Showrunners Benji Samit and Dan Hernandez | Pretty Reel

ComingSoon editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Koala Man showrunners Benji Samit and Dan Hernandez about Hulu’s Australian animated comedy. The duo discussed trusting your creative partners and exposing the world to Australian concepts. All eight episodes of Koala Man are now streaming on Hulu.

“It follows middle-aged father Kevin and his not-so-secret titular identity, whose only superpower is a burning passion for following the rules and stifling petty crime in the town of Dapto,” reads the synopsis. “Although it may look like any other Australian suburb, the forces of evil, both cosmic and man-made, are waiting to pounce on unsuspecting Daptonians. On a quest to clean up his hometown and often dragging his frustrated family on his adventures, Koala Man stands ready. He’ll do whatever it takes to defeat villainous masterminds, supernatural horrors, or worse: morons who don’t take out their trash cans on the appropriate days.

Spencer Legacy: You two have worked together, you know, a few times before. What, what makes your collaboration work so well?

Benji Samit: Oh, man. I mean, we’ve been writing and producing together for a long time now. We met in college and have worked together ever since. I think it’s a few things. We have the same taste in what we enjoy, what we think is good, but we also complement each other in many different ways.

Dan Hernandez: I think Benji really nailed it, which is the taste. I think sometimes there is a misconception that in a partnership everyone should be equally good at everything. I actually think that’s not necessarily the key to a good partnership. I think if everyone feels like they have to do everything all the time, then you’re naturally going to wonder who’s going to do the first pass on a blank page, or who’s going to rewrite that. I think the most important thing is to have a vision of what you want the end product to be of something.

So when you can line up artistically, like, something like this show where we’re like, ‘Well, we know we want this to be funny, of course, and shocking and crazy’, but between us, we wanted we set ourselves the goal of telling an incredible superhero story – almost clandestinely. But at the end of that season, looking back and saying, “Oh, that was really a superhero story. It wasn’t just a blunder, it wasn’t just a joke. Epic stuff happened. So when you artistically align in this way, you can be a little less selfish about who does what. You can kind of focus on the things you do well.

Since we’ve been friends for so many years, having worked together since college, if Benji changes something I’ve written, there’s no part of me that’s defensive at this point. And I think it’s the other way around. Because of that, it allows us to really focus on the outcome rather than how we’re going to split the work and who’s going to do this and be tense about it. Often we don’t even remember who wrote what at this point. Truly. I’ll think he wrote something and he’ll think I wrote it and the truth will get lost over time. I think that’s what, for us, made our partnership so successful – trust, honestly, more than anything.

Benji, what about those original Koala Man online shorts that made you say, “I want to do this series about Koala Man? »

Benji Samit: It was so unique and different, and Michael Cusack’s voice – not just his literal voice, which is funny – but his point of view. His twisted take on Australia and life… they were so funny and so unlike anything else we’ve seen. So we were so excited to sit with him and talk. From there, 10 minutes after sitting down with him, we knew, “We’re going to work on this together. Where Dan and I have had a great collaboration for many, many years, it was the same with Michael, where we and Michael hit it off and were on the same page. So it’s one of those rare things.

Dan, the concept of Koala Man is really about taking a mundane problem and turning it into this huge crisis. So what’s the process for turning something like a forgotten jacket into a story about the cannibalistic Wiggles?

Dan Hernandez: For me, as a kind of writer’s room philosophy, it all starts with what is a real human emotion or a human crisis or a human situation that anyone in the world can identify as realistic, as opposed to over-the-top or surreal. I think when you build the foundation of a story realistically, it allows you to go as crazy as you ultimately want in the details of how it’s expressed. So for me, take, for example, his jacket. When you’ve been through painful things, some people like to talk about it, but a lot of people don’t like to talk about those incidents. This episode was about Kevin being forced to face some uncomfortable truths about his past that he’d rather not think about.

So the jacket then became this mountain of a molehill excuse not to have to think about these things. It felt very real to me, just on a visceral level, when someone says, “Hey, I really have to talk to you about this thing that’s extremely painful and traumatic,” you might say, “Actually, I have to go do something else now. That’s where this episode comes from. Once we knew that was the emotional basis for this episode, it was safe to say that we got this idea from these Australian children’s bands and were looking for the right delivery system for it.

So it was like, ‘Well, if he goes out in the Outback, what’s the craziest, most completely screwed up thing he could find out there? That’s how we got to the Tigglies, over there at the Tigglies HQ, eating kids. I think it’s this fusion of a real emotional story that allows you to soar into whatever strange realm you want to go.

Benji, have you ever worried that Australian concepts like presentation bags might not be fully understood by international audiences? Or did you trust it?

Benji Samit: There was never really a problem. It was actually more exciting, you know? The reality is, like what a lot of our Australian writers have pointed out to us, is that they all grew up watching American TV, and there was American stuff there, and they sort of so understood. They reconstructed it, they [used] context clues, or they looked for it. You could understand it. So we just flipped that and threw Australian stuff at the Americans to figure it out.

But no, we were excited about all the Australian stuff because it’s one of those things like… we’ve been in so many writers’ rooms now on American sitcoms and animated shows where it’s just, you have an idea and Simpsons did it. South Park did it, you know? American ideas have been done time and time again. How many times have you done prom or prom or this or that. But with that, whenever one of the Aussie writers mentioned something uniquely Australian – there’s never been an animated Australian primetime adult show. Already. Even just in Australia. It has never been done.

So any Australian concept that said, ‘Oh, there’s an episode over there’, nobody’s ever done that before. So it was super exciting that one of the writers casually mentioned the show bags, thinking we knew what they were. We were like, “Wait, what? What is a show bag? And then they tell us, and they all got excited and we were like, ‘Oh, we have to do something with this. So it was really awesome how quickly we could find… [the] Great Emu War, things like that, where it’s just this weird Aussie thing that would translate to TV. Occasionally we put in a few lines to help clarify and explain things, but for the most part I think you can just understand.

How is your collaboration with Michael Cusack going? He’s not only the creator, but he does voices and stuff like that. What’s it like working with a designer with this more hands-on approach?

Dan Hernandez: It was a dream. Michael is a genius. He is so talented as an actor, voice actor, musician and host. And so for us to have someone who — especially in the animation department — has skills that we just don’t have, being able to pitch a character and look over and five minutes later, Michael holds a drawing of this character is were going to look like, was invaluable for us to really get a sense of who these people were, what they looked like, why they were funny. From this point of view, it was a dream. We are also big fans of his work, regardless of the work we do with him. Smiling Friends and YOLO are two of my favorite shows. Still to this day, observe them to relax. I’ve seen all the episodes about 20 million times.

So it helps to be a fan of someone’s unique voice. I think what we brought to the process was this broader experience of American-style storytelling. Some of our film work has been helpful along the lines of “How do you create a long story over the course of eight episodes and break the pieces down so that at the end, the last two episodes, it all comes together [in] in a hopefully surprisingly satisfying way? “He really trusted us to do it. Again we go back to this idea of ​​trust, like we really allow everyone to work to the best of their abilities without a lot of criticism or editorial nitpicking, because Michael is one of the best at what he does in the world. And so we just said, “Make us look good!” »

Showrunners Benji Samit and Dan Hernandez | Pretty Reel