Interview: ‘Quick Draw’ star John Lehr
Quick Draw is a Hulu original series about a Harvard-educated sheriff in an old west town where the residents don’t respect him. For his part, Sheriff Hoyle is condescending to the small town’s citizens, and impatient with their failure to embrace his wisdom. Sounds like an interesting dramatic premise, but enacted entirely by the comedic improv talents of its cast, it flourishes into a satire. Creator, writer, and star John Lehr took the time to enlighten us on his show.
Man Cave Daily: Running online, you’re free to go to dark humor with decapitations and dead spouses. Was there anything you weren’t allowed to do?
John Lehr: Oh yes. Hulu asked us to keep the show at TV-14 so there are lots of places we can’t go in terms of sex and language. The stuff you’re seeing is the what we were able to squeeze through. Our assless chaps episode never saw the light of day.
MCD: Hoyle’s immunity to damage is spectacularly cartoonish. That lends to the humor, but does it ever detract from the drama?
JL: Well considering he gets shot in the first episode, he’s not especially immune to damage.
MCD: Hoyle is a sort of capable idiot who gets in over his head — in a slight way, he reminded me of Bertie Wooster without Jeeves to pull him out. Where there any specific characters that influenced his creation?
JL: No specific characters come to mind but our heroes are Monty Python, Spinal Tap and Howard Stern.
MCD: What’s Hoyle’s worst fault? And his best characteristic?
JL: Worst fault: WAY too communicative. Best characteristic — he’s a kick-ass shot.
MCD: Beyond bringing in gang leader Cole Younger, what does Hoyle want? How will his relationship with the town develop?
JL: Hoyle’s attraction to Honey increases throughout the season. Ultimately, we see that Hoyle is a lover not a fighter but his ability to gun down outlaws at will endears him to the townsfolk.
MCD: You’ve got a hearty mix of vets like Bob Clendenin and very fresh faces like Nick Brown and Alexia Dox. Is there any difference in the improvisation process working with the newer talent?
JL: Absolutely. Quick Draw is completely improvised. There is a detailed script but there is no dialogue. Also, the actors never see the script. They just show up to set in costume and Nancy (my partner and director of all 8 eps) gives them the skinny on the basics of the scene (i.e. “You want to bet money on the sheriff death pool but you always lose.”). Cameras roll and you just… make it happen. Some people totally freak out at this approach, so we are careful to find the right actors capable of walking this tight rope.
MCD: Quick Draw gets a lot of humor from historical irony, whether it’s deadpan delivery of some abhorrent attitudes, or how people react to scientific developments. What are some current beliefs you think are going to be scoffed at by the future?
JL: Cars. What the hell were they thinking driving big hunks of metal at super speeds down roads divided only by orange tape!? That’s insane! Thank god we now have our super safe teleportation tubes.
MCD: Hoyle stresses new technologies and sciences to people…though it seems they ignore him when he’s talking about fingerprints and only heed him when he’s explaining phrenology. Are there any any advances he’d be skeptical about, or is he a panglossian futurist?
JL: Oh he’s definitely a panglossian futurist. He sooo panglossian. He’s panglossian up the ass. Actually I don’t know what panglossian means. Googling now… Ok I’m back. Please nix everything I just typed. He’s not panglossian. No way in hell he’s panglossian.
MCD: In concept, Quick Draw reminded me a little of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: a crack shot Harvard lawman who heralds the 20th century’s arrival to the Old West. Of course Hoyle is probably the opposite of Brisco — universally disrespected, disregarded. Do you think he deserves the treatment he gets? He is pretty condescending, but at the same time, genuinely concerned with improving folks’ lives.
JL: Hoyle definitely deserves the treatment he gets.
MCD: Pursuant to that, he’s often suggesting new ways the townsfolk can advance their station, and they all seem to loathe him more for offering helpful ideas. Do you get more comedy out of people being set in their ways, or out of disadvantaging themselves purely out of personal distaste for this Harvard fop?