WHY THE LONG FACE? EVERYONE’S FAVOURITE TV SHOW ABOUT ANIMALS LIVING IN DISHARMONY IS RETURNING TO NETFLIX FOR YOUR BINGE-WATCHING PLEASURE
oJack Horseman is an animated comedy series about a horse who was a beloved sitcom star in the ‘90s but has since fallen from grace. Voiced by Will Arnett, the drinking, whinging and swearing BoJack has become a cult hit. Satirising Hollywood, celebrity culture, drug abuse, anxiety and the entertainment industry, BoJack Horseman even earned a Primetime Emmy nomination earlier this year.
In this Q&A, creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg talks to Owen Jacques about finding the show’s tone, the shifting sands of celebrity culture and what fans can expect from season four.
What did you make of the initial idea of the Fish Out of Water episode (from season three) and what gave you the confidence to think it would work?
I never had the confidence it would work, but part of the initial idea was to do something that scared me. We are always looking to challenge ourselves on the show in new ways and to try new things and this is a good example of that; of something that you know, hopefully we can pull this off, maybe we can’t.
It was named Variety’s best television episode of 2016 – were you surprised by the incredible acclaim for the episode or was it considered something special even during its creation?
I think we always knew it was special but we didn’t always know it would work, so it was nice to see that people responded to it. We definitely put a lot of love into it at every step of the way, especially as our animation team really took it on as a labour of love in a way that they haven’t always been able to. I’m really proud of what they did and how we made it work.
BoJack is often not an easy guy to watch. He is incredibly flawed, even broken, and his actions are occasionally despicable. Why do you think people are so attracted to the show?
Well I think you like BoJack in spite of yourself because he is vulnerable and he is wounded and that wound is somewhat relatable. You see him struggle and you root for him in spite of yourself, because you know he is a bad guy who wants to be better. I think that struggle is inherently interesting and I think we are always rooting for him to be better even if we don’t agree with what he is doing in the individual episode.
How do you walk the line with BoJack to ensure that while his flaws are on show, the audience doesn’t ‘give up’ on him?
I think it’s a danger. I was having a conversation with Michael Eisner about the character once, because he works on the show and he helps make the show with us and he said, “You know the thing about BoJack is that he walks right up to the line but never crosses it”. In that moment I realised that the thing about BoJack is that he does cross the line – not only that, he crosses back and forth so often that you are never really quite sure if you’re supposed to be rooting for him or if you’re even supposed to like him – sometimes you do and sometime you don’t and that’s OK. What I think makes the character work is that we never force you to like him or side with him. We are never saying, “Isn’t this screwed up and yet you still like him.” In fact, sometimes he screws up and you’re allowed to be really mad with him. Sometimes you’re allowed to think that you might be giving up on him because you don’t like him at all anymore. I hope that the show allows you to be free to draw your own conclusions about the character. We are not trying to force him down your throat or make you feel a certain way about him. We don’t condone all of his actions but sometimes he does the right thing. It is a challenge to maintain and I think the most important thing is that we keep it fresh for ourselves, as the people who make the show, with the hope that if we keep it fresh for ourselves, then it will be fresh for the audience as well.
What are some of your favourite animal puns or hidden jokes from the show?
Oh God (laughs)! They are like my children and it is impossible to pick my favourite.
What would be your advice to BoJack if he was your friend, and you wanted him to get his life in order?
Get sober! I think that would be the first step. Counselling would maybe be the second step.
The first season began in August 2014 – do you think the nature of celebrity has changed since then? Further to this, BoJack was on a famous TV show in the ’90s – do you think the ’90s in particular was a tough decade for celebrities, particularly young stars?
Yes, absolutely. I think we now have the internet celebrity – the YouTube celebrity, the Instagram celebrity. I think we are getting famous younger and with less experience and I think it is dangerous. I think nobody should be famous- ever (laughs)! Honestly, certainly not before they are 25. I thank God every day that I was not famous when I was a kid or a teenager or as a 20-something because I think you need time to develop who you are before you become famous. I think being a celebrity is much worse now than it was in the ’90s, although I think we are more aware now of the pitfalls. I think in some ways we look out for young people a little better than we did then but I think in some ways, we don’t and it’s actually scarier.
If season three was an animal, what animal would it be? What can we expect this season?
If season three was an animal it would be a barracuda because it just chomps down and keeps chomping. Season four would be a turtle because it is wise. This season we can expect…. turtles (laughs). Expect the unexpected, baby! Season four of BoJack Horseman premieres on Netflix on Friday.