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'The Pentaverate' stars Debi Mazar and Ken Jeong break down Mike Myers' 'indescribable' comedy chops
Who wouldn't want to work with the man behind Austin Powers and Shrek?
Debi Mazar and Mike Myers hadn't seen each other for close to three decades. The last time the two actors worked together was on the set of So I Married an Axe Murderer in 1993. Little did they know at the time that one of the film's jokes — a Scotsman's heated rant about a secret society, which counted Colonel Sanders among its membership — would lay the groundwork for a Netflix comedy series all these years later.
That series turned out to be The Pentaverate (now streaming), whose narrative explores the inner workings of a tight-knit cabal of powerful men who have helped prevent numerous tragedies from befalling humanity for hundreds of years.
Myers, who created the project, ended up playing eight different characters (technically nine if you count a small bit of voiceover work as Shrek), including the five core members of the Pentaverate. But according to Mazar, he originally intended to wear one final hat as Patty Davis, the society's chief assistant with a thick New York intonation and real knack for keeping the exclusive boys club organized and on schedule. Ultimately, Mazar got the role instead.
"He generously gave it to me and working with him was like going to school," Mazar tells SYFY WIRE over Zoom. "He was like dad. Because he’s Lord Lordington [and] he’s all these guys and Patty is working under Lord Lordington and all these different characters that he’s playing. It was just amazing because you’re watching someone do a complete physical, emotional transformation, dialect transformation."
While everyone else comes off as "larger than life," Mazar explains, Patty's character inhabits the shoes of a relatable, blue-collar employee whose everyday nonchalance feels hilariously out of place in the echelons of a covert organization. "Patty, who comes from the real world, has to step into this Pentaverate world and run with it," the actress continues. "You don’t know if she’s a dumb blonde or what’s going on, but she ends being this brilliant woman and dealing with a lot of testosterone."
Other members of the ensemble cast didn't have a previous onscreen history with Myers, but had been dying to work with him for years. "He’s the reason I got into comedy. He is truly one of my heroes," admits Ken Jeong, who plays Skip Cho, a casino mogul who joins the Pentaverate after two of its leading members croak under mysterious circumstances. "Honestly, what I wanted to do was just watch him work. It was a dream of mine to be in a Mike Myers project. I got to have that dream fulfilled, I got to watch his process, which is… it’s indescribable what he does. I’ve never seen a more complete player in the business."
In addition to creating and starring in the show, Myers also served as showrunner and executive producer. "I’ve never seen that happen," Jeong says. "He’s writing it and he’s creating it, he’s also doing the post-production of it. The most complete performer I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s why it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in my career because I got to watch Mike Myers play."
The only thing Myers didn't do was direct, bequeathing that duty to Fleabag vet, Tim Kirkby, who was "by far" his biggest get of the production. "I’d stalked him for years," the creator tells us before going on to praise the show's talented collection of actors. "You know that they’re gonna make it better than written. They’re gonna pull it up off the page and you’re gonna have an embarrassment of riches. It was all a joy."
Principal photography, which took place in the United Kingdom under strict COVID safety protocols, wasn't all fun and games, though. There were real logistical challenges involved with convincingly shooting a scene in which five characters at a table are all played by the same guy.
To nail the organic flow of several people engaging in conversation, the crew relied on stand-ins like Myers' older brother, Paul, Mazar reveals. Still, there was no doubt over why Netflix subscribers would eventually tune for The Pentaverate: they'd want to see Myers do his Austin Powers shtick of juggling several roles and prostheses at once. A shtick that transformed him from beloved SNL cast member into beloved (and bankable) movie star.
"When Mike sits into the character, the air out of the room stops," Mazar adds. Everyone’s like [gasps] ‘What is he gonna do?!’ And then you’re playing with a different person because, of course, all the credit to the other actors, but when Mike Myers plays the character that he’s written, it changes everything ... It was wonderful to watch because he came in, he stayed in character, he stayed with the accent, the physical-ness [of it]. He didn’t break character unless he stepped out to applaud you."
Myers often encouraged spontaneous improvisation from his co-stars, or else taught them "breathing exercises" he'd learned while part of the famous Second City comedy collective. Jeong compares the whole experiencing to "a summer conservatory," adding that Skip, whose expansive knowledge of weather patterns makes him a prime candidate for the titular cabal, was conducive to finding laughs in the moment.
"He studies Chaos Theory, so it’s almost ingrained and baked into the fact that I would be improvising," Jeong says of the role, which was apparently written with him in mind. "Just knowing Mike’s style and his cadence and his flow, I felt like there was a method to the madness of it, which I loved and [it had] such a great payoff ... It was just great to have Mike in my ear, giving me guidance through some of these delicate scenes. He was pushing me and I wanted to be pushed."
All six episodes of The Pentaverate — which must never be exposed! — are now streaming on Netflix.