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New York-based comedy writers and actors Jeremy Levick and Rajat Suresh, who regularly satirize pop culture and the news in videos they share on Twitter, recently tackled a subject that hits close to home for us here at The Hollywood Reporter — the THR Actor Roundtable.
In early March, before the Oscars, Levick and Suresh launched The Hollywood Recorder Actors Roundtable, a 54-minute parody of the long-running THR franchise. For their fictional news outlet, The Hollywood Recorder, Levick and Suresh re-created the THR Roundtable experience in painstaking detail, from our starry and inclusive casts to our moderators’ hard-hitting questions (“Finish this sentence: I act because …”) to our use of a really, really, really big table. The Recorder’s Roundtable features Justin Theroux as a self-serious actor promoting an Oscar bait movie (for the record, we have never met anyone like that) and includes performances by actors Colin Stokes as the moderator, Vince Edgehill, Stephen Cofield Jr. and Stu Li.
THR recently caught up with Levick and Suresh by email to learn more about their inspiration, creative process and what’s next for two funny guys who have really made us feel seen.
What sparked your idea for The Hollywood Recorder Actors Roundtable?
RAJAT SURESH Our performances in Severance and Fairview were truly incredible, yet zero media outlets asked us to be part of their roundtables. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and spend a ton of money to make the video and media outlet ourselves.
JEREMY LEVICK The format is also very dramatic and serious-looking, which makes us laugh. And every entertainment magazine seems to be upping their celebrity YouTube video content, so it felt like a good time for us to join in. Mainly, though, we’ve always been a huge fan of round shapes. This was a great way for us to finally incorporate one into a video. I’ve been a fan of circles ever since I came out of the womb, which is a type of circle. Rajat plays basketball, a sport that’s basically about throwing a circle into another circle. Justin Theroux has a circle in his name (the letter “o”).
Your attention to detail is impressive, down to the set, the way it’s shot and edited, and the fact that there is always at least one guy in a leather jacket. What was your research process like?
SURESH Basically, our research process was just watching a ton of Roundtable videos. Our production designer, Guy Kozak, and director, Johnny Frohman, did amazing jobs helping us match the look. Justin brought the leather jacket on his own.
LEVICK We considered all the different options you guys have done for the set. We liked the black background with streaks of light. But ultimately with Johnny and Guy we decided the pitch-black background with string lights was the funniest/ fit the vibe we wanted the best. The one thing we regret is not doing a couple of those dollying wide shots with a blurry light bulb in the foreground. That shot is really funny.
SURESH Honestly, a majority of the work before the shoot went into figuring out where to buy a big table, and how to get it into a small room. How the fuck do you guys do that?
LEVICK Who’s your table guy?
SURESH We also watched the videos with an eye for how the actors move around. I based my body language on Dev Patel.
LEVICK I based my body language on the chairs.
How did you cast this? Was Justin Theroux immediately down?
LEVICK We wanted a recognizable celeb to be in it. We knew someone who had developed a weird comedy project with Justin, so we thought maybe he’d be interested. We called him and he was down right away. The other three actors are amazing too: Vince Edgehill, Stu Li and Stephen Cofield Jr.
SURESH Justin is a huge fan of Fairview and has been constantly hounding Jeremy to work with him so yeah, he was immediately down.
How long was your shoot? Is it all scripted or is there some improv?
SURESH The shoot was basically a whole day with a general mix of scripted and improv. The cutaway scenes were shot on different days and were more scripted.
What kind of feedback have you gotten on the Roundtable? (For what it’s worth, I had a few people send it to me asking if it’s real.)
SURESH For what it’s worth, it is real. Please tell all those people who sent it to you that it’s real.
LEVICK Stephen Galloway showed up at my house with a baseball bat. Other than that, people have said that they liked it.
What’s next for you both as comedians and writers?
SURESH Lots of big things on the horizon. I was in a Pepsi ad recently, but Pepsi got mad at me because I tweeted out that I circumcised myself on a Pepsi can.
LEVICK I, on the other hand, was circumcised at birth. Anyway, we wrote for the upcoming season of What We Do in the Shadows. It would be great if you could write one of those headlines for us. We haven’t told anyone so it would be a Hollywood Reporter exclusive: “BREAKING: Shadows Taps Jeremy and Rajat as Scribes.” And it should be breaking news too.
Any suggestions for our next Roundtable at THR?
LEVICK You should use our tabletop in your next video. You’d have to buy it first. It’s $1,000. We said this in another interview, but in my Facebook Marketplace posting, it’s an 8-foot diameter round table in Maple plywood/MDF, 1.5-inch thickness with maple edgebanding. Table separates in two parts, assembles on site with screws from bottom.
SURESH It’s $1,000 and it’s just the top. No legs, just top. You’d have to just place it on top of the table you already own. Please buy it.
Watch Levick and Suresh’s full The Hollywood Recorder Actors Roundtable below.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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