Even in comedy, safety always comes first. Bill Hader and Fred Armisen‘s IFC series Documentary Now! learned this lesson during filming on its second season when it had to deal with the Zika virus, of all things.
The original comedy series which parodies the most well-known documentary films took on the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi in season two with the episode “Juan Likes Rice & Chicken.” Since it’s set in Colombia, “they actually went to Colombia and shot it,” Hader told the room of reporters at the 2016 Summer TCA press tour. But since the CDC has issued an alert for travel to areas where Zika virus is spreading through mosquito bites–and it currently has no cure or vaccine–that definitely presented some issues for the IFC series.
“How high did you have to go in the elevation?” Hader asked co-creator Rhys Thomas.
“We went to Bogota and there’s the whole Zika thing. It’s still a thing,” Thomas said. “So we had to search South America for a place that we could go high enough up in elevation to get above the Zika line when we did it.”
“Juan Likes Rice & Chicken,” the second episode of the season, centers on young chef Arturo (Armisen) and his brother as they learn the tricks of the trade from their stern, no-nonsense father Juan who runs a highly-acclaimed restaurant that only serves one dish — chicken and buttered rice. The premiere episode, however, “The Bunker,” is inspired by the 1993 political documentary The War Room with James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, but Hader and Armisen promised that they didn’t focus the premiere on political events to make a statement on the current election.
“It’s more of a time piece than anything else,” Armisen said. “It’s not as much of a political piece as more of a take on ’90s films. The politics is really blurry in it. It’s more about these two guys.”
Hader agreed, adding, “I’m sure some people will find some correlation with what’s going on now but we never wanted to make a statement on what’s going on now. We wanted to show some general truths about people running a campaign.”
And Armisen couldn’t get over the ’90s fashion they had to rock for the episode. “The jeans are really weird,” he said with a laugh. “They come up on your hips weird. I just thought it didn’t fit me right, but that’s the fit.”
During the panel, Hader remembered a musical episode they did in season one where he actually got so lost in the parody that he forgot that they weren’t making an actual documentary.
“We were really focused on learning the songs for this concert,” Hader said. “We put out a thing expecting 200 people to show up, and over 1,000 people showed up. It was set in the ’80s and everyone was in ’80s garb. It was really cool.”
“We shot it live,” Thomas added. “We thought it would be really fun to do something in one night in front of an audience. Fred wrote all the music for that episode and there are some genuine songs in it.”
But director Alex Buono loves getting involved in all the tiny details of each episode.
“We treat this as if it’s a real documentary for us,” Buono says. “And it makes it more pure.”
As as for why co-creator Seth Meyers wasn’t on the TCA panel, Armisen quipped, “I just wanted you guys to know, Seth Meyers isn’t here because he’s at a breakfast on Melrose.”
Documentary Now! season two, which premieres Sept. 14 at 10 p.m., will feature guest stars including Maya Rudolph, Anne Hathaway, Mia Farrow, Peter Fonda, and Peter Bogdanovich.