‘Schmigadoon!’: Cecily Strong & Keegan-Michael Key Preview Their Onscreen Bond
Apple TV+’s Schmigadoon! poses a unique question asking how an everyday couple might react if they were magically transported to a quaint town that functions like a 1940s musical. The answer is… not normal.
The lucky guinea pigs in this scenario are Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key), a city-dwelling duo who takes to nature in order to find a spark that has since disappeared in their relationship. During a rainy hike, they find refuge in the titular town that has more than a single song in its bold beating heart.
Getting a little more than they bargained for, Melissa and Josh attempt to skedaddle before they’re swept up in the catchy performances, but a stronger connection must be made in order to escape Schmigadoon’s clutches. So, how does one come up with such a concept, co-creator Cinco Paul reveals it was 25 years in the making after a viewing of the film An American Werewolf in London.
“I thought, ‘Oh, this opening is just like [1954’s] Brigadoon.’ And then somehow it got me thinking, what if two modern guys ended up in a musical and were stuck there? And then I just put it on the shelf for all this time,” shares Paul.
It wasn’t until he met Andrew Singer at Lorne Michaels‘ Broadway Video that he finally pulled the idea off of the shelf. “I thought, ‘Huh, I wonder if that idea might work.’ But then I said, ‘It should be to a couple instead of two friends. And they’re stuck there until they find true love.'”
Strong and Key were equally eager to get involved with the musical project which also features a sizable cast made up of Broadway bigwigs including Aaron Tveit, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana DeBose, Jane Krakowski, Alan Cumming, and Ann Harada to name a few.
The series was “certainly more musical than I’m used to,” Saturday Night Live‘s Strong admits, “but I grew up doing theater, watching theater, loving theater, musicals, and plays.” With a Broadway producer uncle in her own family, Strong was heavily exposed to the musical scene, making it an early love in her life.
“It was an easy yes for me to do this show,” she continues. “These table reads were just so special and magical.” The sentiment certainly aligns with Strong’s character who is more taken with the musical town of Schmigadoon whereas Key’s Josh isn’t so thrilled.
“The thing that was so fun about Josh was that he’s the opposite of me,” Key remarks. “I wanted that challenge of ‘am I going to be able to do this show without tapping my feet at every number?’ The answer is no. I failed miserably,” laughs Key. “Thank God for the guidance of [Director Barry] Sonnenfeld” who would remind the actor “‘you can’t smile, you’ve got to give me a frown here.'”
Josh isn’t smitten with the cheery veneer of Schmigadoon or its citizens. “Schmigadoon! reflects how he is in real life,” Key says of his character. “His thing is like, ‘Everything’s fine. Why can’t we just live life right at this level?'” And that’s the kind of attitude that keeps Josh and Melissa stranded in this oddly dream-like world.
Despite Melissa and Josh’s relationship struggles, the bond between Strong and Key was instantaneous and a breeding ground for some otherworldly improvisation. “It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. It’s like we met and boom, right away, he’s been my best friend my whole life, I’ve known him forever, and let’s go do this journey together,” Strong recalls of connecting with Key. “We loved each other immediately.”
“They were having so much fun together. It was really delightful to witness,” Paul confirms, and it’s just one of the many reasons to tune into this charming and hilarious series.
Schmigadoon!, Series Premiere, Friday, July 16, Apple TV+