The long national nightmare for “Louie” fans comes to an end Monday night when the FX comedy makes its highly-anticipated return after a nearly two-year hiatus.
TheWrap spoke to “Louie” executive producer Blair Breard about how the 19-month time-out affected the upcoming fourth season and what to expect from everybody’s favorite sad-sack, super-cynical funnyman this time around.
TheWrap: There was a 19-month hiatus between seasons. Exactly how antsy was everyone to get back to work on “Louie”?
Blair Breard: I think everybody was really ready. It was kind of challenging to figure out what I was gonna do, what the rest of the crew were gonna do in a big time period off. We have such a great team, and we’re all really used to working with each other and we’ve all gotten really good at figuring out how to make this show. So one of my biggest concerns was — How am I going to get everybody back at the right time? But it’s such a wonderful experience to work on the show. Our crew is really happy and it’s very rewarding and satisfying, so I think everybody was making choices in their lives and in their careers so that we could all line up together again to start the show.
Was there any beneficial aspect to the extended hiatus?
Well, I really noticed when we came back how important it was that we took the time off, because Louis came back really recharged. He was fully recharged, all the scripts were written, they were, I thought, incredibly good. And just the focus that he had and the energy he had to come back and do this season … this season is big. We added a lot, we approached the season differently. There’s a much higher level of production design and camera work and we took longer to make the episodes and they’re more complicated. So he needed the energy to do it, and I thought that he was very, very focused and very clear, and we were able to make a really terrific show.
When Louis came back in ready to go, was there a discussion on how to distinguish the upcoming season from the previous seasons?
It’s really that we took more time to make the episodes, so we had a longer shooting season. We took more time. We spent more time and money on production value and camera work. Instead of moving to two or three locations every day, we spent more time at each location. We spent more money on locations. There was a conscious approach. We figured this out, and the episodes that Louie’s written — wait till you see the rest of the episodes — we felt like these deserve a little bit more care and a little bit more time and a little bit more attention. That was really the most essential thing that changed in the approach this year, was just giving the episodes more room to breathe, doing more camera coverage, spending more time on locations — just giving the episodes more room to breathe.
What can you say about the development that the Louie character undergoes over the course of this season?
He has some big emotional journeys this season that last more than one episode. I think I can say that. There are some episodes that have longer arcs, sort of like we did last season with “Daddy’s Girlfriend” Part 1 and 2, and “Late Show,” that had the three parts to it. There are a couple in this season, there’s really two arcs, and you’ll have to watch and see how long they last, but I feel like they’re big emotional journeys for him. And there’s always the women in the show and there’s always the love interests, and there’s always reflection, so there’s a lot of that.
Is there an improvisational element to the new season?
Well, none of them are improvised. It’s funny, because people ask that often — How much improvising Louis does on the show — but nothing is improvised. Nothing. Every word is scripted. And he’s very clear and he’s very serious about the writing. He will really make somebody go back and say the word “the” instead of the word “and.” The only time that there’s ever really any improvising at all is at the poker games, and even then there’s a script. Occasionally, they’ll veer off and improvise a little bit, but other than that it’s completely scripted.
“Louie” is pretty much a one-man show, then?
It really is a one-man show. He writes every episode, he directs every episode, he acts in almost every episode. And this season, he edited every single episode. And he’s producing all the time. We do have a few people involved with the show who are more like consulting producers. Vernon Chatman, who was also with us last season, Pamela Adlon, Steven Wright and Blaine Capatch. And I think they work more creatively with Louis just on ideas. But it’s all his writing, and they’re all his ideas. I’m not exactly sure what they’re all doing when they’re hanging out together — if they’re just bouncing ideas back and forth — but he really is a one-man band. He does not do craft services and he does not drive the truck. He doesn’t buy the wardrobe or the props, but just about everything else.
I know you don’t want to reveal too much about the upcoming season, but is there anything you can point out as a standout?
It’s different. There’s a whole direction that the show goes in that’s really different than a lot of the other seasons and very different than the first couple of episodes. There’s a different direction. Then it weaves back to more of what he usually does, and then goes on another track again. There’s some deeper, longer stories being told. I’m not sure how funny the audience will think they are — it’s really not a typical comedy, the show has a lot of drama in it.
For a comedy, “Louie” consistently has sad elements.
Sometimes he’ll just give me scripts and I’ll read them and go, “Gosh, this really isn’t funny at all.” But it’s all in the execution and it’s all in sort of the question and the humanity that is there and just how funny and weird everything actually is in life. So I think you’ll see some threads that it’s possible that people might say, “This wasn’t funny to me at all.” But it was really interesting or really smart or really provocative, but maybe it wasn’t making people crack up out loud.
“Louie” returns Monday at 10/9c on FX