‘BoJack Horseman’ Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg Talks Season 2
Season 1 of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman was a gloriously absurd, funny, occasionally heartbreaking mishmash that ended with its titular horseman (Will Arnett) hitting bottom before finally getting another chance at lasting fame in his dream project, Secretariat. Season 2—which will drop all 12 episodes in the wee hours of Friday, July 17—is promising a brand-new BoJack determined to nail his role as idol Secretariat and navigate an actual adult relationship with an owl named Wanda (Lisa Kudrow). We talked to creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg about what else (Character Actress Margo Martindale) the new season might bring (Tom Jumbo-Grumbo).
BoJack was very much the focus of Season 1. Are you planning on spreading out some of the story?
That was something we discovered in Season 1, actually, was how rewarding it is to really explore these other characters. So going into Season 2, we thought, “We’ve earned it, let’s give all the characters a real arc this season, and not just play their parts in The BoJack Horseman Story.” It really opened up the world in a cool way, to say, “What is Todd thinking when BoJack’s not around?”
[Laughs] She’s our Maris! You’ll see this a lot in the show. I just love the idea that every character on the show has their own little world, with characters we don’t see.
You can imagine that somewhere out there Erica is the star of her own show. And she keeps saying to someone off-camera, “Hey Mr. Peanutbutter!”
One of my favorite examples is the world of Tom Jumbo-Grumbo [Keith Olbermann]. He’s a whale newscaster, and he’s basically there to provide exposition, but he has this contentious relationship with this guy Randy, who works on the show and we never see. [Laughs] We only get, like, certain hints about what their relationship is. This season we introduce the idea of his ex-wife, and he talks about her a little bit. You can have a whole show about Tom Jumbo-Grumbo—it’s just not the show we happen to be looking at this very moment.
How about Character Actress Margo Martindale?
I guess I can spoil it: She comes back in Season 2. She’s not in the first six episodes, but she does come in later on.
She’s so fun. It’s funny, because we have these table reads, and so Margo Martindale came in for one of her episodes in Season 1. She was so funny and we had a great time; she was completely into playing a deranged version of herself. And then on the set of The Millers the next day, she went over to Will and was like, “Thank you so much, it was so fun to work on another show,” and then was like, “You know, that Mr. Peanutbutter character, he really has some doglike qualities, doesn’t he?” And Will said, “Well…. You know he’s a dog, right? You know the premise of the show, right?” But no one had told her that the show was about talking animals! Anyway, she’s fantastic.
With Wanda, which came first, the character design, or Lisa Kudrow?
I think when she came in we had the drawing to show her. We like to, if it’s ready, show the character to the actor so they can see it as they’re reading the lines. We knew early on that Wanda was going to be a big part of the season.
It’s an opportunity to explore what BoJack’s like in a relationship, which we haven’t really seen. The first episode of Season 1 is Princess Carolyn breaking up with him, and then he’s more or less single for the whole first season. This is him trying to push forward, trying to be better in some way. And actually trying to make a go of it in a real, sincere—if somewhat misguided—way, with this woman that he would under normal circumstances fool around with and then say, “Okay, see you later.”
This is pretty much the whole crux of the show, but do you think people—or horsemen—can really change?
[Sighs] I think yes. I think it’s difficult, but people do change. It’s very cynical to say people don’t change, and it’s kind of easy, honestly. It’s much easier for all of us if we don’t have to change. It doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come when you expect it, but sometimes I’ll look at myself, you know, five years down the line, and go, “Oh! I’m not that person anymore.” It remains to be seen whether or not BoJack will change. But I do think he can.
From a TV writer’s perspective, it’s more appetizing to say, “Nope! People don’t change!” Because then you don’t have to rethink the way you write your characters—you can just keep going the same way. I wonder if, when they were working on I Love Lucy, the writers said, “Can Lucy ever change?” “No, no she can’t, that’s the fundamental nature of humanity. She wants to be a smarter, more capable, better wife to Ricky, and less selfish, but she’s always going to fall into these situations where she’s Lucy. And that’s just who she is.” I don’t think they were that philosophical about it. If you look at the history of television, you have a long history of people who don’t change, and it’s not always because people are making a point about whether or not people can—it’s more because that’s an easier way to write television. [Laughs] But we’ll see if I’m up to the challenge of making BoJack change, or if I as a writer keep reverting back to my old tricks and make BoJack keep being BoJack.