Somebody must have spit in Grant Morrison’s Christmas pudding once upon a time. The Scottish graphic novel author and screenwriter has a deliciously demented series on SYFY starring Chris Meloni called Happy!, and it is anything but.
It is funny as hell, with sardonic noir-ish adult-themed twists on the forced happiness of holidays we hold near and dear.
Chris Meloni is cast as Nick Sax, a belligerent, inappropriately surly, gifted with weaponry and ultra-violence sort of fella who was once a star detective for a major metropolitan police force.
Down and out, divorced and plagued with a skin condition, he’s now a hired killer who does it for beer and drug money,
His visitation with Happy the Horse, a blue cartoon pony with wings [voiced by Patton Oswalt] was happenstance. Happy is an imaginary friend to his [unbeknownst to Nick] daughter Hailey.
In season one, Hailey was abducted by a demented Santa and Nick was tasked (after nearly dying) to save her. His near death moment allowed him the gift of being able to hear and see her imaginary pal Happy.
Which of course, makes him appear even more unhinged to the general population at large who cannot see Happy at all.
His chief nemesis is Mr. Blue (Ritchie Coster) and his chilling sadistic henchman Smoothie, (Patrick Fischler) who all think that Nick has the precious password to access a fat bank account, whispered to Nick from one of Blue’s dead nephews.
Confused? Don’t be. It’s a simple case of the Scaramucci mafia clan being a den of cursed Vipers, and our Nick trying hard to rise up to be his best — and the father Hailey always wanted with Happy’s help. He fails constantly along the way but with the best intentions.
And this season uses the annoying holiday of Easter (according to Sonny Shine who pitches The Pope to jazz the holiday up and commercialize it more) and make it great again. Fans can also look forward to the return of Debi Mazar as Isabella Scaramucci and Christopher Fitzgerald as Sonny Shine who will absolutely give you the creeps.
Emmy Award winner Ann-Margret is also joining the Happy! cast for Season 2 in a recurring role as Bebe DeBarge, a “former siren of the stage and screen,” who Meloni sings the praises of below in our exclusive interview.
Another bonus for wrestling fans is Paul Wight (Big Show), cast as Big Pink, a prison cellmate of Blue’s.
We spoke to Chris today about Happy!
Monsters and Critics: What an incredible, off-the-wall, demented script you must have been handed by your agent, or whoever brought you to Mr. Morrison’s world of bad holidays…
Chris Meloni: Yeah, we were meant to be.
M&C: How did Grant Morrison find you?
Chris Meloni: That still remains a mystery. I think it wasn’t so much Grant. You know, I think that possibly Brian Taylor kind of led that charge. I think obviously, with Grant either giving a thumbs or a thumbs down.
But, I still … I’ll tell you this, I still remember. So, they offered me the job and you know, I took it. Took awhile. You know, I had a lot of questions.
But the day that I came in for my costume fitting, and I came out because we were going to do some screen test shots of me in the prototype of my costume. And, Grant was like oh my God, you’re him! So, that sounds good.
M&C: Yeah. Now, you know I know Patton Oswalt voices Happy. Are you ever in the same room with him, or does he do all of his work far and away from you for voice over?
Chris Meloni: Yeah. Far and away. Maybe we’ve been in the room one time, but yeah, because we are shooting it, and Happy has yet to be built in Scotland… through computer-generated stuff.
So yes. He just comes in and I help Patton out on a riff with him, on the east coast, and he’s out in the west coast.
M&C: The source material that you’re playing out as Nick Sax? Have you ever asked Grant, what the hell?
Chris Meloni: The answer is yes, and I’ve actually heard the story. I just feel as though I shouldn’t be the one to tell it.
He actually … I’ll just say this, he was watching one of those Simon Cowell-type shows. You know, where Simon Cowell judges you. Like basically he’s the great Caesar who gives you no hope.
And he thought, God, what if there was a spirit of internal hope, how would that live in this world? Because we always get the, kind of the shi**y, cynical, sarcastic aspects. That seems to sell it so well.
M&C: What I notice about Happy!, and I wonder if you do as well, is all the things that horrify me in modern life are touched upon, like creepy drunk Santas and giant Easter Bunnies, suicide bombers, child abductions, losing your status and your career. All of these things that terrify people in real life, I like how Happy riffs on them.
Chris Meloni: Yes. I think that is the genius of Brian Taylor, taking the source material and expanding it in ways that I find are not … I never feel as though anyone is being hit over the head.
I feel that there’s a brutal elegance and, almost a very, I will say, Freudian… it’s unconscious. It’s just kind of is born in the writer’s room. All these things that we’re living with, whether consciously or unconsciously. And, I mean, we are a comedy show.
So, let’s confront it, let’s send it out. And, just as I think we even send up violence, all of a sudden is going to be well there’s too much violence on TV. Oh yeah? Well, let’s make it even crazier.
It’s like Jackie Chan. We’re like bad Jackie Chan, with the … I don’t take his [over-the-top] fight scenes seriously, but they’re just so wonderful. But I agree with you. I agree with you.
M&C: This fear right now to express anything without being taken the wrong way and sacked or shamed online. This show just thumbs its nose at that.
Chris Meloni: You’re funny because every once in a while when I do my Twitter thing, and I’ll get a hypersensitive remark. I’ll obviously be doing a really sarcastic bit. Just having something to write.
I mean, one time I took a picture of me on the set of Happy. We were in Red Hook, and the Statue of Liberty, it was beautiful. It was in the Bay, right?
So, the Statue of Liberty is way behind me. And I posted it… this lady liberty looking over me. And sure enough, someone’s got to go talking about all the immigrants and we’re not letting … all about the immigrant issue.
I was just like, Jesus F***ing Christ, can anyone take a mother f***ing vacation? Can anybody? I just took a picture of [this beautiful statue].
M&C: Playing Nick Sax has got to be cathartic for you then, he doesn’t give a sh*t….
Chris Meloni: Yes. Yes. It’s what America needed, it’s what I needed.
M&C: Ann Margret is a legend. She’s this iconic actress and here she is in Happy. Talk about that.
Chris Meloni: So, I worked with her on [Law & Order] SVU. She did an Emmy award-winning episode. She was revelatory. She was so much fun. She was … they broke the mold [with her]. She was the definition of a dame, a broad, and yet, she was no push-over. I mean, this was a formidable, lovely, old-school actor.
She’s so much fun. Ans her first instinct is to make people feel good, and with this charming smile. Then, you get down to work, and just always up for whatever comes her way. She’s had a life.
Ups and downs, etcetera, etcetera, but here she was, and I personally invited her to come and play with that thing. And she agreed. To play Bebe Debarge.
And she agreed. Halfway into the shoot, she was like ‘oh my God, what have I signed up for?’ I go ‘I know. I know but, just roll with it.’ It’ll be okay. And you know, she was such a good sport. She does a dance number in the show, and it was like watching her old Vegas routine.
I mean. She was something. I love her. I love her.
M&C: Any last words on Happy! for the second season? Easter, will it be great again?
Chris Meloni: Yeah. Happy! will, in fact, make Easter great again, I guarantee it.
Happy! returns, Wednesday, March 27 at 10/9 c on SYFY.