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Exclusive The Muppets Set Visit + Interviews! #ABCTVEvent #GoodDinoEvent

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Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were favorites for me as a kid!! What about for you? While in Los Angeles for The Good Dinosaur event, I was invited to tour the set of Up Late with Miss Piggy and interview the executive producers Randall Einhorn (and director) & Bill Barretta (and performer) for The Muppets which airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC. I couldn’t wait to get on set and see the “how” of The Muppets!!

the muppetsBeing on the set of a show that I loved as a kid (and still love as an adult) was super awesome. We were able to snap some pictures on the set of Up Late with Miss Piggy and enjoy seeing the set of where all the magic happens. We watched an upcoming episode of Up Late with Miss Piggy which was super cool to see the set behind the TV and know that this is where it all happened.

Up Late with Miss Piggy 3After we watched an upcoming episode, we sat down with producers Randall Einhorn (and director) & Bill Barretta (and performer) to chat about The Muppets. Check out what information they shared with us:

Question 1: What does an Executive Producer do?

Randall: My Mom asked me that.  “What does an Executive Producer do?”  It’s interesting because even though we’re both Executive Producers, we have similar, but different things that  eventually combine or come together at some point or quite often around.  I suppose the top is that obviously the stories and what the stories are going to be and Bill more so than I because he’s been a Performer forever.  We keep track of what the characters are doing and advising us whether we’re keeping them in who they are because this has been going on for a long time and obviously, most people writing for the stories are relatively new to this so there’s a lot of it, at the script stage. Then, at the production stag we wonder how are we going to do that. This is where Bill and I tend to work together cause Bill’s the Muppet Captain so in terms of everything that’s gonna happen. 

Bill: What’s been a really interesting and fun challenge is that Randall brings the documentary style to all of this, aside from just being a great Director, great guy to work with. Plus, the Muppets are not used to.  We’ve always been used to working to a frame that we kind of help create composition with the characters and where they are in the frame.  We tend to play more presentational with the Muppets in most things that we’ve done, just about everything.

In this case, it was trusting and learning from Randall how to let the camera find the characters.  So it’s a very different approach to how we do things.  It’s similar logistically because of what was explained briefly about the floors and how we need to prove and do all this stuff.  It is Randall who kind of has the raw vision as a Director of how these pieces are ultimately all gonna come together.  We don’t get along very well….. in fact, this is the first time we’ve actually been in the same room.

Up Late with Miss Piggy

Question 2: Can you share the mechanics of using the Muppet characters?

Bill: Well there are types of puppets.  Kermit, for example, is a puppet that you can almost see, if you really look, the knuckles of Steve Whitmire’s hand and they create those facial manipulations.  He’s a very malleable Puppet. He also has arm rods that go into his wrists so he’s what we call a Rod Puppet. A character like Fozzie,  is usually operated by two people.  It’s one person that’s doing the head and the behavior and the body of the Character.  {They worked together to show us how they would both operate Fozzie, it was quite entertaining and interesting}. So if I were operating Fozzie’s head,  I would also most likely do his left hand.  Now if I needed my Perrier, someone else would be doing it as Randall, as I would need my Perrier.  I just grab my Perrier and he would grab that and then this hand might open the bottle and then so it’s a whole collaboration between Puppeteers.  Different characters operate in different ways. Most of the Characters are performed by 6 people.  There’s also kind of peripheral Characters that are becoming more involved but the ones who do the core kind of Muppets, there’s 6 guys and so if for example, I’m doing this scene where Pet Bey and a Swedish Chef are in the same scene, I’ll need to have one like Peter Lintz who’s very familiar with the Characters and understands the rhythms and the timing of these Characters.  They’ll perform the Character, one that maybe isn’t driving the scene so much.  And then I’ll go in and I’ll do the dialogue later with the voice of the Character.

Randall: We often have to just turn it around and do the other half

Bill: Which is a time consuming and something that Randall takes into consideration, when we need to stop and let’s say Miss Piggy and Fozzie are in the same scene.  Well both of those Characters are formed by the same Puppeteer.  So to really get great performances from both that feel authentic and true to those Characters, Randall needs to take into consideration the time and how to shoot this so that Eric can start with Miss Piggy while we have somebody standing in for Foz.  And then we come around like you said, and we shoot the other side and have Eric get out of Miss Piggy and go into Fozzie. So it’s a bit of a dance scene to make that happen.

Randall: I got to operate right hand once and they let me in, and I operated right hand and all I had to do was just go like this or something.  And it was something really easy, but I was sweating!   I tried so hard.  I never try hard.  I was hunched down. 

Bill: It was interesting! His whole body was so busy to make this hand just kind of do that.  He did it good.  He did good.

Question 3: What is your production technique like?

Randall: From a Director’s standpoint, we prep an episode for 5 days, and then we shoot for 6 days.  We’re trying to do like four 10 hour days and two twelve hour days or two 14 hour days depending on if we go on location. A lot of that is just because of the time it takes in order for us to do the simplest thing, we need monitors and monitors and monitors, and floor removed.

Bill:  Oh that’s something we didn’t mention! We use television monitors so that we can see what the camera sees.  That’s the only way that that we’re able to see the Characters is to see what the camera sees.  The monitors are placed in very specific places depending on what the action is in the scene and what we’re doing. 

Randall: I would say that in directing any TV Show, be it a Comedy or be it a Drama,, it takes 15 minutes at least to rehearse a scene and talk about it and block it.  It takes 45 minutes to light that scene and do camera rehearsals for that scene.  So if I have a scene last week’s, this episode had like 28 scenes which means 28 hours in normal conditions of not shooting, like Fargo, I think I had 56 scenes which is 56 hours of not shooting. This takes 2 hours to get your first shot off with, in a proper scene.  So we have 28 scenes.  That’s 56 hours of not shooting.  That’s just to getting to the place where you’re shooting which,  in five 12 hour days, is 60 hours, doesn’t leave a lot so we got to move.

Bill: Part of our rehearsal, in a normal situation, the rehearsal time is the rehearsal time.  The Actors are there, the cameras that you’re rehearsing.  With us, a good bit of our rehearsal is while we’re shooting because we’re kind of learning for the first time exactly where these Characters are in the frame, what they need to do, how they need to pick something up.  You know, we’re constantly rehearsing because it’s these dopey little Puppets that are in the way.

Randall: It’s the simplest thing, like eye line, like am I looking at you or they don’t know until you see it on the monitor and they’re looking at the opposite, which is really weird so I can’t even wrap my head around it but everything’s reversed for them and it’s amazing that they’ll do it.

Question 4: Did you look back at old episodes for inspiration?

Bill:  Well I think the writers took it upon themselves to do as much research as they could as well but coming into this, the other Performers and myself, created a Character Bible that we hoped would at least give people who really don’t have a sense of who the Characters are some background, some history, possibly some places where the Characters could go, you know, in the future, some suggestions. So we tried to kind of arm them as much as we possibly could with material and books so that they could really get a sense of them. That’s the other thing.  We’re still learning and the Characters like Gonzo is not the same guy he was 30 years ago.  He’s evolved and I think that’s because we as Performers and people evolve and our relationships between the Muppets come from a lot of the relationships beneath the Puppets.  We’re always finding new things and new ways of dealing with each other, and we don’t get along either.

Up Late with Miss Piggy 2

Question 5: Where is Walter?

Bill: When we first started the show, I think there were certain ideas of what the show would be about and certain jobs or certain places for certain characters. I think, at the moment, this first season I would say Walter is just someone that we felt he didn’t have a place yet in this arena.

Question 6: Why a Late Night Talk Show?

Randall: That’s the idea that our Writing Staff came up with that they’ve all banded together to give Kermit a normal life, where he’s got a real job and he’s got a Mortgage, and he’s got,  Banking to do, and all that type of thing. I suppose it could have been any number of Shows but I think a Talk Show kind of places them in the real world where Piggy plays a Celebrity who has a Talk Show, kind of like Ellen.

Bill: I think they like the idea of having a Female Late Night Talk that you know, the only person that’s doing a late night Talk Show, I think that was Female Character, and it gave Piggy I think a place to be a Diva, you know, to make everything about her and the Show is all about her and um, it just, I think something that they liked and felt it would be fun to kind of explore and see what we do.

Group Miss Piggy

Question 7: How do you cast the Guest Stars?

Randall:  We just call them.

Bill: Yeah, we call ’em.  There’s a lot of calling friends. 

Randall: Text, calling.  Literally Mindy Kaling is on an episode coming up and I was like Mindy, could you, would you?  We would love you to.  A lot of it’s people that we’ve worked with and also the people who love the Muppets, like Dave Grohl, you know, he wanted to do it which is awesome.

Bill: Yeah, there are people who obviously want to come do it and then some — sometimes the script dictates who we need or type of person or we’ll write specifically for certain people.  Sometimes, they’re not available so we try to find well who’s gonna be great in this kind of specific scenario or storyline.

Randall: Reese Witherspoon wanted to do it from the get go.

Bill: Kristin Chenoweth was amazing and there was, I can’t remember who it was originally, a problem with scheduling and we weren’t able to have that person but she was great! I can’t imagine anybody else.

Randall: No she killed it.

Question 8: Is there a dream Cameo list of who you’d like to Guest Star?

Randall: I have one.  Well I mean, there’s people that I’ve always admired and would love to have come play.  I mean over the years, honestly, I’ve worked with a lot of people so there are actually some repeat people that I would love to have come and play like Jeffrey Tambor or um, maybe Ringo.  How about you?

Bill: I know who I don’t want to work with again.  Pepe would love to work with Sophia Vergara.

Randall: Yes he would.  So would Randall, just as a friend, you know, a friendship.  I think it’s a long list.  There’s a lot of really cool people that would be fun.

Bill:  Jimmy Stewart.

Randall:  Jimmy Stewart would be great.  He’s busy though. 

Then, Randall and Bill wanted to ask us a few questions about The Muppets. It was so fun to give them our feedback and see their responsiveness. They asked us how we felt about the show and the episodes that we have seen. They wanted to know if there are some things that are specifically drawn to adults only, kids only, etc.

I think everybody kind of had the curiosity of what exactly it was gonna be because when you would see clips, it was, is this more for Adults, is this more for Children? My kids are 14 and 11, and they got some of the Adult jokes, and some of them they didn’t.  Some of them I got and then they also just loved the Muppets and seen them in real life.

Randall asked for some clarification to see what we meant by real life. What we were getting to is that most TV personalities are only on Reality TV shows. My kids really have enjoyed the newer generation of Movies and I try to show them the Old School ones that I grew up with and they’re like No Mom.

I can bust into song right now but I’m not going to.  But watching the television show, it’s been very different for my kids.  They weren’t initially drawn to it.  But I have a 6 year old and , it was just way over his head.  My 14 year old Daughter does like it but what she’s really drawn to are the Guest Stars that come on and that’s really what we both like. We like to see their interactions with the Muppets.

Randall: Yeah, it’s interesting that the whole thing that’s been out there asking if is it too Adult?  Is it the Muppets that we remember and if you really do think about it and you go back at least as far as I remember and what I was kind of taught by the guys who came obviously before me that I get to work with but that the Muppets have always been about making ourselves laugh.  It was never geared towards any one group in particular.  I mean Sesame Street was a very clear focus but the Muppet Show and things that came after that was always meant to arc Generations so that little kids could enjoy the Characters and the Colors and the Fabrics and the Fur and the silliness and the stories and the jokes could be another Generation of people and then you have the more nostalgic levels. You get into the Grandparents who remember even further back like Ralph on the Jimmy Dean Show.  Our goals is kind of do a similar thing where not all little kids are gonna get all the jokes because those are for us, you know, those are for us to enjoy and hopefully years later, when they grow up, they’ll go Oh My Gosh, I didn’t know that’s what they meant.

Then, it was back to us, “When I think about the Muppet Show, and I watched it with my Family and I remember my Parents cracking up and I didn’t understand everything that was going on but to watch it now, it’s like Oh My Gosh!  As an Adult, having Children and growing up that way, it’s easy for me to relate but I think because there’s always people out there that are looking for something and that the Adult humor is just, it’s so right on, and it’s so funny that we think their kids are smarter, they’re gonna get it more, and so they’re worried about that line and really, it’s about Parenting.  You know, and the bottom line is that’s what it boils down to, and if your kid is not ready for it, then they’re not. I think that with my memories of growing up and having that feeling, makes it very easy for me to have my kids watch it.  It’s still a safe zone and it’s funny, it’s so funny.

Bill: I remember watching old Warner Bros. Cartoons and not realizing until years later, you know, the stuff they were doing was crazy.  Um, so I hope we’re doing that.



Photo Credit: (ABC/Andrea McCallin )

Photo Credit: (ABC/Andrea McCallin )

“Going, Going, Gonzo“– After a show-stopping duet with Miss Piggy on “Up Late with Miss Piggy,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins Scooter, Pepe and the gang for poker night; The Great Gonzo gears up to perform his dream stunt; and Dave Grohl challenges Animal to a drum-off, on “The Muppets,” TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1 (8:00-8:30 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

“The Muppets” stars Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, Rizzo, Scooter, Rowlf and The Electric Mayhem.

Photo Credit: (ABC/Vivian ZInk)

Photo Credit: (ABC/Vivian Zink)

Guest starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as himself and Dave Grohl as himself.

“Going, Going, Gonzo” story was written by Shane Kosakowski and Franklin Hardy, and the teleplay was written by Jordan Reddout and Gus Hickey. The episode was directed by Randall Einhorn.

Photo credit: (ABC/Vivian ZInk)

Photo credit: (ABC/Vivian Zink)

“The Muppets” is co-created and executive-produced by Bill Prady (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Bob Kushell (“3rd Rock From the Sun”). Kristin Newman (“Galavant”), Randall Einhorn (“The Office”), Bill Barretta (“Muppets Most Wanted”), Debbie McClellan (The Muppets Studio) and Kyle Laughlin (The Muppets Studio) are also executive producers. “The Muppets” is produced by ABC Studios and The Muppets Studio.


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Janet W.

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

What a great interview! Thanks for a behind the scenes glimpse!

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