Is Canada ushering in a new age of television comedy? Andrew De Angelis sure hopes so. After writing for Mr. D, 18 to Life, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Orphan Black, De Angelis takes the reins on his own show, What Would Sal Do?
The eight-episode half-hour Super Channel comedy—about an entitled underachiever who is challenged to be a good person when he discovers he’s the Second Coming of Christ—begins production in Sudbury, Ont., this summer. De Angelis reveals how Sal came to be, his hope for sitcoms in Canada and how working with Mark Forward and Alex Levine has made him a better writer.
Let’s go back to the beginning: how did the idea for What Would Sal Do? come about?
Andrew De Angelis: The show actually came from two ideas in my head. One was just this thought of if there was a Second Coming, how would it go in today’s world? What would the difficulties be? I’ve also been fascinated with the entitled generation who are raised—mine included—spoiled rotten and they just think they’re great and that everything they do is wonderful. Once they’re adults they’ll realize how ill-prepared for the world they are.
So, I wanted to have this Second Coming where his mother knew what he would become and spoiled him rotten and let him believe that he was perfect and infallible. Now he’s in his 30s and he’s just an asshole. He’s spoiled and entitled and does not have the tools he needs to do this job that is to be the best person in the world—to be the kindest, most forgiving person in the world—because he doesn’t know what that means. But he’s going to try and do it because his mom asked him to do it but also because he’s in a place where he realizes he’s done nothing with his life and he’s looking for a purpose.
Everything goes badly.
Do you touch on religion at all?
There are elements of it because it’s hard not to do it without addressing religion but the show is not about any of that. You could strip away all of the Second Coming business and it’s about a guy who has been spoiled rotten by his mom and she is at a point where she tells him, ‘That’s enough. You have to step up now.’
If shows like this and Letterkenny do well, maybe things will open up. I think this is the direction we need to go in. Take chances, what have we got to lose?
How did you become involved with Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan over at New Metric Media and have them come on board as producers?
Mark and I have been friends for awhile, since we got out of the Canadian Film Centre. He contacted me just because he wanted to meet up. He was just starting out as an independent producers and wanted to build up this stable of comedy writers to work with. We met up and hit it off; he’s hard working and driven. And one of the first things I ever showed him was this idea and he responded to it right away. Mark’s been the driving force behind this being made. We’ve had a lot of no’s because of the content and he never gave up. We’ve been pushing ever since and believing in it and, luckily, Super Channel believed too.
What’s your take on the TV industry in Canada? Do you think it’s an old guy’s club as some have stated?
I for sure got that vibe for awhile, but I can’t say that now because I’m getting a chance. Until this show was put into development, I felt the same way. The same people getting the same development deals … there was nothing new or exciting. From here we’ll see what happens. Maybe things are changing. If shows like this and Letterkenny do well, maybe things will open up. I think this is the direction we need to go in. Take chances, what have we got to lose?
Super Channel seems like the perfect proving ground for a new show like this or Too Much Information or more established comedy like Tiny Plastic Men.
They were our white knight. Everyone told us no, and here comes Super Channel saying, ‘Let’s do it.’ They are fully aware of the content and are pushing us to make it better. They’ve given me so much hope for this entire industry.
You guys are heading up to Sudbury, Ont., to start production soon. Where are you at in the process?
We’re pretty heavy into casting. The eight scripts are written and we’re going through them with our director, Samir Rehem, right up until the cameras roll. Casting is going very well; there is a lot of great talent in Canada.
I learned there is a huge difference between what’s funny on the page and what is actually going to make people laugh.
Let’s talk about the writer’s room. I know Mark Forward was in there with you … who else?
Mark was in there with Kurt Smeaton. They were my full-time writers. And then I had consultants who would come in. I had my brother, Mark, and Alex Levine, who was on Orphan Black. That’s the thing, funny comes from good story and good conflict and that’s drama. Alex has been a huge help. We also had Steve Dylan and Josh Gal. Brandy Hewitt was our story editor.
Mark is a comic and Kurt has done a lot of improv and I learned there is a huge difference between what’s funny on the page and what is actually going to make people laugh. These guys know what it’s like to be on stage and have people genuinely laugh. It’s not enough to be clever or cute on the page. You really have to push it and find the funny.
Mark is so good when it comes to the writing. He’s always the guy to say, ‘Why?’ He’s got a nose for bullshit and it’s good to have someone in the room like that who can call you out on your shit. It’s frustrating because he’s so good at it, but in the end you come out with something that’s bulletproof.
Talk about shooting in Sudbury. Are you looking forward to it?
I am. I’m excited about going up there and showing off Sudbury too. Sal is set in Sudbury; he lives in Sudbury. I think that it’s important for all shows in Canada. All of the great shows, you know where they are geographically, Canadian or otherwise. You knew Cheers was in Boston, Frasier was in Seattle, Golden Girls was Florida, Roseanne was just outside of Chicago. It’s important to give your show a place on a map. I think it grounds it. You don’t have to hit people over the head about it.
You mentioned the Canadian Film Centre before. You were there as a story editor on Orphan Black when it was being workshopped. Did the CFC help you, specifically, with your career?
It was huge. More than anything, working with Graeme Manson, we knew we were lucky then before it was even a TV show. What the CFC does so well … everyone in this industry that you should know and meet, they bring them to you. When you’re done, everyone knows who you are.
What Would Sal Do? will air on Super Channel.