Jake Johnson & Cristin Milioti on Bringing Their ‘Mythic Quest’ Episode to Life
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet Season 1, Episode 5, “A Dark Quiet Death.”]
Starring Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti, the installment takes place in the past, separate from the main storyline about McElhenney’s Ian Grimm and fellow Mythic Quest team. The episode follows their characters Doc (Johnson) and Bean (Milioti) from their first meeting in a video game store to the demise of their marriage and partnership over their own passion project — the game Dark Quiet Death.
We discussed the emotionally complex, moving episode with Johnson and Milioti, who shared what it was like to embody Doc and Bean, how that dance scene came together, and whether they’d return to the recently renewed series.
How did this project present itself to each of you?
Cristin Milioti: I had worked with Rob a couple of years ago on a pilot together. He was my producer on it and I knew him through that whole development process. And he reached out to me out of the blue one day and was like, “Hey, I have this show and there’s this role on it, but I would love for you to come and do this.” And he sent me the script and I read it and thought it was really interesting and compelling and then was honestly just very excited to go work with him and Katie [McElhenney] for five days and so I said “yeah,” it was that simple.
Jake Johnson: Yeah, [my story] is similar. Rob emailed and I didn’t really know him personally. But one of Rob’s things that I’ve grown to really like is that he’s really nice, but he’s really aggressive. He was very clear that he wanted to do this and he wanted to do it together and it was going to be Cris and I. And he kind of, in a positive way, didn’t really take no for an answer [Laughs]. And I’m really glad he did that. It didn’t sound like I had a choice.
One episode isn’t a lot of time to develop a character arc but you both managed to pull it off. Did you discuss your roles together to prepare for the episode?
Johnson: There was none, right? [Both Laugh] Cris and I got along really well and bonded right away. And without that connection I don’t think we would’ve had very much. But we work in a very similar way, we like the same stuff, and we were both having a lot of fun. And so all of that felt really easy because it was fun to work with her.
Milioti: Yeah. I feel the same.
Johnson: So we enjoyed it.
Milioti: Yeah, I mean I definitely made some decisions… but it wasn’t anything where we sat around and actively talked about it. Jake and I just showed up. We met in wardrobe, we started shooting, and it was truly a delight. Very invigorating. At the end of that five days, I just felt so good and so lucky, honestly.
Johnson: Well, also the words… Katie McElhenney who wrote it, [her] words were really good. We didn’t need to improvise. We said the words, but we were at times allowed to put things in our own words or add a little thing here and there to help a transition. And so whereas [Rob] was controlling in that he wanted us to do the material and we were not there improvising, we were allowed to add a little bit of ourselves to the dialogue, which I think gave it a little bit more naturalism. So there really wasn’t a moment of shooting that wasn’t pleasant.
Milioti: There was a lot of freedom to play within that. When you’re so confident in the material like that and you don’t feel like, “Oh, I got to pull something out here to make this work.” It’s a joy as an actor but also it does bring about really exciting stuff within a collaboration. And then I think it shows in this episode.
You may not have been improvising, but your characters have a lot of quirks, one of which is dancing in an office lobby. What kind of freedom did you have with moments like that?
Milioti: That was scripted. We had a choreographer. I loved it. That type of stuff is so exciting to me cause I’m like, “Right, you would never think of that [happening].” But if it is warranted, it’s beautiful, it’s not like style for the sake of a stylistic flourish. To me it felt very earned and in the end was very fun to film.
Johnson: Then for me as a trained dancer working with an amateur like Cristin, it was really fun to guide her through that stuff. [Cristin Laughs] It was like a rag doll. As somebody with as much training as I have in the world of dance, it was really nice to have a mentor, mentee relationship in that.
Milioti: Absolutely. I would have been physically lost without Jake. I have two left feet. [Jake Laughs] I don’t have any experience in movement. But he was really able to step up and guide us. He was suggesting moves. Yeah, he really took charge.
Johnson: Thank you. Thank you.
Milioti: No. You need to accept the credit where it’s due.
Johnson: I’m too shy [Laughs].
Milioti: No and I want to just say this he should be asked to dance in more things. And that’s what I feel like you’re afraid of getting what you want. Which is that he wants to dance in more things. He wants to be in dance numbers. He wants to move. Let the man get what he wants [Jake Laughs] .
Johnson: My body was meant to move.
This episode sees the relationship between your characters from start to finish and in a lot of ways tracks the failure of their partnership. What lesson do you think Doc and Bean teach?
Johnson: I’d say it’s don’t lose touch with your original vision. I think my character kept listening to notes and trying to get bigger and bigger and bigger and he lost love and he lost his game and he lost his vision. Stick to the thing that you originally loved about it.
Milioti: And then I was going to say, “And maybe Bean could have been less—” And then I was like, “No, she was right.” I think she was right. She was saying it from early on.
While your characters don’t factor into the main storyline, would you return for Season 2 if asked?
Milioti: I definitely would be open to it. I mean, it was such a joy. I definitely would want to know how they would do that cause it felt like such a fully realized orchard of that marriage and of that love story. But I mean, I had such a blast. Of course. So I never say never.
Johnson: I really liked working with everybody. Very rarely do you make something that’s really nice and really good. And I think this is really good. So [I wouldn’t want to do it again] for the sake of doing another one. But if Rob and the writers and Katie ever come up with something and they’re really fired up about it. I really loved doing it. But I don’t have a major heap to pile on top unless it’s right.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, Season 1, Streaming now, Apple TV+