Interview: ‘A.P. Bio’ Stars Eddie Leavy and Sari Arambulo on Their Auditions and Working With Patton Oswalt and Glenn Howerton

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“I think for us it was just such a profound learning experience seeing his process, seeing how he, you know, approached the material. He would do things differently every take, same with Patton.” – Eddie Leavy on working with Glenn Howerton

Eddie Leavy and Sari Arambulo star in NBC’s new comedy, A.P. Bio, about a Harvard philosophy professor (Glenn Howerton) who reluctantly moves back to Ohio to work as a high school biology teacher. The show, which also stars Patton Oswalt, features a cast of up-and-coming young actors (including  Leavy and Arambulo) as honor roll students who make life difficult for Howerton’s character.

Leavy and Arambulo chat about their auditions for the show, if they like playing characters that resemble themselves, working with Howerton and Oswalt and the worst teachers they had in school.

I’d love to hear about your audition for the show.  What was it like?

Eddie Leavy: Yes so I our experiences were similar yet different.  I had one audition for the majority of the creative team.  The casting directors were there, Mike O’Brien the creator was there.  Some of the other executive producers were there.  So they were all in one room.

And again I thought it had, you know, really went well.  And it was a really quick turnaround, you know, I auditioned.  I think I found out in a day or two that they wanted to cast me as the part of Anthony.

And then the next week I remember we had a rehearsal with our director Oz Rodriguez.  And we, you know, started shooting shortly thereafter.  So it was a pretty painless audition process which is not normally the case.  So it was awesome and, you know it was a lot of fun.

Sari Arambulo: So for me it was actually pretty similar to Eddie’s situation just slightly different.  I came on after the pilot was shot.  So my audition sites were from this episode that’s actually going to air tonight, Dating Toledoans.  And I remember it was, like, two pages, super short and sweet.  I went in, saw the casting directors that I kind of previously knew from another project.

And yes just read it once, was on tape with casting, left and then I had, like, two other auditions that day so it was kind of just out of my mind.  I wasn’t really thinking about it and then I remember finding out literally the next morning that I booked the role.  And then I was on set three days later so it was really great to have such a short and sweet audition process.  I loved it.

Eddie Leavy: And if I may add for you how it’s really interesting to see sort of the evolution of our characters as this moves on.  Obviously, you know, when they’re auditioning in the beginning they sort of are – they have an idea what the characters may be like but, you know, they sort of let the characters evolve when they cast the actor.

And I know initially my character of Anthony was supposed to be this very sort of nerdy, sort of Lord of the Rings obsessed type of character.  And then Mike O’Brien the creator after we had wrapped the pilot he just sort of saw who I was and saw me at the wrap party and he was, like, you know, “I just saw who you were in real life and we decided we needed to take Anthony in, you know, a little bit of a different direction that’s just more true to who you are.”

So it’s really interesting how, you know, characters or the idea of a character can sort of start off one way but then when the actor is cast in a role they can sort of bring them to life and then it can sort of go in a different direction.

So it’s been really cool to see that process and to get the script every week and just see how, you know, we, you know, sort of are intertwining with our characters was a lot of fun.

Is it easier for you to play a character who’s more closely aligned to you?

Eddie Leavy: Well yes I mean definitely.  I mean Anthony definitely is probably a little more blunt and honest than I am in real life.  But it’s definitely a lot of fun to feel, like, you see yourself in the character and to just bring it to life.  And it just gives you a level of comfortability.

Again we shot this show for 3 1/2 months.  And I think we just got to know these characters so well and we were able to have a level of comfortability on set where we were able just to play, you know, every week we had a director but we were able to just play with the director and bounce off each other’s energy.

Sari Arambulo: Yes I just, like, want to bounce off that.  I think that we really were so lucky and blessed to have these writers who really almost tailored the characters to our personalities and kind of got to see, like, they saw us as people.  And they kind of translated that into our characters which is really great.

Like for example all I really knew about Grace is that she was just sweet in the classroom, cute girl in the high school, like, in the Biology class.  But then I guess as they started to know me they realized I was, like, super sweet and nice so they started playing upon that more which is really great.

And then they really paid attention to our relationships as well, like as people with the cast members.  Eddie I remember, like, we just hit it off right from the get go and I’m pretty sure the writers started to notice, like, we always wanted to be together sitting together.

So then there was this one episode where they kind of just started – they gave us, like, this one moment in the house party episode that’s going to be coming up, but they just gave us this amazing moment where it was just us two.  And you just kind of see our relationship and our friendship grow.

So I just think that it’s so amazing just to see the writers really take advantage of the actors and like what we can bring to the table which is awesome.

Do we get to know much about Anthony and Grace throughout the season, like, what they do after school and what their life’s like?

Sari Arambulo: I think that yes we definitely as episodes go on we get to learn more and more about the kids.  Specifically their home life as well as their personalities.  I think you’re already starting to get a glimpse of Grace and I feel like the last episode that just aired you kind of get a sense of what kind of character Grace is.  She is very smart and sweet and is, like, on the student council.  So that’s definitely one of her passions.  She loves to be in student government and is super organized.

So it’s definitely interesting to see that side of things.  And then I believe that in next week’s episode it’s the parent-teacher conference.  So that’s when you’ll really get to see our home life.  It was really fun to meet my onscreen mom and same for Eddie.  I think he had like both your parents are your “onscreen parents” were there.

So as the episodes go on I think that you really get to start to see the kids home life and just learn more about them.

Eddie Leavy: Yes and just going off of that, you know, so next week yes you will see sort of all of our parents in a parent-teacher setting.  But also, you know, I think up until this point from what viewers have seen we’ve been mostly on campus or in the classroom.

And again in later episodes as we sort of, you know, get on our feet a little more and we start appearing in different locations, you know, some of our favorite episodes I think to shoot when we were actually outside of the classroom.  And sort of see what our characters were like, you know, outside of the classroom and sort of in a real world setting.  So I think the best is yet to come in terms of character development and being able to sort of see more of our characters in different scenarios.  So yes it’s a lot of fun stuff to come.

Sari Arambulo: So I was just going to say that reminded me of one of I think our favorite episodes we shot would be for me it was “House Party.”  Eddie I remember that was so much fun to shoot with you and the rest of the cast.  And we really got to – this is a later episode.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away but it’s just a really fun setting to see the kids outside of the comfort zone in this party.  So yes stay tuned.

Do either of you have any really horrible teacher experiences in real life?

Sari Arambulo: I think I might.  I still go to school so it’s super fresh for me to think of professors in my life.  And I think one that sticks out to me is in – I also study Cinematic Art at USC and one of my professors was insane.  He was just super, like, he’s great, like, this is the class that, like, everyone takes.

But he is just super dramatic, kind of similar to Jack Griffin in that sense.  Just, like, over the top, super dramatic.  He like has an entrance when he comes into the classroom.  And if you ever participate he’ll remember your name, like, it is a huge lecture hall.

And he’ll remember your name and then continue throughout the course of, like, the months that you’re taking the class he’ll just continue calling on you even if you don’t know the answer he’ll just right on the moment just call on you.  So it was definitely, like, a nerve-racking experience to be in his class which is kind of similar to Jack Griffin.

Eddie Leavy: Yes I actually have memories of getting a teacher.  She was a substitute teacher but getting a substitute teacher fired once because she was so horrible.  And she was verbally abusive of the kids in my class that we, like, honestly the kids rallied together and talked to our parents.  And this was in I think middle school.  And we rallied together and we, like, told our parents and we got her fired because she would just say the nastiest things to us.  Called us idiots and dumb and, you know, give us  horrible grades for no reason.  So I’ve definitely had, you know an experience.  It wasn’t as comical as A.P. Bio but definitely dealing with…

Sari Arambulo: It’s kind of similar to A.P. Bio I must say.

Eddie Leavy: Yes except your was charming and wonderful.  But, you know, this woman was pretty horrific.  And we got rid of her so yes.

What’s it been like working with Glenn and Patton and have you learned very much from them?

Sari Arambulo: I loved working with both of them.  I feel, like, we spent so much time with Glenn because of course, like, with all of our classroom scenes he’s teaching, I guess not teaching us.

So it was really fun for me as an actor just to kind of learn from him.  And really study his comedic talk on set.  And see his process and how he really takes on the lines and makes them his own and as improv.  It was just really great for me, like, as a learning process.  So he’s really great.

And it’d be fun when this last episode that just aired which was where, like, there’s a whole car situation and student council.  I loved that week because it was great because I got to spend a lot of time with Glenn and just kind of learned about his life and we would just have, like, great chats on set. It was really great to have that special time with him.

In terms of Patton he is amazing.  Such a pleasure to work with.  Honestly the nicest man.  Every time I see Patton I just want to give him a hug.  He was the nicest.

And I was so star struck by Patton at first.  I remember the first cable review I freaked out because I was, like, oh my God this is Remy from Ratatouille who is reading all these lines and I’m obsessed with him.  And of course I was just freaking out.

But I actually saw Patton, like, really random story.  But long story short I saw Patton at a restaurant, like, months before I booked A.P. Bio.  And I was star struck. And then it turns out I, like, booked this role and Patton is my Principal.

So I, like, finally mustered up the courage to talk to Patton about it.  And I’m, like, Patton, like, were you at this restaurant.  It’s, like, In My Sole, and he was the nicest, sweetest man.  And I was, like, oh my gosh you go to that restaurant too.  And he spent 40 minutes with me.

I’m not kidding and we just talked about food and, like, great restaurants in L.A. And honestly just the nicest man.  I have the nicest things to say about both of them.

Eddie Leavy: Yes I mean I pretty much will echo exactly what she said.  I mean I think the biggest takeaway was just learning from them.  Again we were in that classroom with Glenn a lot and just, you know, such an established actor and comedy sort of come in every day and so his thing.  What better acting class than that.

So I think for us it was just such a profound learning experience seeing his process, seeing how he, you know, approached the material, how, you know, he would do things differently every take, same with Patton.

I mean Patton I feel, like, has just the most amazing comedic timing. And he would improv and it would just again he was so simple.  But it was so brilliant just to see his commitment to Principal Durbin.

So I think for me I mean it was just incredible to spend months observing them and watching them and again they’re just, you know, lovely people.  And again Sari said it all.  But yes the nicest so it was a pleasure.

But now it’s been cool to sort of go back and sort of watch it from the beginning and see how that show also evolves.  And just to hear Glenn talk about, you know, his process of, you know, working on that show and being a creator of the show, a writer of the show, an actor on the show wearing all these different hats, you know, it’s really inspiring to see someone really create something and star in it.  So that was really cool.

Sari Arambulo: Yes I would say, like, one of the first times I saw It’s Always Sunny was actually in an educational setting.  I was in a class and I was studying, it was a TV script analysis class. And the episode we watched was it was one of the episodes of It’s Always Sunny.

And so we literally, like, after watching it had a breakdown episode and talk about what worked and why it was so funny.  And actually told Glenn about that experience.  And he was, like, what that is so weird, like, my first experience as a writer was on Sunny just, like, just writing anything and just, like, putting it out there.  And so he thought it was so funny and great.

‘A.P. Bio’ airs on Thursdays at 8:30pm on NBC

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Lance Carter is an actor and the Editor of Daily Actor.

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