ComingSoon spoke to The Pentaverate star Mike Myers and director Tim Kirkby about the Netflix comedy series, which is now streaming. The six-episode series features Myers playing a total of eight characters.
“What if a secret society of five men has been working to influence world events for the greater good since the Black Plague of 1347?” asks the official synopsis. “As this new series begins, one unlikely Canadian journalist finds himself embroiled in a mission to uncover the truth and just possibly save the world himself. Remember, the Pentaverate must never be exposed!”
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Tyler Treese: Mike, I would love to know the process of you adding these little quirks to each character because they just make them really fully fleshed out and seem human. Things like Ken Scarborough’s wheezing.
Mike Myers: I’ve been doing characters my whole life. I always have characters that are kind of circling the airport and waiting to come out. It’s what I love to do. I had the idea before I had the characters, which is “what if five people did actually run the world, but what if they were nice, and what if I played all five characters?” Then it was like, “what’s in me right now?” And that’s the process. It’s a very, very happy and joyful process. But the first thing I did was hire Mr. Tim Kirkby, who I knew would create a fantastic universe for my characters to live in.
Tim, I love the meta-humor here. Can you speak to just having fun with the fact that this is on streaming, and playing with the medium?
Tim Kirkby: Yeah, definitely! I love breaking the fourth wall. I love messing with formats and shooting different film stocks and speeds. It’s something that the directors that I’ve admired over the years have played with. This project for me was a sort of orgy of ideas and styles and formats. The golden age of television, for me, is about these streaming services allowing you to do that. In the UK, you’ve got like a couple of who may possibly, but here, the wonderful thing about Netflix is they trust and believe the creative people. So it’s like, “okay, go and cook up an extraordinary show.” And that, to filmmakers, is manna, because obviously, you start with the script and you’ve got to get the story right.
But then you layer it up, and then you layer it up. And so, some of those jokes and moments were created in the edit, somewhat on the script. Some were in the shooting of it. Then I just had this idea … I can’t do any spoilers obviously, but it’s a moment in episode six where even the algorithm can’t handle it, and the whole of Netflix breaks down, and it jumps to a different show. I just love the idea of the craziness of the audience seeing that and thinking, “What the hell is that? What is that, what’s that?” And then just seeing how far you can push it.
That’s the glorious thing with working with Mike is that we just giggle at ideas like that. We just try it and then show someone and they laugh and… we kind of feel we’ve got a good handle on it. We’re not doing it for egotistical reasons. It’s just to make it the very, very, most entertaining visual, emotional experience you can. And you have to go light and shade. You have to give them an emotional scene. And then right off the back of that, you give them something crazy. And then you have this rollercoaster ride. So yeah, personally, I tried every trick in the book, and I’ve got a big book and we’ve only just scratched the surface of that
Mike, you’re no stranger to playing multiple roles, but this just seems so overwhelming. Was it ever difficult juggling all this day-to-day? Remembering who you were? Eight characters is just a whole lot to be doing.
Myers: No, I love it so much. And Tim had created such a great construct for it. If you failed to plan, you plan to fail, and we, we did a lot of planning. We knew we had a limited budget, although I must say Netflix was very, very generous. There wasn’t as much money as there is on the screen, if that makes sense. Part of that is that I was playing eight characters, and it becomes a scheduling nightmare that Tim handled beautifully. But yeah, I love doing characters. I’m used to it. I did at Second City in Toronto, and at Saturday Night Live, Austin Powers, and So I Married an Axe Murderer. So I’m just used to it.
Kirkby: There were a couple more characters he was going to play, which we won’t say what, because that’s for later, but the thing is, it’s quite a hard project to cap, because it’s very free-flowing. We had the budget we had, but the ideas were swollen — it was swelling outside. So you have to make choices, and we were just making choices every single day. There was a scene where Shep and Misha [two characters who are part of the Pentraverate] were in, and it’s like, we physically can’t do that. We haven’t got the time. So it’s like, “okay, well, let’s write them out. Or do we, you get a double?” But that’s fun, all of that. There’s no sort of huffing and puffing to it.
Myers: It’s just challenges.
Kirkby: Exactly! So it was a healthy environment because we enjoyed the chase of this project.