AiPT! sat down with Brett Gelman (Stranger Things, Love) and Arturo Del Puerto (Independence Day: Resurgence, Fear The Walking Dead) at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills recently to discuss the debut season of HBO’s new series Camping.
Camping follows Kathryn McSorley-Jodell (Jennifer Garner), a controlling and obsessively organized wife and mother, throwing a celebration for her husband Walt’s (David Tennant) 45th birthday by gathering a group of friends, significant others, and ex-friends together for a weekend camping trip. Gelman plays George, Walt’s loyal best friend who tries to keep the peace between everyone while being a goof. Del Puerto plays Miguel, another old friend of Walt’s who recently separated from his wife. He’s in the middle of a midlife crisis and recently started dating the free-spirited Jandice (Juliette Lewis), who comes along for the weekend.
I chatted with Gelman and Del Puerto about their roles on the show, rattlesnakes on set, gym sessions in between takes, and more. We were all laughing quite a bit as they both have a tendency to crack jokes whenever the opportunity presents itself.
AiPT!: What drew you each to Camping?
Brett Gelman: Well, we were offered jobs! (everyone laughing) No, for me it was Lena (Dunham), Jenny (Jennifer Konner), and HBO. I was a huge fan of Girls and to be on an HBO show written by them (Dunham and Konner) is an honor.
Arturo Del Puerto: For me it was working with Brett Gelman. That’s what it was for me. Brett is in the show!? I need to be in that show right now!
BG: That’s surprisingly how every other cast member feels too. (both laughing)
ADP: Yeah, for me it was also HBO. It’s the top of the top. And Jenny and Lena.
Gelman nods in agreement.
BG: It’s pretty crazy that HBO is the reason that the whole landscape of television and streaming is what it is today. It’s all because of HBO. The Larry Sanders Show, Sex and the City, The Sopranos…those three shows pretty much set the tone for what cable and streaming television do now.
AiPT!: How was it working with this cast?
BG: It was great. It was very familial.
ADP: We had so much fun on set!
BG: We were all kind of immediately a family.
ADP: Meaning we all hated each other pretty much. (laughing)
BG: You mean loved each other! Sometimes you don’t know the difference…
ADP: We rehearsed for two weeks. That time was actually very useful for us to just break the barriers of comfortability and get to know each other.
BG: All boundaries were removed. We were really a tight knit group and laughed a lot. There was a real danger to the show, like a real emotional danger and a chaos that we constantly had to get to, so it was good to know that we all had each other’s backs and know that we were able to laugh through the joy and pain of what the characters were going through.
ADP: Yeah, some of the situations were pretty extreme. Even the set — the dust, the sun…
AiPT!: There were some snake encounters?
BG: We had a snake wrangler. Yeah.
ADP: We had a snake wrangler named Marco that would walk the perimeter. I think one day he said he found twenty snakes.
BG: The whole season?
ADP: No, one day! He found twenty snakes in one day.
BG: I was once sitting in my chair going over my lines, and ten feet away the wrangler was picking up a gigantic rattlesnake and putting it in a bucket. I’m like (to the snake) “Why are you coming onto set man? This is not a good place for you.”
Brett clarified that all of the snakes were released back into the wild a safe distance away. Then he dropped a fun fact about rattlers.
BG: If you get bitten by a rattlesnake you want it to be an adult rattlesnake, not a child. Adults are not really gonna use their venom to protect themselves because the venom is specifically used for food. The babies don’t have control over their venom.
ADP: I actually asked him (the wrangler) if he had any serum (anti-venom) there and he didn’t. So if you get bitten, you’re probably going to be in pain for at least 30 minutes until the helicopter gets there.
BG: (surprised) I didn’t know that. I wasn’t asking those types of questions. Clearly I need to make myself more neurotic than I already was about that. (laughing)
After joking that this must be a National Geographic interview, we got back on track talking about George and Miguel.
AiPT!: Let’s dive into each of your characters. Brett, with George, you see that he’s got a little bit of an angry side to him deep down. Are we going to see some of that repressed rage come out a little bit more as the season progresses?
BG: I’d say you probably will. I think George is their comment on the “bro.” There are a lot of comments on “bro hangs” and how that behavior is just a mask for rage, feelings of inadequacy, depression, and feeling like a failure. I think that’s a lot of what’s bubbling underneath George. He hides behind being “good times guy.” At the same time, he is actually having a good time. But I think that runs in the theme of the show in that all of these people are at a point now where they can’t escape who they are.
AiPT!: And it seems like almost all of them are masking something.
BG: Yeah, definitely.
AiPT!: With Miguel, he went through this separation recently. What do you think his journey throughout this season is supposed to be?
ADP: He definitely has never been away from his family or his wife. Maybe they’ve had some fights but not this serious. Miguel lives in a s----y bachelor apartment. When he decides he’s going to do anything to get out this funk, that’s when he meets Jandice and they do drugs and Jandice is sort of his savior and then they find this tooth and it’s supposed to be a good omen and all this magic that involves Jandice. Miguel falls into this and starts to explore a facet of his character that has never come out but always was inside of him. I think that’s the journey we’re going to see with Miguel, exploring these extreme characteristics of his soul and see what that does to him. He’s going to be put in very uncomfortable situations, situations he wouldn’t have thought in a million years he’d have to deal with.
AiPT!: And what’s with the wardrobe? (laughing)
ADP: Well…I was going through a midlife crisis and I wanted to look young and hip again. I want to look like Justin Bieber man. The Biebs is in, right? Also, Jandice probably suggested most of those clothes. The ring, the necklaces, the hairdo.
AiPT!: Do you guys have any funny stories from set?
ADP: We were shooting at the Bigfoot Lodge, and there’s a lot of crafty (craft services – food) on set always. So Brett shows up, we were in the green room waiting for the next shot to be set up. And he shows up with a bag of chips, watermelon, candy….
BG: I was having a real low blood sugar moment where I just freaked out.
ADP: So he storms in the room and just started singing (looks at Brett)…1, 2, 3…
(at same time singing) BG & ADP: I lost control, I lost control! (laughing)
ADP: He started dancing. He was eating savory, sweet, healthy, anything you could eat. The full spectrum.
BG: It was a method. (laughing) It was George. It was one of his freak out moments. (pause) Seriously though, I think that freak out is also him thinking that he can take up this fight for his wife, who’s a woman of color. It’s the arrogance of the liberal white guy taking up the mantle but not really knowing he’s not doing the best job he should, and she would actually prefer to let it go so that she doesn’t have to keep on experiencing the trauma of what Joe does to her.
AiPT!: I almost feel like George is in one of the stickiest situations in the sense of he’s got multiple relationships he’s juggling.
BG: He’s trying to take care of everybody. He’s like the mother hen in the beginning. He’s one of those people who’s so bent on taking care of others that he’s not really thinking of where he himself is at.
As we’re winding down on the interview, Brett remembers some more stories from the set.
BG: There were a lot of late nights of us around the fire, tired, cold, cracking jokes. There were a lot of photo shoots. I’ve never been on a set where there were so many photo shoots. I think a lot of this has to do with Juliette. Juliette really loves Instagram in this specific way. Actually, Jen and Janicza love Instagram too. And Ione too. So all of the main women on the set were so down for Instagram bits and photo shoots. We did a lot of documenting.
ADP: There’s a lot of behind the scenes.
BG: I’ve never seen actors so into documenting behind the scenes, and being actors too.
ADP: We had these group exercise things we would do every hour.
BG: Oh yeah!
ADP: All of us would do ten squats and ten pushups. When you’re on set, you don’t have any time to go to the gym or exercise. So Chris Sullivan (Joe) suggested that every hour we do that. Out of solidarity, pretty much every time all of us were down to do it. By the end of the day, you did like 150 squats and 150 pushups.
BG: I think Jen Garner and David Tennant did every single hour.
ADP: That’s why they’re so skinny!
BG: Super successful.
Camping premieres on Sunday 10/14 at 10pm.