Actors Alia Shawkat and John Early talk about ‘Search Party’ final season: NPR

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

HBO’s “Search Party” began its fifth and final season with its lead character, Dory, played by Alia Shawkat, in the midst of a wake-up call.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE TV SHOW, “SEARCH PARTY”)

ALIA SHAWKAT: (As Dory Sief) I died, then I came back. I can see the world so clearly now. I see through lies and illusions.

MEREDITH HAGNER: (Like Portia Davenport) It’s a level of narcissism that none of us can relate to.

JOHN REYNOLDS: (Like Drew Gardner) If that isn’t what madness looks like, I don’t know what it is.

JOHN EARLY: (Like Elliott Goss) She needs some real help.

SIMON: His friends aren’t that convinced. The edgy Brooklyn millennials went from searching for a missing college knowledge in Season 1 to trying to figure out if Dory’s newfound knowledge could put them all on a higher path.

Two of the stars of “Search Party” Alia Shawkat and John Early are joining us now. And thank you both very much for being with us.

SHAWKAT: Thanks for having us.

EARLY: It’s an honor, Scott.

SHAWKAT: (Laughs).

SIMON: Let me start with Dory. She went through what people would call a near death experience. She doesn’t think it’s close at all, does she?

SHAWKAT: Yeah. I mean, she thinks – I mean, she died, I guess, and came back. Now she is awake and wants to help everyone.

SIMON: Dory is a difficult person to see as enlightened, isn’t she? Let me put it that way.

SHAWKAT: Of course. I think if you know her past, she definitely made some bad choices. But I think in his mind everyone deserves forgiveness and redemption. And for the sake of the story, I hope the audience can too (laughs).

SIMON: I historically forget what it was, but, you know, like someone said, we forgive sinners; we don’t expect them to conduct the choir on the first Sunday at church.

SHAWKAT: Right.

SIMON: Dory wants to find her – you know, basically establishing her own view of truth and religion, to enlighten the world.

SHAWKAT: Yeah. I mean, she’s definitely daring, to say the least.

(TO LAUGH)

SHAWKAT: She has a confidence that took a few seasons to come out. And now, no more need to put it back in its box.

SIMON: Yes.

SHAWKAT: I think this story – in the five seasons that we’ve done – has pretty much been about someone looking for themselves, but looking for a higher calling. And it’s taken her in many dark directions – this whole bunch. But yeah, to that – in this final season, we find her trying to make up for lost time.

SIMON: John Early, your character Elliott is also a little hard to like, isn’t he?

(TO LAUGH)

EARLY I don’t think so, but good to know this is, you know, your take out, Scott.

SIMON: Well, I don’t mean to be rude, but he – I mean, he’s …

TT: No, no, no. He is horrible. He is horrible.

SIMON: Yeah. Very well. How do you play someone like that and handle him with such charm?

TT: Oh! You know, I mean, I think the secret of our little ensemble is that we don’t really overestimate their level of sympathy. I think if we were to do that, maybe we’d be telegraphing ways that the actors themselves, you know, are aware of, for example, the kind of moral doubt – if that’s a name – you know, what the characters are doing.

SIMON: Or sometimes there’s no question what they’re doing is wrong – yeah.

EARLY: (Laughs) Alright, alright. No, no, absolutely. I think it would be a much flatter, stale show if we, the actors, always try to be ahead of that and comment on their morals, and it’s much better to be just a little bit inside. The key to Elliott in particular, I feel, is always making sure to balance his kind of Machiavellian moments with moments, like, of extreme laziness.

SIMON: (Laughs) Oh, what a compliment.

SHAWKAT: Well said – very true (laughs).

SIMON: Yeah. What do you think of people who see Search Party as a commentary on millennials?

SHAWKAT: You know, I think that show when we started was definitely a satire on millennials, a commentary on that. But I think it’s become so much more than that in the sense that, yeah, depending on the year we were born, we’re millennials. But I think the show has been so omniscient about how society works. You know, through the Trump years, that’s when we made the show – the COVID election now. And the show has always reflected the genre of what’s going on in the world and yet was able to bring such dark comedy to it, like a tone. And as the seasons go by, it got more and more extreme and intense and more and more graphically insane. And I feel like that’s how the world has felt over the last five years, (laughs) you know. Things just got more surreal. And I think good art does a really good job of reflecting that feeling of not knowing what’s going on.

TOT: With the millennial stuff, it started out like that, like, kind of a solipsist, like, the pursuit of, like, self-actualization. And it’s, like, a new kind of individualism, which is about, like, self-care and, like …

SHAWKAT: (Laughs).

TT: … Chase your dreams.

SIMON: Yeah.

EARLY: And it’s like – but at the end of the day, like, whatever generation, like, all individualism is bad. And, like, I think this show – especially in this fifth season, it’s getting really global. And I feel like that shows that, like, the kind of logical conclusion of this constant level of individualism is, like, chaos and death.

(TO LAUGH)

SIMON: Oh, and we were hoping this interview would pick us up. Never mind.

(TO LAUGH)

TT: Sorry.

SIMON: No, no, no. I have to say, I laughed a lot when what I consider to be millennial – and they’re not just millennial – but millennial and vintage pop clichés turned against themselves. I think actually John Early is Elliot and his mate who say at one point, I need you to be toxic to me.

(TO LAUGH)

SHAWKAT: Yeah.

SIMON: … who just knocked me down …

TT: Yes.

SIMON: … I have to say.

EARLY: It excites me.

SIMON: Miss Shawkat, looks like you’re going to – well, you’re going to be nostalgic to say goodbye to Dory.

SHAWKAT: Yeah, definitely. You know, this show, these five to really six, almost seven years since we kind of started it – yeah, I mean, they’ve, you know, changed me forever. And Dory exists in me. And I love her. It tires me too. She drains me.

SIMON: I bet, yeah.

SHAWKAT: Certainly a melancholy goodbye, of course. I learned the most that I have ever learned about any job on this show. And that will continue to teach me.

SIMON: And how are you feeling, John Early?

TT: I don’t know. I’m terrified that I’ll never have an experience like this again (laughs).

SHAWKAT: Same.

TT: I can’t believe I’m into something where I have to get a fake rash all over my body. My hair has fallen out. You know, I defecated in my pants …

SHAWKAT: Who can forget?

EARLY: … On an episode. Who could forget?

SIMON: It’s the whole life cycle, I think – yeah.

SHAWKAT: Yeah.

(TO LAUGH)

TT: Yeah, yeah, he also, like – the process always, like, withstood some level of sentiment and, like, at the ceremony because we did – three of the seasons were released during COVID. So we never – we never get a chance to have, like, a party …

SIMON: Whoa.

EARLY: … To, like, send it to the world. And so – and even on the last day of filming, that – there were flash floods in New York City. And so, they got into our last scene, and they’re like, and it’s a series on “Search Party.” We have to go now.

SHAWKAT: Everyone comes out.

EARLY: And, like, John Reynolds’ trailer was flooded. Like, it was just like – we never had a real hug and cried.

SIMON: Hope 2022 you have a really good send off and a hug and a scream with each other.

SHAWKAT: Oh, thank you.

TOT: I agree. We deserve it.

SHAWKAT: We really deserve it.

SIMON: Alia Shawkat and John Early – the last season of their “Search Party” show – on HBO Max. Thank you very much for being with us.

SHAWKAT: Thanks. Thanks, Scott.

EARLY: Thanks, Scott – what a pleasure.

(MUSIC EXTRACT)

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