In the new comedy “Late Night,” Emma Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, a veteran talk-show host who has fallen so out of touch she doesn’t even know her own writing staff. Prompted to add a woman to the room, she hires Molly Patel (played by Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the biting script). Molly finds herself in a room surrounded by men, who happen to be played by some of the best actors and comics working today.
We take a look at the credited actors in the room, what you know them from, and their experiences on set. We’ve organized this list by the numbers Katherine assigns them, as she can’t be bothered to remember their names.
Plays: Brad, the Executive Producer
Where you’ve seen him: A stage legend (he won the Tony Award for “Take Me Out”), O’Hare is well-known for his work on “True Blood” and his Emmy-nominated turns on “This Is Us” and “American Horror Story.”
As Katherine’s closest adviser, Brad has the luxury of being called by his name – but it comes at a price. O’Hare describes him as “sort of the hen-pecked work husband who also serves as fierce, if muted protector. Brad, for me, was a symphony of grimaces, indigestion and anxiety and I love those kinds of guys.” Asked what it was like to be around Katherine’s eviscerating barbs, he replies, “Awesome. It was awesome to be on the receiving end of Emma’s withering wit. She is, of course, a completely generous collaborator and had the good manners to make me feel that I was her equal. Sometimes.”
PAUL WALTER HAUSER
Plays: Mancusco (a.k.a. #1)
Where you’ve seen him: Hauser broke through in a big way as incompetent bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt in “I, Tonya,” then turned in another fine ensemble performance in last year’s “BlacKkKlansman.”
One of Katherine’s first moments in the writers’ room finds Mancusco trying to tell her what her show has meant to him, only to be curtly dismissed. But Hauser says Thompson couldn’t have been kinder in real life. In fact, his favorite memory of filming was the night they shot a party at Katherine’s house. “Between set ups, the whole cast — from Emma to Mindy to Max Casella — were crowded upstairs in a bedroom, playing a guessing game where you hold a phone to your head, revealing a topic to your teammates, and they give you clues to guess what it is. One of the topics that came up in the game was ‘Emma Thompson’ and we all bugged out and pointed at Emma. It was one of those moments where you’re like, ‘I’m playing charades with John Lithgow and Denis O’Hare in an attic!’ Nights like that bonded the cast and made for some fun memories.”
Plays: Chris Reynolds (a.k.a. #2)
Where you’ve seen him: The star of “Search Party,” Early is a well-known scene stealer from both “Wet Hot American Summer” series.
Esquire once called Early “comedy’s secret weapon” and he was named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch in 2017. Reynolds is the only gay writer in the room, and Early notes “there’s a power that comes with that.” He elaborates, “When I was in high school the only way I could ﬁnd any agency whatsoever was to make fun of the straight boys to their faces. They were always shocked, but they loved being made fun of. Chris can make fun of everyone because he has this minority status and people probably don’t punch back.”
Plays: Charlie Fain (a.k.a. #4)
Where you’ve seen him: The star of “The Path” and “Hannibal” gets to take on a more lighthearted role here.
Charlie is one of the first to warm up to Molly and though the British actor has dabbled in comedy before (“Our Idiot Brother,” “The Big C”) Dancy had to face the unique challenge of doing stand-up comedy on screen as Charlie is the only writer seen performing in a club. Even though it’s just a quick scene, Dancy admits it was terrifying to think about. “Then again,” he says, “When else am I going to get to do that and have lines written for me by Mindy Kaling?”
Plays: Burditt (a.k.a. #5)
Where you’ve seen him: Doogie Howser’s best friend Vinnie has gone on to have an impressive career as a character actor, appearing recently in “Live by Night” and “Wonder Wheel,” and on the shows “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Ray Donovan.”
The only writer that Katherine admits to recognizing, Burditt is the veteran of the room and ends up sharing an office with Molly. “The fun thing about playing Burditt was that he’s this sort of old school guy dealing with the modern world with things like diversity hires, #metoo etc,” says Casella. A highlight of the shoot was hanging out with his fellow actors (playing writers) where Casella found himself sometimes drawing distractedly. “I was doodling a lot on my writer’s pad and I drew a very disturbing demon, like a black swirling cloud with a gaping, drooling mouth,” he recalls. “And John Early leaned over and said quietly, ‘Who hurt you?’”
Plays: Tom Campbell (a.k.a. #7)
Where you’ve seen him: After roles on “My Boys” and “The Big C,” Scott became best known as the despicable (yet oddly charming) Dan Egan on “Veep.”
Though he’s the monologue writer, poor Tom is given a lower number just because of his seat – something that doesn’t sit well with the competitive character. But Tom ends up being more than meets the eye. “I liked playing a character who really went through a change,” says Scott. “Over the course of the film, Tom gradually wakes up to the fact that his little comedy boys club is a thing of the past. And he finds that Molly is possibly the missing piece to a much stronger puzzle.” Scott has spent years working with powerful female characters who know their way around an insult thanks to his years on “Veep,” and says of working with Thompson, “It wasn’t hard pretending to be intimidated by her on our first day together, but after two takes she shows who she really is; a very down to earth woman who is still having a blast doing what she loves.”
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