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'Arrested Development': David Cross Says Netflix Return Will Be 'Historic' (Q&A)

The actor tells THR why a follow-up movie is close to impossible and which guest stars "truly impressed" him.

David Cross

Although Arrested Development is setting the precedent for "television shows that were canceled too early and then revived on Netflix for a very short season," it seems to be pushing the bar quite high: In January, series creator Mitch Hurwitz announced that the cult comedy, which premieres on the streaming service in May, would follow a new episodic format which, altogether, is “the first act of what we would like to complete in a movie."

And since then, each week has revealed another high-profile name as an upcoming guest star, including Kristen Wiig, Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen, Conan O’Brien, Liza Minnelli and John Slattery, to name only a few. But The Hollywood Reporter’s television critic Tim Goodman is a little worried that his "favorite comedy ever" won't live up to its legacy seven years after its much-bemoaned cancellation.

STORY: 'Arrested Development' Not Getting Second Netflix Season

David Cross tells THR that fans won't be disappointed. The actor attended Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Isaac Mizrahi’s Tie the Knot event with wife Amber Tamblyn on Wednesday night and opened up about Arrested Development's highly anticipated Netflix comeback, reintroducing the always-awkward Tobias Funke and improvising with a legendary guest star.

The Hollywood Reporter: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said this week that Arrested Development won’t be getting a second Netflix season. Did the cast know this going in?

David Cross: I think we all assumed back then that it was just for one short season of, I believe, 10 episodes, which got expanded [to 14]. But there was never ever any talk or promise of doing an extra season beyond what we were doing. In fact, the initial idea was that we do this season, and then it would lead up to what would be its own one-off movie that would be a conclusion to the stories being told in this, for lack of a better word, season.

STORY: Ben Stiller Returning to 'Arrested Development'

THR: But is anything officially settled yet about either a movie or another season?

Cross: Oh nothing, nothing at all. No.

THR: In your opinion, does season four leave room for both continuing options?

Cross: Absolutely both. It’s not a serialized show that has an arc and an end to it, so it’s wide open. ... There is a truly under-appreciated, extreme difficulty with getting this cast together, and if people have their own commitments that are first position -- several people do -- getting them all in L.A. and then getting them to work on this thing for what was, essentially, four months, is really difficult. So that’s a very big hurdle that needs to get taken care of.

THR: How did you enjoy reuniting with the cast?

Cross: It was great seeing everybody again -- the crew and everybody. That sentiment is shared by everybody. It was just a real great time getting back to doing those characters, working with those guys. That was a real treat. And the writing is so amazing, and getting to play Tobias and riffing and improvising. It’s crazy; it’s fun.

STORY: 'Arrested Development': Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen to Appear

THR: Speaking of riffing, you had a lot of great guest stars roll through. Who were some of your favorites to work with?

Cross: I got to work with Maria Bamford a lot, so that was really cool. ... It was good to see Carl Weathers. I got to work with Jeff Garlin’s wife [Marla Garlin]. Oh! Tommy Tune! It was f---ing awesome! I forgot about that guy! He hadn’t done television since the ’70s, and my scenes with him were just separate and removed from everybody else's stories. His first day, he's kind of nervous and everything. We did this scene, and I'm really riffing all over the place, and he f---ing kept up! And no one told him anything; no one told him I was gonna improvise! I don’t know yet how much of it will make it into the show, but I imagine some of it, because it was really crazy and fun -- we’re both singing! He was awesome. I'm truly impressed with how people like Tommy and Liza Minnelli and James Lipton and all these people come in and really hold their own. I didn't have any scenes with Lipton in this series, but I remember working with him before. I was really impressed with how he would just roll with it. I mean, I still can’t stand his show [Inside the Actors Studio], but he was great.

STORY: Gulp: What If 'Arrested Development' Disappoints?

THR: Was there someone in the cast that you weren’t as close to before that you got to know better while filming the fourth season

Cross: I think Portia [de Rossi] actually -- I wouldn’t say we got closer necessarily, but it was a lot more fun working with her in 2012. There is never any acrimony on the set; we all had fun, and we did for three years, so there’s no overcoming some sort of animosity or anything. We were all pretty copacetic. Portia and I had a lot of scenes and a lot of stuff over those first three years, but we were never really tight, didn’t really hang out much. But this time, it was just more fun. Our energies were better.

THR: Do you think Arrested Development fans will be satisfied after such a long wait?

Cross: Absolutely. I think when it’s over, they’re gonna be aching. Particularly, this last, fourth season, what Mitch did and how he’s able to tell the story through the Netflix model -- I think it’s going to redefine what television can be and stories can be and how they’re presented. And I really think it’s gonna be historic in a sense; that we’re gonna look back on it in 10, 20, 30 years, and it will be a very important thing that Mitch and Netflix have done.