The Bored to Death Cast Celebrates Its 10-Year Anniversary

By Ashley Morton

Hard to believe, but it’s been 10 years since the premiere of Jonathan Ames’ series about a noir-loving writer moonlighting as a detective. In celebration of the anniversary, the 2017 Vulture Festival hosted a panel featuring stars Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson, along with series creator Jonathan Ames.

Although he shares the name of his lead character, Ames made it clear the performance was not based on himself. The creator explained that whenever he wrote fiction, “People would say, ‘Why don’t you call it memoir?’ And then when I would write non-fiction they’d say, ‘Oh, you made that up,’” he recalled. “So I decided to write a story that was made-up, using my name.”

The original short story was fairly dark, so when adapting the piece for television, Ames joked he realized he needed to give his protagonist friends. Ray (played by Galifianakis) was based on an illustrator/cartoonist friend of Ames’.

Galifianakis credited Ames for allowing Ray to become more than just a walking gag. “Jonathan allowed those other sides to be seen,” he said. “People have more depth and he wanted to show that ... I come from an improv background, but the show didn’t need it. It’s so finely written.”

Ted Danson’s character had a different origin story. “I had this evening in Italy with [author] Christopher Hitchens, drinking prosecco late at night,” recalled Ames. “He was so fascinating and articulate. I thought, ‘There’s never been a character quite like him on TV.’ At the time I was also fascinated by [journalist] George Plimpton, who I had come to know a little bit, so I brought together George Plimpton and Christopher Hitchens to make George Christopher.”

Danson himself said he was thrilled to be on the series, particularly because of its location. “I think for anyone who starts out as an actor in New York, going back and shooting in New York is very exciting,” he said. “Also, I don’t know if the character started out this way, but George didn’t want to be left out of anything, and that was pretty much exactly where I was at that time.”

The series’ Brooklyn setting was always a key feature of the show. “Jonathan really did react to the environment,” Schwartzman shared. “Because we shot there, because he lived there, it was wonderful to learn the city through him. I remember we walked everywhere, he would point to things, and it was an incredible thing to watch his relationship with the place and how it inspired him.” Ames laughingly recalled meeting a real estate agent who used the show’s shooting locations as a “selling point.”

From their chemistry and fond memories, it was clear how happy the panelists were to be back together. “It was a very ambitious show,” Schwartzman said.

“It had a lot of things in it, night shoots, and so on. And I remember always being so exhausted when I got home. I had really just exerted everything. And I’d wake up in the morning ... just so depleted,” recalled Schwartzman. “And then it would enter my mind: I get to see Zach and Ted today, and Jonathan. And it totally invigorated and excited me, because you never knew what was going to happen. It was a good group of people.”

Every episode of Bored to Death is available now.