ATLANTA, Georgia—Jorma Taccone is tired—and wired.
The filmmaker, SNL scribe and Lonely Island member has arrived to Atlanta on a red-eye flight for the premiere of his new show, TBS’ Miracle Workers, which is opening SCAD’s 7th annual aTVfest. You see, for the past two days, Taccone has been in and out of meetings in L.A., aggressively pitching a MacGruber television series to streaming networks.
“We just spent the last two days pitching it as a series,” reveals Taccone. “Eight-to-ten episodes. I’m really hoping that when you print this there’s an announcement that it’s actually happening, because I know nothing right now. This is the first time I’ve mentioned it, so this may be a tragic interview.”
Despite boasting a stellar cast—Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Ryan Phillippe, and Maya Rudolph—MacGruber made just $9.3 million worldwide against a $10 million budget upon its 2010 release. But the film, a parody of MacGyver that follows the hilarious exploits of its titular retro explosives “expert” and his bullet-dodging compadres, found a second life on home video, and is now regarded as a comedy cult classic.
And yes, the entire cast of the film is set to return. “It’s everyone. Val was blown up pretty badly, he’ll have half a head. Everyone is so down,” says Taccone. “What’s nice is that, when you make something that had the heartbreak of not doing so well financially… I would feel terrible if the people involved were embarrassed about it, but Ryan loves that shit, Kristen loves that shit, all the people involved are so psyched.”
“We’ve had so many ideas over the years, from the moment we stopped filming. I just love this character so much,” he says, referencing the years of chatter about a potential feature-film sequel. “We can expand the world now.”
In addition to MacGruber, Taccone is developing a feature-film spoof on the Fyre Festival in collaboration with his Lonely Island cohorts (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg) and Seth Rogen. He says he’s seen Netflix’s Fyre documentary three times—though hasn’t caught the Hulu one yet—and envisions the project as a satire along the lines of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
“Oh yeah,” he says, grinning. “I don’t want to divulge all the details but we’re figuring it out right now. You’ve seen the docs, right? It’s crazy. This is something that Akiva and Seth cooked up, and we’re figuring it all out right now.”
Taccone, like many on the internet, is a huge fan of Andy King, the fiercely loyal, meme-friendly star of the Netflix doc who was willing to suck dick for Evian.
“I was like, I would hire that dude for anything… Hire that dude!” he exclaims. “That guy is a champion.”
The real reason Taccone is in Atlanta, of course, is Miracle Workers. Debuting Feb. 12 on TBS, the show centers on Craig (Daniel Radcliffe), an angel doing heaven’s version of grunt work: answering simple prayers. When God (Steve Buscemi), a couch slouch, delivers a shocking ultimatum—that he will destroy the Earth—Craig teams up with another low-level angel, Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), to strike a deal with the Creator: If they can make two hopeless earthlings fall in love, he’ll call off Armageddon.
Miracle Workers was created by Simon Rich (Man Seeking Woman), whom Taccone befriended when the two wrote for SNL. They’d been talking about teaming up on something for nearly a decade, and the stars finally aligned on this, with Taccone directing the show’s first two episodes.
“As a comedy nerd, it’s super hard for me to do comedy that has a sweetness and kindness to it but is also laugh-out-loud funny, and I think Simon is able to thread that needle really well,” Taccone explains.
Those first two episodes were shot in just 12 days—no small feat for such a high-concept comedy. “I was never not moving,” Taccone offers. And actor Karan Soni, who stole every scene he was in as the cabbie in the Deadpool films, was apparently the director’s “secret weapon,” able “to give you ten different versions of the same line in record time.”
As for the inevitable comparisons to The Good Place, Taccone can’t help but laugh.
“[Mike] Schur is a good friend of mine and we were very conscious of that, too,” he says. “It was an opportunity to see heaven in a very different way, and me and Simon vibed out very hard on having a sort of Eastern European/Soviet/industrial look to it, which is something we hadn’t seen before—and that made its way into the costuming and other elements. It also has some Wes Anderson-y elements as well.”
While he’s plenty proud of the planned MacGruber series and Miracle Workers, Taccone beams brightest when the subject of his wife, Marielle Heller, comes up. Her recent film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, just received three Oscar nominations, and many film writers—including this one—felt Heller should’ve gotten a nod for Best Director.
“I’m gonna go ahead and quietly agree with you!” he says, chuckling, before launching into why he loves his wife’s film so much: “It’s so New York. There’s that one sequence to ‘Goodnight Ladies’ and then the three shots of New York and you’re just like, fuck I love New York.”
And Taccone is well aware that he may be serving arm-candy duty at next year’s Academy Awards too, seeing as Heller’s Tom Hanks-starring Mister Rogers biopic, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is set to hit theaters on Nov. 22, smack-dab in the middle of awards season.
“I’ve cried so many times during the cuts I’ve seen,” says Taccone. “I hope she’s up for something next year. I’m so incredibly proud of her.”