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With Comrade Detective, executive producers Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood have resurrected classic Cold War-era Soviet TV in the first-of-its-kind (and timely) spoof, which had its premiere at the ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday night.
Directed by Rhys Thomas, the six-episode series, available through Amazon, takes place in communist Romania during the 1980s and was shot with an entirely local and unexpectedly talented cast. Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jenny Slate and more act as the English-language voiceover talent.
“These actors were so good to the point where we weren’t really sure we wanted to dub them,” said Tatum of the work. “I was like, ‘We don’t want to screw it up with our dumb asses.’ ”
Tatum voices detective Gregor Anghel, who, together with partner Iosif Baciu (dubbed by Gordon-Levitt), leads a crusade against what he perceives as the encroaching evils of Western capitalism. Despite its parodic characterization, the show’s gritty tone reflects the fundamental inspiration behind the concept.
“As an American kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, every bad guy in almost every single movie — Lethal Weapon, Die Hard — was Russian. I never stopped to think that their bad guys were obviously Americans, which I thought was hilarious and fascinating,” Tatum explained.
Other castmembers, like Gordon-Levitt, emphasized an underlying legitimacy to the show’s inherent amusement. “We’re with two characters that believe their country is right and their enemies are immoral, which goes to show how propaganda can work,” said Gordon-Levitt, adding, “We often assign blame to the other, and it’s often not that simple.”
But even Gordon-Levitt admits that, despite his commitment and lack of skepticism, his original outlook on the show was relatively nonchalant. “Channing and I have always done little fun projects that we don’t necessarily show to the public, but when they came back with the entire show and we saw how hard these actors brought it, I knew I had to go all in,” he said.
Tanaka and Gatewood had originally sought to obtain the rights to an authentic Romanian cop show, but after multiple failed attempts, they decided to film one themselves. “It actually ended up great because it gave us the opportunity to do something no one has ever done before,” said Gatewood.
As the A-list actors made their first introductions to their Romanian “dubbees” at the premiere, they spewed tales of their respective adolescences, comparing their childhoods in opposite regimes. “It’s crazy to think our government controlled what we watched, and now we’re on that same TV basically mocking that entire idea,” said Olivia Nita (voiced by Jenny Slate in the series).
With respect to the show’s release amid tense political turmoil involving Russia, Tanaka insisted it was pure coincidence. “It sort of started happening in tandem with whatever political tornado is going on, but it’s working out,” he said.
Comrade Detective premieres Aug. 4 on Amazon.
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