar as well, raising interest in the latest superhero film to grace screens in 2018. Critics definitely enjoyed Spider-Verse, and now it has a famous seal of approval to boast about.
Today, Rotten Tomatoes announced Into the Spider-Verse is Certified Fresh. As of this writing, 88 reviews have been counted, and 87 of them are positive. The film no longer sports the perfect 100% rating, but it's still going to go down as one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Stars Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson expressed their gratitude in a humorous video message, which you can watch below:
Though comic book movies (especially ones about Spider-Man) are extremely prevalent in this day and age, Spider-Verse found a way to be a fresh and exciting entry in the ever-expanding genre. Pundits have praised numerous aspects of the film, including its heartfelt story line and unique animation style. Sony is clearly loving the response, as there are already plans for a direct sequel and an all-female spinoff - both of which have directors lined up. Into the Spider-Verse becomes the second Sony/Marvel project of 2018 to launch a brand new franchise, following the record-breaking box office success of the live-action Venom film starring Tom Hardy. It wasn't too long ago the studio was struggling to make the most of the Spider-Man property, but now they're definitely on the right track.
It'll be interesting to see what impact the critical acclaim has on Into the Spider-Verse's box office prospects. Initial projections had it pegged for an opening weekend in the range of $30-40 million, which is a solid (if unremarkable) haul. It's worth keeping in mind that those estimates came out before the review embargo was lifted, so it's very possible Spider-Verse exceeds those first expectations. It isn't facing much competition this weekend, as the other wide releases are Clint Eastwood's The Mule and panned fantasy novel adaptation Mortal Engines. Both of those films shouldn't make much of an impact at the box office, opening the door for Into the Spider-Verse to have a fruitful frame.
Source: Rotten Tomatoes
Counter Strike: Global Offensive is in some trouble after the game suddenly went free to play this month, prompting a negative response from many of the title's most invested players. The decision to make CS:GO free wasn't made with a lot of forewarning for players, creating a sense of resentment within the game's existing playerbase that has carried over onto its Steam review page.
CS:GO is one of the most popular games in the world, and is frequently among the most played concurrently on Steam according to the platform's stats tracking systems. The game previously cost money to purchase up-front and has its own marketplace on Steam that sells weapons, skins, and more, meaning that those who played CS:GO prior to the change have likely sunk in a fair bit of money if they played with any semblance of consistency. CS:GO also has one of the more passionate communities regarding its competitive play, which has existed for much longer than many other esports and is considered an innovator that paved the way for future titles within the esports scene.
To express their discontent with the change, fans of CS:GO have been reportedly bombarding the game's Steam page with negative reviews. On December 7, the game was blitzed by over 14,000 negative Steam reviews in a single day, by far the most negative reviews CS:GO had ever achieved in a single day - in fact, it was more than the game had ever managed over a span of a month prior to that. While the negative reviews have tapered off in the past few days, coming in around 5,000 per day over the next couple of days, the community is clearly displeased by the decision to make CS:GO free.
Interestingly, the introduction of a battle royale mode - a clear marketing grab at some of the Fortnite demographic - isn't the point of contention for most fans, who seem genuinely interested in the new Danger Zone mode. Rather, many of the game's more dedicated players feel cheated over having paid for the game prior, and are demanding exclusive weapons, skins or a refund for the amount they paid to purchase the game.
Games going free to play later in their life cycle is nothing new, and it's rare for fans to be given a refund for what they paid, especially given how long CS:GO has existed already. Those who feel like they've been slighted by the platform certainly have a right to feel that way, but it seems unlikely anything more than a new exclusive skin for pre-existing players will come out of this, and that's probably going to be okay for everyone involved. The peak concurrent player count for CS:GO has hit a yearly high over the past few days after the title went free to play, and that benefits both the developer and the fans, who will see renewed interest in a game that had been wavering slightly with so many new competitors emerging over the past couple of years.
The sequel to last year's shark horror/thriller 47 Meters Down has been titled 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, and gets a 2019 release date as filming begins. The movie was previously titled 48 Meters Down, but that appears to have been scrapped. The sequel to 47 Meters Down was announced late last year, and director Johannes Roberts is set to return for the upcoming film.
Last summer's indie shark film 47 Meters Down was headlined by Mandy Moore (This is Us) and Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries). The film centered on a pair of sisters that get stranded at the bottom of an ocean with great white sharks after a cage-diving venture goes wrong. With only a small budget of $5.5 million, the film managed to rake in a total gross of $53.6 million. Roberts co-wrote the script with Ernest Riera, and the two put together a terrifying underwater experience moviegoers are sure to remember.
According to Deadline, the upcoming project titled 47 Meters Down: Uncaged will begin production this week in the Dominican Republic. The picture has a scheduled release date for June 28, 2019, and a cast has been assembled. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged stars Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief), John Corbett (Sex And The City), Nia Long (Empire), Corinne Foxx, Sistine Stallone, Brianne Tju (Scream TV Series), Davi Santos (Polaroid), and Khylin Rhambo (Teen Wolf). Foxx and Stallone are the daughters of Jamie Foxx and Sylvester Stallone, respectively; they both will be making their film debuts. The synopsis is as follows:
'The film will tell the story of four teens diving in a ruined underwater city, who quickly find themselves in a watery hell as their adventure turns to horror when they learn they are not alone in the submerged caves. As they swim deeper into the claustrophobic labyrinth of caves they enter the territory of the deadliest shark species in the ocean."
Roberts has been very active in the horror community since 47 Meters Down, and even went on to make the long overdue sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night. Byron Allen's ESMP will be distributing the project, and Roberts has written the script with returning co-writer, Ernest Riera. Roberts has also claimed it will be an underwater version of The Descent. With plot details now made public it would appear Roberts comments from earlier this year are backed up by the synopsis. The follow up to last summer's box office hit is expected to up the ante and suspense factor, but it remains to be seen if Uncaged will be anywhere near as successful as 47 Meters Down.
With production set to begin this week, fans of the shark thriller can expect images to be showcased online at some point. 47 Meters Down was very high on its tension building, and shocking twist but perhaps the sequel will leave audiences even more traumatized. The first film is one of the more recent entries of shark movie genre revival. Roberts may have a hit on his hands if he effectively captures The Descent underwater for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged.
One of several projects to emerge in the wake of the disastrous would-be luxury festival, Fyre, Netflix’s documentary looks to be the first to make its way to viewers’ eyeballs, as teased by the new trailer. The festival made headlines in 2017, in part because its organizer, Billy McFarland and co-creator Ja Rule positioned it as the next great music festival, something that could compete with the likes of Coachella or Bonnaroo, with the added benefit of being a luxury vacation for attendees, complete with extravagant accommodations and meals prepared by celebrity chefs. In reality, Fyre proved to be the exact opposite of what it was promoted as.
The fascination with the story of Fyre Festival’s collapse is part schadenfruede and part disbelief that a project reportedly capable of attracting performers like Migos and Blink-182 would turn into such an epic calamity. To make matters worse for McFarland, Ja Rule, and the other organizers, the festival’s utter dysfunction was captured in real time by hapless attendees documenting their shock and displeasure via social media. The end result wasn’t just a fascinating real-life story of unbelievable incompetence, it also saw McFarland sentence to six years in prison in October.
As is usually the case with a story as weirdly humorous as this one, Fyre is the first of many planned projects set to recount how the much-hyped festival became a misstep of epic proportions. As it turns out, Netflix is the first to have a finished product, in the form of the upcoming documentary by filmmaker Chris Smith (Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond), which compares the fantasy of a luxury music festival with the less-than-spectacular reality, thanks in large part to the attendees’ efforts to document their experiences at Fyre. Check out the brief trailer below:
Fyre will have a solid head start on Hulu’s planned docuseries that examines the same event, though, being a series, will hopefully delve deeper into some of the first-hand accounts and perhaps even the festival’s aftermath. On a slightly more comedic note, Seth Rogen and Lonely Island announced plans for a feature film that will be inspired by the events of the Fyre Festival.
So far, it looks as though the failed festival is something of a goldmine for filmmakers and comedians. It’s hard to gauge what that interest in the news story is at the moment — or will be when Fyre releases, much less when Hulu and Rogen/Lonely Island’s project are released — but given how the actual news event managed to dominate headlines, it’s a good bet there’s enough of an audience to make all three projects a success.
Fyre will stream on Netflix beginning on January 18, 2019.