TBS‘ new original comedy, People of Earth, follows a motley crew who are all members of an alien abductee support group called, StarCrossed. When skeptical NYC journalist Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) goes to Beacon, NY to report on the group, he get’s a bit more than he bargained for. Recently, we got the opportunity to sit down with Da’Vine Joy Randolph who plays Yvonne Watson and Luka Jones who plays Gerard “Gerry” Johnson in the series. They hinted at the where the series is going and the super talented and hilarious people that are bringing it all altogether. People of Earth debuts on TBS, Monday, October 31st. Keep scrolling to watch the first episode!
Hi Da’Vine and Luka, how are you?
Da’Vine Joy Randolph: Good. How are you, sweetie?
Luka Jones: Nice to meet you!
I’m fantastic thanks so much! I’ve been dying to ask you since I’ve seen the first four episodes. How did you feel when you first read the script? It’s so brilliant.
DJR: When I first read it, I remember thinking, “Okay, this is different,” but in a great way. To be honest, when my team presented it to me, I was a little nervous just in the sense of like, I’m not a Sci-Fi wizard. That I felt a little bit like, “Wow, you have to be very fearless in order to be able to do it. When I read it, I was like, “Oh, wow. This is a really special piece.” I was drawn to the show because of several things. For one thing, every character, including the aliens were highly detailed and very specific people. I think as an actor, it’s very exciting when you have a really fully realized, complex, multifaceted character already established. I felt like we spend a lot of time trying to unearth that and figure it out. Some of that work was already done, As an actor, that was really exciting for me.
LJ: When I first read the script, I thought it was hilarious right off the bat. I live in LA and there were people that I knew in town in the comedy world who were already talking about it because it was such an incredible script. Then the more I looked at it, the more that I realized it was also sweet and interesting in a way that was just comedic, which made it feel even more like a special script to me. So, I loved it.
I can imagine!
DJR: Also, there’s Greg Daniels’ legacy and lineage of The Office and Parks and Rec. I was just like, “This is what’s really, really exciting.” I knew it would be a really fun job with this ensemble cast and these quirky people just mashed up together. I’m just attracted to human behavior and how people sometimes never would interact with one another or be in each other’s sphere of awareness. Sometimes life happens. You just meet people in your life that you’re like, “Wow, if this thing wouldn’t have happened, I never would have had that experience. I never would have given that person the time of day.” I think that’s something really beautiful about the show. Everyone in this show feels different things. Everyone goes through multiple changes throughout just 10 episodes, which really isn’t a lot.
Oh for sure. How was it working with such a large ensemble cast on a 30-minute show?
DJR: The writers did just such an amazing job of juggling and weaving people’s storylines and stuff like that. I love that the aliens are very humanistic, or at least that’s what they appear to be.
LJ: When I was on set it was so fun having all of the different styles of performers. David Jenkins is a playwright so there is that and then with Da’Vine and Tracee [Chimo]… I mean Michael Cassidy has done really serious theater, we have these people from theater backgrounds and their process is just so interesting. Just watching people who come from a stand-up background is different from watching people who come from an improv or sketch background. Still, the main thing that I noticed about how theater and comedy come together on that set is that most of the actors on this show have a decent amount of live performance experience, which was an interesting thing to lend to the script because it was written by a playwright.
Why are the aliens different in this series than how they are normally perceived?
DJR: It’s very real and beyond just that conventional alien, Sci-Fi thing that we’ve seen. To me, it’s one of the funniest things in the show. Seeing how they deal with their lives, and their jobs, and how they feel about us, and that sort of thing. It blew my mind in a way of expectation of what my initial feeling was just hearing all about the project.
Is there one character in the StarCrossed group that fascinates you most?
DJR: We’re all a piece of the puzzle. It’s a weird puzzle and it looks odd, but we all fit in it. I would say, I don’t know if I had one, but I definitely have moments or qualities about most of them that I really enjoy. Especially because when we’re shooting the group scenes, it’s real. You can feel it. It’s way beyond just, “I see an alien.” It’s deeper. It’s nice to see the group dynamic and how it constantly shifts. It’s really hard to pick one over the other because it really feels like a true blue ensemble piece which I’m sure is really hard to write. Usually, somebody is highlighted a little bit more than the other. Everyone really does have a place and a purpose and a need. If a person isn’t there that week, or that episode, even in shooting, you felt it. Those bonds and stuff just grew and I think it helped better inform and further enrich the job and the characters and relationship that we have to portray.
LJ: I’m sorry if this is a boring answer. But I think what’s so great about this story and the mixture of the cast and the characters is that each character has these features that just really pop out at you. Evey single one of these characters has their moments. Whether it’s Richard who is played by Brian Huskey or Alice Wetterlund’s character or Ana [Gasteyer’s] character, there are just so many talented performers. The moments have to be spread around obviously because of the size of the cast, but everyone really grabbed their moments in a powerful and interesting way. I thought everybody really brought it and was doing an amazing job. But to talk about the characters in general what I find so interesting about the characters from my perspective is their need to feel special, especially the characters in the group and how each character has their weird thing and how it’s kind of OK to be a little bit weird.
Luka, your character Gerry has never actually had an experience with an alien he’s just fascinated by it, how did you approach him?
LJ: Sometimes in real life, people can be a bit too unaccepting. The way I approached Gerry was that I knew his relationship with Wyatt [Cenac]’s character Ozzie was deeply important to him. Honestly, a lot of what I was doing was keeping that relationship in mind. I knew that was one of Gerry’s main motivations; to cultivate this friendship in some way. Gerry might be a little lonely. In terms of Gerry never having an experience or an alien encounter, part of his obsession might be that he wants to feel special too and that he wants to feel like we all want to feel. The way that he perceives things isn’t as out there as his family or the people around him might think that it is. He genuinely believes what he believes and he wants to connect with the members of the group, but especially with Ozzie and with aliens.
Fantastic! Well, Let’s about Yvonne. Who is Yvonne, how did she get to Beacon, New York and find herself in this group?
DJR: Basically, what we figured out so far is that Yvonne used to be in a relationship. She is not from Beacon. She recently moved there coming from a more developed, probably urban area, which she basically left to start anew. I think Beacon is a safe, easy place for her to live, and being a postal worker, it’s nice to have that predictability. It’s interesting because she really did have an alien encounter. Physically, it’s real for her, but she doesn’t believe in it, if that makes sense. It’s very complicated for her because she’s like, “I can’t sit up here and lie.” It very much so happened. For her, it was scary. Just like moving to a new city or a new location, and then all this weird stuff is happening to you, and she’s alone.
How do you deal with that?
DJR: Exactly. She finds these [StarCrossed] people very weird, for sure. Also, I think, for her, it’s this thing of like, “Why am I here?” It’s something to be said, and we had talked about this. For a person that’s pragmatic like that, it’s like an invasion. It’s an invasion of privacy. For her, it’s a threat. She goes to these sessions, not that she’s into it, but more so, it’s like she has to figure out what is getting these things to come to her in the middle of the night repeatedly. It’s a more self-survival like Armageddon, Independence Day type of thing for her. Everyone else is like, “Oh, this is cute.” But for Yvonne it’s like, “Why the eff is this happening?” She really takes it seriously, and so she’s listening to people’s stuff. She’s learning to connect and open herself up slowly.
Let’s talk Yvonne and Gerry’s relationship. What’s going on there?!
DJR: I think the whole Gerry thing, it just comes out of nowhere. At the table read, I remember being like, “Oh, that’s interesting,” because we didn’t get a new script ahead of time, so we didn’t know what was going on until basically day of. We were sorting things out in the moment. We’ll see what people think, but I think it worked. I think it worked because they are complete opposites. Gerry is totally in that world. It’s like he fantasizes about it and it’s very dreamy, where for Yvonne, it’s very X plus Y equals Z. They’re hanging out. It’s cool because you see they can help each other. They have this really nice balance to one another when it’s about the alien stuff. Then, when the alien stuff is removed, and it’s just them, there’s this moment of like, “Wait, who are you?” Their dynamic is so weird, and it’s so complicated and bizarre, and they’re just confused. I don’t know. It will be interesting to see what people think as the shows go on. They have a very interesting bond.
LJ: I think it’s great that they connect in the way that they do. Maybe when someone first starts watching the shows and sees the group for the first time, they might not say that those two are going to connect but I think it’s a testament to how members of the groups are committed in subconscious way to be themselves and to be authentic in the face of other people or the world not approving of them or supporting them. Da’Vine is one of the best actors I’ve ever met. She’s amazing! So being able to do those scenes with her and feed off of her energy, that was a special treat for me. I think it also helped inform the characters connection to each other, that we were vibing in the way that we were. It was one of my favorite parts of production.
What about the aliens in the series? What did y0u think about the actors’ portrayals of them because they are all so different?
LJ: In terms of the performances I thought they were all amazing! Drew Nelson, Bjorn Gustafsson, and Ken Hall. I’d say for my money, Ken who plays Jeff The Grey is maybe the best performer on the show and I feel comfortable saying that. So much of his work he had to do on his own and he was just coming up with the most creative and the most hilarious verbal and physical comedy. Everybody is fantastic, but that was one f the first things that struck me about the pilot when I first saw it. What I love about the show’s depictions of the aliens at least early on is that they seem to be in some important sense just like us. They’re weird and they’re messing stuff up and they are having their own interpersonal problems. Obviously, that’s where a large part of the comedy comes from but it’s also a sweet and interesting point.
So I have to ask, (laughing) Do you personally believe in extraterrestrial life?
DJR: Okay. I totally think that it is very feasible, that there is life outside of human beings on planet Earth, right? I think this is a very also Americanized thing of just like, “It’s up, that’s it. We’re number one,” whatever. I totally think that the likelihood upon this whole galaxy and universe, we are the only ones…I don’t think we are. Just please don’t get into details (laughing) that’s when you lose me a little bit. It’s probably fear, because of how media has painted alien life. Very few of them are friendly, outside of E.T. I think it’s that fear of, “No, no, please don’t come and take over our world or blow up our planet, and kill me.”
LJ: Even if there is intelligent life somewhere, which perhaps there is, I’m agnostic about it, I don’t know. Maybe they’ve figured out how to travel around better than us, but it’s still possible that they need therapy like we do or they need to still sit down and talk about their relationships and I think that’s an interesting and funny and somewhat profound point that they’ve built into the show and I thought that was really satisfying for me as a viewer when I watched it.
Exactly!!! It’s terrifying!
DJR: It’s an ongoing conversation, it has never stopped. I think that’s another reason why this show is very funny because people always have an opinion if you ask them something like that. But, I think for sure, there is something out there.
Thank you so much for speaking with me!
DJR: Thank you, sweetheart. I appreciate it.
LJ: Thank you so much it was really great to talk to you.
You can watch the series premiere of People Of Earth below!