‘Ted’ Cast Talks Auditioning for Seth MacFarlane, Receiving Life-Size Teddy Bears at First Table Read

Co-showrunners Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh also discuss collaborating with the “Family Guy” creator on the Peacock prequel series

TED — "Just Say Yes" Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Scott Grimes as Matty, Alanna Ubach as Susan, Giorgia Whigham as Blaire, Seth MacFarlane as voice of Ted, Max Burkholder as John — (Photo by: PEACOCK)

The cast of Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted” was ready to carry the beloved teddy bear’s next chapter, especially if it meant working closely with the iconic writer and producer who created him.

The new Peacock prequel series follows the foul-mouthed character’s wild adventures in Framingham, Mass., alongside a 16-year-old John Bennett, John’s parents Matty and Susan and his cousin Blaire. Prior to joining the project, stars Max Burkholder and Giorgia Whigham said they were “very familiar” with the show’s source material. 

“I obviously did a full rewatch party of both movies,” Burkholder, who portrays teen John Bennett, told TheWrap. “One of my good friend’s moms doesn’t like watching movies and she loves ‘Ted.’ It’s her favorite thing in the world. She just loves the little bear and she’s never cursed a day in her life. It’s wild, it brings people together.”

Weirdly enough, it’s my grandpa’s favorite movie. He is a huge ‘Family Guy’ and Seth MacFarlane fan,” Whigham, who portrays Blaire, added. “We were probably a little young to be watching it but we loved it so much. I just think it’s comedy gold.” 

When it came to auditioning for MacFarlane, Whigham said that both she and Burkholder submitted tapes and each landed their respective roles after just one audition. 

“Seth knows what he’s looking for in a character and an actor … That’s very crazy, very rare,” Whigham said. “I didn’t feel as much pressure and I felt very confident and secure because there’s just a very reassuring environment and group, and Seth is very good at making sure you know that you got it.”

Meanwhile, Alanna Ubach’s audition process was a bit more drawn out for the character of Susan. The “Euphoria” actress told TheWrap that after submitting her tape for the first round, she was brought in for chemistry reads with writer Dana Gould and her eventual co-star Scott Grimes, who plays Matty.

“After the chemistry read, we were all sent home and I didn’t hear from anyone for a couple of months. So I thought, ‘Oh, I guess it didn’t happen. It was given to a lucky lady and moving on’,” Ubach said. “And then I got a call from my rep saying, ‘Seth would like to talk to you.’”

MacFarlane brought Ubach in one more time to read some additional scenes with Grimes.

“I walked in, I read with Scott, I think I did about four scenes and he said, ‘OK, I’m happy,’” Ubach continued. “I just burst out crying because when you walk into an audition or a read for network, for studio, for the director and writer, it’s a first date. It really is this blind date setup. And when you don’t hear back from them, you think, ‘Oh gosh, I really liked that guy. What happened?’ So when he finally calls back in a couple of months, you just think, ‘Oh, he’s just a busy guy.’ And then you go out one more time and then it’s meant to be, you fall in love and the rest is history. You hope that’s how it turns out and so it did, thank God.”

At the first table read, Ubach said the entire cast received life-size Ted dolls to take home and rehearse with, to determine what their eyeline was going to be before getting on set. 

“Seth knew that was going to be a challenge for us,” she said. “Watching the making of the ‘Ted’ movie really did help prepare me mentally for what was going to happen on set.” 

Once on set, a stuffed bear was brought in for eyeline before the cameras started rolling with the actors playing to empty space. MacFarlane, who also directed the show, performed live with the other actors off-camera while using a technology called ViewScreen, which allows the production team to visualize and see an animated version of Ted in real time.

“There’s all of these little wires connected to [Seth] and they’re picking up all of his gesticulations and his emoting, and they superimpose it behind the actual bear in post-production,” Ubach said.

“Seth enjoyed it because he sits right there with us,” said Grimes, who has previously worked with MacFarlane on “American Dad” as Steve Smith and on “The Orville” as Lt. Gordon Malloy. “Every take, he’s doing the performance. He’s not phoning it in because he’s going to do it later. It was really neat to see him in this way, as opposed to the other ways I’ve worked with him.

In addition to MacFarlane, the series is written and executive produced by co-showrunners Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh. 

“I’d always heard people in writers rooms talk about how great those movies are and probably out of professional jealousy I never watched them. When we knew we were going to be meeting with Seth about the project, I watched them and thought they were hilarious and was excited about the possibility of working with him,” Corrigan told TheWrap.

Walsh, who had seen the “Ted” movies when they were first released, said he revisited them when he first joined the show. 

“The thing that jumped out at me on the second viewing was that relationship between John and Ted,” Walsh continued. “You don’t always see that kind of a relationship in some of Seth’s other work. So it was really inspiring to know that he has the range to write that deeper relationship.”

The pair said the immediately hit it off with MacFarlane after meeting him. 

“We’re all about the same age and we’re all from a similar area of the country. So we have a lot in common and a lot of references that we all immediately know,” Walsh said. “But we hadn’t worked with him before. We’ve both had these separate careers that have gone in different directions. So being able to work with him and learn his style was really exciting.”

“We quickly were riffing and collaborating and getting each other’s references and also just getting each other’s priorities in terms of what we felt were important for the show going forward. So that was a really good sign early on,” Corrigan added. “He’s very hands on and was there the entire time. So part of it is just learning from someone who’s a master at animation and specifically Ted and learning the things that he thinks are important and making sure that we kept those in mind as we went forward.”

Other executive producers include Fuzzy Door Productions’ Erica Huggins, Alana Kleiman, Jason Clark and Aimee Carlson. Fuzzy Door, MRC and UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, serve as producers.

All episodes of Ted premiere Thursday on Peacock.


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