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This story about “The Afterparty” first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
“The Afterparty,” Apple TV+’s labyrinthine comedy whodunnit, was endlessly diagrammed and outlined and constructed. Creator Christopher Miller, who also directed all the episodes and produced the series (with his longtime creative partner Phil Lord), would often take to Twitter to discuss the plotting of the story, about a high school reunion afterparty (attended by the likes of Sam Richardson, Ben Schwartz, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Chao and Ike Barinholtz) that descends into chaos after a former student-turned-pop star (Dave Franco) is murdered.
Further complicating matters was the show’s central conceit that each episode would take another character’s point of view and mirror a different movie genre, from a big-screen Hollywood musical to a tightly wound thriller. There’s even an animated episode, which shouldn’t be surprising considering Lord and Miller are responsible for everything from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and its upcoming sequels.
Richardson, Schwartz and Franco play key roles: Richardson plays Aniq, a mild-mannered escape-room designer still pining for a classmate; Schwartz is Yasper, an aspiring musician and Aniq’s best friend; and Franco is Xavier, who became a sensation after starring in a Hall and Oates biopic. For them, the shifting viewpoints and styles meant constant adjustments.
“Let’s say we’re in Sam’s episode, a romantic comedy,” Schwartz said. “It’s not what I’m like, it’s how Sam sees my character. What does Sam think Yasper’s like in that episode? You’d have to play the same scene four different ways: different life, different costumes, different whatever.”
This was especially true for Richardson, whose character is the fulcrum that the entire show hinges upon. “The math of it would be to pick those moments (of) repetition and know that you had to accomplish these different tasks,” Richardson added. “I think all the math was done by Chris, mostly.”
But with so many wonderful comedic performers on the show, many of them masters at improvisation, did the show’s ornate construction hamper their abilities?
“It weirdly felt so loose, considering how mathematical the show is,” Franco said. “Because we all just trust Chris Miller inherently, that just gives us the freedom to go nuts and take huge swings, knowing that he is going to rein us in if we’re going too far, or too far off story.” Schwartz agreed. “It’s total trust, also. Those guys are so funny that if we do 10 different versions of a scene, you know that Lord and Miller are going to pick the funniest ones. And no matter how far we go, they’ll take us back to the story.”
Some of the improvisation isn’t even onscreen but is simmering beneath the surface. “Ike and I improvised the whole subtextual storyline,” Franco said. “In every scene where it’s the two of us, you don’t know whether we’re going to fight or have sex. And that was not on the page, but it added a nice little layer.”
If there’s one thing that Afterpartyfans love, it’s these hidden dimensions. Viewers shared numerous theories on various social-media platforms, but the true detectives made their findings known on Twitter. And Richardson checked in on their progress. “They call themselves the Mad Dogs,” Richardson said, a reference to Tiffany Haddish’s character, Detective Danner. “They found all the ciphers. They found all of the hidden clues.” They also found messages that pointed away from certain potential murderers. “They found what they call the ‘Not The’s.’ In every episode there would be a clue, like Morse code on a blinking red light that says, ‘Not the fireman.’ Or in Tiffany’s episode, there’s a poster board that has things posted on it. But if you look at it closely, it says ‘Not the bear.’”
Schwartz chimed in to sum up the intense interest: “America cared.”
We tried to channel our inner Mad Dog to deduce what the new season (which Richardson said was shooting in a few weeks) would entail. So far, all we know is that it takes place at a wedding. Is this the wedding between Richardson and Chao? “I mean, there’s a lot of assumptions to be made,” Richardson said. “The Mad Dogs can figure out something! I don’t know what I’m at liberty to say.”
Read more from the Race Begins issue here.