Allen Gregory: Jonah Hill's Love Child
You wouldn’t recognize Jonah Hill to look at him. He no longer resembles the chubby-cheeked, baby-faced high-schooler he played in Superbad (when he was already 24 years old) or the clingy momma’s boy in last year’s Cyrus. He’s dropped some 40 pounds since the spring and looks like an earnest, thoughtful young man – not an up-and-coming Hollywood star.
You won’t recognize him in Allen Gregory either, the just-launched Sunday night animated comedy on Fox. It might be Jonah’s voice, but it’s coming out of the mouth of the world’s most pretentious seven year old, a self-proclaimed prodigy forced to attend public school when his two-daddy household suffers a financial reversal.
Allen Gregory is the creation of Hill and his pals Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, co-writers of Jim Carrey’s Yes Man. As Hill explained in a recent interview, he turned down Fox’s invitation to voice an animated pilot in favor of developing his own show with Mogel and Paul:
“We knew we wanted him to be a pretentious, delusional character and thought the most interesting way to do that would be to make him an adorable little kid. That’s how we started, and then we went from there. I'm a lifelong Simpsons fanatic and I wanted to create my own animated show one day. I figured if I was on one of their shows as a voice actor, they wouldn't want another show that I created. So I politely said no thanks and then went over to Jarrad’s apartment. He and Andy were writing and I said the three of us should create an animated show together.”
In spite of their complete lack of television experience the trio produced and screened a ten-minute presentation video for Fox. “It was a funny, fresh presentation,” recalls David A. Goodman, one of Allen Gregory’s executive producers and its showrunner, and earned Hill and company a 13-episode order from the network. An experienced hand was needed to turn the trio’s presentation into an honest-to-goodness TV series; after heading up Family Guy for five seasons (and developing a few animated pilots of his own) Goodman was the man for the job.
There was a slight problem to begin with, however: Fox cultivates animated pilots all year long; Allen Gregory’s pick-up came this past spring while other animated series received theirs in the closing weeks of 2010. The cream-of-the-crop animation writers had all been grabbed while AG was just getting off the ground.
As a result, “we have mostly new writers,” Goodman explains, “ones who have the voice, a similar point of view as the show’s.” Those writers include people like Michael Colton and John Aboud, on-camera veterans of VH1’s Best Week Ever. Jonah Hill is part of the creative process as well – “completely involved” says Goodman. The star takes part in the writing, sits in on table reads and supervises animation.
Bernard Derriman, director of AG’s pilot episode agrees: “Jonah was always involved in table reads, always there for recording sessions. I got to see him recording his lines, ad-libbing and everything else