Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph are in a golf cart that Applegate is driving — backwards, and very slowly — outside a soundstage in L.A.’s Studio City, one stage over from where the ladies of The Talk get their gab on. A pair of security guards stroll over and casually end the slow-speed chase, and the women hop out, grab some boxes off the back of the cart and run as fast as they can — which, in Rudolph’s case, isn’t all that fast since she’s wearing stiletto heels. “I’m sorry you had to see that,” she jokes after the take.
Journalists attending the TV Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles are visiting the set of NBC’s Up All Night, currently filming the second season’s first episode. We watch the pair repeat the scene several times, each take slightly different from the last. What will probably comprise about 20 seconds of screen time takes more than a half-hour to film.
The short scene, however, is part of an effort to retool the show about hipster parents Reagan and Chris (Applegate and Will Arnett), with Rudolph co-starring Reagan’s best friend and boss, talk-show host Ava.
Make that former talk-show host, since the new season kicks off with Ava and Reagan left jobless when Ava is cancelled (the soundstage that formerly housed the Ava set is currently under construction, with a new and as-yet-unidentifiable set being built). The scene being filmed involves the duo making a mad dash from the studio with as much if the show’s stuff as they can carry after the axe comes down.
This seismic shift in the sitcom’s storyline, notes series exec producer Tucker Cawley, is part of a second-season makeover that has jettisoned Up All Night‘s show-within-a-show in order to focus more on the home life of Reagan and Chris.
These tweaks are intended to “make it more of a family-and-friends show,” explains Cawley about excising the show’s workplace scenes. “It always felt like we were juggling two tones. There was the home vibe and then the work vibe and they never fully meshed.”
“We wanted to expand Ava’s roster of experiences,” adds exec producer Emily Spivey. “We just felt that her world being rocked and the rug being pulled out from under her enabled us to open up her world. She can be more aspirational. She’s going to have more struggles, whether it be finding what her new creative outlet is, finding a man…it better integrates her with Reagan and Chris’s stories and just enables her to move about a little more freely in the world.”
Rudolph is excited about playing a more-vulnerable Ava. “I love when Ava messes up, and I love when she has flaws, and I love when she tries to be a real person because I think we sort of established this odd character that doesn’t know how to cook or do normal things, and that’s funny to us. I just think the possibilities are endless in that department, so it’s gonna be fun to see her trying new things. I think hilarity might ensue.”
Likewise, Applegate is looking forward to seeing what happens with her character when the type-A TV producer suddenly finds herself a stay-at-home mom. “I always enjoyed Reagan when she had a mission and an obstacle, and that’s where you can really see her personality come out and how she deals with things,” says Appelgate. “I’m looking forward to how we’re going to do that in the home life with her not having a job, so it’s kind of like a whole new thing.”
As a fairly new father himself (he and wife Amy Poehler have two young children), Arnett can certainly relate to what his character will be going through this season. “I spent a lot of time when my eldest son was quite young at home with him, so I got to be a part of a lot of those kind of life mile‑marker moments — walking, crawling, those things — because I was there.” (Arrested Development fans will be happy to know that Arnett will soon begin work on the new Netflix episodes of the beloved cult comedy, which he’s been able to work around his Up All Night schedule: “Currently the plan is to shoot on hiatuses and weekends,” he says.)
Another big change in season two is the addition of a new character: Reagan’s younger brother, a scruffy contractor played by Luka Jones (who points out that he does not live on the second floor, although his TV sister loves to torment him by sining Suzanne Vega’s “My Name is Luka” as often as possible). “He’s a little bit different from his sister in terms of personality,” says Jones, who was last seen on the short-lived sitcom Best Friends Forever. “Where she’s a type A, that producer type of personality, [he’s] the opposite of that.”
In addition, Cawley announces that the show will welcome a familiar face early in the season: Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes will guest star in a a multi-episode arc “as Ava’s former musical accompanist that she kind of left high and dry when she moved on to bigger and better things,” he says. “So we’ll see, when they hook up again, how that goes.”
The second season of UP ALL NIGHT premieres Thursday, September 20 on NBC