By showrunner Jeff Lowell (The ranch) and director Andy Fickman (Paul Blart: Mall Police 2), the Netflix comedy series The gang follows NASCAR crew chief Kevin Gibson (Kevin James), which is even older than new. When the owner (Bruce McGill) of Bobby Spencer Racing resigns and passes the team to his daughter (Jillian mueller), Kevin and the rest of the crew must figure out how to adapt to all their changes, so they don’t become irrelevant and replaceable.
During a virtual tour of the new series, Collider had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with Kevin James, who is also an executive producer on the project, about how to make his first workplace comedy, embrace the NASCAR element, his desire to be a part of all aspects of doing the show, the advantage of playing a character who also shares his own name, and the ease of chemistry with this set dynamic.
Collider: With all the success you’ve had with sitcoms, where is your bar set when it comes to finding something that interests you enough to sign a new one?
KEVIN JAMES: I’ve never done a workplace comedy before, and then there was the added element, which was very challenging at first and I was like, “I don’t know if I can make that fun of it,” it was NASCAR. He didn’t know enough about that world. It’s amazing. Actually, it was because of that and learning about the world that made him so rich not just with comedy ideas, but with all ideas. The ideas just flowed from this because there are so many parts of this business and that world that I didn’t know about and that people can relate to and don’t think they can’t. People think, “I don’t know NASCAR,” but it doesn’t matter. It is also a work comedy. It is a team and it is a family. There really is something for everyone. It’s just a fun outing for me. It’s a fun platform, for all of us to be there, competing and me trying to unite this team to win and continue effectively while being controlled by new technology and a new boss. Many changes are happening and they also affect me on a human level. It is simply a great platform. If you are feeling creative, you can play with the ideas and have fun with them. That’s what gets me going and I’m excited to do it.
As an executive producer on this as well, how involved do you get involved and what areas do you like to get involved in the most?
JAMES: Everyone. Honestly, I love getting my hands on everything. Jeff Lowell, who created it, is a great producer. We have a great writing team and it makes you feel comfortable. Our director, Andy Fickman, and all of us together, we have put together a great team. The cast is amazing and we’ve sourced them from everywhere. I participated in everything, but they checked all the boxes. It was so cool. It makes it fun, it really does. We really feel like a real family.
You recently took a career detour to make the movie. Becky. What was it like to take on a role as intense as that? What made you want to do that?
JAMES: It was just to do something different. For me, it’s about connecting with the director and connecting with the director’s story. I thought it was a cheesy, cool, fun movie, and the people I worked with there were great. Collaborating with great people is what excites me. If it’s a good story and it’s different, I feel like I want to try it.
In both Kevin can wait Y The gang, you are playing a character named Kevin, as well as being named Kevin. Does that ever get weird on set? Have you ever felt that you are getting confused with the character?
JAMES: No, it’s funny because they called me Doug on the street all the time, from The king of queens. So, I was like, “Okay, Kevin is great. At least if they recognize me, they’ll call me Kevin, instead of some other name. “But now, I go back and forth. I say,” I don’t want to be called Kevin on the show. “People would say,” Do it. “It felt like natural and it was fine. It was one less thing. I’m a little slow, when people say a different name, to turn my head and look. Kevin makes it easier.
I love that this NASCAR team is a royal family that relies on each other to get the job done. What are some of your favorite memories filmed this season with that set?
JAMES: It really is a great group from all walks of life. Girls Are From Broadway – Sarah [Stiles] and Jillian [Mueller]. Y [Ahdoot] is in Cobra Kai and it has been a stand-up. Gary [Anthony Williams] it’s amazing at improv and it’s been a lot of things. They are talented people, from all different areas. Freddie [Stroma] he’s just a good crazy actor, and it turns out he’s British. It’s this eclectic group of people that is so much fun. We constantly hang out. We really enjoy each other’s company. This is how you know. Chemistry is the most important variable when you are filming a comedy. The story can be great and you can get all the people who seem to be right, and then the chemistry just isn’t there. With this, we were in two episodes and it felt like season 3. We hit a beat and it felt natural and easy.
What is your own personal indicator for doing something fun? Whether it’s a specific line delivery or a joke or a total improv, do you fancy it pretty quick if it’s working?
JAMES: Yeah, but then you can be stunned and people don’t like it. For me, it’s honestly having talented people around me, like the writers we have. I trust them and they are great. They will take me in new directions. You can get too familiar with making a delivery the same way you always would, and they’ll say, “Try it this way.” Normally I’d say, “No, I want to do it my way, so it’s mine.” But I go with them and open new things. That can be a lot more fun or more fun than it had, for sure.
When you’re so excited and passionate about something, and you sound like you’re personally inspired, are there ideas for future seasons yet?
JAMES: That’s exactly it. He didn’t want to play a character who feels claustrophobic at work or at home, or who is having trouble with his marriage. That’s what I didn’t want to do again. I felt like I had. I just wanted something where the problems here are endless and it’s not just me. All of these characters are great characters, and you’re really following them and what’s going on with them. The game changes all the time. That is what inspired me.
The gang is available to stream on Netflix.
A round of jam to celebrate!
About the Author