ROB THOMAS: I had stayed friends with Adam since we originally met, and when it became clear that Paul wasn't going to be playing Henry in our show, all four of us thought that Adam was perfect.
ADAM SCOTT: I had just finished shooting Tell Me You Love Me, this HBO show, so I was like, "Well, yeah, I'd love to do this, but I can't really do another show." They were like, "We're just doing it in our back yard. It's not for a network or anything. So you can just do it, and if your show gets canceled, maybe . . ." I was like, "Yeah, whatever. Tell Me You Love Me is gonna be huge, it'll never be canceled. I'll just do this and nothing will ever come of it." I thought it would be a chance to see if I could be funny.
PAUL RUDD: We all kind of thought he wouldn't want to do it. So when he said, "Yeah, sure," we kind of thought he was just being a friend. They were all being friends, I think. Same with Ken.
KEN MARINO, Ron Donald: Ron is pathetic, but he's a guy who means well and tries really hard. He just has this terrible, terrible black cloud over his head. He's his own worst enemy. It just seemed like a fun part to play, and in my head I had a take on him. When I showed up to shoot, I was like, "I see this guy with, like, a military crew cut." They were nice enough to humor me. Because to me that really informed who that guy was.
ROB THOMAS: We all had an idea for the Constance character, and it's the Constance character that you saw in the series. But when Jane came in, she's there working on this back-yard project for $100 a day, and it's Jane Lynch, but she's doing, like, a harder-edged take on the character. We kind of wanted daffy, but none of the three of us had the nerve to go give Jane direction. And then finally, somewhere in the middle, she actually came to us and said, "Am I on the right track?" She sort of invited us to say, "Well, actually . . ."
JANE LYNCH, Constance Carmell: [laughs] I knew nothing about that. You know, when someone asks me to do something, they're kind of asking me to do what is my brand. And my brand is being mean and in control and insulting and inappropriately sexual. Constance is rather innocent and doesn't have a mean bone in her body—except when she's defending her fantasy, she might get a little upset. You don't want to get Constance upset. But she wasn't dangerous. You weren't afraid of her.
ROB THOMAS: Instead of taking the script around, we ended up showing the pilot everywhere. I guess we didn't show it at HBO—we felt pretty sure it wasn't going to happen there. We got really good responses, but we didn't get any takers. And then one of my agents said, "Starz wants to get into comedy, and they've got an original comedy and they're looking for a companion piece. This could be up their alley." And so we sent them the disc and they bought it.
In 2008, at least five years after its birth, Party Down finally had a shot on Starz, a channel located in the distant reaches of the premium-cable solar system. The network wanted to launch the series in early 2009. The timing was less than perfect.
ROB THOMAS: This happened to be this one golden moment in my career where I had three other pilots picked up: two at ABC [Cupid and Good Behavior] and [the CW remake of Beverly Hills] 90210. I didn't think I could do all these projects.
JOHN ENBOM: I was the writer and show runner for the most part. When they picked up the show, Dan and Rob were off doing Cupid. I was working on The Sarah Connor Chronicles. We basically had this conversation where they were like, "We have this offer from Starz. The only way we can do it is if you sort of daintily step away from your current day job and do it." The good thing was, we'd spent so much time over the years fiddling with this show, it's not like somebody just tapped you on the shoulder and said, "Okay, come up with a whole new show right now!" We were ready to jump in, and when they gave us the opportunity, that's what we did.
PAUL RUDD: John was the hero of that show.
To direct, the team hired former Wonder Years star Fred Savage, who'd been helming episodes of FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Bryan Gordon, a veteran director with experience on Freaks and Geeks, The Office, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. They also began reassembling the cast from the pilot, starting with Adam Scott and Ken Marino.
FRED SAVAGE, director: They had given me that pilot that they shot in Rob's back yard, which was a bit of a Frankenstein's monster. The tone of the script was definitely there, but the look of the show was a little all over the place. There was one moment in the pilot where the woman who was throwing the party gave Casey a video camera and said, "Would you just document the party?" To me that was the funniest part of the whole piece, 45 seconds of this handheld camera, where you kind of caught people unawares. [I thought] that's what the whole show should be.
DAN ETHERIDGE: We started the show in a difficult place: Henry had bottomed out, and bottomed out in a very static way. We were worried about that. It took a lot of work over time from a story standpoint to not have that be a negative. I think the writing helped get it there, and it's really Adam who does passivity more interestingly than any other actor I know.
ADAM SCOTT: I got really stuck on it around the middle of Season 1. How do you play a character who has dedicated his life to doing nothing and has retired from ambition?
KEN MARINO: Ron, in his fucked-up way, was sort of looking out for Henry. Ron considers Henry a pretty good friend. And I think Henry sees how damaged Ron is, and he's always trying to take care of him. There's a work bond and an old friendship bond. Henry recognizes the flaws of Ron but can't help himself from being there when he absolutely has to be there. [pause] He lets Ron stand in the shit most of the time.
Ryan Hansen and Jane Lynch also returned, with one caveat.
JOHN ENBOM: Jane Lynch had done our little pilot, so we'd gone back to say, "Would you please, please, please do the show now that we've got our opportunity here?" At the time, she was already kind of contracted to do Glee. But they had not yet started shooting, so we worked out an agreement where she would do the show for as long as she was able, until Fox called her up and said, "You're on."
JANE LYNCH: I'd talk to Rob from time to time and he would say, "I'm talking to networks," but then I'd hear nothing else. I thought it was dead and completely forgot about it. Then they called and said, "We're actually shooting 10 [episodes] with the Starz network," and I was like, "Awesome!" And instead of wearing the little black prop ties, we're now wearing pink ties.
FRED SAVAGE: Constance was the most fun, because she was so unaware. She was the one I never worried about. She was okay. She was covering for nothing. She was all just heart and warmth, and I just loved her. And that's exactly who Jane is.