James Franco Revisits 'Freaks and Geeks' for His Web Series, 'Making a Scene'

James Franco - H 2015
Courtesy AOL

As if James Franco weren't busy enough — with several film projects, a David Simon pilot for HBO and a Hulu original series on his plate — he's also starring in a bunch of different TV shows this fall.

More or less, anyway. Franco's web series, Making a Scene, launches its second season on AOL on Wednesday. After mashing up famous movie scenes in season one, Franco and his collaborators (including, in several episodes, Alicia Silverstone) are tackling TV shows this time out.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Franco discusses the genesis of the project, how to make a good mashup and revisiting his Freaks and Geeks character.

How did Making a Scene come together?

Basically, what I really liked about the concept we came up with was that there were two steps in the creative process that would be out of my and my collaborators' control. We wouldn't pick which movies or TV shows would be featured; we would ask people online which ones they wanted. Then once we had those titles, we put them all on a wheel to decide which ones would be mashed up. It's sort of like a challenge for us — once we have those things mashed up, we have to make sense of them.

I guess, initially, I thought it would be great because it would take a little pressure off of us. If it's a weird mashup, we're not to blame. We didn't choose it.

Does the approach change at all when you're doing TV mashups, as opposed to movies?

We found when we were doing the first season that, in movies, there are a lot of famous scenes. People can really cite scenes — for some reason, scenes in movies seem to stand out more. When we decided to do television shows, we started thinking [about], what are we asking people to pick? It seemed like picking specific scenes wouldn't work the same way with television shows. In fact, what is primary in television shows are situations, characters, concepts. Those would be the things we would then play on in season two.

When we're mashing up two shows, what we thought about and talked about is, which show's style are we using? Which show are we shooting it like? If we're doing Breaking Bad and Sex and the City, does one style take priority over the other? Then also trying to figure out how the characters of these two worlds would come together. So, in that case, Walter White is on a date with Carrie, and Carrie's back with the ladies, telling everyone what the date was like.

And playing both Walter and Carrie, you get to have sex with yourself.

One of the fun things about it is, it doesn't have to be perfect. The effects can be crude, and I think it can make certain things like that even funnier, in a way.

There's a Freaks and Geeks mashup this season too, correct?

Yeah, that was the last one we shot, I think, so we're still cutting it. That, funnily enough, got mashed up with Saved by the Bell. It's high school characters vs. high school characters. That one actually turned into a musical, so you're going to get a Freaks and Geeks-Saved by the Bell musical.

Was it strange slipping back into Daniel Desario again?

It was weird because it's been like 14 or 15 years. I can't believe it when I say that. It's kind of shocking to me that it's been that long. ... When I was on the show, it was the first thing I did that was actually any good. ... I didn't really understand that at the time, how rare that is or how hard it is to get such talented people together on something. When I was on it, I didn't really appreciate it. In hindsight, I can really see how special it was.

I think there are a lot of people around who don't like their earlier work. I interviewed Jared Leto for Interview magazine, and I was told, "Don't ask about My So-Called Life. He doesn't like to talk about it." (Laughs.) I'm like the opposite of that. I love Freaks and Geeks, so going back was fun.

In this era, when every fondly remembered show seems to be getting a reboot, could you see a Freaks and Geeks reunion happening?

It's a little tough with that show because it was really based around us being so young. If we do the older version, I think people are just gonna be like, "Oh. That's weird." (Laughs.) I haven't seen it, but I think the new Wet Hot American Summer — we could do something like that.

Lastly, how did you get involved with David Simon's pilot The Deuce?

I had talked to David over a year ago about another project that just didn't work out, schedulewise. But we got along really well, and he had told me about other things he was doing. ... Then, last Christmas, I was reading this book called Difficult Men, about the third golden age of TV. ... I just loved it. I thought, "You know what? These kinds of shows are something I want to be a part of. I love this long-form approach — I love everything about it as an actor and storyteller." I just emailed David and said, "Hey, what about those other projects? Let's do one." He said, "Well, I've got The Deuce." It just sounded like everything I got into acting and filmmaking to do. It's '70s New York, the world of Taxi Driver and Mean Streets — it was everything I wanted. After that call, we just went full steam ahead and put it together.