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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.

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