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Odd couple: Arnett, Russell happy to be 'Running Wilde'
Associated Press

Steve and Emmy (Will Arnett, left, and Keri Russell) share a comic chemistry but very different values in Fox's "Running Wilde."

 

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Published: 10/4/2010 12:10 AM

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Steven and Emmy were childhood sweethearts torn asunder by a difference in values. Over-earnest Emmy wanted to save the world. Goofball rich kid Steven was happy just owning a big chunk of it.

Now Emmy, with her 12-year-old daughter Puddle in tow, is back home from her do-good activism. Maybe she and Steven will strike sparks anew. For all their differences, they have one thing in common: They're both pleasantly demented.

That's the premise for "Running Wilde," the new Fox comedy starring Keri Russell (far from her adolescent-issues "Felicity" days) and Will Arnett, reunited with Will Hurwitz, who created Arnett's bygone, zany series, "Arrested Development."

For viewers keeping score, "Running Wilde" differs from its cult-fave predecessor in one important way: A burgeoning approach-avoidance romance is built into the silliness.

"It's an unconventional love story," says Arnett during a joint interview with co-star Russell. "It's about two people who were each other's first love, then went off in their own directions. But at this point in their lives they need each other. They both have an emotional void."

Emmy is a laughably overwrought humanitarian, too driven to accomplish anything. She's a perfect counterpoint to Steven Wilde, a spoiled, comically clueless playboy.

Arnett says he got the first inspiration for this show a couple of years ago when, between jobs yet comfortably supported by his wife, actress-comedian Amy Poehler, he was playing tennis at a friend's fancy L.A. club on a weekday morning.

"Afterwards, we were putting our tennis bags in our fancy cars, and neither of us was in any rush to go anywhere. And I thought, 'WHO am I?! WHAT have I become?!'"

In the show he developed with Hurwitz, "I wanted to capture the hopelessness of somebody who seems to have it all, yet has no real direction," says Arnett, adding with a poker face, "I want this show to be 'When Harry Met Sally...' met 'Dynasty' met 'Benny Hill.'"

Russell chuckles at this. Already they have bonded comedically, and not just on-screen but off-camera as well, ribbing each other and swapping laughs like longtime pals.

"I wasn't looking for a TV show at all," says Russell, whose resume includes theater, TV movies and a TV miniseries, and features including "Waitress." "Playing a doctor on an hour show for the next six years: That's just not what I wanted to do. I feel like I had that experience with 'Felicity."'

"Was Felicity a DOCTOR?" asks Arnett, feigning confusion. "WAS she?"

"Yes, yes," says Russell dismissively.

"Or maybe she was a teenage detective," Arnett presses on. "The Case of the Missing Hair: I know THAT was her big case in season two."

"I almost chickened out," says Russell when her belly laugh subsides. "I was gonna cancel my flight to go meet Will and Matt in L.A., I got so nervous."

"Mitch and I spent the entire time just trying to get her to like us," Arnett recalls. "We were thinking, 'If we can get Keri Russell, now our show is REAL!' Mitch was sweating profusely."

"I was definitely a fan of 'Arrested Development' and Mitch. So I just thought I'd take a chance. And now," she cracks with admirable timing, "I'm trying to get out."

The role of Steven Wilde's sprawling homestead is played by an estate Arnett describes as "Gatsby-esque" on Long Island's Gold Coast.

This beats shooting in Los Angeles. Russell's husband, Shane Deary, and their 3-year-old son live in New York City. And even though Arnett's wife shoots her NBC comedy, "Parks and Recreation," in L.A., they and their two young sons are also based in New York.

Even so, the "Running Wilde" home base has its drawbacks.

Arnett: "We have no Internet service."

Russell: "We barely have phone service."

Arnett: "Yeah, Mitch finally said, 'Drive me out to the top of the road. I need to make a phone call."'

Russell: "And we have no air conditioning. Everybody is sweating through their clothes. Just dripping!"

"But I feel reinvigorated," Arnett says. "Getting back with Mitch was like the professional Viagra pill that I needed."

"They're sort of in love with each other," Russell laughs. "Which is good."

"And we've created this new family and brought in Keri."