Exclusive Interview With Thomas Lennon And Robert Ben Garant On Hell Baby

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We Got This Covered: I have to ask, how much of the script was influenced by your love of Po’ Boys? (You’ll understand why after you see the film)

Thomas Lennon: You know, it’s interesting. When you make a movie like that and you’re working on the script, there was a lot of debate in New Orleans because if you ask people in New Orleans where the best Po’ Boy is, you’ll get ten different answers from different people. We went with what was the dominant winner, which is Domilise’s – which is a very, very good Po’ Boy. There’s also the Famous Ferdi at Mother’s…what’s that other famous one?

Robert Ben Garant: On The Park? They were all very good.

Thomas Lennon: Preston, our friend, loves Verti Marte. There’s a lot of debate. Speaking of, right on Jackson Square, at Stanley…

Robert Ben Garant: Stanley has a Po’ Boy?!

Thomas Lennon: They do! They make a popcorn shrimp Po’ Boy or something really gross that’s very delicious.

We Got This Covered: Soooo…you really like Po’ Boys?

Thomas Lennon: Well, I’m off carbs right now, in part because of the movie.

Robert Ben Garant: We ate a lot. It was a twenty day shoot, we were there for a couple of months. It’s a great town.

Thomas Lennon: If you look at my cheeks in the movie, they were way puffier. You’ll notice, they’re just puffier. I was exercising all the time, but there’s nothing you can do in New Orleans to counteract the food. In New Orleans, you can get anything with Béarnaise sauce on it. Literally anything.

Robert Ben Garant: Or powdered sugar.

Thomas Lennon: [In Cajun accent] You want some Béarnaise on dat? Why don’t you go ahead and put some Béarnaise on dat.

Robert Ben Garant: [Mimicking the accent] Don’t be shy with the Béarnaise ‘der boy!

We Got This Covered: So in Hell Baby, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer play officers Scheer and Huebel respectively. Whose idea was it to put the name tags on with each other’s names?

Thomas Lennon: The prop department misspelled Scheer’s name, that was a straight up accident. Switching them was not an accident at all. That was fully intentional.

Robert Ben Garant: We thought, “What are we going to name these guys?”

Thomas Lennon: Eh, let’s just skip ahead. Why be like “Well Jahowitz and…” – who cares.

Robert Ben Garant: Those guys did Reno 911!, and I’ve known them for a long time, but I’d never worked with them before other than like one day on Reno 911!. They’re just a blast. They love life.

Thomas Lennon: Did you ever see the Human Giant sketches they did?

We Got This Covered: Absolutely, I’ve seen every episode.

Robert Ben Garant: Oh, so good. It was like a dream team. I would work with those guys every day.

We Got This Covered: Did you base your priest characters on any previous works?

Robert Ben Garant: We sort of based them on The Exorcist, like Father Damian. You see him once and he’s jogging, he’s chain smoking, hard drinking, he’s so cool. You don’t see that very much in film.

Thomas Lennon: To film in that Catholic church we used in New Orleans, which is kind of uptown, we obviously had to pitch the movie to the priest who’s in charge of it. We basically said, “Well it’s called Hell Baby, it’s about a devil baby,” and these priests – remember the days of fighting priests? They’d have a cigarette and were real tough guys? He says, “We could use some more priests like those. We could really use some more priests like those.” That was a fun moment.

Robert Ben Garant: We didn’t show him the whole script…

Thomas Lennon: Although, it’s a very anti-devil movie. We literally try to kill the devil in the movie.

We Got This Covered: There’s a wonderful scene where Kumail Nanjiani tries to drive a car while impared, and you draw it out for so long, the joke starts funny, plays out an awkwardly long time, then comes full circle and gets even funnier. How hard is it to drag that joke out the perfect length to where it becomes funny again?

Robert Ben Garant: Honestly, it’s accordioned. It’s gone shorter and longer in the different cuts. When we did it on the day, Kumail took about four minutes to even get in the car. He would walk, in the middle of the street he would stop, and then keep going…

Thomas Lennon: There could be a whole disc on Blu-ray called Kumail drives away.

That’s another thing about the movie and how dumb it is. Kumail’s character comes into the movie only to leave. His purpose in the movie is that at some point, he’s going to leave the movie – and that’s it. Nothing else. He accomplishes no other goal.

Robert Ben Garant: Robert McKee would say you should have no character in the film that doesn’t advance the movie forward. There are no characters in our movie that advance the plot, other than Leslie. The priests don’t help, the cops don’t help…

Thomas Lennon: F’resnel just tells you random other things – it’s a pretty random movie, yeah.

We Got This Covered: I heard somewhere that Riki Lindhome came up with the idea to go full frontal in the bathroom scene. Is this true?

Thomas Lennon: Oh no, it was certainly asked of her.

Robert Ben Garant: The scene is a little bit longer than in the final cut, and Tom is the one who broached it with her, which is pretty weird. [Laughs]

Thomas Lennon: It was written like that. We’re friends with Riki, and we’d been friends with Riki for a long time. No matter how you slice it, when you go to an attractive female friend and go, “Hey, I have this idea for a character for you to play, and yes, six or seven minutes of it will be completely nude,” it just seems like you’re lying.

Robert Ben Garant: It just seems terrible.

Thomas Lennon: It seems like you made it up, and the bummer is, you did make it up. There’s no other layer to it, there’s no difference except that it’s a movie. [Laughs]

Robert Ben Garant: It’s exactly what she understands it to be. I made up her getting naked, and now you’re asking her to do that.

Thomas Lennon: I’m a pervy dude with a mustache [Laughs], who is saying, “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat?”

Robert Ben Garant: She’s done it before, and she’s very confident with her body, which I would be as well. But still, jiminy.

Thomas Lennon: That’s the weird thing about that scene. It seems superfluous. It’s like, why is she naked? It’s rare to see a scene like that be not sexual. It’s not sexy. She’s telling you how she used to live on an Indian reservation for a little while.

Robert Ben Garant: It’s all about Rob Corddry. It’s all about how uncomfortable Corddry is. In the movie, we’re just throwing curveballs at Corddry so he has no idea where the next one is. It’s like boxes, the devil…

Thomas Lennon: Really, the point of the scene is for F’resnel to come in an say “I’m so sorry about Curly Bear, I’m so sorry.” So we go seven minutes of nudity just so we can go “I’m so sorry about Curly Bear.” Curly Bear is a real person by the way, my parents’ friend, ambassador of the Blackfoot nation. I meant to change his name before we really did it, but I didn’t get around to it.

Robert Ben Garant: Curly Bear is a pretty good name!