The Cast of ‘Deadbeat’ Talk Filming in NYC for Season 3

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Photo Source: Nicole Rivelli/Hulu - Kal Penn and Tyler Labine

Dropping Season 3 of “Deadbeat,” the Hulu series about a stoner slacker who sees dead people, on 4/20 is no coincidence. Creators Cody Heller and Brett Konner wanted to give America two reasons to rejoice on this unofficial national holiday.

Starring Tyler Labine as Kevin “Pac” Pacalioglu, a cross between the kid from “The Six Sense” and the Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” “Deadbeat” is taking a narrative turn this season while preserving all the elements that make it fun to watch.

Centered on Pac’s ability to communicate with ghosts to solve their unfinished business and head “into the light,” the creators have introduced additional plot points that bring out new layers in their characters as well as their lead actors. The heartfelt end of Season 2 showcased Labine’s serious acting chops without sacrificing the show’s specific brand of goofs and gags. This season they’re developing Pac further.

“The plan even from the beginning was to have him go more legitimate by Season 3,” says Konner about their protagonist, who’s now entering the freelance ghost business. “We knew he couldn’t do it on his own so we came up with this character he meets in jail named Clyde Shapiro, the stoner entrepreneur. Someone who could use his passion and his street smarts to sort of turn Pac’s gift—”

“Slash burden,” adds Heller, “into a profitable business.”

“Into a barely profitable business,” Konner corrects her with a laugh. It’s early December 2015 and the two are chatting between takes on the East Village–based shoot of the fifth episode, which features a Skrillex look-alike, a hoverboard, and a light-up suit.

Revamping much of the cast, which includes Lucy DeVito and “So You Think You Can Dance” host Cat Deeley, the series’ third effort has shifted from loner- to buddy-comedy, featuring Pac and his jailbird friend Clyde, played by Kal Penn.

“Season 2 was much more of a seasonal arc, a little bit darker, a little bit sadder,” says Labine, who feels the third season streamlines the show’s essentials. “I lose my girlfriend and gain some knowledge of myself, but ultimately I end up very alone, and then this season we kind of had a major reset where all the characters are gone, I meet [Clyde] in jail, and we form a legit bromance. We have solid menergy.”

The co-creators realize how much they’d lucked out by casting Labine and Penn, who surprised them with their ability to convey vulnerability and a necessary naïvete. On both occasions they met the actors the night before shooting their first scene, but formed trusting relationships on set.

“Between takes if you have an idea for something, Cody and Brett are always very receptive to it, and so are most of our directors—as long as there’s time to play with something,” says Penn. “I’ve only been told no a handful of times and that’s only because we’re running out of daylight or something.”

The actors have also built a solid rapport between themselves. They joke about shooting in NYC and having Penn’s “Harold & Kumar” fans asking for selfies during a scene. “Well, mostly they just think we’re shooting ‘Master of None,’ ” Penn jokes, referring to that other streaming series starring Aziz Ansari.

“Kal’s doing a lot of stuff because ‘Silicon Valley’ also got nominated,” riffs Labine.

“Yeah, I’m doing well this season.”

When building this world that so brilliantly caters to great comedians and comedic timing, Heller and Konner were inspired by films like “Ghostbusters” and, surprisingly, the video game Pac-Man. From the character’s nickname and his pill-popping habits to his grid-like hometown of New York City and his relationship with ghosts, the elements of the classic ’80s game shaped many of their initial ideas.

Yes, notes Heller: they were “so stoned when this idea happened.” So celebrate 4/20 with Season 3 of “Deadbeat”!

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Briana Rodriguez
Briana is the Editor-in-Chief at Backstage. She oversees editorial operations and covers all things film and television. She's interested in stories about the creative process as experienced by women, people of color, and other marginalized communities. You can find her on Twitter @brirodriguez and on Instagram @thebrianarodriguez
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