“A magic trick on top of a rollercoaster.” That’s Don Cheadle on his character, Maurice “Mo” Monroe, a super slick, cocaine-snorting, high-rolling, anything-to-win trader in Black Monday, the new Showtime series that walks up to the worst day in Wall Street history. He may be understating the guy.
He could also be talking about the series itself.
Created by Jordan Cahan and Davis Caspe, Black Monday is an unbridled bisection of Wall Street excess in the 80s. The first episode alone is perhaps the most purposely politically incorrect half hour of TV in recent memory, replete with cocaine, hookers, a Lamborghini limo, references to Don Henley and Billy Ocean, office sex hijinks, racial and ethnic snipes, and a dead body.
A serious story does develop, but it's buried beneath hilariously barbed lines delivered with razor blade sharpness from a stellar cast led by Andrew Rannells, Paul Scheer, and Regina Hall who are all clearly having too much fun. They also remind viewers the way our culture has evolved since then, and continues to struggle and stumble in our ongoing effort to evolve.
We caught up Andrew Rannells and Paul Scheer for a quick chat about the show and the ‘80s.
For those who haven’t started watching the show yet, will you make a quick pitch as to why they should start.
Paul Scheer: We are inundated with so many choices right now. Should I watch a drama tonight? Or a comedy tonight? One of the best things about this show is that it's really a mix of both. There are really hard laughs in it, but also some real drama and mystery attached to it as well.
Andrew Rannells: It's a very unique tone for half hour comedy. There is a serialized story. We are really following these characters leading up to the event of the '87 stock market crash. You see in the first episode right away like someone is dead. You don't know who it is but this is all wrapped in a half hour comedy, which is pretty crazy. Bottom line: In 30 minutes, you're getting everything you need in a TV show.
What attracted both of you to the project?
Andrew Rannells: I was really intrigued by the story of it. David and Jordan talked me through the idea for the whole first season. They said it would follow this maybe murder mystery, that someone was going to be dead at the end of it. But the jokes were really funny and the world was very specific and really exciting. It was a strange combination of tones and genres, and I thought it would be a really cool thing to be part of, and very special, if we are able to pull it off - and I think we have.
Paul Scheer: It was about a crazy group of people, and I was just intrigued by the whole world of it. I’dwanted to work with David for a while and he actually talked about the show to me when I was on The League. Many years passed, maybe five or six years, and it came back around. They said, “We want you to look at this part.” Interestingly, it was written for a 60 year old man.
Andrew Rannells: When people hear about it, they think, “Oh not another Wall Street thing!” But it’s not! It’s not like anything that you have ever kind of seen. It is like Bad News Bears in Wall Street. You’re seeing the world but from a different vantage point. It’s not the titans of industry. It’s people who are trying to be the titans of industry.
Paul Scheer: I like that this is not a show that is trying to tell you why the stock market crashed. We're focusing on this world of selfish people and I feel like that's the fun thing to explore. There is a reason, it's not like something went horribly wrong, it's people got too greedy on some level and in the process they corrupted the whole system.
As long as we’re talking about the ‘80s, what are your favorite movies from that decade?
Paul Scheer: This is a prime time for me. If we’re talking 87, I’m going to go out and say, Princess Bride.
Andrew Rannells: Beverly Hills Cop 2 made a very big impression. It was a classic for me. Also Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
How about your favorite TV shows from the ‘80s?
Andrew Rannells: I was nto Different Strokes. And Facts of Life.
Paul Scheer: Oh yeah. You’re namesake, Blair [a reference to the name of his Black Monday character, Blair Pfaff). For me … hmmm … St. Elsewhere. That was great.
Andrew Rannells: I also liked Webster. I was during this time, I was young so every time you see a kid of TV, you’re younger than me, but the idea of just seeing a little kid. There was Silver Spoons. That was a big one. I wanted to be Ricky Schroeder.
Back to the show. Do you have a favorite episode out of the 10 that comprise the first season?
Paul Scheer: I think that episode three, which is coming up the week after the Superbowl, is a really fun episode. The pilot sets up the world. Episode three feels like, alright now everyone is playing. You [Andrew] and Don have this great story where he's trying to bond with you. We see Regina at home and the conflicts between her family and career. And my character reveals his double life and we see him trying to keep everything together. The stories just fly around.
Andrew Rannells: Saying anything about the episodes is going to give too much away. Though I will say that in one of the future episodes I get to live out a dream and do a very complicated dance scene with Casey Wilson. I can't say much - not even the song title - except that it's toward the end of the season and we get to do a full blown dance number. It was completely unexpected. I did not see that coming.
Paul Scheer: And in episode four, there is a scene where we are all in a sexual harassment seminar. It's such a funny, ridiculous, outrageous scene - and one of my favorites.