In most shows, movies and plays, one part of life that is typically examined is love, and all of the facets that come with this driving emotion. In Apple TV+’s new series ‘Schmigadoon!,’ true love is examined, but under the guise of a parody of musicals which leading characters Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) happen to get stuck in.
The new series from executive producer Lorne Michaels and creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio follow Strong and Key’s characters while the couple are on a backpacking trip trying to rekindle some of the love they lost over the years of being together. What they happen upon instead is a town, Schmigadoon, one that is quite literally a musical all of the time, with stock characters donning colorful costumes and belting out their thoughts and feelings through tunes. The couple end up being stuck in this obscure place, but they quickly find that it does take some stock characters (with some A-list names behind them) and musical overtures to perhaps discover what they were searching for all along.
Both Cecily Strong and Cinco Paul sat down to discuss what makes this show so special, why it’s the perfect setting to explore such hard emotions, and why everyone can get something out of the new musical-comedy, even if you were never a musical fan at all.
Cinco, you’ve had this idea for the series for some time, so how did it come to fruition?
CP: It is an idea I’ve had for a long time and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had a meeting with Andrew Singer at Broadway Video, Lorne Michaels’ company, and we talked about a lot of TV ideas. At the end they asked, if you have anything in the musical [genre], we’d love that. So, I thought, oh, maybe this is the chance for this idea I’ve had forever of people stuck in a musical town to happen? They loved the idea and we pitched it to Apple, and when Ken [Daurio] and I pitch, we sing. So we were singing ‘Corn Pudding’ and ‘Welcome to Schmigadoon!’ in the pitch and Apple really responded to it miraculously because I was concerned, is this too weird and was anyone going to want to do this? They did, and right away we got Cecily attached and moved forward, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cecily, what was your interest in joining in with this project?
CS: When I met with Cinco, he explained it, and I probably said okay, sure, whatever that means… because you don’t know really know how it’s going to turn out. I think I saw the first versions of the script and maybe the first episode and I was like, okay wow, just realizing it was so funny and so genuine. The table reads were just magical and pure joy, and it was like: If this was just the table read, if this is the bare bones of this show, then I will do anything to be a part of it.
Something the show explores deeply is true love and what it actually means. How does the show use this setting to explore that?
CP: For me, it was important to do a show about a couple that was already in a relationship. There’s not a lot of them out there, so it was nice to explore how difficult it is to stay together and to find true love [and] what that is. It was also a perfect setting. Musicals unlock our emotions and help us say the things we would not normally be able to say and feel the things that we aren’t able to feel in our regular lives, so it was really the perfect setting to explore what love means and how do you find it? How do you make it work? And all those sorts of things.
CS: They’re stuck there, so you really have the time then to explore these things. Somehow it’s safe, because it’s a musical, it’s a safe place, but it’s really these funny stock characters helping them to really examine themselves. It takes these stock characters to explain that love is actually a choice… [Keegan and I] are the real-life ones who think true love is this magical thing and it’s the musical characters that say no, it’s something that you work for and choose to believe in. I think it’s moments like those where the show really explains the love and beauty behind it.
What are you hoping musical fans will take away from the show, and on the other hand, for people who aren’t into musicals, what are you hoping they get from it?
CP: This is a musical made by people who love musicals. The first time Cecily and I met, it was sort of us talking about how much we love musicals that really bonded us. I hope people who love musicals will recognize all of the nods and feel the joy that they feel when they watch these shows. That brought so much joy to me growing up, and it’s also how I found my tribe in high school, all the theater people. There’s so much of that in the show, that joy and delight it brings. But there are people, I’m married to one, who aren’t huge fans of musicals. This is a show for them, too.
CS: For the musical people, I’m more excited to watch them watching. I want a camera in the houses of high school kids who are theater nerds watching this together. The joy that I feel, I want other people to feel that. What’s also great about this show is that it’s very funny. Having Keegan and hopefully me in this, it’s also a comedy which is another way in. So, I think maybe we will surprise some people.
This show is such an upbeat and bright spot on TV, what are you hoping people will feel when watching this after the year we’ve had?
CS: What I have found, I don’t know how much people are thinking about what they went through and how they’re doing and checking in with themselves. This is just an easy way to say, hold on, before you move on too fast, take a minute to celebrate that we’re still here, and to celebrate our love in our lives, because who knows how long life is? So let’s celebrate what we get to have and share with each other.
CP: I think the show wears it’s heart on its sleeve. It’s very earnest and it’s sort of unapologetically earnest and sincere. You need that when it’s dark, and it’s a cynical time.
CS: We’re not in a sincere and earnest place really. It’s easy to yell at each other and I think it’s much harder and rarer to say I love you to each other, or to say here’s what I’m feeling actually. It’s vulnerable and we just do it unabashedly, and it felt great to do and I hope it feels great to watch.
‘Schmigadoon!’ premieres on AppleTV+ July 16.