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F. Tony Scarapiducci, Space Force’s like-loving media manager, may not leave the planet in Netflix’s new comedy, but it’s not the first time that actor Ben Schwartz has been in a space-related series. He recently voiced Sonic the Hedgehog, who is technically an alien, and he famously helped provide the lovable droid BB-8’s beeps and boops in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sometimes Schwartz forgets about that one, though.
“Oh crap — you know, every now and then I forget I'm part of Star Wars?” Schwartz tells SYFY WIRE when his role in a galaxy far, far away comes up, clearly excited about the reminder. “I guess what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to make a Ben Schwartz Cinematic Space Universe — the BSCSU — and I'm just trying to populate it with as many characters as I can, so I can ultimately do some sort of an Avengers-like thing where we all come together.”
On Space Force, which is now streaming on Netflix, Schwartz’s F. Tony (known as F*** Tony behind his back and, sometimes, to his face) is one of the many banes of General Mark Naird’s existence. The general, played by Steve Carell, got the unenviable task of launching the new branch of the armed forces, and F. Tony is there to make Space Force go viral. Boots on the moon are nothing compared to retweets on Twitter. The character’s name is an obvious homage to F*** Jerry, the joke-stealing social media “celebrity” who played a hand in promoting the infamous Fyre Festival, and Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s short-lived, foul-mouthed White House director of communications, but Schwartz says the similarities stop at the names.
“One of the first things I did was make sure that [my performance] was nothing like either one of them, because I didn't want them to feel like I was parodying them at all,” Schwartz says, adding that he also wanted to make F. Tony distinct from his scene-stealing Parks and Recreation character. “I didn't want it to feel like a parody of someone that's already been made. I wanted to make a new character. One of the first things that [showrunner Greg Daniels] and I talked about, even on the audition stage, was 'Let's make sure this character is different from John Ralphio.’”
“The way that I thought of the character was: Imagine a media manager who really cares about likes and stuff, then gets fired from their job at American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. And now their only option left is to work for the Space Force,” Schwartz explains. “For him, it's a battle with Steve Carell's character of explaining why this is even relevant. His job is actually pretty integral to spinning things for or against the Space Force.”
As with almost all of the show, Schwartz’s character isn’t a direct parody or reflection of the real Space Force, which was officially created almost a year after Netflix started making the show. Instead, he’s an archetype. Even though F. Tony is annoying, he occasionally has some good ideas. He’s got to sell the public on Space Force, after all, and the concept of militarizing space is certainly a little questionable.
For Schwartz, who you can also catch on Netflix in his improv special Middleditch & Schwartz, watching Space Force is less about debating the merits of the endeavor so much as it’s exciting to see people succeed. General Naird wants to accomplish his mission, Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) wants to accomplish scientific research, and F. Tony “wants to show that he's not just a piece of s*** and that what he's doing matters.”
Perhaps above all, Schwartz just thinks that space is exciting — especially the idea of a normal person going to space (he cites “Deep Space Homer,” an episode of The Simpsons wherein Homer becomes an astronaut, as one of his favorite episodes of television).
“I remember watching Double Dare and I could not believe that kids were allowed to go to Space Camp if they won. I thought that was the coolest thing I've ever heard of in my life,” he recalls. “You can't believe that human beings can go all the way up to the moon and land on it. I think there's a super-human aspect to it, and a 'bigger than us' type of feeling. And so I think people are drawn to that. Or at least when I was a kid, I absolutely was.”