Party Down EPs Break Down [Spoiler]’s Surprise Return in Season 3 Finale
The following contains spoilers from Party Down‘s Season 3 finale.
Henry Pollard may have even surprised himself with the big decision he made in Party Down‘s finale Friday, but by episode’s end, it wasn’t the only shocker he would be gobsmacked by.
After choosing to ultimately turn down Evie’s offer to travel abroad and revive his acting career, Henry found himself still working at Party Down four months later. In the episode’s mid-credits scene held at a Hollywood TV press junket, viewers and Henry alike were treated to a short-but-sweet appearance by Lizzy Caplan. Her character Casey Klein was in town doing press for her new show (which she hates by the way), and after attempting to hijack a bottle of Grey Goose from the kitchen, she stumbled into Henry. The two former coworkers-turned-friends with benefits were both stunned to see each other, and their all too brief reunion implied that perhaps these two still have a teensy bit of unfinished business. After the quickest of catch-ups, they agreed to hang out next time she’s in town. (C’mon Season 4!)
Below, co-creators and executive producers John Enbom and Rob Thomas talk to TVLine about how Caplan’s appearance came to be, why Henry decided to turn away from acting (again) and whether or not a fourth season is in the cards.
TVLINE | Before we dive into the finale, have there been any talks with Starz about a possible Season 4?
JOHN ENBOM | Not at this time. I guess we have to wait to see how all the algorithms and math equations line up or whatever they do these days.
TVLINE | How do the actors feel about doing more? What’s the general vibe there?
ROB THOMAS | I think they would hop in very quickly. This cast adores both the show and each other. Finding the timing might be difficult, but the willingness would absolutely be there.
TVLINE | It was great to see Casey back, even if only for a short scene. How did that come about?
ENBOM | It was something we wanted to try and figure out just as soon as we knew that she would not be available for the full run of the thing. So we kept thinking, “Can’t we just try and squeeze something in?” We hoped that we could maybe steal her for an episode or something like that, but she was totally locked up. Finally we had an opening where she would be free to work on a weekend. We knew we wanted to do something and then we finally knew how much time and resources we had to do it. And so we came up with something based on that once we got the green light from our partners at Starz.
TVLINE | Had Lizzy been available for longer, were there any plans for a Casey/Henry romance, or was there any other storyline you had to scrap or pivot away from?
ENBOM | Oh, yes! We basically broke the whole season around the idea that that first episode (where it’s Kyle’s big party for his Marvel movie breakthrough) was an opportunity to bring the two of them back together. They had not seen each other in all these years. She had gone off to New York and all that sort of stuff. So that was going to be our launch pad for this whole season. Obviously, we had to start all over again, but that was fully the intention, to see the two of them having each taken these different paths and see what it was like for them to get thrown back together again, see how they’re feeling and all that. So, hopefully someday, but we couldn’t do it this go-around.
TVLINE | How do you always land such amazing guest stars (like Dan Bakkedahl, who’s fantastic in this episode)? Is it through regular channels, or is it a more informal process, where you can snag a Kristen Bell or an Enrico Colantoni because they’re already in your circle?
THOMAS | A lot of times we ask the people who are in our circle that we have worked with and trust. I would say in those first two seasons when the show didn’t have as much of a reputation, we went to a lot of friends. In fact, the way we cast our series regulars was going to people willing to make this pilot in my backyard. We went to a very friendly audience and then kept asking, almost as favors from friends. As the show became known a little bit more, it became easier to say, “Hey, we would love this person. We’d love J.K. Simmons,” and just put out the request. And that was an actor we did not know at the time, but just thought he was right for the role.
ENBOM | I think Adam had actually just done a movie with him. We do all of the above. Every now and then, we’ll take a stab at somebody we have no connection to, but who we would just love to [work with and see] if they would be interested. Every now and then that works out because maybe they’ve seen the show and they like it and are up for the idea of coming in for two days and getting all weird or whatever. Then yes, there’s also Nick Offerman who we met like 10, 12 years ago. And we were like, “Oh, man, wouldn’t it be great to get him on the show?” We finally had the opportunity to pull him in. That was very exciting for us.
THOMAS | And sometimes, it’s just blind luck. I think our casting director Anya Colloff said, “Oh, there’s this really funny guy that you should get for the Sweet 16 birthday party. His name is Kevin Hart.” And we were like, “Oh, OK.”
ENBOM | We had not heard of him at the time!
TVLINE | At the end of the season, Henry decides that teaching is where he belongs. What is it about that night that convinces him to turn down the acting gig and stay at the school?
ENBOM | I think what we wanted to do was indicate that whatever growth or maturity he had achieved over the years had led him to be more invested in making what he can of the place where he is, rather than always looking and hoping to be getting somewhere else. So in that sense, that was our notion for how this season would play out. It was the notion of him being tempted by this idea, having it come creeping back into his life and then him having to make this choice.
But also, something we first see in the third episode with the “not, not Nazis” or whatever they are, we see this idea that he’s had this theater thing foisted on him. He’s overburdened, he’s not that into it, but then by the end we see that he’s made a connection with what actually excited him about the theater, about acting. So that was the place we wanted to bring him by the end. The thing that drove him creatively and in terms of his dreams and ambitions wasn’t fame or money, it was the love of what he was doing. And so, the idea that he finds a new way to achieve that that doesn’t involve stardom or getting back on that treadmill was what we wanted to dig into.
TVLINE | I can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been to work around everyone’s schedules this season, but how did all of Jane Lynch’s video calls come into play? Where were those scenes shot?
ENBOM | Jane’s schedule was extremely tight to begin with and then we had to move our schedule around a great deal, especially at the beginning, for a number of reasons. We actually lost her fully out of one episode. So, we actually shot out of order so that we could have her for both the first episode and then the prom party episode, and then she was gone after that. Everything else that we did, we actually shot in a hotel room in the hotel where we shot the prom episode. We just had to shoot her entirely. Everything that was left, we ran upstairs and did it in that room. And then it all went on the iPad. It was the best we could do, but we love having Jane in the show, so we wanted as much as we could get.
TVLINE | Henry and Evie are such a great couple, and Jennifer Garner has been great. Does that relationship have to end just because he doesn’t want to act?
ENBOM | I mean, there’s certainly that possibility. As we mentioned, we really don’t know what’s going on with the possibility of Season 4 or anything. But we already have ideas for where we could go and where we’ve left off because I think one of the things that we’ve always enjoyed about Party Down is that between the [fact that] every episode is a new party, a new location, a new little world that we’re jumping into, there’s the fact that nobody ever quite achieves what they’re hoping to achieve. We feel like we can always find new ways to restart people and scramble up things that we’ve set up. We’ve always had kind of a conclusion, but one that’s also a little question mark that can be like, “This isn’t an end-end. This isn’t a final happily ever after.” It leaves open the questions of will this work out, what happens next, all that sort of stuff.
Jennifer Garner was fantastic to work with and I think she did an amazing job and was a very interesting new type of character to have on the show. Who knows how much fun we could have with her having a terrible streak of luck or something? Hope springs eternal, as we have been saying a lot lately.
TVLINE | Yeah, why not just destroy everyone’s lives so they have to work at Party Down catering forever?
ENBOM | [Laughs] Sometimes it has to happen!
Thoughts on Party Down‘s finale and Casey’s return? Grade the episode and season below, then light up the comments!