Between the two of them, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have three failed sitcoms (Applegate’s Jesse and Samantha Who?; Arnett’s Running Wilde), one abruptly eighty-sixed cult hit (Arnett’s Arrested Development), a controversial hit that ran for more than 250 episodes (Applegate’s Married With Children), and now NBC’s Up All Night, a sharply observed show about becoming a parent. Applegate, Arnett (also known as Mr. Amy Poehler), and their co-star Maya Rudolph are all parents of young children, which helped coax them onto this high-stakes playground once again: The show’s been tasked with opening a new comedy beachhead for the hard-up NBC on Wednesday nights. They spoke with Willa Paskin.
Did you guys know each other before this?
Arnett: No, not really. But when they said Christina was doing a show, I was immediately like, “Yes, of course I want to do this.” Then we sort of felt each other out when we first met.
Applegate: That sounded weird.
Arnett: I didn’t say up, I said out.
Applegate: That’s how we do it in Hollywood.
So how much of this show comes out of your actual baby-raising experiences? There’s a scene in the pilot where you curse over the baby and realize, while cursing, that you should probably stop.
Applegate: I think we did that until all of a sudden your baby goes, “Fuck!” And then you’re like, “Awww, shit.”
Arnett: Yeah, our eldest son is almost 3, and now they hear everything. It’s like living in East Berlin in the seventies. So you have to be really, really careful. Christina and I talked about this, but there are things in the pilot that are really accurate. Like arguing about who stayed up more the night before. If your baby is up, that’s such a real conversation: “I was up for these hours.”
Applegate: As have I. Sometimes you stop and go, “Oh my God, this is so from the pilot. Are we doing the pilot right now? The pilot is happening right inside my house.”
Arnett: It’s bizarrely seamless now, from home to work.
But you’re leaving the actual children at home.
Applegate: Leaving your babies is hard. The good thing is that we all like each other. Right, Will?
Arnett: Well, you have to go to work because you have a life, and you’re a grown, thinking, evolved person, and you’re trying to maximize your, for lack of a better word, talent on this planet, and also you have to provide for your family. So you have to go do it. But at the same time, you have that guilt. Now, it should be noted that it seems like it’s a fairly new phenomenon, because in prior generations—and through no fault of his own—my dad got up and left the house early to go to work every day and came home late, but that’s what he had to do. I don’t think he’d be at work and be like, “Goddammit, I’m really screwing my kids over.” He was at work thinking, Goddammit, I’m doing my kids a favor by being at work.
What’s your favorite thing the other has done?
Applegate: For me, Go to Prison! I just watched it yesterday.
Arnett: No, you didn’t.
Applegate: It was on Comedy Central. You were really funny in it.
Arnett: It’s crazy. Well, I love, obviously, Anchorman.
Applegate: And Arrested Development. And pretty much everything Will does is good. Great.
Arnett: Not true. Do not go to IMDb.