Since securing the role of Richard Splett in the award-winning and widely acclaimed Veep, Sam Richardson has rapidly cemented his position as one of comedy’s most reliable players.
The Afterparty, a murder mystery comedy about a high school reunion, is another feather in his hat of hilarity. Each episode has a unique style and examines the night’s events from a different character’s perspective.
The killer ensemble cast boasts Tiffany Haddish, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, and Jamie Demetriou, as well as Richardson himself. I caught up with him to discuss the Apple TV+ project, his high school life, and his deep love of British comedy.
Simon Thompson: The Afterparty‘s ensemble cast is first class. Who did you know was already on board when you signed on?
Sam Richardson: I came in pretty early but not early in the conception. The Afterparty is an idea that Chris Miller had ten years ago and at first, it was a film, and then it became a show. When I got involved, I knew Ike Barinholtz would be in it, and Ben Schwartz may be. The cast started to fill up, and with every name that I would hear, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s brilliant.’ All these people I love in every individual performance they have given were saying yes, people like Jamie Demetriou, who I loved in Stath Lets Flats. Getting to know him and work alongside and off him was a dream. Pun intended because I can’t lie and say this is not a pun, but this is a murderer’s row of killer comedians and actors.
Thompson: I’m dying to know how you discovered Stath Lets Flats.
Richardson: I love British comedy. Are You Being Served is a show that I grew up watching. My dad loved Are You Being Served and Keeping Up Appearances. I watched a whole load of Father Ted and then later on My Hero because I love Ardal O’Hanlon. Knowing how popular Stath Lets Flats is, there was no way I was going to miss it, and then watching it, I was like, ‘Oh, this is just genius.’ I was so excited to work with Jamie.
Thompson: The Afterparty is set at a high school reunion, so getting that chemistry and dynamic right is key. How many of you knew each other already? Did you even have that to work with?
Richardson: We didn’t have much time to work on chemistry among us. I knew Ilana Glazer and Ike a little, but I barely knew Ben, and I had never met Zoë Chao. I knew John early, and I kind of knew Tiffany. Everything happened at the height of the pandemic. We started this show in September or October 2020, so we’re in full lockdown. We didn’t even have table reads in person, all that was on Zoom. Being on set for the first time was where we found our match for each other many times. Everybody was such a brilliant actor, and so friendly and personable that the friendships and the relationships came quickly. Also, we were so excited to see other people than the insides of our houses that we were so starved for friendship that it was to the benefit of the show.
Thompson: It’s funny to talk about Jamie. We’re British, so we have grown up in a very different cultural space when it comes to things like high school reunions, and there certain things in this that were totally alien to him. Did he talk to you guys about that at all? Did you give him the 101 on high school life?
Richardson: Yeah, and also, it made it so cool to watch his interpretation of what high school is or was based on movies and stuff. I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, but before that, I went to a small Quaker elementary and middle school, so I also had these dreams of what high school would be. It ended up not matching, so it’s fun to do a high school show where you’re playing those stereotypes of it a little bit. With Jamie, he’s coming in being purely out of this experience. He’s also playing Walt, who, as a character, is a few levels detached from the experience anyway. He’s not participatory. He’s outside looking in, to a degree, but wanting so desperately to be in there. I think that added a level of malapropism to his character.
Thompson: Have you ever been to a high school reunion?
Richardson: I have not, and I honestly want to because I liked everybody I went to high school with. I had a good time in high school, but I’ve always been working, so I’ve missed them. This year would be my 20th high school reunion, although I’m assuming it’s not going to happen, and that’s a bummer.
Thompson: What are you like in high school?
Richardson: I was pretty chill. I did a lot of theater, but I was also on debate and did Model UN. I played soccer for a minute. I threw shot put for a minute. I did a lot of things. I was in the liturgical choir and show choir. I did a lot of stuff. I was on the Student Council, but I was also a very bad student. I wouldn’t do homework ever. (Laughs) I was doing too many other things.
Thompson: You have a knack for picking projects that turn out to be excellent pieces of work. You did Veep, Detroiters, and were recently in Werewolves Within and Ted Lasso. What is the sniff test that helps you know something is good?
Richardson: There are two things. I have an optimism when I read something. I’m like, ‘Oh, that can be terrific.’ I have to stop myself from doing that with everything I read. I’m constantly questioning myself. When I read the script, I want to make sure I’m laughing or intrigued by things throughout, and I have to make sure I don’t just like one thing in it. I have to make sure I like many things. If you don’t do that, you trick yourself, and then you’re in a pot of doo-doo.
Thompson: I touched on Ted Lasso. Are we going to see your character return? He certainly made an impact.
Richardson: I don’t know, but I certainly hope so. Hopefully, I’ll know soon. Edwin Akufo drops in there all charm and glitz and then leaves all thunder and sh*ts. He’s certainly a fun character to play and a fun world to play. Jason Sudeikis and I have been pals for a long time, and the same with Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly. Joe and I created Detroiters together, so there’s certainly a family bond in there. Anytime they call me, I’ll show up, and I’ll do anything they want.
The Afterparty lands on Apple TV+ on Friday, January 28, 2022.