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James Bond, watch your back. John McClane, be on your guard. Ethan Hunt? Might as well touch one of those lasers, because the ultimate one-man-army action hero is back, and he’s a total yas kween (watch the series and you’ll get it). We’re talking of course about the one and only MacGruber, who returns to the screen in a new series now available on Peacock.
We spoke to the cast of MacGruber about the making of the show — and stars Will Forte (MacGruber) and Kristen Wiig (Vicki St. Elmo) told us a little bit about how they decided it was time to bring MacGruber back to life (for the millionth time).
You might remember MacGruber as a popular Saturday Night Live sketch from the late 2000s starring Forte as MacGruber and Maya Rudolph (replaced by Wiig when Rudolph left the show) as his trusted but constantly panicked sidekick Vicki St. Elmo. What started as a pretty straightforward parody of the '80s show MacGyver has grown into a deft satire of and often homage to the entire genre of action hero/spy film.
The series begins with MacGruber locked up due to the events that ended the MacGruber movie in 2010. Well, actually the series kind of started with a hilarious short released prior to the series. We’d link to it but it’s pretty profane and we’re maybe not allowed, so just head to Youtube and look it up. You’ll find a semi-repentant, deeply defiant, and very disgusting MacGruber, played with total absurd conviction as always by Forte.
From there, you could watch the MacGruber film for context (and fun). But an excellent appearance by Rudolph starts the series with a song summarizing all the backstory you need to know. The show then traces MacGruber’s journey from a down-and-out-hero who lost it all, who is fighting to regain everything ‘serving’ his country. And also by being naked a lot.
For the series, Wiig is back as Vicki St. Elmo. Ryan Phillippe returns as MacGruber’s now resentful best buddy Dixon Piper, and Laurence Fishburne, Billy Zane, Sam Elliott, and Joseph Lee Anderson all join the cast. Whether they are SNL alums or Academy Award nominees (and you can certainly be both), everyone is having a really good time. But maybe Zane and Fishburne are having the best time of all? At least they were in our interview.
Though the cast is impressive, Wiig is a highlight as always. It’s especially gratifying for long-time fans to see the character of Vicki St. Elmo morph from silly sidekick to…well, still very silly sidekick. But in MacGruber the series, Vicki St. Elmo gets a chance to have a story of her own. During MacGruber’s long stay in prison, she’s found new love and has to grapple with the unexpected return of her former flame. Wiig’s total commitment to character and even the dumbest of lines makes for a performance that is both spectacularly funny and also very yas kween (again, watch the series).
And it’s not just characters that require more depth when moving from sketch to series (with a movie in between). Everything from jokes to camera motion needs to grow along with the format. We spoke with MacGruber writers and producers John Solomon and Jorma Taccone (who is also one-third of The Lonely Island) about the work of growing MacGruber from a short, super focused parody into a full series that references many of our favorite spy thrillers both in plot points and visual styling.
Any Bond fan will recognize the Skyfall moments of Episode 8 (there are lots) and some might pick up on the Die Hard references too. But the full effect is something greater than individual references. MacGruber is a really funny comedy series that stands on its own while delighting action fans with skillfully deployed references to beloved genre films. Watch it as a comedy. Watch is as a master class in loving parody. Watch it because you like seeing Will Forte’s butt. Whatever. Just watch it. MacGruber is a total yas kween.
MacGruber is now available to watch on Peacock.