Entertainment Television

SQUAD GOALS: Smulders, Savage channel Friends

By Nelson Branco, 24 Hrs

The Friends From College cast sat down with 24 Hours' Nelson Branco about the new Netflix comedy. NETFLIX

The Friends From College cast sat down with 24 Hours' Nelson Branco about the new Netflix comedy. NETFLIX

What if we got to see Phoebe, Monica, Joey, Chandler, Rachel and Ross navigate life, career and family in their late 30s and early 40s? Netflix's new comedy Friends From College, which begins streaming Friday, hopes to quench the thirst of fans who are still missing Friends. Starring Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Kate McKinnon, Annie Parisse and Fred Savage, among others, and created by Nicholas Stoller, Friends From College is receiving mixed-to-bad reviews, but given the talented cast, you might want to at least check out the pilot.

What can you expect? Spouses Ethan (Key) and Lisa (Smulders) move to New York City where they're reunited with their cray Harvard University crew. Once they reconnect, the group interact not as adults but as their former young adult selves.

It's the latest nostalgic project focusing on the Gen X generation and how they've survived The New Millennium.

24 Hours hung out with Stoller, the 'smuldering'35-year-old Vancouver native and the 'savage'41-year-old Chicagan former child star (The Wonder Years) in Manhattan late this spring to find out if this could be the next Friends every network has coveted.

Is Friends From College a grittier version of Friends?

Smulders: [Laughs] I don't know why you're looking at me! It is a show about friends but it's hard to compare. However, to be even mentioned in the same sentence as Friends is a huge compliment.

Stoller: Like all humans, we all loved Friends - and it's hard to separate that show from any comedy  that's currently airing.

How I Met Your Mother was also compared to Friends. Cobie, are you on the cusp of another phenomenon?

Smulders: You found me out: I only do ensemble shows about a group of friends that turn into a phenomenon [laughs]. Seriously, I have the most fun working in an ensemble cast. I find it to be the most rewarding. I like being in a group setting where the characters create a larger dynamic between them. Wanting to work with Nick, brought me to Friends From College. Doing How I Met Your Mother, brought me a Green Card (laughs)! I certainly had no idea Mother would last nine seasons, but it did. The 90s is really making its mark in TV narratives and I think that's because the prime creators right now are mostly in their 40s and finally telling our stories.

What defines the Gen X movement?

Savage: Kurt Cobain is the right answer.

Stoller: I don't know if anyone feels this way but it feels like 9/11 was the defining moment of the 90s because it punctuated the end of that decade even though the terror attack happened in 2001. There was something very innocent about the 90s - and of course, there were a lot of bad things that happened in that decade; I'm not discounting that - but it seemed like a simpler time with Bill Clinton as U.S. President - as crazy as that sounds.

These characters aren't necessarily cookie-cutter comic archetypes - most of them are flawed.

Savage: The fact that they are flawed makes you want to root for them. TV is becoming more reflective of who we are in real life. It's not as sanitized or spit-shined as it was in the 80s and 90s.

Stoller: Cobie's never flawed!

Smulders: I'll take that.

Savage: On Friends, it was a group of six people looking hopefully towards the future, leaning on each other and helping themselves build towards a future. Our characters are incredibly regressive - in good and bad ways. They're always being reminded of the past and who they were. Some of our characters cling to that past or run away from the past. They're not forward-thinking people; although they think they are.

Smulders: There's a difference between saying, 'I'm going out with my friends from college'and 'I'm going out with my friends' ... because college is a very different time in your life.

Savage: Like, s---is going to happen!

Smulders: Your partner is like, 'Yeah, you do that! I'll stay home! I want no part of it; have fun!'

Stoller: There is a hint of aggression in the title.

Did you guys hang out like your characters to create chemistry?

Smulders: There was a big of a hang, yes.

Savage: I tried to hang out with people all the time but there were no takers [laughs].

Stoller: We invited him out! 'Come out to dinner; we're in the lobby.'He didn't show up. He walked across a four-lane highway to a mall.

Savage: I bought Asics shoes. Seriously, they did a great job casting this show because they knew we'd all have chemistry. It's not like we spent six weeks in chemistry camp together! But I did have a very elaborate rope course in my apartment, but no one showed up ...

Cobie, you've been in some blockbuster films like The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Jack Reacher and you voiced Wonder Woman in The Lego Movie ...

Savage: ...and now she's working with the peasants!

Smulders: For me doing those big movies, again, I'm in an ensemble. I usually play small roles in those movies but they're always fun characters and sets. Truly, as an actor, other than the size of the sets and production ...

Savage: [Joking] And talent level you have to play opposite ...

Smulders: [Laughs] I still approach the characters in the same way - no matter the genre. But working in TV, the characters always seem more intimate. Savage: I think I'm just a phone call from being asked to do a blockbuster, I think ...

Cobie, do you get back to Canada a lot?

Smulders: I go back as often as I can. It's my home and my heart. And always will be!