After much media discussion surrounded Caplan being unable to appear in the six-episode third season due to scheduling issues, the show managed to keep secret its final twist — and her brief appearance. As a tag at the end of the season finale, viewers got to see Casey, who has landed a role on a hit TV series that makes her miserable, during her chance encounter with Henry following his decision to end things with Evie (Jennifer Garner).
This was a long-awaited moment for fans who loved Henry and Casey’s chemistry in the first two seasons before the series about a catering team initially signed off back in June 2010. Co-created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd, Party Down features a star-studded cast that also includes Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr and Megan Mullally.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Caplan describes the “devastating” feeling of having to choose between a regular role on Party Down and her Hulu series Fleishman Is in Trouble, how the surprise cameo eventually came together, why it’s so important to her that the series get another season, why Casey’s absence throughout the six-episode run might have ultimately been a blessing and whether there’s any chance of more Fleishman.
At what point did you have to make the decision to miss out on a regular role for Party Down’s return?
It was the end of 2021. I knew that I was going to be doing Fleishman in the beginning of the year and Fatal Attraction at the end of the year, and then Party Down came together sometime during all of those very long negotiations for Fleishman. I was just very adamant: “Guys, we gotta figure it out. I’m obviously not missing Party Down — no way. I will get on a plane if I have seven hours off and race back to L.A. and shoot a scene and come back. Anything I have to do, I am willing to do it, so let’s figure it out.” And they were like, “No.” (Laughs.)
The Fleishman team said no?
It was impossible to put that in the deal because of COVID. There was no popping on planes back and forth. We were still very much under COVID’s thumb and for good reason. Plenty of people got COVID on both Fatal Attraction and Fleishman, and it derailed production. I would have worn seven masks, but they couldn’t legally wrap their heads around it. It was devastating. Had I been less enthusiastic about the notion of getting to do Fleishman, the decision wouldn’t have been as agonizing.
Up until the 11th hour, I thought miraculously something would work out, and I would be able to do both. I will officially say I didn’t regret the decision when we get picked up for a season four (laughs), and I can be in Party Down season four. But if I take my emotions completely out of it, narratively it probably benefited the show for Casey to only pop in at the end — as much as that kills me to say.
Because you liked getting to explore things with Evie?
Yes, I thought all that Evie stuff worked so, so well. I’m in awe of John Enbom and Dan Etheridge and Rob Thomas — everybody that makes the show. I’m in awe that they managed to get all of these people 12 years later into the same room again in a believable way and in fairly little time. Maybe one more person would have tipped the scales too much. This was their job that they had 12 years ago when they were all trying to do and be something else. I think I’m probably just like trying to justify things in hindsight. (Laughs.) I know for a fact they would have made it work perfectly if I could have done the whole season. But if we get a season four, everything happened exactly as it was meant to happen. If we don’t get a season four, I will never, ever not be sad about this.
It’s amazing that the revival even happened at all. When the show’s initial run ended, I remember being baffled that America couldn’t manage to support it.
It’s so wild. And for it to come back and truly not miss a beat, like everybody is firing on all cylinders. I loved it so much, just getting to watch it as an audience member. I didn’t know if I would have mixed feelings about that if it would be hard. And I have to say I just died laughing at every episode. I felt really lucky that I got to then text each of these people and tell them how brilliant they are and pull out specific things that they did that just annihilated me.
Were you involved in conversations about where Casey’s path has taken her?
There was a version of the show where Casey was in the season. I don’t remember if I read a script or if I just heard about it. But it was a similar thing that she was on a show, and so she had made it in some way. There’s a lot of fertile ground there for future seasons because somebody had to make it.
What do you remember about realizing you’d at least be able to make the finale cameo work?
They floated the idea, which was such an instant yes. I was in production on Fleishman, and they [wanted to] figure out how to do this one sneaky day.
How did it feel to have Casey and Henry back together?
It was wonderful. I love Casey and Henry. It was just great and great to see Ken very briefly too, even though we don’t share screen time. It just felt like this is a story that I would love to continue telling. I love their relationship so much. I’m so proud of being on this show, and I’m just proud of all that Henry-Casey stuff. It always worked so well, and I was always rooting for them.
It seems clear how you would feel about a fourth season, but has there been any word about indeed making more episodes?
Nobody’s told me. I wish more than anything that I could tell you right now. I don’t know what would have to happen for it to come back. I don’t know what the ratings are. I don’t know what the subscriber count did as a result of Party Down. But I do know that as just an audience member this time around, it works on every level. They fully did their job by just cranking out six perfect episodes. And so I would be shocked if it didn’t come back, but Party Down is nothing if not an underdog.
You mentioned Fleishman Is in Trouble. Is there any possibility that it returns for another season?
No, there was never supposed to be a season two for Fleishman. That was very much a one-and-doner and has to be. On a human, personal level, it was another one of my all-time favorite jobs. I loved making Fleishman; I loved my castmates on that; I loved [series creator] Taffy [Brodesser-Akner]. We got to shoot in New York. It was a very, very special, wonderful job. For myself, I would do a thousand more seasons of Fleishman, but for the piece itself, it was very much a story with the beginning, middle and end. And I believe in the end more than I believe in my own personal desires.
Interview edited for length and clarity.