It can be touchy to sum up a TV series like Happy! and do it justice, so we won't even try. On the surface, the premise is pretty crazy: Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni), an alcoholic ex-cop, finds himself suddenly able to see a blue, winged unicorn named Happy (Patton Oswalt), who happens to be the imaginary friend of a girl named Hailey. As it turns out, Hailey's in danger after being kidnapped, and she needs Nick's help.
There's way more to the story, of course -- and it involves Hailey's desperate mother, a complicated crime boss, and an overeager interrogator. But how does Sax's former partner, homicide detective Meredith McCarthy (Lili Mirojnick), fit into all of that? The actress behind the tough-as-nails cop spoke to SYFY Wire about working with her co-star Christopher Meloni, the complicated relationship between their characters, and what Happy! has in common with a famous Christmas movie.
So I want to talk a little bit first off about the casting process for you. I'm curious how you personally became involved with the show.
Well, it's funny. I actually didn't just audition for it, but I made an audition tape for it. I made a self tape in my office. And I'd fallen absolutely in love with the script when I read it. I was like, this is so cool, and this is so unlike most pilots that come across your inbox. Funny enough, I can be a little OCD, and I usually make a couple takes and analyze them. This one it was like, that's the one. I didn't even watch it before I sent it. And it just felt right. About a week and a half later I was told that [co-creator] Brian Taylor wanted to Skype with me. And we chatted and I kind of made some notes on it and then had a read with [Christopher] Meloni, and a couple of days later they booked me. Just a crazy process.
Speaking of Meloni, your character is a little bit of the straight man to his ... I mean, to put it mildly, he's kind of like the human equivalent of a dumpster fire in a lot of ways.
That's a great way to put it.
So, how does that dynamic work, and how do Meredith and Nick relate to each other?
Well, I definitely am the straight man - but, you know, Merry was Sax's partner when she was an up-and-coming detective. He taught her a lot, so there's still a lot of Sax in Merry. You know, it's that kind of thing like when you take on the personality of your parents as you grow up. And you see pieces of that sneak out [of her] as the series, as the season goes on. As an actor, it's so much fun to play off of him, 'cause you just kind of let him do his thing. And it's there. As long as you're present and reacting, it turns into something fun.
But their relationship is really like a blessing. They have a history, they have a past, they know each other really well, but it's been a really long time since they've seen each other, and life has taken its toll in many different ways. Their history has made them who they are, but the way their history has affected the past in which they haven't seen each other has also brought them to this penultimate moment where their paths cross again.
Circumstances bring them back into orbit around each other again. It's really interesting to watch that play out.
And he's not the only kind of complication that she has.
Between Blue and her mom, [Meredith] gets tangled up in very complicated relationships. How do those those shape her character over the course of the season?
Oh, you know, Merry has quite an arc. Without giving anything away, there's quite a few things that happen. It's very much a tale of redemption for Sax, and maybe a little bit of a coming-of-age for Happy, but there's a little bit of a redemption story for Merry through the season. And, you know, we women all kind of get it. Things are complicated, but you deal with them as they come. And you weigh your options as you go, and women do that. Humans do that. Nothing is clean and simple.
And so you lay it out, you see what's important in life -- and how do the changes and those things happening or not happening affect the way you're perceived down the road? You can only kind of make those choices when you cross that path, and there's a lot of that for Merry this season. And it's interesting to see how when certain things happen, or where people's moral lines are. [For] Merry and everybody else, those lines all kind of get tested through the season, and sometimes, what do you swallow for the sake of what you're trying to do in the moment? And where is a good place or an appropriate place for a grudge to be held, and where is it not? And what's important in life?
You definitely see that she's weighing a lot of her options, at least in terms of which battles to pick and where to kind of stand her ground versus maybe step aside. Especially when it comes to letting Sax do his thing.
Yeah, because that's also the thing. These are definitely extenuating circumstances in the world of Happy! But we all kind of go through that at certain points, you know? Where do our soft spots lie? And it's just very hidden at the foundation of all this.
I know you mentioned before that you can't spoil too much, but is there anything at all that you can kind of tease about what we can expect this season in terms for Merry -- her relationship with Sax or anything along those lines?
Well, there's definitely some unexpected turns. I can tell you that Happy! isn't a traditional fairy tale. It's the real world. There's definitely some surprising revelations, not just for the audience but for Merry as the season goes on, and I think it'll be refreshingly surprising to the audience that it's probably not predictable.
If Meredith had an imaginary friend of her own, what do you think it would look like?
Oh, wow. I've never even thought of it. Hers would probably be more like the guardian-angel type of friend, like the sweet friend who kind of tries to remind you of what's good. Not even the innocence of it all, but what is genuinely good and brings you back to your human being with a soul.
What are the things that you're kind of fangirling over right now? Is there anything that you're reading or watching that you've really enjoyed lately?
Well, I'm a big West Wing freak. I actually picked it up pretty late, but I'm completely caught up. There's the West Wing Weekly p,odcast and I'm addicted to it. All I can do is wait for every week to see it, to hear it. So I love it. I saw Thor like two weeks ago, and that was so much fun, and I just wanted to see more of it and see if Marvel's really embracing going in that comedic direction. Because I'm like, I need the fix. I need more of it. And just the fact that it's Christmastime, I like to have a valid excuse to watch all my favorite Christmas movies.
What are your favorite Christmas movies?
My two favorites are Die Hard and The Santa Clause. God, I feel like our show is the TV show version of Die Hard, in terms of like a Christmas movie. It's a Christmas TV show.
It really is. There are those scenes when the Christmas carols will kick in and it really does get you in the spirit of the season.