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Are We Having Fun Yet?!: The Oral History of ‘Party Down’

As the Starz comedy makes an unlikely return to air, its creators look back on creating a unique inside-Hollywood workplace sitcom, scrapping through a difficult development period, and getting gold from Adam Scott, Ken Marino, and Jane Lynch

Harrison Freeman

Trying to make it in Hollywood can be soul crushing. But nothing could’ve fully prepared Rob Thomas for what life was like when he moved to Los Angeles. “I had a menial job, and it was the year that Swingers came out,” he says. “My friends and I were going to those exact clubs and sitting in a corner and talking to no one because we weren’t in the entertainment business. We were making no money, we had no game. It was a hard place to be in my late 20s.”

Though their career prospects improved, Thomas and his buddies never totally buried their shared desperation. After working on shows like Dawson’s Creek and a handful of movies, he, Dan Etheridge, John Enbom, and their slightly more established actor pal Paul Rudd decided to unearth those insecurities and turn them into a TV series about a group of Hollywood wannabes and has-beens who hope (read: mostly pretend) that their catering job is just a stop on the way to creative fulfillment. “You can live your life doing one thing hoping that you are going to be going somewhere else,” Enbom says. “Not in the sense that ‘I hope that I will be promoted within the world that I’m in,’ but, ‘This is literally a place-keeper life until I finally blossom into the life that is waiting for me.’”

Party Down, which premiered on Starz in March 2009, focuses on what happens at a job that no one wants to be doing. Which is not very much. As jaded protagonist Henry Pollard puts it, he’s “making a living being an extra in other people’s lives.” To stave off boredom and existential dread, Henry and his coworkers complain, riff, talk shit, plot their next moves, and grow closer because no one else can truly understand the crushing limbo they find themselves in.

Thanks to naturalistic writing and a spectacularly talented cast—Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen made up the first crew of cater waiters—Party Down was one of the most realistically funny workplace comedies of the last 20 years. Yet during its original run, barely anyone watched the show. It didn’t truly find an audience until the rise of streaming. And now, more than a decade after its cancellation, the cult classic is back for a third season.

The entertainment industry may have changed in those intervening years, but the odd camaraderie in the often demeaning slog remains. “L.A. is a place where everyone kind of goes to start something,” Rudd says. “Whether it’s directing, or acting, or writing, or music, or whatever. No matter who you meet, there’s this undercurrent of ‘Can this person help in some way?’ It’s a very unnatural way to form friendships, so that when you find those friendships, you kind of hold on to them.”

Part 1: “I Think That’s the Guy From Clueless.”

The story of Party Down actually begins in Austin. Thomas, a musician, novelist, and neophyte TV writer, was making ends meet as a teacher in Texas in the ’90s.

Rob Thomas (cocreator and executive producer): My girlfriend and I at the time decided to go to the worst, funniest Irish club on 6th Street in Austin because we had a friend who tended bar there and we could get in for free. And there were like eight people in it, and she was talking to these guys at the end of the bar. And I kept looking over and I said, “I think that’s the guy from Clueless.”

Adam Scott (Henry Pollard and executive producer): I was visiting Paul Rudd on the set of this movie he was doing in Houston. And he and I and our friend, who was also in the movie, took a weekend trip to Austin just to party. I was like 22. We were kids. I remember I had to borrow $200 from Paul because I had no money but I wanted to drink beer.

Paul Rudd (cocreator and executive producer): What was so crazy is we didn’t know anyone in Austin. We randomly ran into this guy and his girlfriend.

Scott: This guy comes up and he’s like, “Hey, are you Paul Rudd from Clueless?” And we start talking to him, and he’s like, “I teach English at the high school. Also, I sometimes write for Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Have you ever heard of this show?” We’re like, “No.” He’s like, “You want to come to my house and we can watch Space Ghost for a while?”

Thomas: They came over to my house, and we watched episodes of Space Ghost Coast to Coast until four or five in the morning. And we managed to stay in touch. And then on my first day in Los Angeles, I met Dan Etheridge.

Dan Etheridge (cocreator and executive producer): Concurrent with Rob over here getting to know Paul, John [Enbom] and I went to college together. He actually wrote my thesis at USC when I was in film school there. But then I produced a movie that set the world on fire called Overnight Delivery, with a young Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon. Paul and his wife, Julie, and I became fast friends. These things were happening, which made it amazing that on the first night that Rob was in town, he and I happened to meet very coincidentally. We both knew Paul and that came to light, and then John got tossed in there.

John Enbom (cocreator, executive producer, and showrunner): First, there was the desire to do something together, which really started with the original British Office.

Thomas: I went ahead and TiVoed it back when I owned an actual TiVo. By the end of the first scene of Ricky Gervais hiring a forklift operator, my jaw was on the ground. I felt like it was when Jon Landau reviewed his first Springsteen concert. It was comedy delivered in such a different way. It was not “setup, joke, setup, joke.” And I went to my friends and I said, “I have seen this thing that you must see with me because I want to know if I’m crazy or if this is truly brilliant new television.” They were airing it once a week on BBC America. And so eventually everyone was coming to my house, and we’d watch the previous week’s episode and then the new week’s episode.

Enbom: Seeing The Office for the first time really lit a fire under us.

Rudd: It’s heartbreaking and funny and awkward.

Thomas: There was something very attractive about the whole notion of a melancholy comedy that I think really spoke to us. And so by the time we were getting to the end of the episodes, we were already talking about “We should do something in this vein.”

Enbom: One day Rob just called us up and was like, “I think I might have it. It’s cater waiters. Every episode is a different party.” He pitched it as cater waiters who are all trying to do other things. So it’s a little miniature Christopher Guest movie. And we were just like, “Perfect. We love it.” We were all instantly on board.

Thomas: It really started from “Let’s talk about who these people are, and then we’ll write the show.”

Rudd: Dan, Rob, John, and I plotted out this show for years.

Etheridge: This is before Zoom, so this was endless, endless gatherings over years at Rob’s house.

Enbom: Whenever Paul was in town, we would just get together and we’d spend our weekends just taking notes and trying to come up with ideas.

Rudd: There were always those commercials for Verizon. The “Can you hear me now?” guy. Those commercials were just everywhere. Ubiquitous. And we thought, “People know him, and no matter where he goes, people are probably saying, ‘Hey, can you hear me now?’” This guy probably moved to L.A. to be an actor, might be very, very good, and must have a very love-hate relationship with this campaign, which has afforded him health insurance, which has given him recognition, but also handcuffed him because what do you do after that? Is it hard to get work if you’re just known as that?

We thought, “Well, what would it be?” Maybe a beer campaign. “Are we having fun yet?!” seemed like a perfectly innocuous catchphrase that would actually be used on a beer commercial. And so the idea was a guy who had had a campaign and was known for a catchphrase that’s now done. He hasn’t worked enough hours to maintain his health insurance, and he has a bad back, and he’s only 30.

Thomas: It was one of the strangest pitches I’ve ever, ever been in because it felt like it was dying. Carolyn Strauss was the head of [HBO] at that time, and she seemed distracted. When you’re pitching, you really feel like if they’re loving it, they’re loving it. That was not at all how we felt. I was pitching it and felt like, “I’m dying. I’m dying.” And then she gets a call. Usually they’ll interrupt a pitch to tell the head of the network they got a call, and the assistant buzzed in, “You’ve got a call.” She said, “OK, I’ve got to take this.” She goes to the phone, and then she sort of points back at us and says, “Yeah, we’re buying this.”

We went off to write our outline, and we loved our outline. We thought it was very funny. And we went in for the notes meeting, and the very first line of the notes meeting from the HBO executive was “Now, we realize that outlines aren’t meant to be funny.” HBO has enjoyed being inside the entertainment business, whether it’s [The Larry Sanders Show] or the Lisa Kudrow show The Comeback. And I think they thought that we would be inside Hollywood.

Rudd: It has to be industry-centric to a certain extent, but not every party they do is gonna be an industry party. And that was always a really big thing.

Thomas: Our pilot episode was a Sherman Oaks neighborhood homeowners association potluck, far away from entertainment. And the idea that we thought was so funny that said so much about the show was that Henry shows up and this is the life he would like: He would like a home with a pool and a family, and the homeowner wishes he were a young actor out on the town, having the time of his life. And we thought it really defined the premise of the show nicely, but HBO did not feel similar.

Enbom: One of the problems we’d been encountering was every executive that we’d be pitching would fill in their version of what the show was. We had such a specific idea for how the characters would be, what the tone of the show was, what it would feel like. And we felt like everywhere we pitched it, they would either like it or dislike it for reasons that were completely unrelated to what we thought it was.

Thomas: We knew we were dead.

Part 2: “A Very Ballsy Move.”

For most of the aughts, it didn’t seem like Party Down was going to happen. In the meantime, Thomas created and ran UPN’s teen noir Veronica Mars, which Enbom and Etheridge also worked on. Rudd’s career was also taking off with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. At one point, FX took an interest in developing their show, but Thomas remembers an exec there saying that it didn’t pair well with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Then he got some fortuitous news.

Thomas: We were completing the final season of Veronica Mars, and they cut our order back from 22 episodes to 20 episodes. And we had this Party Down script lying in a drawer and some crew that was suddenly free.

Enbom: We basically just decided that we would try and take a weekend and shoot a version of the pilot as a proof of concept.

Thomas: Everyone on that project worked for $100 a day. We spent like $150,000 of our own money shooting that pilot.

Etheridge: Rob’s being kind there. Rob spent his money, and he gets all the props for that. I mean, that was a very ballsy move.

Rudd: When they were filming, I was filming [a movie], and I was like, “I can’t do it. I can’t play Henry. So let’s just ask Adam.” Adam was my best friend. Rob knew Adam. Dan knew Adam. We put our friends in it.

Scott: Rob made the pilot in his backyard and asked me to come do it. And at that point, I hadn’t really done anything comedic. They just thought I was a funny person when we were sitting around getting high and watching The Office.

Enbom: Ken Marino, we’d met him on Veronica Mars. Ryan Hansen, same thing.

Ken Marino (Ron Donald): I was talking to Dan Etheridge, who was the on-set producer, and he was telling me about this project that they almost got going, and then it didn’t happen. And I was like, “I’d love to read it.” And as soon as I read it, I was like, “Oh my God, Ron Donald.” And I brought it back to Dan and I was like, “If you ever audition for this part, please let me audition for Ron. I feel like I have a take on him.” And then nothing ever happened. Then we got a call. Adam and I went out to lunch with Rob, and they basically were like, “Do you want to come and shoot this thing for a banana and a peanut in my backyard?”

Ryan Hansen (Kyle Bradway): Rob sent me this script, and he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to shoot this thing at my house, just kind of for fun, and see what we got going.”

Jane Lynch (Constance Carmell): I had done The 40-Year-Old Virgin with Paul Rudd.

Marino: America’s Ant-Man.

Lynch: Frozen in time at the age of 42. I had also done an episode of Veronica Mars. We were just going to shoot a pilot at Rob’s house just off of Laurel Canyon. Because I lived in Laurel Canyon, I just had to come down the road. And we didn’t have the pink ties at that point.

Hansen: It was self-produced. My wife did the makeup. Not to brag.

Thomas: Dan, John, and I actually codirected it, and we sort of took turns directing the scenes that we had the largest hands in. It was a chaotic experience. It was great, though.

Marino: They cut together a sizzle reel of that episode.

Thomas: We took that DVD around town and screened it for every outlet that did comedy, and we got rejected by all of them. We thought we were done. And then one of the agents at Endeavor, where I was at the time, said, “Starz wants to break into comedy. We should show it to them.” And we were like, “Really?” We showed it to Starz, and they wanted it.

Hansen: Starz had seen it and picked it up, and I’d kind of forgotten about it. I was doing That’s So Raven by that time.

Enbom: It was literally a year and a half later. We had to just call them back up and be like, “So this is actually maybe happening?”

Part 3: “Any One of These Characters Could Have a Show of Their Own.”

A workplace comedy doesn’t work without interesting employees. The original Party Down crew was full of fascinating archetypes who had immediate chemistry. There’s good-looking but dense pretty boy Kyle, questionably talented and acerbic “hard sci-fi” screenwriter Roman, profoundly actorly career extra Constance, committed but self-sabotaging team leader Ron, and disillusioned comedian Casey. Henry’s the one in the group who’s had the most success, though it’s been years since he’s tasted any.

Scott: The landscape of L.A. is particularly brutal for someone that has nothing to do because it’s so dry and vast and lonesome. But then the thing that you’re trying to do you’re not doing because of just unadulterated rejection—not because of your skill. It’s not like you wrote an essay and they’re like, “No.” They looked at you and who you are and said, “No.” And that’s why you have nothing to do. And it’s that over and over and over and over again in this giant, sunny place. That was my 20s.

Rudd: He’s at a crossroads at a young age, and he doesn’t even know if he wants to act anymore. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, but the thing to do as a stopgap is to go back to the job he had before he got the [beer ad] campaign just to figure it out.

Enbom: Casey was a hard character to find because it’s a very specific type of person and a very specific energy. Lizzy Caplan, I think, was somebody brought to Adam’s attention. He met with her and was just like, “I think she could maybe do it. I think she’d be good.” We cast her within the week before we started shooting.

Thomas: Lizzy was not in the pilot. The actress Andrea Savage was in it originally.

Andrea Savage (in 2018): When the show got picked up, I was too pregnant to do the role, and Lizzy Caplan took over.

Hansen: We got Martin and Lizzy, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

Thomas: We would’ve happily gone forward with Andrea otherwise. Andrea and Adam were very funny together. But the sexual chemistry between Henry and Casey was just palpable in a way that we hadn’t felt in our original pilot. You felt like they wanted to climb on each other. Man, it really, really helped the show.

Marino: The flattop was my idea. I thought he was a recovering addict, and to me it read that he’s kind of militant about it. And the best way to do that in his head was to actually look like you’re in the military. So that was something that I threw out, and they seemed to like it. In the pilot that we shot that we never aired, I also wanted to have a mustache. A really thin, shaved, tight mustache. But then when we reshot, they’re like, “Lose the mustache.”

Enbom: Of all the characters, he was the one who maybe took us the most time originally to kind of dial in. We had a general idea for what kind of overdriven, slightly uptight, kind of insane boss he was. I just feel bad because he’s proven so good at getting destroyed that we can’t resist doing more of that.

Martin Starr (Roman DeBeers): Ken’s the star of the show, in my opinion.

Thomas: Dan and John and I were such Jane Lynch fans, and we knew her less than anybody else in the cast. We asked her to do this, and we were all so intimidated to give her a note. We had imagined Constance as this soft, fluffy, kind of airheaded creature, and Jane came in kind of doing her as a hard-ass Hollywood veteran. And it took us about three days to finally give her the note: “Maybe soften the edges on this character a bit.”

Lynch: I came in doing my old trick, my old severe Jane thing, and he said, “We really want her to be much less sharp and much softer around the edges …” I don’t know if he used the word “naive,” but that’s how I heard it. And then that kind of blossomed. By the time we got to the series, John Enbom was our writer, and he was our only writer. The way he wrote Constance was so funny. And I found my way into it through his writing, and she became kind of naive and guileless and innocent.

Rudd: Constance, who still is positive and older than everyone. There’s a reason her name is Constance.

Thomas: Once she dialed it in, it was sublime.

Marino: There’s something really special about this show because all these characters just work so well together.

Lynch: Because we are ensemble people by nature, when we show up to do a job, we’ve got to take on the character. And it’s something very singular. Any one of these characters could have a show of their own.

Part 4: “It Is a Miracle That You Can Get Anything Good to Come Out the Other Side of This Sausage-Making Factory.”

Because every episode was set at a different party, the show had a rotating guest list that included, among others, Kristen Bell, J.K. Simmons, Marilu Henner, and Steve Guttenberg. When being cast in Glee forced Lynch to leave at the end of Season 1, Jennifer Coolidge stepped in for two episodes as Constance’s roommate, Bobbie St. Brown. Megan Mullally eventually joined the cast in Season 2 as stage mom Lydia Dunfree. No matter who was around, shooting Party Down was always, well, a party.

Scott: We immediately loved doing the show together.

Lynch: Every week was in a different location, and it was just, “Oh, where are we going next week?” It was just a joy.

Enbom: The episode with the senior singles mixer. There’s a couple of scenes where Jane and Adam smoke a joint in the bathroom together, and then Ken comes in with the photo.

Lynch: Oh my God, we are so high. And he’s like, “You guys, you know I used to party hard.” He gives us a scared-straight talk and then shows us a photograph of a leg made footless. By pot.

Marino: A leg stump.

Enbom: We spent awhile trying to get them into exactly the right kind of headspace to make that work. There’s a point where that scene started clicking—between the look of it in this dingy bathroom, them having this weird kind of stoned conversation, and then Ron coming in, we got very excited.

Etheridge: John wrote this brilliant and long scene, and instead of going for the laughs and pacing, it was just kind of languid and funny. And that’s the moment we knew, “This is the tone of the show.”

Thomas: When I was back in Texas working as a high school teacher, I would go to movies or watch television shows, and I would wonder, “How does such shit get made? Do people not see how bad these things are that they’re making?” And then after coming to Hollywood and working in the business, my perspective had changed. It is a miracle that you can get anything good to come out the other side of this sausage-making factory. There are so many hurdles, so many obstacles, so many things you can fuck up that will make a show not great. And at the end of that senior singles one, I thought, “We made it. We’ve passed the gauntlet.”

Starr: The one thing that was tough is we just didn’t have time for improv. And I think a lot of us were familiar with, and wanting, to play in that way. And when it came down to it, we just didn’t have the time for it. We didn’t have the budget for it. But luckily, Enbom is such an incredibly talented writer that you don’t need it.

Hansen: In fact, so many people are like, “That’s got to be improvised, right?” The way John writes, it just feels so natural.

Enbom: Martin’s character always resented Kyle, and that was their relationship. Originally, Kyle did not pay much attention to Roman, just because he didn’t think much of him. And so the fact that this kind of little weird relationship evolved has a lot to do with just how the two of them got on.

Starr: When it was in the dialogue a little bit, we leaned into it and it became kind of our natural on-screen/off-screen rapport. Because it’s also a fun place to play. I think we enjoy that kind of humor naturally, anyway. So we kind of end up doing it even when we’re not working.

Hansen: You know what wasn’t in the dialogue? Martin slapping me on camera.

Enbom: It became this running thing of—without him even knowing it was coming—just Martin whapping Kyle.

Starr: It wasn’t in the face. It was mostly …

Hansen: A lot of nut shots.

Starr: We pitched a show after Party Down ended that was some version of that dynamic, those characters just in a different setting. We sold it, and then nobody picked it up afterward. But it’s for the best, because I think this is really where these characters were for sure meant to live. And I’d hate to get sued by John Enbom.

Rudd: Everybody was so good on the show. I still laugh at it.

Lynch: You bring a bunch of people, full-blown characters, and you put them together. I think that creates that kind of lightning in the bottle.

Rudd: The idea that they would be hired to do Steve Guttenberg’s party, and then it’s canceled. And then he invites them in anyway. I still think about that and laugh. I also really laugh when I think about Ron Donald. His giant [prosthetic] penis when he’s crumbling at the porn awards. I was crying when I saw it for the first time.

Scott: We just figured no one would ever see it. But we didn’t care because we loved making it for each other and for ourselves. It didn’t matter. And I think that’s part of what’s special about it.

Embom: It was a low-budget show tucked away in the back corner of the Starz network. I think the first season had been just a total roll of the dice of like, “Let’s see what happens.” So the fact that we got a second season, and we were able to capitalize and build on what we’d been doing—we felt like we had gotten better.

Marino: I directed the last episode of the second season. And for me, one of the big treats of it was that Jane was coming back. Because that was a bummer for all of us that Jane had to leave. And so when she came back, it felt like there was a sense of closure for the gang. And there was something bittersweet about that, to get to all do the show one more time knowing that this might be the last time.

Scott: One of the last things I shot was watching Constance go down the road in her “Just Married” car. And her husband passes away while they’re driving down. And I remember my character is watching them, and I don’t remember what I say, but it’s something like [“It will last forever”]. Some really sad line. And I remember starting to fall apart when I was saying the line, because I felt like this was it.

Part 5: “We Genuinely Loved Each Other.”

In truth, the Party Down brain trust was optimistic that there would be a Season 3. Then, in late December 2009, former HBO CEO Chris Albrecht became the president of Starz. At that point, the creators of the show knew that it was in trouble.

Etheridge: I remember—it was at the holidays—we were putting the finishing touches on what the Season 3 and 4 deals would look like. And the next morning a new regime was brought into Starz, and things started to go in a different direction.

Thomas: That happened very suddenly. I think the old regime, they were proud of the show creatively. It made Starz a cool place to do television. They didn’t care that our numbers were not big. They knew what we were doing for them. And then with the new regime, they had no pride of ownership in Party Down. And the other thing that happened in that exact moment was Spartacus came out and did huge numbers for Starz. And they just said, “OK, we are now in the nudity and blood game. That’s where we’re going now.”

Scott: It was unclear what was going to happen.

Starr: We had waited four or five months and didn’t hear anything. It was still like, “Oh, we haven’t made a decision yet.” And then Adam got the call to go do Parks and Rec, and he let us know that he was going to take this show because from what he understood, we weren’t going to get picked up anyway.

On June 30, 2010, five days after the Season 2 finale aired to an audience of only 74,000 viewers, news broke that Starz was canceling Party Down.

Thomas: It was crushing because we loved working with Starz, we loved doing the show. We thought we were doing more seasons, and then it really got ripped away from us.

Enbom: We were definitely bummed to find out we weren’t going on. But because of that, we had always been trying to figure out how we could do more. We flirted with the idea of trying to do a movie at one point, but we couldn’t really figure out how to do it just because we always considered the show to be so episode driven. We would go back in every now and then to Starz and be like, “We’ve got an idea.” And they’d be like, “Maybe. Anyway, nice seeing you.”

Thomas: They eventually had a regime change over there where Chris Albrecht left, and then [new president] Jeff Hirsch was interviewed by one of the trades. I read this story in which they asked, “Well, what’s your biggest regret for Starz?” And his answer was “That we ever lost Party Down.” And I called him the next day and said, “Let’s have lunch.” In TV terms, it did very quickly happen, although that probably meant a year and a half until we got to start shooting. We had to find a window where we could get as many of our actors as possible, and had to write a script.

In November 2021, the network announced a Party Down revival, which will premiere on February 24. Most of the main cast—minus Caplan, due to scheduling conflicts—is returning, in addition to new crew members Tyrel Jackson Williams, who plays an aspiring influencer and TikTok star, and Zoë Chao, who plays a chef with greater ambitions than making canapés. Jennifer Garner, James Marsden, and Nick Offerman are also joining the party in a new season that reflects how the experience of trying to make it in Hollywood has changed since 2010—and how it hasn’t.

Enbom: We very much wanted to be true to where these people would be in 12 years, and not try and get too caught up in it being a nostalgia exercise.

Scott: What those of us of a certain age feel about showbiz in general now is “Wow, you can just take the phone out of your pocket and make a show.” It’s just a completely different thing. So I think it’s a great thing for Ryan’s character to be watching Tyrel’s character make himself a star in between his work at Party Down. And Kyle’s like, “Wait, what?” He’s not the young, cute one anymore, and this guy’s just becoming famous.

Hansen: It’s very confusing for someone of our generation.

Rudd: The method has changed. The intent, the loneliness, the desperation, the eagerness, the enthusiasm, the joy, and positivity—all that stuff is exactly the same.

Zoë Chao (Lucy Dang): The first day I worked, which was the second day of shooting, I went to the bathroom and closed the stall. Maybe this is an inappropriate story. But Jane Lynch was peeing in the next stall and whistling as she was peeing. And I got teary-eyed in the stall and I didn’t say anything. And actually, she went off to be on Broadway very quickly after that. But I truly was like, “There is a God.”

Marino: To get to do it again, my God, what a gift.

Tyrel Jackson Williams (Sackson Paxton): There’s already a dynamic in a group of people who worked together so well, and you’re just dropped in the middle of it. And everybody was so open and welcoming.

James Marsden (Jack Botty): It kind of feels like in high school when you get transferred from one school to another and there’s the cool kids and you just feel like this outsider. But immediately, if they’re good people, you’re immediately welcomed.

Marino: There’s just some wonderful, undefinable connection. That comes through the screen. People can feel that. Whether the characters are getting along in the scene or not, it doesn’t matter.

Lynch: We genuinely loved each other.

Scott: We all directly connected viscerally to these characters because we were all in a place of success being just out of reach. Our faces were pressed right up against the glass of show business.

Marsden: I moved to L.A. when I was 19. I was so dumb and young and naive that it was like, “I don’t have far to fall, so there’s nothing to be scared of.” I was actually just excited. But there was maybe just a hint in the back of my mind that was like, “Well, what happens if this doesn’t work out?”

Chao: I lived out here for six years right out of grad school, and I worked at a restaurant for four and a half of those years. And I watched Party Down during that time and I felt less alone.

Williams: It captures the transitory nature of living in L.A. and trying to make it where there is nothing to grab on to. It feels like you’re constantly wading through quicksand, waiting to find a rock.

Lynch: When you cater these parties or you wait on these tables, a lot of times you’re waiting on people who have made it and who maybe could give you a job if they didn’t see you as a waiter. Because it’s very, very rare that a cater waiter becomes the next star of a television show. That doesn’t really happen so much.

Rudd: These people need each other more than they think. They have to congregate at these parties and work together. And they’re all not really where they want to be.

Enbom: In the entertainment industry, pretty much everybody we knew lived a version of that life for a period of their career.

Thomas: It’s an evergreen concept: “How long should I chase the dream?”

These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

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