'Arrested Development's Carl Weathers: Behind The Scenes And Why His Character Works
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Arrested Development is the best written comedy of all time (feel free to disagree, but you would be wrong, unless you’re talking about the later reboot seasons). The show's many layered jokes and sight gags, it’s weaving of callbacks and misunderstandings, and the buildup of its complex situations (SITcom), Arrested Development knows no rival, at least not in this timeline so far.
One of our favorite recurring characters on the show is Carl Weathers, played by none other than Carl Weathers! His fictionalized version of himself is astoundingly funny (“baby, you got a stew going!”). His cheapskate comedic absurdity fits so well into the show that we dare say it is his finest role, even beating out Predator and one of the most iconic meme formats of the last few years.
So where did the take of Carl Weathers, cheapskate come from? Well, according to this Vulture article, it came from the man himself.
Show creator Mitch Hurwitz explains that when he approached Weathers his response was, "…I don’t wanna just do a bunch of Rocky jokes. Nobody wants that. Maybe I could be really cheap or something?’ And I said, ‘Whaaaat?’ ‘Maybe I could be really cheap?’ ‘Really? You’d like to do that?’ ‘Oh, absolutely, that’s what I’m saying. I want to play someone funny, not just be a sight gag.’ It was so much better. I went back to the writer's room and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. Carl Weathers wants to be incredibly cheap.’ All credit to Carl on that.”
We could’ve chosen any numbers of recurring characters for this piece (Henry Winkler’s Barry Zuckercorn? Judy Greer’s Kitty Sanchez? Ben Stiller’s Tony Wonder?)But, there’s just something so funny about celebrities playing fictional versions of themselves (usually).
Take This Is The End, where its entire premise is fictional versions of celebrities (mixed with the apocalypse but we just call that a Tuesday here at the office). It gave us the dark side of Michael Cera that we all knew was lurking beneath that boyishly charming exterior.
Why do we find this sort of role so entertaining? Well, like so much humor, it comes down to subverting our expectations. Michael Cera’s role inverts his quiet, nervous demeanor in favor of the rockstar megadouche we’d expect from like, uh, Motely Crue? BRB, checking their reputation…
… Yeah, they were douchebags.
Weathers’ role similarly subverts us through his defining trait on the show: his incredible penchant for being a cheap, cheapy cheapskate, the opposite sort of thing we’d expect from Carl Weathers, because for whatever reason, he just doesn't seem cheap.
Now, that trait isn’t really that funny on its own. It’s humorous, sure, but you wouldn’t laugh out loud at the sentence “Carl Weathers is a cheap guy” (and for the one of you that did, thanks but that wasn’t a joke?).
What really makes the trait funny is his pennypinching performance. There’s just something about his delivery we can’t quite put our finger on, even after hours of reviewing the footage and thinking. There is just a certain je ne sais quoi in his cadence and timing and that Frenchy phrase is the most critical thinking we can muster in the face of his magisterial mustache.
What we’ve learned from performances like Weathers’ and Cera’s is that their subversions of our expectations play right into the thing everyone seems to forget about celebrities: they are people too.
Everyone has flaws and imperfections, and when it comes to celebrities, we tend to throw them up on that highest pedestal that is reserved for, well, we don’t know who or what it’s reserved for, because there are thousands of famous people up on it hogging all the space.
Roles like Weathers and Cera's serve to inject a bit of believability into the otherwise squeaky-clean/scandal-laden public personas of our famous lords and overseers. For some reason, we always expect actors in real life to be just like the people they play. It’s as if we forget ‘acting’ is just grown ups playing. It’s right there in the action – “X played Y in the film Z.”
And from Weather’s fake cheapskate Carl Weathers, we can learn an even more important lesson: save those bones! You never know when you are gonna need to have a nice stew.
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Top image: 20th Television