Interview: Jonah Hill Talks About New Show Allen Gregory

The comedic star's newest animated venture premieres this Sunday

By , Contributor

The man behind Allen Gregory de Longpre.

Jonah Hill is complex. We’ve seen his character arc wax funny to serious, stoner to sarcastic, all executed in a spot-on manner and his unexpected dramatic turn in his most recent film Moneyball has definitely taken his Hollywood street cred level up several notches.

And now, he gets to showcase his best pretentious childlike side with Allen Gregory, a new animated series on which Hill serves as co-creator and executive producer. This new show takes us through the amusing trials and tribulations of a snarky, pretentious 7-year-old who goes from silver spoon to plastic fork, and attempts to navigate the muddy waters of public school while adjusting to an unconventional family life.

On a recent call, Hill shared with us some background on how this new adorably precocious character was born.

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Just talk a little bit about what inspired the Allen Gregory character. And then it also sounds like from having watched the pilot, it sounds like there’s going to be a little bit of financial difficulty in the family. How is that going to play itself out?

Well, Allen Gregory came about because we’re doing animation and … me to play, Andy and I were saying it would be cool to play a seven year old because I couldn’t play that in real life. Yes, his parents are going through financial troubles because they spent all their money. They were like heiresses and they spent all their money. So you deal with them having to get jobs and having to earn a living for the first time, a bunch of spoiled rich people figuring out how to make their way in the world for the first time.

What can we see him go through? What’s his act going to be?

He’s a fish out of water. He’s going to public school for the first time with normal kids, he’s a really pretentious outsider and he’s just trying to fit in.

I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about the prospect of as opposed to a movie where you get to play a character for a finite amount of time during a TV show, where you could play him indefinitely and just talk about how that prospect is for you.

It’s exciting. With a film, it’s over with and that character is done with. And with a show, it’s cool to see them grow and change and what happens to them over time.

It seems like virtually anything can happen in the world around Gregory, especially having a crush on the principal and it’s hilarious. Do you have any rules about the universe of the show, or is there anywhere that you absolutely don’t want to touch or is any taboo—

Well, taboo wise, no. We don’t shy away from anything on the show, but as far as a reality level, even though it’s animated, we don’t describe it a little bit like a spaceship could land there. Like it’s all reality based. Like if it couldn’t happen in real life, then it wouldn’t. That being said, I’ve never heard of a seven year old boy having a relationship with a 70 something year old disgusting woman.

I’m just wondering about, I guess, your transition behind the camera as creator and executive producer. I know that you’re also executive producer of 21 Jump Street. Can you talk a little bit about what you get from that experience and is that a place that you feel in some ways more comfortable than in front of the camera?

The only time I’ve been a producer on something that I wasn’t in was Bruno, the movie Bruno. But Allen Gregory and …and 21 Jump Street I’m the star and the producer of those, so they kind of fuel each other.

Are there qualities about Allen Gregory that viewers will be able to warm up to, something that’s likable about him or is he all condescending and just difficult?

I think the thing that they’ll love about him is he has all this false bravado and condescension and arrogance and everything that’s all covering up the fact that he’s just insecure and wants to be accepted by these people. I think that’s my favorite kind of character to watch is someone who acts like they don’t care about anything, but really cares more than anybody else.

In terms of creative vision for the show and in particularly given the fact that Sundays on FOX for so many years have belonged to The Simpsons, as well as Family Guy, obviously the shows are compatible with those tend to have the best chance of succeeding. So when you approached this creatively, was there any attention, efforts subconscious or active, too, to make sure that there was some crossover appeal?

I think we paid absolutely no attention to that. We want to do our own thing and being unique and different than those was really important as opposed to trying to fit in with them. That being said, I think people will connect it, if you like The Simpsons and Family Guy, you would like our show because it’s irreverent and different and has an original as those two shows were and are. I don’t think you’d want more of the same. I think you want something different, but that’s why those shows are so successful, because when they came out, they were so different.

I was just wondering how much of the show you actually get to improv, because you're known to be a great improv comedian and how much is just purely scripted?

We improvise a lot, but I also wrote it, so writing it is just improvising that you write down. That’s what fun.You like to keep it fresh.

I was just wondering about the look of the character, where did you get this idea behind how Allen looks?

Well, we wanted the whole show to feel like it was ripped from like the New Yorker and we showed the animators like Capote and watch Anderson movies to have a feel like across herestyle of animation. And Allen Gregory, we just wanted it juxtaposed with his awful attitude to have it be juxtaposed by the more adorable looking kid aesthetically.

What do you think it is about the show that it’s going to resonate with viewers?

It’s funny. It’s different. There’s not really much more to it. It’s really funny and really strange and unique and cool and unlike anything else on TV and I’m proud of that.

I noticed that you’ve done a bunch of advanced screenings on campuses just around the nation in general. What kind of responses have you received from the screenings and have any of the reactions surprised you at all?

Laughter, thank God.

Allen Gregory premieres this Sunday at 8:30 PM EST/7:30 Central on Fox.

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A child of parents both heavily involved in the travel industry, Gabriella Ribeiro Truman was born to do her job. By day she owns and operates Trumarketing, a boutique sales, marketing and PR firm servicing tourism-related clients from around the world. Also a frequent blogger, she produces The Explorateur…

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