BoJack Horseman Season 5

Are you able to find more humanity in animals?

I think it helps. I do. It again creates that distancing effect a little bit. Scott McCloud talks in his book Understanding Comics about the use of iconography and that by making things less realistic, sometimes you make them more universal. I think by making Bojack a horse, it allows an audience to project themselves on him in a way that if you were looking at a picture of Will Arnett, you might not be as inclined to. There does exist an odd universality to these animals. By making them more foreign, they become more relatable.

What were the conversations about tackling topics like abortion and mass shootings? 

I think the conversation there is always do we have something interesting to say about this? And not just to do it for the sake of doing it or not just to shock an audience like oh, we’re going there, they’re doing it. Especially some of these more taboo subjects are interesting because they’re more taboo, meaning there haven’t been as many stories told about them. If I wanted to tell a story about trying to get my daughter into a good preschool, we’ve seen that before on television. But if I want to tell a story about oh, this is our character’s fifth miscarriage, that’s a little less common. So that’s interesting and exciting to me. So then it’s a question of how do we tackle this sensitively and in a way that doesn’t just feel like we’re exploiting the shock of it but saying something interesting. Then the conversation is: what do we want to be saying about this? What is our point of view and what is our perspective? If I feel like we have a strong point of view and a strong perspective, then we move in that direction. We just keep checking in, like are we telling that story? Are we communicating what we want to be communicating and not just being like oh yeah, we went there. I feel more or less that I can stand by those episodes and feel like we’ve been saying things that I’m glad we’re saying. Even if, by the way, they don’t always line up with what I personally believe. That’s kind of the fun thing about making a TV show. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Well, I really think this” but does this character really think this? Maybe not and so let’s explore this other version, or what does this perspective do? How can we bring this up that would cause a conversation, not necessarily say this is the truth and this is what we’re trying to preach at you or make you believe.

Did you have any further thoughts about mass shootings after Las Vegas and Parkland happened?

I don’t know. The sad thing is not much has changed. I love what the Parkland kids have been doing. I hope it does cause lasting change and a real example, but it still feels like people are using the phrase “thoughts and prayers” as a way to not think about stuff. A big part of that episode also was about Hollywood and the stories we tell. What is our responsibility versus what is our desire to tell violent stories? I’m not sure we have really taken the good look at ourselves as an industry that perhaps we ought to. I’m not saying censorship or regulation or that it’s violent video games, but I do think that the work we create has influence. I don’t think I’d make a TV show if I didn’t believe that. So I am very sensitive to thinking okay, what is that influence? If I believe that influence can be a good one, and I feel like I have seen my show be an influence for good in some of the reactions I’ve seen, people who have reached out to me over Twitter or through e-mail or people I’ve met on the street who are fans of the show have talked about very positive ways that my show has made a difference. I also think well, if that’s true then that also means that we can make a negative difference. I think it is very easy to wash our hands and go, “No, it’s not our problem. The problem is the government. The problem is regulation of guns. The problem is other stuff.” I think the problem is other stuff but I also think that things we can be doing on our own, not even as an industry but just as individuals to look at the work we are creating and think about what is the message here? What am I saying and do I feel good about that? I think when we have to postpone the premieres of our shows or movies because they’re superseded by real life violence in a way that reflects badly on our work, what does that say about our work in the first place? How can we stand by that work if it’s not appropriate now but it’s going to be appropriate in two weeks? That’s a message that I still feel strongly about. Again, I think that’s an individual thing. I don’t think it’s a thing that the president of a studio is going to trickle down to all the projects, like no more of this or we have to do this. I do think it’s something for development execs and also writers and directors to really consider and think about what is this work we’re creating and what does it mean? It’s something I do think about. I don’t think I always necessarily hit the mark or succeed at living up to my ideals, but I think it’s a priority worth considering.

What are the things regular people have told you Bojack helped them through?

When I am proudest of my show, which has happened a couple of times, is when people have told me, “I talk about your show with my therapist to describe how I am feeling. Your show gives me language to identify the way that I see the world that before now I was unable to articulate.” That is not necessarily our mission when we write every episode because I don’t think that’s a good way to write television if that’s what you’re aiming at. But the fact that that is a result does make me very proud and it is something that makes me feel good about the show that I’m making when other times I don’t necessarily feel good. That is something that I feel like yes, we are making a show that resonates with people in this way and connects with them and doesn’t just make them depressed and makes them feel like a bummer. If our show can be a way for people to go, “Oh, I’m kind of like that part of it too, even if the whole thing doesn’t apply to me but that part of it speaks to me. What does that mean about me? Are there ways to change that and who can I talk to about that now that I see that this is a thing that is not just about me?” I think that is a good thing.

You’ve addressed what happens when humans and animals procreate. Was that a lingering question?

Not for me. I’ve known from the beginning. It’s funny, we have some rules, some are looser than others, but to me I think are very clear. Then sometimes I see audience confusion and I’m like, “Well, obviously.” We’ve established before that when two animals procreate, it’s usually one or the other. We don’t have progressive mixes of animals because by this point it would be very strange. You’d have something that’s 1/8 elephant, 1/8 giraffe, 1/4 human, 1/4 dog and 1/16 zebra. So we try to keep it simple by saying it’s one or the other.

How do you decide whether you’re going to have a fake celebrity like Jurj Clooners or the actual celebrity or the animal equivalent?

I don’t know. It kind of comes down to however we’re feeling. The Jurj Clooners thing I think just felt silly. Someone pitched it in the room and we all giggled about it and said okay, we’re doing that. With celebrities that are animals, we try to keep it 50/50 and not go too heavy one way or the other. It just comes down to when we’re writing that scene, what do we want this to be? What do we think this celebrity cameo we’re trying to get, what do we think they’d be willing to do and how would they be willing to debase themselves?

When you first came up with the fake shows Horsin’ Around and Mr. Peanutbutter’s House, did you ever think that the shows they were spoofing would come back?

[Laughs] No, but everything comes back, right? The Brady Bunch came back. Most things do come back in some way or another, so it’s not entirely surprising. It certainly gave us a fun little story for season three to have them work on the Horsin’ Around sequel series.

Ethan Around.

So there’s inspiration everywhere.

Have you started season five yet?

Yeah, all the scripts are written. They’re all recorded. We’re animating them now. I’m excited for people to see it. I think it’s another exciting season. It’s odd for me now to do these interviews about season four because I’m like, “What happened in season four again?” because my brain is so much in season five. I’m enthusiastic about it. I think people are going to really like it.

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