'Reboot' cast embraced confusion over show within show

Clockwise, from left to right, Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville, Judy Greer and Calum Worthy play actors reuniting for a "Reboot." Photo courtesy of Hulu
Clockwise, from left to right, Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville, Judy Greer and Calum Worthy play actors reuniting for a "Reboot." Photo courtesy of Hulu

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The cast of Reboot, premiering Tuesday on Hulu, said the show's meta premise caused some confusion on set.

"There'd be a moment where there's a camera," one of the show's stars, Keegan-Michael Key, 51, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "That's a fake camera. You realize the camera behind the camera is a real camera."


Key, Johnny Knoxville, Judy Greer and Calum Worthy play the stars of a 20-year-old sitcom that returns to the set to film its reboot.

Krista Marie Yu, 33, plays Elaine, the Hulu executive who greenlights the Step Right Up reboot. For scenes in which Elaine visits the set, crew members could be portraying themselves.

"Sometimes the actual prop people play the prop people, and it gets really layered in really fun ways," Yu said. "It is a little confusing at times."


Rachel Bloom, 35, plays Hannah, a writer who proposes the idea to reboot the family sitcom. Bloom said Reboot's show within a show premise made it easier to navigate the artificiality of production.

"It made it easier because you're on a set and then you act like you're on a set," Bloom said. "All film sets are weird. It's all a big lie, pretending that you're someone that you're not."

And then there are the conflicts that are depicted in the story.

Greer, 47, said she could relate conflicts between the cast members of Step Right Up, saying that she learned early in her career to respect co-stars who may not want to socialize between takes.

"When I was just starting out, I didn't understand that sometimes people don't want to chit-chat," Greer said. "I'm a talker."

Knoxville, 51, who created the MTV series Jackass as a kind of vulgar performance art, said Reboot embodies the best and worst of show business.

"They're lampooning show business in a great way," Knoxville said. "Also, I feel like it's a love letter from [creator] Steve Levitan to show business."

Worthy, 31, plays Zack, the child actor from Step Right Up who reunites with his TV family as an adult. Worthy said he felt a sense of deja vu having a casual conversation with Knoxville on the studio parking lot before filming a scene in which their characters talk in the parking lot.


"At one point. we said to each other, 'I think we're about to do this on camera,'" Worthy said. "So it did feel like the lines between reality and the show were always blurry."

In one episode, Zack and Elaine explore the studio lot and visit the costume department and a scoring stage. Yu called the orchestra "breathtaking," and Worthy said the scene reminded him how impressive a studio lot is.

"I think the shot they used was actually our real reactions," Worthy said. "It felt like we had such a sweet and special experience."

Greer said Worthy and Yu's set tour is one of her favorite scenes, even though she's not even in it. Greer said that scene shows "what makes it special to be making TV shows."

Creator Levitan, 60, said he had the idea for a show about the drama surrounding a reboot when ABC canceled its Roseanne revival over Roseanne Barr's tweets about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

Then, Levitan had to create not only Reboot, but the fictional Step Right Up, as well.

Step Right Up has its own theme song, which Levitan wrote. Levitan sent his lyrics and hummed the tune for Rick Cowling, who sang and orchestrated the final version.


"I wrote the lyrics because I needed them to be just the right amount of insipid," Levitan said. "Then, I hummed the tune that I had in mind as I wrote the lyrics."

The cast filmed scenes from Step Right Up episodes, and the montage that appears in the opening titles. Knoxville said it was easy to act like sitcom star Clay Barber.

"You really couldn't make a mistake," Knoxville said. "You should just be cheesy and over-the-top as possible and it's fine."

Greer, who plays Bree Marie Jensen, said the day she filmed the Step Right Up titles added to some of the confusion. She said she felt "like a dumb dumb" discussing the opening of Step Right Up, which was not the opening of Reboot.

"Once in a while, I was like, 'What?'" Greer said.

Key plays Reed Sterling, who starred as Lawrence on Step Right Up. Filming scenes wearing a wig as younger Reed/Lawrence, He said he recalled the introductions of classic sitcoms like Family Matters and Perfect Strangers when he filmed those scenes.

"The wig alone was fun," Key said. "They're going, 'OK, so Lawrence is scared by a tarantula. No, no, no, let's make it a dinosaur. No, no, no, let's make it a skeleton.' We just kept on putting in different goofy creepy props."


Reboot also portrays the writers of the Step Right Up reboot. Bloom said Hannah reflects herself and other writers she knows.

"She has a [expletive]ed-up family, she's insecure and anxious and has put a lot of emotional value into what she creates and defining her self-worth, which I think describes 90% of writers," Bloom said.

Levitan said Hannah's writers' room also satirizes events he has witnessed as the creator of Modern Family, Just Shoot Me! and other TV comedies.

"It captures the essence of these moments, from the little things like people abusing each other during lunch orders to a writer being obsessed about no one commenting on his draft," Levitan said.

"Writers of one generation might have a very different take on what's allowed and what's OK to do versus writers of another generation."

New episodes of Reboot premiere Tuesdays on Hulu.

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