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In the Know Creator Zach Woods Explains How They Mixed Real World with Stop-Motion
In the Know co-creator Zach Woods dishes on the inspiration for the series, and how they got those authentic celeb reactions to the animated host Lauren Caspian.
For so many who spend their long commutes with a local or national NPR station in their ear, a bit of a complicated relationship can form around the eclectic personalities who host some of the shows that air throughout the day. Long-time friends and collaborators Zach Woods (Silicon Valley, The Office) and Brandon Gardner (David) found themselves in that space, as listeners who could pick out the stuffy and esoteric eccentricities that were singular to the genre. An arena of liberalism that was ripe for some well-intentioned satire.
From that fertile ground, they came up with In the Know, Peacock's first adult animated comedy, which debuts January 25 exclusively on the streamer. It's the brain child of the pair, along with comedy legend Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head, Silicon Valley). The intricately stop-motion animated series follows the daily adventures of the sedate NPR studio that produces "In the Know with Lauren Caspian." Also known as NPR’s third most popular host and show, Caspian's high brow/neurotic personality conducts interviews with an array of actual human celebs, including Ken Burns, Finn Wolfhard, Norah Jones, Tegan and Sara, Nicole Byer, Roxane Gay, Mike Tyson and many more.
Zach Woods admits In the Know's satire is personal
Woods also voices Caspian, who is the distillation of their own worst tendencies.
"Before we had the show, Brandon and I had this kind of deep reservoir of contempt for ourselves, and for our tribe," Woods joked to NBC Insider. "We're painfully aware of our own hypocrisy, our own vanity, and our own moral insincerity. So when we started working on the show, it was like, 'Oh, finally! A place to put all this madness.'"
As they developed the series with Judge, Woods said he inspired the right tone for In the Know.
"One thing that we really got from Mike Judge, and that I think Mike is incredible at, is that even though he can be quite unsparing in his depiction of human absurdity, it never feels holier than thou," he explained. "It never feels like punching down. It never feels like he thinks he's better than the people he's portraying. So, something that felt really important to us is that the people we are making fun of are us. Much to my chagrin, I am Lauren."
With a laugh, he added: "I wish I weren't, but I am."
How do the celeb Interviews work with the In The Know animation?
The stop-motion animation for In the Know is created by the Academy Award winning Shadowmachine Studios (Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio) based in Los Angeles and Portland. In using such a meticulous technique, the production of the series had to be done a little differently.
"The interviews happened long in advance, and then our editor Kelly Lyon, edited them," Woods detailed. "And just a remarkable job, I thought. For the interviews, the writers generated a bunch of questions that I would use to improvise with the guests. Brandon would then be on an iPad sending me notes while I was conducting the interview."
When the interviews took place, the celebs only saw an image of Woods as Lauren Caspian on their screen so Woods and Gardner could capture the purest reactions to some of the host's weirdest questions and non sequitur asides. It was only after the whole interview sessions was complete that Woods said that he would pop onto their screens as himself.
"It always felt weird like it kind of gave me the bends," he laughed. "It was so weird to talk to Mike Tyson in this weird way, and then at the end I'd be like, 'Ugh, hey Mike!' I know people liked Lauren better."
Joining Caspian in the NPR studio is Mike Judge as Sandy the show’s culture critic. Caitlin Reilly voices Fabian, the show’s researcher and fact checker and Charlie Bushnell’s Chase, a frat-bro college intern. Rounding out the cast is J. Smith-Cameron as Barb, the co-executive producer of "In The Know" as well as Carl Tart, its sound engineer
Catch all six episodes of In The Know when they drop exclusively on Peacock on January 25.