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Mike Myers on returning to his 'Austin Powers' roots with Netflix comedy series 'The Pentaverate'
Myers takes on eight different characters for this story about a benevolent secret society.
It all started as a throwaway gag in 1993's So I Married an Axe Murderer.
Mike Myers heaped on the makeup, put on a pair of bug-eyed spectacles, and adopted a thick Scottish accent (a harbinger of the big, green ogre waiting in his future) to play Stuart MacKenzie, the conspiracy theorist father of Charlie MacKenzie who delivers a wild (and hilarious) rant about "a secret society of the five wealthiest people on the planet known as the Pentaverate."
Fast forward almost three decades later, and that joke has taken on a life of its own in a Netflix comedy series titled — what else? — The Pentaverate (now streaming). Created, showrun, and executive produced by Myers, the show centers around a benevolent cabal of the world's most powerful men who have been guiding human progress since the Dark Ages.
"When I did So I Married an Axe Murderer, it was on everybody's mind," the legendary Saturday Night Live alum tells SYFY WIRE over Zoom. "Many years later, it starts to be on people's minds. So I said to Netflix, 'What if five people did run the world? What if they were nice and what I got to play all five of them?' And they said, 'Yes!' I wanted to talk about [it] in a silly way, but meaningful way — this idea of expertise and elitism and I think we want to have experts in the world. We want them to serve the people and we want the people to trust the experts."
Myers was true to his word and happily returned to the world of makeup and prosthetics to portray a number of wacky identities for what would be his most significant screen presence in years: A throwback to the actor's multi-character performances in the Austin Powers film franchise (a fourth chapter may or may not be happening). This time around, however, Myers wouldn't be tackling three or four different roles, he'd be tackling eight.
Five of those roles include the core members of the Pentaverate: Lord Lordington (the oldest and highest-ranking member), Bruce Baldwin (a former Australian media mogul), Mishu Ivanov (an ex-Russian oligarch), Shep Gordon (a former rock-and-roll manager), and Jason Eccleston (a tech genius who invented the Pentaverate's super computer, MENTOR).
The remaining three characters are Ken Scarborough, an old-school Canadian journalist hoping to expose the secret society; Anthony Lansdowne, a New England conspiracy theorist; and Rex Smith, a far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist with a major following.
"I think Ken Scarborough's my favorite. Lord Lordington was the one I wanted to play the most," Myers continues. "Every character that I've ever played, I actually have [to have] loving feelings for or I can't play them. So Shep Gordon, I know him. I did a documentary on him. He's a real person, he's just the loveliest man in the world. I made a documentary called Supermensch. With Ken Scarborough, that's every older Canadian, every hockey coach I've ever had. With Mishu, I love the insanity of it. And with Anthony, that's kind of my working class background. Ken, I ended up having the most fun in."
Gordon, whose previous clients include the likes of Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd, immediately signed off on the idea on Myers parodying him. "I said, 'So, Shep, I'm thinking of doing you as a character in a series for Netflix.' He went, 'Well, first of all, the answer is yes. I trust you, it's fine.' And that's who he is. God, it's rare when you meet people that just have your back and you know you have their back."
Naturally, each role required different visits to the makeup department led by a fellow SNL vet, Louie Zakarian, whom Myers describes as "a genius." He goes on to explain that the application process has been mercifully streamlined since Austin Powers:
"[Louie] has to put people in full makeup during the time of a commercial on Saturday Night Live. And so, the makeup is much less laborious as it once was. For the lesser makeups, it would be about half an hour. For more makeups, it's ninety minutes. But he works fast and he works great. I don't mind it. My chance to warm up is in the makeup chair, so I actually like the process of it."
Despite a recent uptick in far-fetched and dangerous conspiracy theories, particularly where the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, Myers insists his intention with The Pentaverate wasn't to tap into the cultural and political zeitgeist of the last several years.
"I'm not really Mr. Topical," he admits. "I just like to write stuff that I would want to see. It has been an interesting time and I've always been obsessed with secret societies. My mom was in the RAF and had a top-security clearance. So I knew secrets existed in the world and, in the case of fighting the Nazis, I'm glad there were."
Directed by Tim Kirkby (Veep, Fleabag), all six episodes of The Pentaverate — which must never be exposed! — are now streaming on Netflix. The cast also includes Lydia West, Ken Jeong, Debi Mazar, Keegan-Michael Key, Jennifer Saunders, and Richard McCabe.