Interview with the cast of “American Auto” on NBCLifetime by Suzanne 12/9/21
This is a pretty funny sitcom, and it was a lot of fun talking to the cast. This press panel had many journalists asking questions. You can see my one question a little more than halfway down the page. I wish I had gotten another question because I would have loved to have asked Harriet Dyer a question. I really loved her show “The InBetween” (2019). What an amazing actress she is! I didn’t even recognize her as the same person in this role.
VIRTUAL PRESS TOUR
Jon Barinholtz, Talent, “Wesley”
Harriet Dyer, Talent, “Sadie”
Ana Gasteyer, Talent, “Katherine”
Humphrey Ker, Talent, “Elliot”
X Mayo, Talent, “Dori”
Michael B. Washington, Talent, “Cyrus”
Tye White, Talent, “Jack”
Justin Spitzer, Creator/Executive Producer
Virtual via Zoom
December 9, 2021
© 2021 NBCUniversal, Inc. All rights reserved.
PAM BEER: Hi. It’s Pam again, and I’m here to introduce the panel for our new comedy “American Auto,” which will be sneak‑previewed on Monday, December 13th at 10:00 and 10:30 p.m., before moving to its normal time slot on Tuesday, January 4th at 8 o’clock.
From “Superstore” creator Justin Spitzer comes a new workplace comedy that takes the wheels off of the automobile industry.
Set in Detroit, the corporate executives of Payne Motors are at a crossroads: Adapt to the changing times or be sent to the junkyard.
Shaking things up as the new CEO, her leadership, experience, and savvy is only slightly offset by her complete lack of knowledge about cars. From the corporate to the factory floor, the crew of Payne Motors is driving home the laughs.
Here’s a look at the first season of “American Auto.”
PAM BEER: In the top row are executive producer Justin Spitzer, Ana Gasteyer, and Harriet Dyer. In the second row are Michael B. Washington, Jon Barinholtz, and Tye White. In the third row are Humphrey Ker and X Mayo.
We are now ready for your questions.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Thank you, once again, Pam. And welcome to our panelists.
Just a reminder to use the “raise hand” function if you want to ask a question.
And our first question comes from Mike Hughes, and Jay Bobbin will be on deck.
So, go ahead, Mike.
QUESTION: Yeah, for Ana. It seems like you’re in a really good streak right now. I saw “A Clüsterfünke Christmas,” and I thought it was hilarious, and you co‑wrote it, and so forth. And so, I wanted to ask you what this time has been like for you? Because you got this show, apparently, pretty early last year, but then, had to wait for a long time, and now, this is coming up right after “Clüsterfünke.” Has this just been a really good ‑‑ in other words, has the pandemic been pretty good for you?
ANA GASTEYER: The pandemic has been fantastic for me, yeah. I mean, you know, besides all the millions of people that have died, it’s worked really well for me. Please don’t print that.
ANA GASTEYER: You know, I flew to L.A., and I had my fitting for the pilot, and we were getting ready to film it when the entire world went into shutdown, and it’s been ‑‑ I mean, you know, it’s an overused word, but it really has been an incredible series with blessing on this because, honestly, we didn’t even know if it was going to go. I just assumed ‑‑ I mean, I leaped at the opportunity. The script was fantastic. Justin is established, and smart, and human, and the perfect writer to, sort of, meet the times, I think, comedically, and that’s not an easy thing to do. And, yeah, we got lucky. We ended up making the pilot last October – 2020 — and then, picked up, and started filming in 2021. So, it was a long, kind of, drawn‑out thing, but kind of nice, in a way, because you do these new television shows really, truly, in a bubble. We didn’t really interact with anyone because of COVID. We actually didn’t even really see Justin’s lower half of his face for a good couple of years. (Justin laughs.) And it was nice because, as a cast and a community, we, sort of, did that thing where we established a relationship via text, and over the months, kind of, checking in with one another, and by the time it came to filming, we were really friends, which was fantastic.
QUESTION: And in the middle of that, when did you do “Clüsterfünke,” then?
ANA GASTEYER: So, we ‑‑ by the way, thank you for honoring the umlauts and pronunciation.
We had sold that in ‑‑ Rachel and I sold it in 2019. And so, we wrote that script right when we went into the shutdown. So, we wrote it at the beginning, and then, the timing just worked out beautifully because we were able to film it directly prior to “American Auto,” and it just was, sort of, a confluence of good fortune that everything came out at the same time.
QUESTION: Well, thanks.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question is from Jay Bobbin, and Valerie Malone is going to be on deck,
Jay, go for it.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My question is for Harriet.
Harriet, you’ve been doing a lot of heavy‑duty drama lately, and a certain scene at a restaurant with an invisible man certainly sticks in mind. Doing comedy at this point in time, is this, like, the possible best juncture for you to pivot from the drama you’ve been doing, to this?
HARRIET DYER: I don’t know. I, kind of ‑‑ when I got out of drama school in Sydney, I was doing both; whether it was theater, or TV, which, kind of, came later. I would just hope to, kind of, do both for as long as, you know, people will allow it. I think you can find both in both. And I mean ‑‑ but this is a dream, to come to America and do a network comedy. That was something I never thought would happen. So, I mean, if I stayed in comedy now, you know, mostly, that would be very exciting to me, but I really do ‑‑ really do love drama, too.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question comes from Valeria Malone, and Jamie Sticker is on deck.
Go ahead, Valerie.
QUESTION: Justin, can you talk about your decision to center the series around the corporate perspective, and your decision to make it a comedy, rather than an action or drama series, please?
JUSTIN SPITZER: I don’t know that I would know how to write an action or a drama series. I would love that challenge, but I think I’m in comedy for now.
The genesis of this was, I pitched this show back in 2013. I’d been on “The Office” for a long time, and I thought I’d love to do a workplace show about the corporate world, you know? And in “The Office,” they refer to decisions made by corporate, occasionally, and I’d think, like, oh, what’s that show about, and how do those decisions get made? And then, the following year, I did “Superstore.” “American Auto” was in pilot at that point, so I took bits and pieces, and put them in “Superstore,” and then, every now and then, I would talk to Tracy Acosta ‑‑ who had been to the studio when we developed “American Auto” originally, and she moved over to the network, and she was always a fan of it ‑‑ about if there was ever an opportunity to redevelop it. And so, then, when I left “Superstore,” it felt like an opportunity, and it felt like an even better time. You know, “Superstore” is so much a show about people whose lives are dictated by corporate, and they seem like antagonists all the time, and it seemed fun to get a peek on behind the scenes of how the decisions get made, you know? The people at corporate aren’t bad people; they’re good people doing their best to try to make the company work, and, sometimes, their decisions have bad effects on the employees, but I thought it would be fun to get to see why those decisions get made. So, yeah, that was, sort of, the reasoning about the corporate world.
And then, the fact that it’s the auto industry, sort of, came later. I, sort of, just wanted it to be about a big multibillion‑dollar American industry.
QUESTION: But you feel that diversity is important to you. Can you talk about, perhaps, how it plays out in different roles in the series?
JUSTIN SPITZER: You know, I think – it’s always a hard thing to answer. I think, you know, we’re all trying to be more conscious of diversity. I think it allows you to do more kinds of stories, especially in a show like this, that deals with issues impacted by those things. You know, it’s a satire. You know, you guys have seen the first episode that deals with bias in tech. And so, it gives me those opportunities.
You know, I don’t think of it so much as what can we do for social good? You know, my job is to make a show, and make it good, but I think diversity certainly helps with that. Maybe some of our other cast could speak to that if anyone would like to.
MICHAEL B. WASHINGTON: Yeah. Well, one of the things that I was drawn to so much when I first read the script, and had the opportunity to read, NBC Universal has been very kind to many of us, and they’ve taken care ‑‑ ready good care of us for many years, but they’ve always been looking for something for me to do in a more corporate structure; like, more authoritative roles. And that’s not something that a network lets you get to read for, as an African American gentleman, let alone two, three, four, you know, people of color in executive ranks. So, I was very drawn to the fact that Cyrus is a very smart, educated corporate executive who’s allowed to be the smartest one in the room, for good or for bad, whether he puts his foot in his mouth, or not, and all the comedy that ensues from it, and the beautiful thing about the place we’re in right now, with the world, and society, and cultural issues. Getting to represent that so that young Black boys, young Black girls, get to see somebody in a suit be smart is not still the norm. So, I’m very drawn to this show because of that, and getting to play with these incredible comedians, and keeping levity about it. It’s not always hard‑hitting; it’s light and fun. So, diversity can be a fun thing as well.
QUESTION: Very good. Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question is from Jamie Sticker, and Suzanne Lanoue is on deck.
Jamie, go ahead.
QUESTION: X, I have to say, those are some hilariously funny, funny scenes with you. How much of your work is improv? Like, the soap scene; you bring your own soap with you. How much of your time on “American Auto” is scripted, and how much of it is just improv?
X MAYO: Yes. I don’t say any lines that are written.
No, I’m kidding. I’m kidding. No. I love ‑‑ first of all, this script is amazing. But let me tell you, as someone who is an actor and an improvisor, if the script isn’t good, I do not improvise because I don’t have a place to jump off of. There is no clear foundation. I have nowhere to go. So, the fact that I do play so much speaks to the quality of the writing, and the fact that they are writers, when they write that episode, they’re on there, and they’re so open to collaborate. And I’m, like, “Hey, I wanted to try this,” and they’re, like, “Yes, go, do. Yeah, go do that.” And so, I really love that aspect of it. But yeah, I mean, a lot of those words that you hear are from the script, but I do like to, like, punch up and play. And, also, too, like, there are, like, so many amazing comedians on the show, like Humphs and JB. Like, I just love, like, pitching jokes to them, or if I can make one of them laugh, I’m, like, “Damn.”
Sorry. Can I cuss?
But I just did, so …
Yeah, there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of that where Justin always is checking, “Can X say ‘shit’ or ‘damn’?”
So, I’m just, like, “Okay.” I’m, like, “Okay, I can do this.” So, yeah, a lot of it ‑‑ I would say a lot of it I’ve played with, but most of what you see is, like, a mixture of me playing, and the amazing, wonderful script that we have combined. That’s what you’ll see a lot within the show.
JUSTIN SPITZER: Yeah. We always like to think of, like, the jokes in the script are a safety net, you know? It won’t get worse than that line, and to whatever extent that the actors can improve it, I always want to encourage that. And that’s something that was very important to me, even in casting this. You know, I’ve worked with Jon on “Superstore”; I’ve worked with Humphrey years ago on another pilot. I knew they were amazing improvisers. Obviously, Ana was, from her years on “SNL,” and other things. And some of the other cast we’ve played with in the audition even a little, and I was aware of your guys’ talent, too. So, you know, I love when the actors beat the jokes that are on the page; I love when the actors even rework the lines to make it natural in their mouth to make it the best joke, the best line.
QUESTION: And then, Justin, we know that you’ve worked with Jon in “Superstore.” What was it about this role that made him right for “American Auto”?
JUSTIN SPITZER: I mean, obviously, I would work with Jon on anything. He’s, like, aside from being a delight to work with, just hilarious. You know, there were so many times on “Superstore,” you know, if there was a scene he was in, and it wasn’t working, and I didn’t know how to get out of it, I would say to the editor, like, “Just check through Jon’s improv, like, if he has an ad‑lib, we could, like, go in, and then, that’ll get us out of it.” So, I wasn’t writing the role specifically for him. It, actually, probably felt different from him on the page.
And Jon, I think we were talking ‑‑ I think it was the episode I directed of “Superstore,” and you had just recently reread the script ‑‑ that was the week it got picked up ‑‑ and you said you liked it, and it was, like, “Oh, man, I would ‑‑ if you could come aboard.” Then, I just felt bad about taking you away from “Superstore,” potentially, and had to have the big talk with the guys over there. But, yeah, I love Jon, and I think he’s amazing in this role.
JON BARINHOLTZ: That’s so nice of you to say. Yeah, I remember. I remember reading the script that week, and it was ‑‑ it was amazing. And I think it was, like, maybe written for, like, a little bit older of a role, but, yeah, it was ‑‑ I would jump at the opportunity ‑‑ right back at Justin ‑‑ to work with him on anything. He’s just such a great writer, and really ‑‑ really addresses the world honestly. And most importantly, he gives really good, wrap gifts, so…
I’m in it for the gifts. And the scripts are secondary, for me.
HARRIET DYER: You guys all got a car, right?
ANA GASTEYER: I’ve got a bike. I don’t know how to drive.
X MAYO: I’ve got a scooter; it’s got a little bell.
JUSTIN SPITZER: A funny little thing, also about Jon ‑‑ and this was not intentional, but on “Superstore,” he played, like, the most down‑and‑out ‑‑ like, the warehouse guy who ‑‑ like, whose car didn’t have doors, and he was homeless for a while, and now, we bring him over to this show where he is the most privileged and wealthy of all.
JON BARINHOLTZ: Yeah. I mean, the difference ‑‑ like, someone asked me, like, “What’s the difference between Marcus and Wesley?” And I think the answer is 58 million dollars.
QUESTION: Thank you all so much for your time.
ALL PANELISTS: Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: All right. We’re actually going to go to Steven Prusakowski next, and then, Suzanne, you will be on deck.
So, Steven, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hey, how are you doing? The show looks great. I can’t wait to watch.
My question is for Ana. I have one for Ana, and one for all.
So, you were on “SNL,” and then, it seems like you’ve been working continuously since you left the series.
What do you credit your success to, and what about “American Auto” attracted you to the series?
ANA GASTEYER: Gosh, I don’t know what to attribute my success to. I mean, obviously, “Saturday Night Live” is an insane launching pad, as my mother would say. Meaning, you know, the visibility is just nuts. I mean, you get recognized pretty quickly just for being in that cast. And then, just, honestly, hustling a lot of different angles. I mean, I’ve worked on Broadway; I’ve worked on television; I’ve worked, you know, wherever I can work. And I like working, so I’ve kept my nose to the grindstone, if you will.
“American Auto” ‑‑ you know, I’ve been waiting my entire career to be in my 50s. I’ve been waiting for this part since I was 30. So, you know ‑‑ and frankly, 10 years ago, this role wouldn’t have existed, I don’t think. And Justin ‑‑ or I guess he said he wrote it 10 years ago, but, I mean, within that range. I think just the opportunity to play a female CEO was really exciting to me because I like characters who are, sort of, lost in moral dilemma, and Katherine definitely is, as Justin said. I think she definitely personifies the aspirations to do right by the company, but maybe not always ‑‑ there can be a human sacrifice in that. And it’s just fun. It’s a fun gray area, comedically.
My best friend ‑‑ I told Justin this before ‑‑ has characterized the, sort of, ethos of the show as Americans being bad at being good, which I think is, kind of, really fun to play, you know? And, yeah, so, that’s ‑‑ I think that’s ‑‑ is that your question?
QUESTION: That’s my question. I have to say, I spoke to Kenan today, and now you, and as a big “SNL” fan, this is a dream come true. So, thank you so much for your time.
JON BARINHOLTZ: And I put in three different tapes for “SNL.” So, if you want to include someone associated with “SNL” that you’ve talked to.
QUESTION: Now, I have that connection, too. Thank you so much.
And one more question real quick. Are any of you big car fans, or do you actually drive?
X MAYO: Yeah.
QUESTION: Or it depends on, yeah, your type of auto reliance.
HUMPHREY KER: L.A. leaves little choice but to drive. There is no alternative.
TYE WHITE: Well, I’m from Michigan. So, yeah, I’ve been driving since I was 12.
JON BARINHOLTZ: My grandfather was one of the first used car salesmen in Chicago, because used cars are, like, a newer thing. And then, my great, great, great grandfather on my mom’s side was Studebakers.
X MAYO: Wow.
JON BARINHOLTZ: This is true: There are four Studebaker brothers, and Jacob was the one I’m a descendant of, and he was the one who thought cars weren’t going to take off, and he was, like, “I’m going to stick with farming.”
And I have the legacy of Studebakers.
ANA GASTEYER: It was the slower Studebaker; is that what you’re saying? You’re a descendant of the slower Studebaker. Got it.
I live in New York City, so I, pretty much, stopped it.
MATTHEW LIFSON: All right. Our next question ‑‑
TYE WHITE: Cars aren’t going to work. I don’t see it.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question comes from Suzanne Lanoue, and Bruce Miller on deck.
So, go ahead, Suzanne.
QUESTION: Hi. Good morning. Jon, my question is for you. Your character is so unlikable.
JON BARINHOLTZ: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED PANELIST: In real life. In real life.
QUESTION: Will we get to see him change and grow a little more this season, or show us a nicer side?
JON BARINHOLTZ: I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but I think all the characters, as we go throughout the season, we see people exist together more and more, and it really ‑‑ yeah, I think there is growth and change in everyone, but in that really, you know, pinpointed way, where we’re always able to reset and still be the same characters that you, kind of, you know, fell in love with, whether it’s fell in love with because of who they are, or fell in love to hate them, I think we all ‑‑ we strut that line pretty well throughout the season.
JUSTIN SPITZER: I was just going to say, I think he will become more likable. I think, you know, as the episodes go on, you want to start people with an edge, you know, or at least I like to. You know, I would never want to create characters that are all soft, all immediately too easily likeable. There’s no place to go. But, you know, I think we’ll see ‑‑ I can think of one or two, you know, moments of real vulnerability in Wesley, and when you see those moments, they give you little windows, and you empathize with them, and with all the characters, as we learn about them, we’ll grow to like all of them.
JON BARINHOLTZ: Yeah, I just want to change my answer to what Justin just said.
So, put his voice to my mouth.
QUESTION: Sure, I can do that. I enjoyed the first two episodes a lot. Thank you.
PANELISTS: Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question comes from Bruce Miller, and Rick Hong will be on deck.
So, Bruce, go for it.
QUESTION: This is for Jon, too. Jon, when you’re on a big show like “Superstore,” what do you do when you’re not on camera? Are you trying to be seen so that you can get a bigger role, or what is that process like?
JON BARINHOLTZ: Wait. What do you ‑‑ do you mean, like ‑‑ in what way do you mean? Do you mean, like, literally, like, off the camera, but still in the scene, or is it, like, I’m just, like, hanging out in my trailer?
QUESTION: Because on “Superstore,” you guys were around a lot; you could see you in the background and doing things. And would you just try to, like, “I’ll be a little more active here, so, then, they’ll pick me to be in more scenes”?
JON BARINHOLTZ: I would show up on days when I wasn’t even scheduled to come in, and I would come in in uniform. No.
JUSTIN SPITZER: You’re background for the first season, right?
JON BARINHOLTZ: Yeah. I just yell things. I steal a mic and put it on me. No, I think I know what you mean. It’s in these big, like, ensemble shows with workplaces, I think the best thing you could do is just, kind of, exist there. And, like “Superstore,” I think this is a world that when we were all there, we felt very much of this world. We were in this office; we were people who worked there. And just a testament to how good, really, everyone on the screen is, and our BG&R show is so great, and it allows a sense of ‑‑ the looseness allows a sense of play, and us to, you know, kind of, take things wherever we think they may go, as long as it’s in a place of ‑‑ coming from a place of honesty. So, I guess, that just the long way of saying that as long as we’re playing it real, there’s no, like, fudging your way in to, like, get more lines, or anything like that, but I think there’s always an opportunity to toss a little extra something in, and, again, it’s because, like X said, that’s how good the writing is here, that it’s such a strong foundation of us to, kind of, jump off and play in. Whether you have one line in the scene, or thirty lines in the scene, it really ‑‑ it gives that safety net.
ANA GASTEYER: And for sure ‑‑ I’m going to jump in. It’s not my question, but just to say that, especially NBC has developed these really ‑‑ this ethos of a workplace comedy as the sense of the ensemble and the workplace being the star, but for me, that was part of the attraction. Like, not having to carry something so much all by myself. I love working with other people. So many of us come from improvisation and, you know, ensemble backgrounds, that it’s critical that you work as a team. That’s actually what ends up being the most fun.
And I remember ‑‑ actually, not being gross and, like, mention my last credit, but I did this show called “People of Earth,” and there were these group therapy sessions. And every year, like, the showrunner would be, like, “We’re going to try to not have as many group therapy sessions. I know they’re long days,” and I was, like, “But that’s the best part of show.” Like, the best part of the show is when you’re hanging with your colleagues and all improvising together. To me, that’s, you know ‑‑ sorry. Did I kill the fun?
X MAYO: No.
TYE WHITE: Never.
ANA GASTEYER: That’s what my theater games taught me.
HARRIET DYER: Never, Ana.
JON BARINHOLTZ: No, but it’s true. When you have, like ‑‑ like, on “Superstore,” I wasn’t a regular, but you had this cast of regulars that were amazing, and would allow for play to happen. I think like ‑‑ I feel we have the same thing on our show, where we had people come in, and it would just ‑‑ they may have, like, one or two lines in the scene, but there was always the opportunity to play, and we got so much more out of ourselves, and so much more out of these people who would come in and be these phenomenal guests on our show. So, there’s more of that that goes along with that, you know?
MATTHEW LIFSON: Our next question is from Rick Hong, and then, our final question will be from Francine Brokaw.
So, Rick, go for it.
QUESTION: Hello, everybody. Well, Jon, since you brought up Chicago, I just want to say, “Whazzup?”
JON BARINHOLTZ: Whazzup?
QUESTION: Okay. So, actually, for everybody. What was it like seeing the Ponderosa from script in your mind, to going to set and seeing the thing actually built? What is it made of?
HUMPRHEY KER: Many different cars.
TYE WHITE: Yeah, it was, like, a smorgasbord of different car pieces put together. And I remember the first time I saw it, I just busted out laughing because you just have to ‑‑ when you see it, there’s no choice but to laugh. Like, how did they assemble this vehicle? Like, literally. Not just in terms of the show, but in real life, what made them grab these different pieces to put this car together? So, I just laughed, like, uncontrollably. And the color. The color, too. Like, it’s such a bright red that, like, it’s usually reserved for, like, Ferraris, and things like that. It was, like, it’s so obnoxious to put that red on that car. Yeah, it’s so good. It’s red.
JUSTIN SPITZER: It was a very difficult needle to thread, that one. I mean, on the page you’re, like, “Oh, they put together something,” and then, there’s a reveal, and it looks, like, crazy. And then, you do it, and then, it’s got to be crazy enough to be a bad idea, and for the comedy to play, but, like, these are smart, sensible, competent people who’ve worked at a car company, or who know cars. So, it’s true crazy, you know? Currently, there’s acknowledgement that it’s bad, but, like, at a certain level, you’d be, like, this is insane.
So, it was hard to find that level of grounded, but still funny. And, yeah, the set is amazing. The guys were constructing it, and we’d go down and try to give notes. And I know nothing about cars, so I’d be, like, “Yeah, something like that.” And I’d look on my phone for, like, pictures, and ‑‑ I don’t know. But, yeah, it turned out good.
QUESTION: Congrats to you all. Thank you so much.
PANELISTS: Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: And our final question comes from Francine Brokaw. Francine, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you hear me?
MATTHEW LIFSON: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. This has happened twice. You’ve called on Francine, but you’ve unmuted me, and I’m Luaine Lee. So, I’m going to go ahead and ask my question.
So, Ana, is it true you don’t know how to drive?
ANA GASTEYER: My character doesn’t know how to drive. I do drive, but I live in New York City, so I don’t do it a lot, and my family doesn’t like it when I do it. Let me just say that. And I didn’t learn to ‑‑ actually, this is even worse. I learned to ride a bike in ‑‑ I grew up, like, in the city‑city, in Washington D.C., and I wasn’t allowed to cross the street on my bike. So, I learned to ride a bike. And then, I’m the one example that the adage is not true. I forgot. I forgot how to ride a bike. And my husband didn’t believe me, and I got on one, and I immediately ran into a mailbox and hurt myself badly. And then, later, I took bike‑riding classes. So, I’m not very comfortable with things on wheels, is what I’m trying to say.
QUESTION: Well, my question is, how did you learn to drive? Who taught you, and what was that like?
ANA GASTEYER: In real life?
ANA GASTEYER: My mother taught me. I grew up on Capitol Hill in D.C., and she taught me in rush‑hour traffic, with a clutch car, going uphill. So, that might be why I don’t like to drive. Let me say, she’s not great under stress.
QUESTION: I have the same question for Michael. How did you learn to drive, Michael? What was it like?
MICHAEL B. WASHINGTON: I learned to drive ‑‑ my parents were reared in Louisiana in backwoods dirt roads. So, when I was 10 ‑‑ this is, like, right after my 10th birthday. We went down to my grandparents’ house, and my dad put me on his lap and just said, “Start steering,” and then, he slid out from under me ‑‑ because I was, kind of, tall, so my foot hit the pedal, and I just started ‑‑ and he got terrified. I mean, because it’s dirt roads, but there still are trees and things. Because “Dukes of Hazard” was my favorite TV show.
And I asked him, like, “Can I just please get in the car through the window, like the Duke boys?” And he’s, like, “No. No, you’ll ruin the paint.” So, I learned to drive after, you know, my 10th birthday.
HUMPRHEY KER: Is that why you still have a Confederate flag in your trailer?
MICHAEL B. WASHINGTON: Oh, that’s what we call British humor.
ANA GASTEYER: That’s British humor.
MICHAEL B. WASHINGTON: And I deal with that 13 hours a day.
ANA GASTEYER: It means something different over there. It means something different.
HUMPRHEY KER: It’s very different. It’s a very different ‑‑
ANA GASTEYER: It’s a popular pub sign. That’s it, right?
HUMPRHEY KER: I saw Michael’s trailer door open, and there it was.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MATTHEW LIFSON: Thank you. If Francine wants to ask a question ‑‑ I feel bad.
ANA GASTEYER: Francine, Francine, Francine.
HARRIET DYER: Francine.
MATTHEW LIFSON: We’ll have to get to the bottom of that on our end. But thank you to our panelists. That concludes our session for “American Auto.” We’ll take a short break, and get back up at 11:30 with SYFY’s “Astrid & Lilly Save the World.”
Here is the audio version of it.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Previews: Monday, Dec. 13 on NBC (10-10:30 and 10:30-11 p.m. ET); Moves to Tuesdays (8-8:30 p.m. ET) beginning Jan. 4
From the creator of “Superstore” comes a new workplace comedy that takes the wheels off the automobile industry. Set in Detroit, the corporate executives of Payne Motors are at a crossroads: adapt to the changing times or be sent to the junkyard. Shaking things up is the new CEO, whose leadership, experience and savvy is only slightly offset by her complete lack of knowledge about cars. Luckily, her team has some of the best minds in the business – when they aren’t fighting or trying to outwit each other. From the corporate office to the factory floor, the crew of Payne Motors is driving home the laughs.
The cast includes Ana Gasteyer, Harriet Dyer, Jon Barinholtz, Humphrey Ker, Michael B. Washington, Tye White and X Mayo.
Justin Spitzer (“Superstore”) will write and executive produce. Jeff Blitz will direct and executive produce the pilot episode. Aaron Kaplan and Dana Honor will executive produce.
“American Auto” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Spitzer Holding Company, Kapital Entertainment.
Katherine, “American Auto
During her six years on “Saturday Night Live,” Gasteyer created several iconic characters, including middle school music teacher Bobbie Moughan-Culp, NPR radio host Margaret Jo, Lilith Fair poetess Cinder Calhoun, as well as spot-on impressions of Martha Stewart, Celine Dion and Hillary Clinton.
This holiday season Comedy Central will premiere “A Clüsterfünke Christmas,” which Gasteyer and fellow “SNL” alum Rachel Dratch wrote, executive produced and star. The special is a parody of the corny and ubiquitous traditional holiday TV movie. Previous TV credits include “The Goldbergs,” “Lady Dynamite, “People of Earth,” “Suburgatory and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
On stage, Gasteyer has starred on Broadway in “Wicked” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Royal Family” and “Three Penny Opera.” Other stage credits include “Funny Girl” and “Passion” at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which earned her a Jefferson Award nomination. At the Hollywood Bowl, she played Miss Hannigan in the musical “Annie.”
Gasteyer is also a highly accomplished singer and songwriter. This winter she’ll embark on a Christmas tour in support of “Sugar and Booze,” her recent album of seasonal favorites and holiday originals.
Gasteyer attended Northwestern University and honed her comedy skills at the Groundlings in Los Angeles. She resides on the East Coast with her husband, children and rescue pup, Gloria.
Sadie, “American Auto”
Dyer most recently starred in the NBC drama series “The Inbetween,” appeared in the sec-ond season of the CBS’ All Access comedy “No Activity” and co-starred in the feature film “The Invisible Man,” opposite Elizabeth Moss.
A native of Australia, Dyer’s other television credits include local series “The Other Guy,” “No Activity,” “The Letdown,” “Kiki & Kitty,” “Black Comedy,” “Rake,” “Janet King” and “Love Child.” She’s earned her a Logie Award nomination for Most Outstanding Supporting Actress and two 2015 Logie Award nominations as well as the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Out-standing Newcomer and the Most Popular New Talent Award. Dyer has also received an AACTA Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Drama.
Dyer’s film credits include “Killing Ground,” which premiered at the 2016 Melbourne Interna-tional Film Festival and screened at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival; “Down Under,” which premiered at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival; and “Ruben Guthrie,” which opened the 2015 Sydney Film Festival.
Harriet has also appeared on stage in “A Flea in Her Ear,” “Hay Fever,” “Travelling North,” “Machinal” and “Pygmalion” for the Sydney Theatre Company; “Brisbane” for the Queens-land Theatre Company; “Peter Pan” for Belvoir; “Time Stands Still” for the Darlinghurst Thea-tre; “Suddenly Last Summer” for the National Art School; and “The School for Wives” for the Bell Shakespeare Company. In 2013, she made her Broadway debut in “Peter Pan” at New York’s New Victory Theatre.
Dyer received the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Leading Role in a Main-stage Production for her performance in “Machinal” with the Sydney Theatre Company, and was nominated for the same award for her role in “The School for Wives” for the Bell Shake-speare Company.
She graduated from the Actors Centre Australia in 2011.
Michael Benjamin Washington
Cyrus, “American Auto”
Washington most recently reprised his role of Bernard from the Tony Award-winning revival of “The Boys in the Band” in Netflix’s feature adaptation. He can previously be seen opposite Cynthia Nixon in Ryan Murphy’s “Ratched” and has had roles in “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
On stage, Washington wowed audiences and critics in 2019 with a tour-de-force performance playing 25 different characters in the revival of Anna Deavere Smith’s landmark 1992 one-person show, “Fires in the Mirror.” He also wrote and starred in “Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin,” which premiered regionally at La Jolla Playhouse and KC Rep in 2015.
Dori, “American Auto”
She is an Emmy Award-nominated actor, writer, producer and comedian known for her work on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” Her other credits include supporting roles in Amazon’s “Yearly Departed” and the dramatic feature “The Farewell.”
Mayo is also the creator and host of “Who Made the Potato Salad?,” a sketch comedy show/party starring BIPOC creatives and talent.
Wesley, “American Auto”
Barinholtz is an actor and improvisor born and raised in Chicago, and a proud alum of the Second City Conservatory, iO, the Annoyance Theater and Steppenwolf Theater.
He is the creator, writer and voice on Netflix’s animated series “Chicago Party Aunt.” Previously, he was in the cast of NBC’s “Superstore.” Other credits include “Veep,” “With Bob and David,” “The Mindy Project,” “Key and Peele,” “New Girl,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Happy Endings” and the indie feature “The Oath,” co-starring Tiffany Haddish, John Cho, Meredith Hagner and Ike Barinholtz.
Jack, “American Auto”
White is best known for his role as Kevin Satterlee on OWN’s hit series “Greeneleaf.” Other TV credits include “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Chicago Fire” and “American Crime Story.”
He hails from Detroit and resides in Los Angeles.
Executive Producer, “American Auto”
Justin Spitzer is the creator and executive producer of the NBC comedy series “American Auto.” Prior to that, he created and executive produced “Superstore,” which ran on NBC for six seasons, wrapping in 2021.
His other credits include seven seasons writing for and producing the NBC comedy “The Office,” as well as stints on “Scrubs,” “Committed,” “Courting Alex” and “Mulaney.”
He resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Jenna Bans, and daughters Lucy and Phoebe.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
Back to the Primetime Articles and Interviews Page