DETAILS: Arrested Development is back this month on Netflix—seven years after it was canceled. For all that's been written about the show, there don't seem to be many stories from the set. Have
a favorite anecdote?
Will Arnett: We were shooting Season 2, and Liza Minnelli had been sued by her bodyguard and/or driver for sexual harassment. He was suing her for $100 million. I have no idea what became of that. But we were shooting, and she was there for a wardrobe fitting or whatever. Nobody knew Liza was even on-set. We were rolling. And she walked through the kitchen door, took center stage, put her hands out, and said, "Am I really that bad?" Meaning, "Was sex with me that bad that you had to sue me for $100 million?" It was so disarming.
DETAILS: Your character, Gob, is famous for his ridiculous chicken dance. Do people ask you to do it?
Will Arnett: Nonstop. I've been asked on the subway in New York, I've been asked in England. I did it once publicly—at an auction benefiting a hospital. It was for a good cause. But I don't do it. If you're reading this, don't ask me on the street to do it.
DETAILS: You and Jason Bateman run a digital-marketing firm, Dumbdumb, that makes comedic shorts for brands like Subaru and Old Navy. Were you afraid people would say you sold out?
Will Arnett: I think people would have said that five or ten years ago. Now everyone understands the economics of it. I don't care if you're in the coolest movie or on the coolest TV show—guys who are way too cool for school aren't paying the rent. Guys like Jason and me, we have families.
DETAILS: You didn't become successful until you were in your thirties. Were you jealous of people whose careers had taken off earlier?
Will Arnett: I never really spent time being jealous. Maybe I should have. I'd handicapped myself. Back then I was partying. Maybe I would have gotten more jobs if I didn't look so hungover all the time. I lived in a string of shitty apartments in New York. I had a futon on the floor—not even a frame—that I'd roll up during the day. I had a lot of dreams—I wanted to be taken seriously, and I had something important to say. I said, "I'll never read for TV!" Those are the trappings of youth. As you get older, you take yourself less seriously. That, I think, is actually the freedom of age.
DETAILS: You're sober now. What was the turning point?
Will Arnett: Every day at 5 o'clock, I'd go to Peter McManus on 19th and 7th. It's a classic Irish bar. For six years, I was there six nights a week. In the fall of '99, I did The Mike O'Malley Show for NBC. After two episodes, it was panned and it was canceled. I took it a lot harder than I thought. I had a lot of stuff going on in my life. I'd broken up with my then-girlfriend of many years. I proceeded to spend the next six to nine months on an unprecedented run. And by run, I mean downward spiral. A friend called me up, and she said, "What are you doing?" It was almost as simple as that.
DETAILS: You were raised in Toronto. Your dad, a Harvard graduate, was the head of Molson for a time. What did you learn from him?
Will Arnett: I remember asking my dad, "Why didn't you ever move to the States? You probably could have made a lot more money." My dad said, "Because I have an obligation to give back." I always admired him for that.
DETAILS: When you were 12, your parents sent you to boarding school. Had you done something wrong?
Will Arnett: I probably suffered from ADHD, but they weren't so quick to diagnose it back then. For PE, they'd drop you in the woods with a compass and a pack of matches. It gave you confidence that you could rely on yourself.