TCA Interview: Phil Lord and Chris Miller on The Lego Movie 2 and Bless the Harts

2019 FOX WINTER TCA: (L-R): BLESS THE HARTS cast members Drew Tarver, Jillian Bell, Ike Barinholtz, Maya Rudolph, Creator/Executive Producer Emily Spivey, and Executive Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller during the BLESS THE HARTS table read and panel at the 2019 FOX WINTER TCA at the Langham Hotel, Wednesday, Feb. 6 in Pasadena, CA. CR: Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup

Just weeks after we saw Phil Lord and Chris Miller at a screening of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part I got another chance to talk to them. Fox held a table read of their upcoming animated series Bless the Harts for the Television Critics Association. Lord and Miller produce the series with creator Emily Spivey.

The Harts are a North Carolinan family. Parents Wayne (Ike Barinholtz) and Betty (Maya Rudolph) and their kids Violet (Jillian Bell) and Randy (Drew Tarver) just try to get through life. Spivey revealed Bless the Harts takes place in the same universe as King of the Hill. The Mega-Low Mart chain extends to North Carolina.

After the panel we got to talk to Lord and Miller a little more about The Lego Movie 2, Bless the Harts and their TV successes. Look for Bless the Harts next fall on Fox Sunday nights. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is in theaters now.

WLE: Raphael Bob-Waksberg helped you with The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. What were his contributions?

CM: Well, we were out of the country for a little bit and busy. We were gone for a year so he was super cool to take over working on the script while we were gone. Then he got busy with his own super awesome television program, and we came back and jumped back in. He was super helpful. He’s a genius and we were just happy to have him even spend a little bit of time helping us.

WLE: Was the story already there?

CM: There was already a script but these animated movies, they really evolve over time. The story keeps changing and finding itself. We went through a five year process and he was one of the chapters on that process. A lot of his ideas and thoughts and jokes are still in there.

WLE: Could you pinpoint one or two of his ideas that ended up in Lego Movie 2?

PL: That’s a good question. It’s so hard to tell anymore because it gets into a big gumbo pot and you forget where anything came from.

CM: There were a lot of people, like our friend Craig Thomas who we worked with on How I Met Your Mother. He wrote a bunch of funny jokes for us. There were a bunch of other people. It’s such a collaborative experience and all the actors added a lot of stuff too, so knowing where the source of things came from is really hard.

PL: It gets messy.

Q: Fox has a specific lineup of family animated sitcoms. What conversations did you and Emily have about building on animation styles and character types, and inventing new ones?

2019 FOX WINTER TCA: BLESS THE HARTS Executive Producer Phil Lord during the BLESS THE HARTS table read and panel at the 2019 FOX WINTER TCA at the Langham Hotel, Wednesday, Feb. 6 in Pasadena, CA. CR: Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup

PL: I really think more than anything it was just about trying to support Emily’s vision of this show that she’s had rattling around in her head for a solid decade and less about trying to game where it belonged on a schedule or how it would differentiate from those other shows. It turned out that the thing she made was a very nice fit for that Fox Sunday Night.

CM: But it wasn’t made tailored for that. It was just like make the best show you can. It just so happens that it had a lot of the things that Fox Animation had, which was a family with a lot of interesting, funny characters that have a deep bed of love for each other underneath everything.

PL: When we were out pitching the show and developing the script, it became really obvious that the thing you liked the most was watching them all together and watching them support one another and be this weird team. It’s a testament to the way Emily writes that there’s all that kindness and connectivity among the very acidic, sharp sense of humor that is all over the place.

WLE: I imagine you hoped for another season of Last Man on Earth and your first series, Clone High only went one. Have you gotten more savvy about how to make shows and animated shows work on television, or at Fox?

PL: I think we just try to make the best thing that we possibly can and pray that it reaches an audience. We really approach everything the same way. What’s something that we’ll be proud of, that’s good for people? We’re really proud that these shows are good for your brain and for your heart. This one is too.

CM: I think what’s cool about this and I think what makes some of the stuff that we’ve done that’s been successful has been when it’s really, really specific but also really universal at the same time. To be able to have the universality behind really observed specificity is a key to getting a wide audience of people that can really connect with something.

PL: We’ve also been really successful when we’ve partnered with a showrunner who had a really strong voice, like Emily’s. That’s also the same deal with Forte’s show. You knew you were backing this guy who’s got a voice that’s totally singular. We’re there to help realize what he’s got. The same thing with Emily. She’s somebody that was on our Last Man staff that we’ve known for a long time, that everyone in comedy admires who’s got a really singular point of view. We always win when we collaborate with somebody as talented as she is.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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