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Party Down EP/Star Adam Scott on Returning to the Party and Personally Relating to Struggling Actor Henry Pollard, Even After His Own Success

There’s nothing quite like getting together with a group of old friends, which is what the new season of Party Down felt like for its star, Adam Scott. Fans of the beloved Starz series said goodbye to the show 12 years ago, but in today’s Hollywood, there are no real “goodbyes,” just “see you laters.” Over the past decade — and especially during the COVID lockdown — Scott kept in touch with creator/showrunner John Enbom and co-creators Dan Etheridge, Rob Thomas, and Paul Rudd, and the five of them would throw out new ideas and scenarios to keep the party going.

The intervening years saw Scott work with some of his Party Down pals, including Ken Marino and Ryan Hansen, on the six-episode Bachelor parody Burning Love, and take leading roles in well-reviewed films such as They Came Together and The Overnight. In 2010, Scott really hit his stride with the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, and in 2017, he co-starred in HBO’s acclaimed limited series Big Little Lies. Five years later, his career really skyrocketed with the Apple TV+ series Severance, for he earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

The son of retired teachers Anne and Dougald Scott, Adam was raised in Santa Cruz, California, with a strong work ethic that served him well as a young aspiring actor. When asked if he ever took on odd jobs to make ends meet, Scott unashamedly credited his family for giving him some financial aid during the early struggles of his career. That investment certainly paid off, as Scott has amassed much success over the years.

Above the Line spoke with Adam Scott via Zoom video from his home in Los Angeles in a nondescript neighborhood, except for the looming trees in the background. “The only place where there are pretty trees is Los Angeles,” he joked. Scott talked about the on-set reunion for Season 3, which added new cast member Jennifer Garner as his love interest, in lieu of Lizzy Caplan‘s “absence.”

Scott was very forthcoming and reflective, talking about his journey back to Party Down and how he joined the “scrappy little show” as an executive producer this season to assist with casting and creative decisions. It’s surprising to hear that with all of Scott’s accomplishments, he still personally relates to the career frustrations of his character, Henry Pollard.

Adam Scott
Adam Scott/Leigh Keily/Jon Magazine

Above the Line: So take me back to Day 1 of being back on the set of Party Down. What did it feel like? What do you remember about it?

Adam Scott: Oh, boy. The first day when we were back shooting again was really strange. It’s almost cliche now because there are so many reboots and stuff, but it really was a bizarre, almost time-travel-y experience because it had been 13 years. It was the spring of 2010, so exactly 12 years had passed since we stopped filming and finished Season 2. So, stepping onto the set, it had been about a year of prep to get this thing going and ready. I mean, we had talked over and over in the intervening years about doing a movie or doing this or that, but really, like sitting down and figuring out a third season, it had been about a year of work, particularly for John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, and Rob Thomas.

But there we were on the set, and it was a scene between Ken Marino and me, and we’re actually there in front of the Party Down van doing a Henry/Ron scene, and that’s when it really kind of hit that we were actually doing this, [and I’m] looking over, and there’s John and Dan over at Video Village. It really just brought us back and was a very moving moment, and getting to see Ken play Ron Donald again was just so much fun. I knew then and there that these six weeks were going to go by incredibly fast and that they were going to be a lot of fun.

ATL: Can you pinpoint what stayed the same and what was different?

Scott: I think that one of the things I really love about this season is that the show really kind of retained its feeling and tone, and it doesn’t really look any different. I mean, Starz was so wonderful to work with, and we had a bigger budget than we did back in the day. We had five days to shoot episodes instead of four. We used to just have four days. But John [Enbom] really made sure that the look was the same. For all intents and purposes, it still looks and feels like this scrappy little show. It’s not like we’re breaking the bank on our budget, but there was a lot more breathing room than back in the day. But I’m glad that it didn’t come back with some sheen or gloss on it and look like a fancy network show or something. It still kind of maintained that feeling, and that’s one of the things I really love about it.

Party Down
Ken Marino and Adam Scott in Party Down/Starz

ATL: I had the chance to talk with John Enbom and he credited you with making this revival happen — like, you’ve got all the connections.

Scott: [chuckles] No, that’s John being overly generous. Once the seed was planted with this reunion we had in, like, 2019, and then we really kind of got serious in like January of ’21, the five of us — John, Dan, Rob, Paul, and I — started just getting together on these weekly Zooms just to sort of talk for a couple of hours. It was super fun because it was still, like, heavy COVID times when you weren’t seeing a lot of people.

I was in New York by myself, so these Zooms were really fun. We would just talk about where these people would be. 12 years later, what are they doing? And [we’d] just kind of talk through all the possibilities of what could have happened to these people. After four or five of these Zooms, John just gathered this big pile of information and ideas for parties — all this stuff we were just kind of throwing out there. He went away, and some of it went through, or he just came up with new stuff and just kind of crafted this really lovely season.

ATL: Did you have a role in bringing Jennifer Garner on board?

Scott: I’d never even met Jen before. She was a sort of pie-in-the-sky idea for this character — “someone like Jennifer Garner would be perfect for someone who has that sort of vibrance and intelligence.” After sort of discussing it on and off for a few weeks, I don’t remember who, but someone had the idea of just trying to get Jennifer Garner — which hadn’t really occurred to us because it just seemed silly — fully expecting to need to move on pretty quickly after that. But it turned out she and her kids are fans of Party Down, and she said, ‘yeah.’ So we couldn’t believe it. She ended up just being terrific; just the best.

Party Down
Jennifer Garner and Adam Scott in Party Down/Starz

ATL: There was talk about bringing Lizzy Caplan in for a cameo, but I don’t remember seeing her. Did I miss something?

Scott: [jokingly] Yeah, no, you might want to go back and rewatch some! I don’t know… I actually don’t remember if she came back or not. Maybe I need to go back and watch [smiling].

ATL: You’re credited as an executive producer this season, so how would you describe your EP duties?

Scott: Back when we made the original show, in Season 1, I was just an actor and more than happy to be doing that. But as the season went on, I just kind of got more and more involved. It was mostly John and Dan who were kind of the on-set producers, and I was getting more and more involved in things like casting and stuff like that. I really loved these guys because they were my friends long before we made the show together, and I just enjoyed talking to them and would — particularly with Dan — just talk to him about the show and how they were making the show and creative stuff about the show. So in between Seasons 1 and 2, they asked if I wanted to come on as a producer because I was already sort of helping out in one capacity or another, once in a while.

So in Season 2, Dan kind of took me under his wing a little bit and sort of taught me how to produce. If there’s anyone [who’s] a good teacher… I don’t want to call him a mentor because we’re peers and we’re, like, the same age, but he really did sort of teach me a lot. He’s one of the best producers out there, so I was really lucky. All these years later, as an executive producer, I guess the duties are what you make them. I think there are a lot of vanity titles that people get, and a vanity title is something that people earn, and it’s totally legitimate.

I enjoy working with the guys and helping to produce the show because I’ve been doing the acting thing long enough that sometimes you end up with a lot of time on your hands as an actor, and I like filling as much time during the day as possible. I’m just there to help with whatever needs to be done. Certainly, for me, it’s mostly creative. I’m not the best producer to talk to the departments and figure out where people are going to park and all of that stuff. That’s an incredible talent that I don’t possess, but on creative matters, I like jumping in and helping out.

Party Down
Adam Scott in Party Down/Starz

ATL: When you were first cast as Henry Pollard, was there something that clicked for you as far as understanding the character?

Scott: I think back when we did the show, I related very directly to Henry because I had been pounding the pavement for many years and had not quite found my stride yet or really gotten a whole lot of traction career-wise. I think we all really related to our characters back then. And luckily, now that we’re coming back to it, everybody’s had a lot of good fortune in their careers, so much so that scheduling this season was a feat of engineering — trying to get everybody together for that six-week period.

I related pretty directly back then; it was career frustrations and whatnot. But now, all these years later, that’s still easy to relate to because it feels like 10 minutes ago. But also, Henry’s gotten older and more circumspect about that acting part of his life and has a lot more perspective and a bit more of a macro view of things. That comes with age, and I certainly relate to that. So there’s a lot of crossover between me and Henry. I would say it’s extremely personal in the ways in which I relate to that character. I would like to think that Henry is a bit more pessimistic and nihilistic than I am, but there certainly is [some] crossover.

ATL: What were some of those nightmare jobs that you had to take at the very beginning of your career to make ends meet?

Scott: I never really did. I mean, from the beginning, when I first got here, like in the fall of ’93, that’s when I kind of got to Hollywood and started trying to get an agent and all that stuff. I just did a lot of background work, and I had a grandma who would send me rent checks, [for] which [I] was incredibly lucky. Then I started getting guest spots on TV shows and kind of kept myself afloat — with help once in a while from my grandmother or my parents. I lived in a little studio apartment and didn’t have a full fridge and all that stuff for a really long time, but, I would say, after a year or two, I worked pretty steadily on guest spots, little indie movies that kind of disappeared into the ether, [and] plays.

After a couple of years, I was always able to work enough, but if I needed to ask for help, it wasn’t a constant; it was something that would happen every once in a while, and then eventually I could stop. I was really lucky to have parents and a grandma [who] could float my rent every once in a while. I certainly didn’t come from some tony background, but I’m really lucky that I came from enough privilege that I could ask for [help] every once in a while and get it when I needed help.

Party Down
Tyrel Jackson Williams, Ryan Hansen, Zoë Chao, Martin Starr, Adam Scott, and Ken Marino in Party Down/Starz

ATL: That’s wonderful, to have had that support. I have one last burning question for you. What’s the catering like on the set of Party Down?

Scott: [laughs] That’s a really good question. What’s the catering like on set? It was great. We had great catering on set. It was actually really good. We had great craft service, and then we had a great caterer too. It’s funny to see a caterer on the set of Party Down. The prop food we have on the show gets really old and decays really fast, and that’s one thing I realized I did not miss from Party Down — the smell of the food after 19 hours. That came back real quick!

Season 3 of Party Down is now available on Starz.

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