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EXCLUSIVE TV Goodness Q&A: Creator/Star John Lehr Discusses Hulu’s Quick Draw [INTERVIEW + Preview] 


Warning: Spoilers Discussed

Chalk full of historically inspired and true crime stories, Quick Draw is a kick in the caboose. This comedic half-hour follows Sheriff John Henry Hoyle and his reluctant deputy as they try to hunt down the Wild West’s most dangerous criminals. Equipped with his sharp mind and somewhat sharp-ish shooting skills, Sheriff Hoyle may not possess the brawn and grit of a true old west lawman, but he does have a Harvard education…from 1875.

We spoke to series creator and star John Lehr, who you might know from TBS’ 10 Items or Less. He talks about the concept of the series, how Hulu got involved, and what to look forward to this season on the show.

TVGOODNESS: So tell me a little about how this idea came to you and how you and Hulu decided to do this project together.

John Lehr: “I’ve been working with my partner Nancy Hower, who directs all the episodes of Quick Draw, for years now. We did a show for TBS called 10 Items or Less and then we also did a movie called Memron, which won Slamdance. We did a web series for Sony called JailBait [on Crackle] and some pilots for Comedy Central and NBC. So we’ve been working together awhile. Initially we were thinking about doing a movie, a Western movie. Not Blazing Saddles. I mean I’m a fan of Blazing Saddles, but reality kind of totally goes out the window. I wanted to do something where the actors [would] kinda play it for real – it’s still ridiculous – but [would] totally believe what they’re saying. So we decided on our own dime to shoot a little demo. We went out to Joshua Tree with a few friends and a small, small crew and shot a little demo. At the same time Hulu had asked to meet with us because they liked our style of comedy and they wanted to do something. When we started to cut the demo together we were like, ‘Oh my God. This is really good, much better then we expected.’ And we thought Hulu might be game enough to try something a little different that still appeals to a mass audience, but something that you wouldn’t see necessarily anywhere else. And we took it in and they totally loved it and they bought it basically in the room and we were off and running. We had been wanting to work with Hulu for a long time. We just wanted to be in on this new phase of where things are going and where television is expanding to.”

TVGOODNESS: How did you come up with this? Is it all improvised?

John: “This is the exact same way we did 10 Items or Less and everything Nancy and I have done. Basically we write really detailed scripts that are twenty to thirty pages long, but they don’t have any dialogue in them at all. No lines at all. And furthermore the actors never see the script. Ever. So I know what’s in the script because I wrote it and I’m an actor and in almost every scene. And Nancy is directing all the episodes and she knows what’s in the script. And the crew and executives all know what’s in the script, but the actors just show up, they get into costume, we tell them a little bit about maybe what they want to accomplish in the scene or, ‘Hey, you’re an undertaker and you don’t want to do an autopsy or whatever.’ And then we just go and we roll three cameras. We kinda shoot it sort of like a multi-cam, kind of part multi-cam, part reality show. Then Nancy and I take all of this footage and cut it together into a really strong narrative, which is important but also at the same time trying to capture that humor. You know when you’re with your friends and you’ve had a couple of drinks you say something that’s really funny and one of our friends says something that’s really funny and you guys all die laughing? Trying to repeat it the next day, it’s not quite as funny. So we want to capture it in that moment and it just has a different feeling to it.”

TVGOODNESS: When you were writing the scripts, did you have the whole season planned out or were there some developments that happened organically?

John: “A little of both, but we do a lot of planning because once we get on the set things are so loosey goosey and could so go anywhere. We have to be as organized as possible coming in. So we know exactly what the basics are of each scene we want to get in order to tell the story. The show is part comedy but it’s also part procedural. My guy is kind of like a CSI guy, kind of Sherlock Holmes. But there are certain clues and things that we have to get and then there are season arcs too, like Cole Younger who is in the first episode – the bad guy – he appears like four times in the season. He’s in half of the episodes so we need to arc his character and his relationship with me through season one so a great deal of its planned, but then when we get on the set we kind of play as much as you want within those guidelines.”

TVGOODNESS: This is a fun group of actors. How did you decide who to cast? Did they audition?

John: “Some of them are ringers that we’ve worked with and we know can deliver like Bob Clendenin, who plays the undertaker. We’ve worked with him before. He’s just brilliant and we basically write a part for him in everything we ever do. Just ’cause he’s amazing. Allison Dunbar, who plays Honey, appeared in an episode of 10 Items or Less and we remembered her. Not everybody can do this, you know, improv, and at the same time we don’t want to have a bunch of people from Second City or Groundlings. Because if you have too many of those kinds of people then it kind of becomes like Whose Line Is It Anyway? where everybody’s just trying to outwit each other, a kind of race to see who’s the funniest and you don’t really buy into the characters. So we do this weird combination of actors who have maybe never improvised before like, well, Cole Younger has never ever improvised, the guy who Brian O’Connor plays. He’s never ever improvised before and I’d say about half of the actors or maybe 25% of the actors in the show have never even taken an improv class. They’re just good actors and they stay stated in their characters so that those of us who are twisted psychologically, screwed up enough to improv, they can work well together in a scene. And we have a really crazy audition process with Evie Peck and Tim Payne, who are casting people. They know what we’re looking for and how we work.”

TVGOODNESS: Well, the pilot was really funny. There were a lot of great things in it like Hoyle’s banter with Nick Brown‘s Deputy Eli.

John: “Did you think he was handsome? The deputy?”

TVGOODNESS: Of course!

John: “Good, good. Alright. That’s why we hired him. Gotta have some beefcake [Laughs].”

TVGOODNESS: What’s coming up in the series? What do you have to look forward to?

John: “Every episode has basically, essentially some Wild West type of crime but the characters are gonna arc through the entire series too. The saloon is gonna be closed down due to the temperance movement. You’re gonna see the undertaker and one of the whores from the saloon make love in the undertaker’s office with a body nearby. In the final episode a posse of guys including me dress up like women in order to sneak into a hideout. You’re gonna see my roommate from Harvard show up, Xavier Pearson. The relationship between Honey and Hoyle is gonna continue to arc and you’re gonna meet my stepdaughter Pearl.

TVGOODNESS: That sounds great.

John: “Yeah, you essentially take every plot from every Western and you’re gonna see some piece of that in this. The only thing I didn’t get to do this season that I really want to do is have a cattle drive. We just couldn’t figure out how to do it. But next year we’ll do it.

TVGOODNESS: When do you hear about season two?

John: “I’m hoping right after I get off this call with you. I don’t know. I’m curious to see how their process is and people seem to like it. You like it. My wife likes it. An editor in my office likes it. So hopefully we’ll see. Yeah, we’ll see.

TVGOODNESS: We can’t wait to see the rest of the episodes. Is there anything else we should talk about?

John: “We’re gonna have some ancillary content that might be interesting to your readers. We found a recipe book for cocktails that were actually historically correct in the 1800s. We’re gonna have a drinking game with a mixology thing going on with every episode where there’s gonna be an old-timey drink that you can make and watch the episode with your friends and then there will be a word in each episode where you can take a sip each time you see the word.

TVGOODNESS: That sounds like fun.

John: “Yeah. We’ll see what happens. It was a blast to do. A blast.”

TVGOODNESS: Best of luck. I’m already telling friends to watch the show.

John: “Good. Please tell around 30 million friends [Laughs].”

TVGOODNESS: I will try.

Edited for space and content.

From Hulu:

“Murder at the Webb Ranch”

When a rancher is murdered, John Henry Hoyle, the new Sheriff, uses all of his Harvard trained state-of-the-art criminology training to solve the crime. Unfortunately the trail leads to a full on showdown with the nastiest outlaw around…Cole Younger.

Series Trailer:

Quick Draw premieres Monday, August 5th on Hulu.

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