Josh Gad On Season Two Of ‘Central Park’ And His Dream Of Taking The Show To Broadway
The first season of Central Park was a bonafide hit when it landed on Apple TV+ in May 2020. Both critics and audiences fell in love with the award-winning animated musical comedy series.
The first three episodes of the second season drop on the streaming service on Friday, June 25, 2021. The show, co-created by Josh Gad, has already been renewed for a third season.
I caught up with Gad to find out why the latest run pushes the envelope even further, why the first season’s success surprised even him, and his dreams of taking Central Park to Broadway.
Simon Thompson: The first season of Central Park landed so well and was so popular. Did that surprise you at all?
Josh Gad: I was surprised because we were doing something really unexpected, and that was doing a story that has zero cynicism. Unfortunately, we live in a time where things that are pure are met with eye rolls, and then you add a musical component to that, and people are like, ‘Oh, God!’ Doing something and, dare I say, making it earnest, it turns out that the world needed a little bit of that. I think you see it in the way that people have also embraced Ted Lasso. It’s just one of those things where people need feel-good stories. There’s enough cynicism, and there’s enough darkness. A celebration of life and perseverance in the face of adversity, it’s something that sounds so simple, but it’s so essential to what we all are yearning for. To be able to do that and marry one of my great loves, which is musicals, to a story like this has been the most incredible thrill I could have ever imagined.
Thompson: I wanted to touch on the musicals thing. I’m also a big fan of the genre, but some people loathe them. However, even people who usually hate musicals seem to be all in on Central Park.
Gad: It’s a lesson that I learned ten years ago when I did Book of Mormon. We managed to bring a whole new group of people who traditionally stayed away from musicals to the theater. Whether they were South Park fans, or whether they were just dudes who their wives dragged to see their first Broadway show, it taught me a valuable lesson which is that it’s not that people don’t love musicals; it’s that often people don’t know that they can love a musical. You have to show them that it’s not all just like Rodgers and Hammerstein, which I happen to love, but many people find that stuff cliche or passe. Now being able to marry those two things together and do it in a way that hopefully feels modern and fresh is really exciting. We have a song that starts off season two called Weehawken Rap sung by the brilliant Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame. It sets the tone for what we’re after in season two, which is to expect the unexpected.
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Thompson: There are so many songs already from the first and second seasons, plus we know a third is on the way. At some point, can we expect a live Broadway show, a live-action version of the show, featuring songs from the shows as well as new material? You must have folders full of them?
Gad: It is definitely a dream. I think that, at the very least, doing a concert in Central Park is something that I’ve always wanted and dreamed of doing with our cast. We have so many incredibly talented people, including Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed, Kathryn Hahn, Stanley Tucci, Titus Burgess, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and the list goes on. So I think that if the opportunity ever presented itself, we would certainly explore it.
Thompson: So, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do you write the songs and build the narrative around them, or is it the other way around?
Gad: It’s always narrative first, and then it’ll tell us where it wants to sing. There are discussions throughout the season about types of songs. I have desperately wanted to do a Meatloaf style song with a sax solo, and I finally got my wish in season three. We have a piece that is so unbelievably 1980s, and I’m just so happy. I’ve talked about wanting to do Latinx number, and we even had a discussion the other day about K-pop, so we’re always looking for ways to incorporate styles we’ve never done. However, at the forefront of every decision we make are the stories that we want to tell with our characters, and that will inform what the music wants to be.
Thompson: You’ve said that season two is even better than season one. Why is that? Are you guys just all more comfortable with the show, and you know people are comfortable with the show? Is that giving you more freedom and confidence?
Gad: I think confidence is a brilliant word to describe it. There’s a level of ease now that we know these characters. We aren’t making it up as we go. We have a season to tell us what worked and, frankly, what didn’t, and that presents an opportunity to do things better and do things that are experimental. We are either insane or creatively ambitious, but there’s a song or sequence in season two that is literally a five-and-a-half, six-minute violin piece with no dialogue that is not necessarily comedic, but that is very poignant. Having the opportunity to explore themes and concepts that you would be insane to try in season one, we now feel a little bit more ready, willing, and able to experiment with, for better or for worse.
Thompson: So are we looking at three seasons of Central Park and then a movie? How many seasons do you want to do, and could some of the characters get spin-offs?
Gad: Right now, we still feel confident that there are stories to tell with the Tillermans, Bitsy, Helen, and Birdie. Already in season three, we’re introducing an incredible new character that I can’t wait to tell everyone about in the near future. Until it feels like we no longer have stories to tell, or just as importantly, until we feel like we have done everything we can musically with the show, we will continue to do it. We’ll do it for as long as Apple will have us explore new fertile territory with this fantastic world.
Thompson: Season two of Central Park kicks off with dropping three episodes at once, then a new one each Friday for the rest of the run. You drip-fed the first season too. Is that to try and get people to savor the show and not just binge it all at once?
Gad: I mean, even the word binge has a negative connotation to it. I grew up having to wait, and I sort of love that. But, frankly, I think it’s what has made shows like Ted Lasso, The Mandalorian, Loki, and of course, I think the greatest one of all, Game of Thrones, work so well is that it becomes appointment television. It’s not that I don’t love to binge Stranger Things in one night, but I do also love having to wait as hard as that is. Anticipation means that there’s a reward waiting for you.
Season two of Central Park kicks off on Apple TV+ on Friday, June 25, 2021.