Comedy Central’s animated series Ugly Americans is back for a third season, bringing back ultra-optimistic social worker Mark, his infernal girlfriend Callie, his zombie roommate Randall, and the whole shebang of undead/alien/mutant/mythological denizens of New York that has sprung forth from the head of series creator Devin Clark and executive producer Daniel Powell. The duo spoke to us recently about the return of the series and what to look forward to in season three.
“You know, I think going into the first season, we had a rough idea of what these characters would represent in their relationship with Mark,” Devin Clark explains when I ask him when or how they were able to finally get a bead on the characters from the show. He continued, “But our core talent of voice acting is so phenomenal, I think that the layers and the nuances of the characters just kind of blossomed with what all of of our actors brought to that.”
That cast includes Matt Oberg as Mark, Natasha Leggero as Callie, Randy Pearlstein as the alcoholic wizard Leonard, and standup comedian Kurt Metzger as Randall, Mark’s living dead roommate. But Clark says that one of the big revelations was Michael-Leon Wooley, who plays Mark’s demon boss Twayne Boneraper: “[he] can play an awesome villain, but he can also play this little, naive, smaller character, too. So all of a sudden, Twayne had a lot more range.”
This process of discovering the characters in the first and second season also extended to getting more opportunities to elaborate a bit more on the world in which Ugly Americans takes place. Last year, we got to see the demons perform an apocalypse “pre-enactment,” as well as the process for wizards picking their successors. Clark says that giving the world more detail almost got away from them, though, with several of what he describes as “epic, end-of-days” plots. He credits the world he and the rest of the Ugly Americans team have created together with being rich and able to support a great deal of mythology-building, but going forward, they wanted to make sure that making their New York more intricate didn’t get in the way of the jokes. “I think with the third season, we just focused on bringing it back to our hilarious, core group of [characters].” This also means the new season will also feature guest stints by Lisa Lampanelli roasting Twayne, Jon H. Benjamin, and Jeneane Garofolo.
Although they were looking to return the show’s focus to the characters and jokes, I did ask if there would be any attempts this season to push any kind of continuity forward—perhaps even allowing Mark and Callie’s relationship to progress. Dave Powell says that given their focus on delivering standalone episodes, that kind of attention to ongoing storylines was unlikely. “If something’s too serialized, and you need all of this backstory and a lot of prior information to get he joke, it kind of runs counter to the network’s programming philosophy.” For Powell, this frees them up to make the show accessible to new viewers more than anything else, while still allowing the character relationships to flourish on an episode-by-episode basis.
To the question of Callie and Mark’s relationship, Clark says that although its portrayal does go back and forth between a casual office fling and something a little more serious, we can expect a serious exploration of whatever it is this mismatched couple has in the third season finale.
One of the major features of the series—you know, besides the menagerie of freaks, mutants, and weirdos—are the subtle and not-too-subtle pop cultural references peppered throughout the show. Sometimes it’s an entire episode where you can pick out the many, many film interpretations of vampires, and sometimes it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by a monster from movies past. Clark tried to contain a laugh as he said that this season, he was most excited about an episode that provided an homage to Batman with The Dark Knight Rises coming this summer. “We have one episode that pulls in references to Batman from the comics, to the TV show, to the third movie,” after Mark is bitten by what Clark describes as a “Bat boy-type creature.”
Ugly Americans airs Wednesday at 10:30 ET on Comedy Central.