On the Set of 'Future Man' as Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson Push the Limits With Hulu's Comedy

Lindsey Byrnes
Rogen (left) messed with the faux possum on set.

"This show, to me, there's nothing like it," says Hutcherson, who serves as executive producer of the series, which marked the streaming service's biggest original launch following its Emmys triumph with 'The Handmaid's Tale.'

On a warm spring morning last year on the Sony lot in Culver City, the most distinct sound on the Future Man set is laughter. And not just any laughter, but the signature chuckle that comedy fans recognize as belonging to actor-writer-producer-director Seth Rogen.

The cause of the hilarity? He’s discussing a scene involving an imaginary machine called an “electro-ejaculation device” from which a (fake) dead possum hangs. No, really. “I didn’t know possums have bifurcated penises,” Rogen says as his unmistakable laugh breaks through once again.

Speaking with THR later in the day, he’s quick to reassure this reporter that “it’s not all this gross” on the set of Hulu’s freshman comedy series. “This is definitely the grossest things we’ve done,” adds Rogen’s longtime producing partner, Evan Goldberg (they run Point Grey Pictures together). “There’s a lot more to this show.”

It’s, ahem, a unique discussion topic for a unique series. The half-hour show, created by Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, centers on Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson), a janitor by day, gamer by night whose world is turned upside down by two visitors sent from the future (Happy Endings’ Eliza Coupe and Preacher’s Derek Wilson) to inform him that he’s humanity’s last hope. The result is an effects-heavy time-travel comedy that jumps between big action sequences and fart jokes.

“This show, to me, there’s nothing like it,” says Hutcherson, who also serves as a producer on the series. Future Man marks not only the Hunger Games star’s first TV series but also one of his first comedic roles after a small part in the James Franco starrer The Disaster Artist, which Rogen produced and starred in.

Future Man’s combination of genres and tones makes Rogen and Goldberg’s involvement that much more crucial. In addition to executive producing, they co-directed the pilot as well as several other early episodes to set the tone for the series, which debuted Nov. 14 on Hulu (and was renewed in January for a second season of 13 episodes).

“Seth really knows what he wants, and he’s very precise about it,” says Coupe. “Even when we go through rehearsals, he knows exactly where he wants the camera to be. He knows how he wants it to look, he knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Which is why Rogen’s laughter holds so much weight on set. “Anytime you’re shooting a scene and you hear Seth’s laugh coming from video village, you’re like, ‘All right, this is working,’” says Hutcherson. “In between setups, you can just hear everyone on video village laughing and enjoying themselves.”

The 13-episode first season represents somewhat of a new chapter for Hulu’s comedy brand after the streamer closed the books on half-hours like The Mindy Project and Casual. Future Man also marked one of Hulu’s biggest original series launches since the company’s Emmy triumph with The Handmaid’s Tale, when it became the first streamer to take home the best original series trophy, in addition to seven other awards.

“Hulu’s the perfect fit because I think they take a lot of risks,” says Coupe, who recurred on Casual before signing on to Future Man.

Back on the set, Rogen and Goldberg watch a scene from video village involving the electro-ejaculation machine. As the camera pans up and down on the dead possum in the middle of the machine, Rogen yells in disgust. It might not be a laugh, but on Future Man, this reaction might also equal a nod of approval. A producer yells a warning on set: “It’s going to get messy.”

They wouldn’t have it any other way. 

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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