Getting Inside Bojack Horseman with Nick Adams

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By Mitch Koehler and Jarred Geller

Nick Adams is an American television writer and author. He is currently a writer for the powerful and beloved Netflix Original, BoJack Horseman. He was also Story Editor for the series New Girl and Executive Story Editor for the series Men At Work.

Adams is the author of the book Making Friends with Black People, which he describes as a humorous but potent “how to guide” to bridging racial divides. Adams lives in LA with his wife.

1. First off, how did you get started writing for BoJack Horseman? Has this been your first major writing gig for a TV series?

The producers responded well to my writing sample and our meeting went great, so they brought me on board for season four. My first “major” writing gig was definitely New Girl. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a steady career thanks to peak TV. 

2. It must be somewhat of a challenge having multiple writers for the show. How do you go about designing an episode without stepping on each other’s toes and ideas?

On the contrary. You need multiple writers to generate enough story & jokes for an entire TV show. There have been a few people who just write the entire thing themselves, but they’re mostly savant overachievers and coke-fueled weirdos. Or it’s British. 

The showrunners has to do a good job of driving the ship and figuring out what story it is that they want to tell. The writers have to make sure we’re servicing their vision as best we can. 

3. What’s it like in the writer’s room of BoJack Horseman?

It’s great.  From the top down it’s a fun, welcoming and creative environment. Raphael usually has a clear idea of what it is that he wants. And if he doesn’t, he at least knows what he doesn’t want.  The staff is smart and funny and they’re all willing to “go there” as much as necessary.  Which is more than you’d think. Writers really put a lot of their personal lives into show. It’s part of the job. A show like BoJack demands even more of that.    

Physically, it looks like a playroom for ADHD pre-teens. And the roof leaks when it rains. 

4. BoJack is a special kind of character – he’s terribly flawed. He has a good heart but doesn’t think he deserves to be loved and can’t even love himself. Did you find it easy or difficult to write for his character?

I think there’s enough self-loathing in everyone to allow them to sympathize with him at least a little bit.  I’m the opposite of him—responsible husband & father—but yeah, I absolutely have days where I feel like a piece of shit. He also hates himself so much, it’s hard not to let him off the hook a bit.

Also, the guy can deliver a killer joke.

5. One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the foil between Bojack and Mr, PB. While they both have similar backgrounds as 90s sitcom stars in a show with the exact same premise, the similarities stop there. Bojack thinks through everything, Mr. PB goes with the flow. Bojack is perpetually cynical and depressed, Mr. PB is perpetually optimistic and happy (for the most part). How has their dynamic evolved throughout the show and how have the writers found a way to make the foil between them appear so naturally in every episode?

I started in season four, but I think PB’s grown so much into his own character since the beginning that he’s not so dependent on existing solely as BoJack’s foil anymore. Also, they’re a lot older now than they were when they first met. And they’ve both gone through a lot of shit. I think BoJack appreciates PB now in a way that he didn’t years ago. 

 

6. Let’s talk about the development of Todd and how he has branched out on his own over the past two seasons. He’s no longer purely a comical object of the show but has moved towards a more fully developed character. What is Todd’s role in the overall character make-up of the show and how has his maturation allowed the writers to tell more complex and deeper stories? And will we ever see the Todd humor from seasons 1 and 2 again?

I think all that silly Todd stuff is still there now. Todd was a kid when he started crashing with BoJack. It makes sense for him to grow up a bit. Also, him stumbling into his own complex sexual identity forces us to grow him up a bit.

7. Season 4 of BoJack is really heavy; Princess Carolyn struggles with not being a mom, Diane can’t be happy and Bojack’s even more depressed, hates his mom and just wants to do right by Hollyhock. Will BoJack finally find happiness in Season 5?

C’mon, man. It’s BoJack. 

 

8. I think Will Arnett is well known for adlibbing hilarious stuff. How much do the voice actors add on their own, and how much is written for them?

A lot of thought and effort is put into the writing of the episodes. Raphael is a “get it as scripted first” type of guy. But yeah, you don’t hire Will Arnett, Paul F. Thompkins, etc and not let them ad lib a little bit. I think the more common thing—and I’m not in the booth for all the records, only my episodes—is one of those guys or Allison or Amy or Aaron adlibbing something funny at the table read. Then, we all laugh and cross out our less funny joke and replace it with theirs. 

 

9. On BH, you wrote “Thoughts and Prayers” (Se: 4) and “BoJack The Feminist” (Se: 5, TBA). Both are very good scripts. Have you written other episodes that just didn’t make it into production? If so, what were they?

No, there’s nothing left on the cutting room floor. We figure out exactly what each episode is gonna be and then we write just those. 

 

10. Are you working on anything else right now? 

I’m writing on a new Netflix show called Tuca & Bertie. It was created by BoJack’s own Lisa Hanawalt! It’s about two animated birds and stars Tiffany Haddish. The other leads haven’t been announced yet, but they’re also super cool. Should be public soon. And like every other writer in this town, I’m always developing my own projects. 

 

11. What other shows do you hope to write for?

Just good ones. Hopefully, one that I created.

 

12. Any advice for young writers?

Write a lot. Read a lot. Learn about story. Watching a lot of TV isn’t as important as you’d think. Watch good movies. Watch good TV. Life is too short for trash.

IMDb: 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2072419/

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