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This story first appeared in the May 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The move to reassemble creator Mitch Hurwitz and the ensemble cast of the cult comedy, which lived for three low-rated, critically-beloved seasons on Fox until 2006, was spearheaded by Netflix chief content officer and self-described super-fan Ted Sarandos. Sarandos cornered executive producer Ron Howard at an NBA All-Star weekend event some two years ago and threw out the possibility of creating new episodes for Netflix.
“Like many people, I kind of had this fantasy that Arrested Development should come back in some form,” recalls Sarandos. By the fall of 2011, the entire cast, including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi and Michael Cera, were gathered at the New Yorker Festival in New York announcing plans for a revival. In the year and a half since, the Arrested episode order was upped to 15 and the actors — many of whom have seen their star value rise considerably since the series ended — found time to shoot the series around their busy film and television schedules.
Each of the show’s stars was guaranteed at least one starring episode, and studio 20th Century Fox TV had to create a fair way to pay them — something of a challenge since scenes were filmed out of order and nobody was certain how each episode would end up. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal structure, the Arrested actors all are paid using the same sliding scale. The actor “starring” in the episode is paid $125,000. If he or she appears in more than 90 seconds of an episode (but is not the star), that actor receives $50,000. For less than 90 seconds of airtime in an episode, he or she receives $10,000. Finally, if a clip featuring the actor from a previous episode is used, that actor gets another $1,000. Bateman, for instance, stars in more than one episode. It is worth noting that $125,000 is on the high end for TV stars, but the unusual arrangement won’t pay them what a star would get over the course of a typical series. (20th TV, along with distributor Netflix, declined to comment.)
As premiere day nears, Hurwitz prefers the series’ fans to think of the episodes as chapters in a book. “Everyone has their own chapter, but they’re all Bluths, so they occur in each other’s stories, and it does take place over the same period of time,” he says, noting that a larger story does emerge. The new format allows him to delve deeper into the characters’ particular storylines. “In the old show we jumped around so quickly. We’d find out that Tobias photographed his testicles in the bathtub and they got mistaken for a map of Iraq,” he continues. “In the new one, he would photograph his testicles — and then we would spend a little more time with his testicles, we’d investigate, we’d go deeper in and around his testicles in a way I just haven’t had the freedom to do, quite frankly.”
Though Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stated that the new season — the batch of 15 episodes will be released all at once — would be it for the franchise, Sarandos is hoping to do at least another season. “We would love to do more, and we have a deal in place that says that there could be,” he says, noting that the challenge will be logistics. “They’re very in-demand movie and TV stars, and they’re all working full-time and doing this show in between. They did it for the love of the show and for Mitch Hurwitz. If we can muster up that love again, we’d love to do it again.”
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose
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