Whether it’s because of COVID shutdowns, reboots, spin-offs or a gap between seasons, more and more actors in Emmy-eligible shows are coming to their roles after much delay. While this could create financial or scheduling concerns, it also gives the talent more time to ruminate on the part, new or old.
More often, actors returned to characters they previously inhabited. Alan Cumming, nominated three times for playing the slippery Eli Gold on the CBS drama “The Good Wife,” reprised the role as a guest star for the final season of its spin-off, Paramount+’s “The Good Fight.”
Adam DeVine, who played frequent foil Bumper Allen in the “Pitch Perfect” movies, became the lead of the Peacock spinoff, “Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin.” And Adam Scott, Emmy-nominated for his performance in “Severance” last year, joined other cast members from the Starz comedy “Party Down” for the cater-waiter comedy’s third season, which aired 13 years after the previous season.
Scott acknowledges that “it’s almost become a cliché at this point” for actors to talk about returning to projects because there are so many reboots. But he says that “Party Down” is “unique because it was unfinished business,” adding, “we were cut off prematurely.”
“Party Down” revolves around people trying to make names for themselves while catering to those who already have. Scott is more established now than he was when the series premiered — he joined “Parks and Recreation” in 2010, as the second season of “Party Down” was airing — and his career trajectory is hard to ignore as he revisits the role of Henry Pollard, an actor who got his 15 minutes of fame after a viral commercial. In the third season, he’s retired and teaching high school, waiting on the weekend to supplement a divorce settlement.
Henry’s OK with his life choices. For Scott, it “would have been harder” for him to return to this role had he not succeeded in shows including “Big Little Lies.” Last year, he appeared in Apple TV+’s “Loot” in addition to “Severance.”
Still, he would have returned.
“There have been moments in this past 12 years where I’ve been in some tough spots, career-wise, where I had to kind of stop and reconfigure what I was doing,” he says. “I’m certainly lucky that whatever avenue I’ve chosen, or been lucky enough to fall into, is working right now … it ebbs and flows. That’s the only thing you can count on.”
For other actors, the delay due to COVID-19 simply met more prep time. “Daisy Jones & the Six” actor Sebastian Chacon, for example, was able to spend months learning the drums in his brother’s Williamsburg basement.
“For a lot of the quarantine, it seemed more like I was a professional drummer because I was practicing every day,” says the actor, who was cast a few weeks before the world shut down as drummer Warren Rojas in Prime Video’s limited series.
To prepare for the role, he also watched documentaries and listened to music from the period. He worked with a coach on how musicians of that period moved and learned to get more comfortable on stage. When the cast finally got the OK to start filming, Chacon realized he “started making a lot of different choices for the way that [Warren] plays that I wouldn’t have ever really been able to make or would have been informed enough to make.”
Chacon, whose prior experience with the instrument included high school marching bands, would have done his homework anyway, but notes, “getting the time to really do that and allow it to live in my body was, honestly, a gift.”
Sometimes, best laid plans that go awry are exactly that: A gift.