Awards Daily talks to first-time Emmy nominee Kerri Kenney-Silver, for her work on Quibi’s revival of Reno 911!.
Kerri Kenney-Silver has appeared on many Emmy-nominated and -winning television shows, including Big Little Lies, Bob’s Burgers, and A Series of Unfortunate Events, but it was only this year that she finally earned two Emmy nominations for her work on Quibi’s Reno 911!, including Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series (she’s an executive producer on the show) and also a nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series.
The cult-classic Comedy Central series that introduced us to crazy characters like Trudy Wiegel has now been reintroduced to a new generation of fans in a format you can view on both your iPhone and TV. (Even describing this concept sounds like something that would utterly baffle the Sheriff’s Department.) Quibi picked up this reboot and put a rush order on the series, with the crew finishing just in time for the pandemic shutdown.
Starting August 24, you can see a new batch of Reno 911! episodes on Quibi, and ahead of these new episodes and the Emmys in September, I talked to Ms. Trudy Weigel herself, Kerri Kenney-Silver, about what it was like to come back to this show after an absence, whether the Quibi format was different from what they were used to, and that Emmy-worthy scene between her and Kyle Dunnigan.
Awards Daily: Congratulations on your much-deserved Emmy nominations. What was it like coming back to this character and show after some time away?
Kerri Kenney-Silver: The night before was really scary, the night before we shot. It hadn’t occurred to me all through while we were writing this season in pre-production—I forgot about the part where I had to put on a uniform again and actually say the words in the clothes with the people. I was a little frightened. But I would say about 30 seconds into the first scene I shot this season, which was with Wendi [McLendon-Covey], who’s a genius—we were shooting the Conceal Carry Fashion Show—and about 30 seconds in, our shoulders went from up around our ears back to where they belong, and we both started breathing again and going, “We know how to do this! That’s right! We got this!”
AD: It felt like you guys didn’t miss a beat. It felt like no time had passed at all. Was it hard to adapt to the Quibi short-form format? How much do you guys improvise? What was the creative process like for this innovative season?
KKS: Really not much changed for us. The show at its core, if you think about it, is a sketch show. It’s one sketch after another; it just happens to be that it’s mostly the same characters. All dialogue is improvised, except for when you see a PSA. The way we do those is that Tom [Lennon] and Ben [Robert Ben Garant] and I write those, we put them up on cue cards, and we don’t let any of the actors see them beforehand, and we do one take, so if there’s a mistake, even better. There is no dialogue other than that that’s written, unless we have a super big guest star that we’re flying in for 20 minutes and we want to make sure we hit all the points, then we’ll put down some bullet points. It’s an improv show. And this time we really didn’t have to do any adjustment. It’s just basically the same length of sketches that we normally do, pieces that we normally do—we just did less of them in an episode. If any show is tailor-made to Quibi, it’s our show. For us across the board, we feel that this is the best season of Reno we’ve ever done. We’re proud of it.
AD: I could see that. It’s so well-written. Every episode is hilarious. This is a reboot we really needed. You guys address police brutality, xenophobia. Were you at all worried that TV wasn’t ready for the return of this show, especially when comedy has changed in the last 10 years? Were you worried about coming back?
KKS: I feel like we as a group are unapologetically ourselves and always have been. My feeling is that if your intentions are good, if you’re on the right side of things, if you do work that’s from you and from your core, it’s going to be on the right side of things. I feel like we have been hitting issues really from the beginning. We did the pilot for this show 20 years ago, and right from the beginning, we have been dealing with issues that people weren’t necessarily talking about at the time. We did a sketch 15 years ago about the border wall. We’ve been talking about police brutality and race all along. When it’s under the umbrella of comedy, sometimes you’re just laughing at something and really there are messages and things under that. Nervous about coming back? Obviously for many reasons. Overall I would say there’s a confidence: This is who we are, this is what we do. We are equal opportunity offenders in the sense that we poke fun of everyone. We’ve been lucky and people get it. People are on our side. It makes us feel really good because we love doing it.
AD: Are you doing another season? This show could go on forever and I would watch every minute of it.
KKS: Oh, thank you! From your lips to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s [Quibi founder] ears. We sure hope so. It’s a lot of fun to do. We feel really grateful that we got to do it again.
AD: Yeah, I bet. You know, I’ve been thinking about what your Emmy moment would be on the show. I think it’s the episode when you see the ghost of your late murderous husband Craig (Kyle Dunnigan). I kept thinking—this is your scene. What was it like filming that? That scene is so funny, especially you reuniting with Kyle.
KKS: It’s funny that you say that, because that was my Emmy submission. And I wrestled with it. A couple of people said, “Use that one,” and I said, “Really?” Yes, that’s what I chose. Working with Kyle is brilliant. The way his character came about, because the show is improvised and we never know what’s going to happen with the characters and relationships, we first brought on Kyle as a guest star, just to do one bit. And Trudy happened to be the one we chose to do the scene with him, and the character was so wonderful, and Trudy started flirting with him, which hadn’t happened before with anyone besides Dangle. So at the end of the day, we said, god, he’s great—what if we have him back and they start dating? He came back and we started dating, and then we were like, now, we have to get married, but maybe he’s a serial killer and she finds a foot in his fridge? Okay, of course. Then the wedding was at his execution, so we thought this season—what the hell? There are no rules, we make up the rules—we want to bring him back. I don’t know—he’s a ghost? He’s a hallucination? Whatever it takes. Let’s get Kyle back here. It’s too much fun. It’s a big sandbox and we’re always happy to have brilliant people like Kyle to come play in it with us.
AD: I love when he tells you that in the future you make a horrible mistake and cut your bangs yourself and it’s a disaster.
KKS: I mean, that was all Kyle. He’s really hard to keep a straight face around.
AD: But it lined up with being in quarantine! I was watching this during quarantine when I was cutting my bangs. I feel like a lot of things lined up. You guys were trying to shoot a white person to get your numbers up and make it more equal.
KKS: Shooting a unarmed white guy, yeah.
AD: It just all lined up. Was that weird to see, too? Things that you filmed months ago were lining up and staying relevant?
KKS: We shot in February, and it’s not so weird to me, especially when it comes to things like police brutality and things like that. These are things that have been going on for a long, long time. We always try to talk about real issues in different ways. And then you cut to Trudy and she has a Pez in her belly button. We have tried to stay relevant but also at its heart, it’s a comedy show to make people laugh. Ten years ago, Junior had to go to a strip club because they had enforced a six-foot rule. He had to carry around a broomstick in between the woman doing the lap dance and patron and enforce it, and they couldn’t hear one another. So he would say, “You look so hot in that thong!” And she’d say, “What?” And someone would say, “He said you look hot in your thong!” No, we did not see the pandemic coming for sure. We finished the season right under the wire.
AD: I was going to say. You must have really gotten it in under the wire!
KKS: How lucky we were. We finished shooting and right after our first week or so of editing is when everything went on lockdown in California, so we moved the edit bays to the editors’ homes. And then we just found out about this glorious thing Zoom and finished the season that way.
AD: I didn’t realize how fast this was and how recent. Wow!
AD: By the way, I didn’t realize you played Jackie the Hooker. What was it like returning to her?
KKS: Jackie—I love her. I love Jackie. If Trudy Wiegel is stream-of-conscious vomiting at the mouth, Jackie is her head has exploded and all the contents are spilling out for everyone to see, and that’s really fun to play. The way that character came about was way back when we first did the series for Comedy Central. We put index cards on the board with ideas, and Tom wrote a card that just said, “Jackie, the pickle-throwing hooker.” So we were like, yep, don’t know what this is, but we’re doing it. So we told the props department, fill up a purse, don’t tell me what’s in it, get me a crappy wig from the Halloween Store, and we’ll just try it. And things like that are an actor’s dream. The beauty is that video is cheap, so we’re not burning any film. If it doesn’t work, then we lost 20 minutes and a cheap wig and a jar of pickles. She became a recurring character, and it’s always fun to play Jackie.
AD: I have to ask about my other favorite sex worker. Where was Terry (Nick Swardson) this season?
KKS: The tricky thing about this season is that we shot it in just a few weeks, and it also came upon us really fast. In our minds, we were going to do this months in advance, and then Quibi was like we’d love this as soon as possible. So we’re calling people saying, what are you doing tomorrow? What are you doing next week? Nick had other stuff going on. But I think he also, it was such short notice, he was thinking to himself—should I be doing this character again? It was fairly rushed, so it didn’t end up happening, but we love him. Who knows what will happen down the road? Yeah, there were a lot of people that we loved that we just couldn’t make work this season. But we also had some new incredible guest stars.
The new season of Reno 911 is available on Quibi.