PAPER GIRLS’ Jason Mantzoukas and Adina Porter on the Fun of Being Baddies

Every good story needs a proper antagonist. In fact, I’d dare say that the antagonist can make or break a story. What is Batman without the Riddler or the Joker? What is The Walking Dead without its walkers or Negan drama? And, in the case of Paper Girls, what is this TV show without the Old Watch? (They are the Old-Timers in the comics.) It is often fun to be the “baddie.” Nerdist spoke with Adina Porter (Prioress) and Jason Mantzoukas (The Grandfather) to discover why there’s more to them than meets the eye. (Yes, Jason is indeed Grandfather!)

prioress and grandfather talking in paper girls comic
Image Comics/Cliff Chiang/Matt Wilson

Nerdist: The show posits both of your characters as antagonists, but there’s always something more than what meets the surface. So, what are you looking forward to fans discovering about your character?

Jason Mantzoukas: Grandfather comes across as—or is introduced as—an antagonistic character. But the more you understand and learn and the more the world gets built out, I think all of this becomes only more and more gray. I think Grandfather explains it well in a specific scene… You understand these are people who think they should be protecting the timeline, who feel as though they are doing that. I’m a little bit less hard on Grandfather because I understand that he’s trying to keep order and keep things from falling into complete chaos. 

And things do get chaotic, indeed. 

Adina Porter: For Prioress, as a soldier and following orders, that’s one role that she plays, but she’s a human being as well. And every once in a while as a soldier, she has to question, “Is that a good order or the right order?” And then decide if she follows orders or if she becomes more independent. And you have to tune in and wait to see what she does. 

Interesting. In what ways were both of you able to infuse your ideas and thoughts about how the character should come across?

AP: Another great question. In one way, my answer is not going to be PC. But I know that a great lovemaking session happens when I don’t remember the middle, I just remember the beginning and the end…

JM: This is scandalous. This is scandalous…

photo of adina porter as prioress in paper girls trailer shooting a gun
Prime Video

I like a little scandal.

AP: (laughs) Like, I know I had a really great time, but I don’t remember all of the details because I was in it instead of being in the back, observing it…. As an actor, you give them your raw materials and then the editors and the directors decide which take and how it all comes together. So I’m excited to sit back and go, “Oh, I remember this. Oh, they decided that. Oh, now that looks like that.” I’m excited to see the finished product as well and how my raw material was blended together.

JM: Paper Girls is like a good lovemaking session. That goes on the poster. (laughs) I read the comics a lot and I felt like Brian [Vaughan] and Cliff [Chiang] had done a really amazing job of giving Grandfather a solid [personality]. And so for me, it was stepping into that and then bringing to it a little bit of comedy. I’m a comedian, I’m an improviser, that’s my background. I’d see if I could pitch a joke for a moment or come up with a funny beat that might be something that could be used. 

And similar to what Adina was saying, doing those bits and then waiting to see if they’re going to use them in the edits… Grandfather has this fun attitude in the face of chaotic destruction. That he can be cracking jokes or something like that is very… hmm, there’s a dissonance that is, I think, pretty interesting.

Yeah. There’s something about him that seems a little too accessible and flippant and relatable, you know? And that makes him even scarier. 

JM: In a way, he almost seems like he is more on a wavelength with the girls than anyone else because he’s this person from a distant future. You would think he would be very disconnected, but he seems to be very schooled in their music and their pop culture. That’s really fun and makes him seem accessible while being, like, this omega level threat to them.

KJ, Mac, Tiffany, and Erin standing in front of open time machine in Paper Girls trailer
Prime Video

So while you all were are on set, were there any things that happened or transpired that surprised you in any way?

JM: The farm that we shot on was infested with wasps. I’ll be honest. That was surprising. There were a lot of people who got stung by wasps. That was shocking.

AP: I was surprised by your humor, Jason. I’m one of those actors who is like, “Well, the script says this, so I’m not deviating.” So I just come in [and] do what I’m told. And then you start to play and improvise and jazz and crack me up. And then I go, “Oh, okay, this is how we’re going to play it.” And so I was surprised by that. 

JM: Yeah! And I loved that we got to have those moments where we got to get into it and mess around and find the dynamic between these two people. Grandfather and Prioress have known each other for so long and we get to [explore] their history in our lines.

Paper Girls season one hits Prime Video on July 29.

Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

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