Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne on Reviving R-Rated Comedy and Their Messy Friendship in ‘Platonic’
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a different kind of duo in their Apple TV+ series Platonic, which sees the Neighbors stars go from on-screen married couple to a pair of friends reconnecting after a fall out, who couldn’t possibly have less of a romantic spark.
In the half-hour comedy from Neighbors director Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco, Sylvia (Byrne) sees an Instagram post that her former best friend Will (Rogen) is divorcing his wife — whom she hated and her honesty about that years ago tanked their friendship — and decides to reach out in an effort to reconnect. The attorney-turned-stay-at-home mom, whose youngest child is now in school full time, and the newly single brew master are each at a crossroads and quickly fall into old habits as they turn to each other for support.
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There’s an accidental ketamine trip, a covert lizard rescue, a painting restoration gone phallic — and, not to be overlooked, Will doing “the Coyote Ugly dance” at his bar as patrons show off their secret skills. The routine is now Rogen’s hidden talent, he says with a laugh, “You can’t unlearn it.”
Ahead of the May 24 premiere, Rogen and Byrne talked with The Hollywood Reporter about avoiding hints of romance and reviving R-rated comedy.
What was it about Platonic that made you two want to sign on and reunite?
Rose Byrne: I have a friendship with a guy who we were very, very close. We were roommates, we were each other’s best friend and buddy and comrade out here in L.A., both struggling actors in our early twenties. Nobody could believe that we were platonic friends. It was a fascinating thing to experience at the time; people [were] always commenting. Then this project came up and I was just like, that would be so fun for Seth and I to explore this idea from Nick and Francesca. I hate this word, but it was sort of like an organic thing. We had such fun doing the Neighbors movies and and it felt like a good opportunity to explore something that we haven’t seen that much, this idea of a friendship between a guy and a girl and what that can look like.
Seth Rogen: I’ve made a lot things about friendship, but it’s always a male-male friendship: Superbad, Pineapple Express, This is the End. The idea of exploring friendship between a man and a woman, and people who have known each other for a long time seemed like an exciting and new way to do something that I knew I liked doing already.
When you see a story like this, most of the time it’s a will-they-won’t-they situation and you question whether they’re going to get together in the end. How did you show that you had closeness and chemistry without faking people out that it might end up being a romance?
Byrne: It was a constant checking in about it, right?
Rogen: Yeah, it was on a scene-to-scene basis — making sure that was the prevailing sentiment and to not play into misdirection. There might have been lines here and there that I remember being like, “Does this imply that we hooked up? Does this make it seem like maybe we’re into one another?” We were always like, we have to make it clear that this is not a part of the show — in the blocking, the dialogue, even little things. We knew that you would relax into the show more and just enjoy it and and laugh if you knew that wasn’t a part of the tension.
Byrne: And a lot of that was from Nick and Francesca adjusting from the outside, because something could feel like one thing and then look like another.
Rogen: Exactly. You’re shooting it and you’re like, “Oh, this looks a little romantic and we shouldn’t do it like that.”
Byrne: Like, we had a huge sex scene, but it got cut. I don’t know why. Weird. (Laughs.)
How would you describe the arc of Will and Sylvia’s relationship during the course of the season?
Rogen: I think it’s two people who put a lot of each other’s problems on one another, and who use each other as outlets in ways that are maybe not necessarily healthy. They each have things their lives are missing and they really kind of extract it all from this other person in a way that is kind of both codependent and, at times, very toxic.
Byrne: I feel like it’s sort of a will-they-won’t-they be able to find their friendship again. They’ve had this falling out and it’s about reuniting. How does it go? What does that look like now at this chapter of life?
Rogen: Can they be healthy, normal, productive adults who are also friends with one another?
Are there any scenes or episodes you’re especially excited for viewers to see?
Byrne: I haven’t seen them all because I’m a scaredy cat.
Rogen: Oh, you don’t like watching yourself?
Rogen: There are a lot of really funny ones. There’s one where she does ketamine, which is very funny and is some great physical comedy. There’s one where I go to a baseball game that that’s pretty funny. I get to appropriately portray a man who knows nothing about sports in any capacity. Expressing a disinterest in things like people’s children and sports was a real pleasure for me as a performer.
Some of the scenes are pretty wild. Which one was the most challenging to film?
Byrne: It was hard doing the ketamine scene in the bottle shop because it was just a lot of physical stuff.
Rogen: It had to look unchoreographed but it actually required a lot of choreography. A lot of resets. You don’t want to take too many takes. It takes a long time to clean up all those bottles and shit like that. That was fun, though.
Byrne: Exactly. That was very fun and funny, but also quite hard. A big set piece, in a way.
Is there anything else that you really want people to know about this show?
Rogen: I was excited to make something that was like outwardly comedic. I feel like I haven’t actually done that in a long time, like a real R-rated comedy with relatable characters and big set pieces. It’s something that we did for years and years and years.
Byrne: You don’t see it in the movies as much now, so it’s like this is the new medium for it.
Rogen: Exactly. It was exciting to get to do it. I think a lot of television and a lot of my favorite shows, even comedies, are very heavy and this show is not very heavy. It is very light and genuinely trying to go for big laughs.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The first three episodes of Platonic are now streaming on Apple TV+, with a weekly Wednesday release for the remaining 10-episode season.
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