A version of this story about “Schmigadoon!” first appeared in the Awards Preview issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine
Among the many TV surprises of 2021 was Apple TV+’s “Schmigadoon!” — a comedy series that follows a couple that stumbles on a town that exists within a musical. It’s quirky and weird and fun, and as long as it remains that way, series creator Cinco Paul is happy to keep making more episodes.
“I think we should all be very hopeful. I’m hopeful,” Paul told TheWrap of the possibility for a Season 2 renewal. “I don’t have an answer yet. But I would love everybody’s positive hopeful energy. Because as I’ve said before, I’ve always conceived of this is more than just one season.”
In an ideal situation, he knows exactly how long his show will run: “until it stops being fun.”
Really, Paul waited awhile to bring “Schmigadoon!” to life. The idea had been sitting in his brain for 25 years.
The concept came to him as he was watching the 1981 horror comedy “An American Werewolf in London,” which begins with two backpackers stumbling across a village ravaged by a werewolf. Paul realized the opening to that film was similar to the 1947 musical “Brigadoon,” and wondered, “What if two modern people stumbled on a town that was in a musical?”
But that was as far as it went. Paul didn’t know what to do with the idea until 2021, when it occurred to him to switch the two male backpackers for a couple, one who hates musicals while the other loves them.
“It really was the TV landscape changing which allowed for a weird show like this to find a home,” Paul noted. “But also sort of cracking [it] and thinking, ‘Oh, if it’s a couple, that adds a whole other layer to it’ That’s really what unlocked it for me and made me realize ‘OK, I think I know what this is now.’”
That couple would go on to be played by Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong, backed by a supporting cast that includes Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Krakowski, Ariana DeBose, Dove Cameron, Aaron Tveit and more. And yes, Paul is fully aware of how lucky he was to get everyone; he even noted that he “was like a kid in a candy shop, for sure.”
Though Paul admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic helped in getting the cast on board because more actors were available, he also noted that many of them were also just in love with the concept. (They were able to read through all of the scripts beforehand, something that doesn’t always happen for projects like this.)
“I think so many of these people who can sing don’t always get the opportunity to sing,” he said. “And they want to desperately, you know? That’s why I think people like Kristin and Dove and Jane and Alan were all so excited to do something where they got to sing and demonstrate their love of musicals. It really was a labor of love for all of us involved.”
In fact, many of the characters in “Schmigadoon!” were written with their actors in mind. Chenoweth’s picture was hanging in the writer’s room as they conceptualized the preacher’s wife, Mildred Layton. Similarly, The Countess (think: the baroness from “The Sound of Music”) was written with Krakowski in mind and Doc Lopez (a version of Captain Von Trapp from the same musical) with Jaime Camil.
As such, Paul also wrote to the actors’ singing strengths in crafting the show’s original songs, all of which he wrote. He made sure to challenge his cast — particularly Chenoweth, who Paul admits had a distinctly difficult character, but embraced the challenge.
“Obviously, a performance is so much more than the words that are on the page, a character’s more than the words on the page,” Paul said. “And every single one of these actors brought their A-game to this and breathed them to life in a way that is beyond what I even imagined the characters could be.”
And indeed, they’ve certainly paid off. “Schmigadoon!” notched a 2022 Grammy nomination for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, alongside the soundtracks to “Dear Evan Hansen,” “In the Heights,” “One Night in Miami,” “Respect” and others.
“That was a total surprise,” Paul said with a laugh. “But it was so delightful that with all these soundtracks to film musicals, our little Schmiggy got nominated as well.”