The Case of the Incredible Mystery Team

Ten years ago this spring, a spunky gang of filmmakers converged on the Queen City and made a little movie that launched some gigantic careers.

The mystery began over drinks.

“I can’t believe you’ve never seen that movie,” said my friend Josh at a table upstairs at Fratello’s. “It’s hilarious. It was all filmed here in Manchester.”

The movie was named “Mystery Team” he said, and had been made by a YouTube sketch comedy group called Derrick.

Now, I know a lot about New Hampshire, and I think of myself as somewhat knowledgeable about movies — if it were a “Jeopardy” category, I’d go straight to the $1,000 answer — but I’d never heard of this one. My mind ran through the list of movies made completely in our state in the last 20 years. It wasn’t a long list, but for movies filmed in Manchester I could only think of one, a fun little no-budget affair made by some buddies about 17 years ago titled “Nowheresville.”

As soon as I could I checked IMDb, the official ledger of the film industry. To my surprise, “Mystery Team” had a poster, an IMDb page and, wait, what’s that? An all-star cast? Bobby Moynihan from “SNL”? Ellie Kemper from “The Office” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”? Matt Walsh from “Veep”? Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt’s sullen but supportive girlfriend from “Parks and Recreation” (who has since starred in about a half dozen major motion pictures)? And speaking of major motion pictures, could that grinning kid, front and center in the “Mystery Team” poster, actually be the new, young Lando Calrissian from “Solo: A Star Wars Story”?

Just in case you live in a media-free dome somewhere, I’m referring to Donald Glover, aka Troy Barnes on “Community,” aka Grammy-winner Childish Gambino, aka Emmy-winning creator of the FX TV series “Atlanta.” Glover had just appeared looking dapper on the cover of the March issue of Esquire. He’s probably the hottest entertainment property on the planet right now.

Donald Glover made a movie in Manchester, NH? A mystery indeed.

OK, it was made a decade ago, according to IMBd, but still, the plot was thickening. I found a ridiculously large magnifying glass, put on my houndstooth deerstalker hat and set forth to find more clues.

They came quickly. A perusal of Netflix offerings revealed that I could watch “Mystery Team” in the comfort of my own drawing room, and soon the story was unreeling before my eyes.

A synopsis:

Three young wanna-be detectives have earned acclaim for solving neighborhood “crimes” ranging from lost kittens to stolen tricycles. They even made the local papers with their exploits long ago and still have a cool detective stand made from scrap wood with a sign reading “Mysteries Solved, Ten Cents.” There’s a string tied to a bell in a bedroom, just in case their services are needed. But the detectives have grown up and the world has changed around them — younger neighbor kids swear like sailors, while the Mystery Team seems to be quoting lines from “The Hardy Boys.”

Imagine Encyclopedia Brown, but in a world of hormones, mayhem and vulgarity.

High school graduation looms and their detective days seem to be over when a little girl, Brianna (played by 8-year-old Daphne Ciccarelle), rings their bell with a dime to pay for their services.

The Mystery Team assembles — Charlie: The Strongest Kid in Town (Dominic Dierkes), Duncan: Boy Genius (DC Pierson) and Jason: Master of Disguise (Donald Glover). Although none of the team seems to quite live up to his nom de guerre, all are eager for the mission, until Brianna asks, “Can you find out who killed my parents?”

They recover their wits and take the case (and the dime). Then humor ensues. Lots of humor. The movie is funny, but also very raunchy. There is nudity, offensive language, poop, barf, you name it. Parents and the prudish be warned, but if you can take it, the story is actually pretty sweet and even has a little depth. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a moving-away story. It’s a story about the mysterious bonds of friendship.

And with locations ranging from Derrryfield Park to Bunny’s Superette to Stadium Ten Pin bowling to Reeds Ferry Lumber Company to Mark’s Showplace (now The Gold Club), it’s a story about the Manchester area, thinly disguised as the town of “Oakdale.”

The Making of “Mystery Team”

The production’s electronic “clapper” as seen through a camera monitor

The filming took place 10 years ago this spring, but the behind-the-scenes story actually begins during a different high school graduation, this one at Manchester Central, about five years earlier. Dan Eckman, then a senior, had written a play and needed some actors, so he called the president of the Central High theatre club, a petite brunette named Meggie McFadden, to recommend a few.

Let’s say they hit it off. She wound up as stage manager for his play and they’ve been working together ever since. Dan graduated a semester early and went off to Los Angeles to find internships in the film industry, so they dated long distance for a while, then both moved to New York for college, Dan to the film program at NYU and Meggie to Vassar.

“The relationship just sort of happened along the way,” says Meggie. “I really wanted to work in entertainment from the get-go,” she adds. “Me too,” says Dan sitting next to her at the Waterworks Café in the Manchester Millyard. They are home from Los Angeles to visit family over the holidays. Both seem pleased and a bit puzzled about my interest in their old movie, but were willing to meet for a breakfast interview.

The front yard of McFadden’s parents’ house in Manchester during filming

They explained how a shared interest in film and comedy kept them active in the hurly-burly creative scene of New York City. Eckman had met Glover, Dierkes and Pierson at NYU, and the five began to collaborate under the name Derrick Comedy, uploading videos of funny sketches to the internet. Their first one submitted to the College Humor website became popular so they made more. It was all new back then, and Derrick’s videos attracted eyeballs and started earning some money. Soon they gravitated to an improv theatre ensemble known as the Upright Citizens Brigade, where Matt Walsh, one of the founders of UCB, took them under his wing.

“It was crazy, down-and-dirty punk rock theatre,” Walsh explains in a phone interview. “They were all over it.” The UCB was a sort of incubator for young talent, competitive and brash, but Walsh recalled the Derrick crew standing out. “They were actually very funny and they were kind of humble. They would do tech.” UCB had an annual Halloween show named “Killgore” in which “everyone gets bloodied or killed with exploding blood bags for heads,” says Walsh. Audience members bring plastic sheets to protect themselves. “The boys would mop up blood or do weird five-second parts in the show,” says Walsh.

But the members of Derrick had bigger plans. Monetizing funny videos was fine, but they wanted to make a movie. “That’s the thing we had gone to school for,” says Meggie, “so rather than spend any of the money on ourselves or for beer, we just put it in a bank account and hoarded it.” As their bank account grew, they collaborated on the concept, and Donald, Dominic and DC started writing the script that became “Mystery Team.”

The crew was accustomed to drives up to Manchester where they could film their sketch comedy quietly and use the family connections of Dan and Meggie for locations and places to crash. They knew their friends from the Upright Citizens Brigade were all young and hungry for exposure like themselves. “UCB had a bunch of really talented, undiscovered people there,” says Dan. “I knew Aubrey Plaza from freshman year at film school, so we had this pool of talent and knew everyone was good. We said, ‘Hey, want to take the bus up to New Hampshire and be in a movie?’” Just about everyone said yes.

Director Dan Eckman composes a shot.

This kind of “let’s put on a play” attitude is common among young actors, but Dan’s knowledge of filmmaking and Meggie’s organizational skills set the production apart. They rented serious equipment from New York and tapped into the NH Film Office for production assistance and crew. “A lot of my friends would show up, and when it wasn’t just me and a camera, it was like, ‘Oh! This is more than I expected,” says Dan.

The story itself, while going pretty low in pursuit of laughs (watch the clogged toilet scene in the strip club segment for proof), has some serious elements. Dierkes says that there are more layers than might be obvious:

“As a sketch comedy group, we knew it would be easy to fall into the trap of making a 90-minute series of  sketches loosely tied together with a location, so we wanted to make sure the story had real stakes.” The premise of these Encyclopedia Brown detectives growing up and having to justify themselves to the world might have been stakes enough, says Dierkes, but, “on another level, I guess it’s about a group of friends who kind of stunted each other’s growth with this silly thing they wanted to do.”

Spoiler alert: The big fight at the end is about the fact that two of the team are going to college, while Jason (Glover), assumed they would all stay in town and become professional detectives.

“For a group of people who had just graduated college and were looking at real life, it’s not a coincidence that we were drawn to that story,” says Dierkes.

The Stars

DC Pierson, Aubrey Plaza, Donald Glover and Dominic Dierkes

They weren’t actually stars at the time, but the potential is apparent in this, the first full-length film for just about everyone in the cast.

The Derrick gang was already becoming internet famous, and Dierkes and Pierson have both remained busy acting and writing, but Donald Glover had a certain glow. His performance as Jason, the heart and soul of the Mystery Team, is pure magic, managing to infuse his manic energy with comic grace in the most preposterous situations and outfits (ranging from cartoon hobo to top-hatted rich guy — he’s a master of disguise, remember).

Aubrey Plaza’s huge eyes and cool detachment are in play in her role as Brianna’s older sister, Kelly, whose grieving is interrupted by the investigative antics of the Mystery Team. She demonstrates some of her range during a brief romantic encounter with Donald Glover’s Jason. The master of disguise has fallen for his client and has been summoning his courage to give her his first real kiss. When she submits to his affection, he plants one on her. It’s a tender moment, but when it ends and Jason departs, Kelly turns, shrugs and says, “He just blew in my mouth.”

Bobby Moynihan goes nuts as Jordy, the career checkout guy at a local market (Bunny’s), coming off just as goofy and weird (and ultimately lovable) as characters like “Snooki” and “Drunk Uncle” that he made famous on “SNL.”

Ellie Kemper, now on Netflix as Kimmy Schmidt, plays the Mystery Team’s biggest fan, Jamie. Like the Team, she seems to come from some other time and place (or dimension), but is as lovable as a spotted puppy in her brief moments on screen.

Matt Walsh’s character, Jim, appears at an office costume party where he demonstrates the sort of stoicism that no doubt came in handy when surrounded by exploding blood bags back at the UCB Halloween show. Walsh acknowledges that he was well-established, career-wise, and the rare grownup amongst the cast of wunderkinds, but he was there to act, not to offer advice. Still, he admits, “I’m pretty reliable, so I’m sure my experience was a relief for the director.”

Reading over the IMDb cast and crew page for “Mystery Team” only proves what an incredible conglomeration of talent was on hand.

Kay Cannon, who had a small role as a drug-addled moll to a drug dealer, went on to produce and write the uber-popular “Pitch Perfect” movies. She was also a writer and producer for TV shows "30 Rock" and "New Girl," and she directed the upcoming R-rated comedy "Blockers," which recently premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

John Lutz, who plays the office foil to Walsh’s Jim, has appeared in film and TV over the years and won numerous Writers Guild awards for his work on “SNL.”

Neil Casey, who has a tiny part as “Broken Man,” went on to appear in “Ghostbusters” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”

Kevin Brown, who played the bouncer at Ponytail’s Strip Club, became famous for his role as Dot Com in Tracy Morgan’s entourage on “30 Rock.”

Ben Schwartz, who was called up at 3 a.m. to replace an actor with a scheduling conflict, said no problem and jumped on a bus the next day. He later got a big part in “Parks and Recreation” and appears in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Production designer Lisa Myers has stayed busy, notably managing art for buzz-worthy films like “Robot & Frank.”

Oh, and even the score of “Mystery Team” has a now-famous composer: Donald Glover, long before he pulled out the hip-hop stops as Childish Gambino.

Anecdotally Speaking

When Bobby Moynihan got the call to come up for the Bunny’s scenes, he took off work from his bartending job, climbed into his old Saturn and drove it north until it broke down in Connecticut. Dan’s mom, Amy Eckman, was drafted to drive down and pick him up. They filmed all night, and at sunrise she drove him back to the Sunoco station where it was parked. “I got to my car and was like, well, this sucks,” Moynihan recalls. Fortunately, the car wasn’t too far from a college buddy, so things worked out, but he had to wait three days to get it fixed and slept on his friend’s couch. See our interviews with Bobby Moynihan and Aubrey Plaza for more "Mystery Team" memories.

“Being in Mystery Team cost me $5,600,” he says. “All in all, I loved doing it and still treasure it to this day.”

The Mystery Team interrogates its first big suspect in the investigation, Old Man McGinty, who was played by the director’s grandfather George Eckman. Family members not only filled in as crew and occasional transportation, but many are featured in cameos throughout the film.

DC Pierson says his role as Duncan, Boy Genius fit him pretty well. He admits he used to enjoy the books of “101 Wacky Facts” that you could buy from the Scholastic Book Club in school and he felt proud when informed of his “advanced reading level.” But he may have gotten lost in character. Taking the bus back to New York, he soon regretted not doing something about the “aggressive bowl cut” Duncan wore. He thought he’d just let it grow back in, but wound up at the mercy of the comedy scene in New York.

“It was sort of like coming back from a cult,” says DC. “You’re gone for a couple of months and you say, ‘yeah, we shot a movie,’ but it’s like, ‘did it really happen?’ and all you have to show for it is this bowl cut.”

The film was made without a lot of the kind of hoopla that often accompanies such a production, thanks in large part to the connections the Derrick crew had already forged, but they did leave an impression on people.

John Sefel was running the Actors Loft Academy of Performing Arts in Manchester, which Dan’s mother had helped create. The Loft became a kind of headquarters and supply depot for the filmmakers, so Sefel got to know them well and was witness to the challenges they encountered. “I’m around people running stressful productions all the time,” says Sefel. “I’d always accepted that, when people have that much stress on them, they were given a free pass to be jerks. … I never once saw either Dan or Meggie take out their stress on anyone.”

The stress wasn’t only on the young cast. Meggie recalls filming scenes at her parent’s house. “Jason’s bedroom is actually my childhood bedroom and the kitchen as well as the front yard where the Mystery Team stand was set up are all my parents’ home in Manchester.” It was friendly and familiar, she says, “so we exploited the hell out of it.”

They shot late into the night for days in a row on weeknights. “My parents just went with it. I know they were completely exhausted at work all week because they had an extremely disruptive film crew loudly screaming ‘action’ outside their bedroom doors all night long,” she says, “but they’re very supportive parents.”

We are Family: This “family portrait” with actors Aubrey Plaza and Daphne Ciccarelle between Hal and Amy Eckman becomes a clue in the investigation.

“I don’t think people quite realize that allowing a film crew into your home is like having something between a group of hard-partying roadies and a really destructive small army take up residence,” she adds.

Bryce Boucher, who now works at Red River Theatres in Concord, was working as a grip and electrician on set. “It was one of the most professional gigs I ever worked. The pay was good, they fed us well, and everyone got along,” he says. The longest day he worked was 20 hours, but he was rewarded with a great resume note: “The shot of Donald Glover in the stairwell puking into his sombrero was actually lit by me,” he says. The rest of the electrical crew was busy elsewhere, so they just told him what they wanted. “Simple enough setup,” he says. “Mid-sized kino lamp with a silver fill, if I remember correctly.”

Matt Newton was still the new director of the NH Film Office at the time, but he recognized this was different from the small projects that frequently called in for help with locations and crew. He had heard of Glover and Plaza and the Derrick guys and was impressed from the start.

“They were already talking to the right people,” says Newton. A large framed “Mystery Team” poster still adorns his office and he recalls that the movie has at least one distinction in local filmmaking. “It may be our only film that has a Red Band trailer,” he says. For the uninitiated, Green Band trailers are approved for all audiences while Red Bands indicate sex or violence and swear words. Try to watch it online and you’ll have to punch in the date of your birth to prove your adultness.

The Legacy

As much fun as the cast and crew were having with their 20-hour shoots and trips to the Red Arrow for late-night breakfast sandwiches, their real lives were calling.

Donald Glover was still writing for “30 Rock” at the time and had to get back to New York City. His final scene was shot leaving just enough time for Dan’s dad, the late Hal Eckman, to drive Glover back to his job.

Glover already had some buzz in the industry, but when the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, famous for their work on “Arrested Development,” saw “Mystery Team,” they realized that Glover was perfect for a role in a new TV series they were developing named “Community.” Glover has been busy, to say the least, ever since.

Aubrey Plaza had already missed a wedding that coincided with a day of critical filming. When she was invited to audition for a new Judd Apatow movie, “Funny People,” Dan’s brother, Jeff Eckman, who had been filming behind the scenes, offered to help shoot a last-minute audition tape for her. “We were shooting in a hardware store that night,” Aubrey recalls. “Donald read and improvised with me. I think we were standing in front of a bunch of door knobs or window hardware.” Still, she got the role and her career took off.

Not everyone could stick around for the wrap party, but those who did had a treat in store. Dan Eckman offered to show everyone a short film he had made in his college days — something so bad it was embarrassing. His voluntary humiliation would be his going-away gift to cast and crew. The lights went down and the video began. Soon Dan’s huge face appeared on the screen and he said, “This is something I’ve been knowing I was gonna to do for about six years. Meggie, will you marry me?”

The lights went up. A teary-eyed Meggie hugged Dan and said yes. He put a prop ring on her finger. They kissed. A perfect Hollywood ending.

“That’s a wrap.” Meggie and Dan seal the deal.

But everyone knows that Hollywood endings are never the end. That’s why the sequel was invented.

Both Dan and Meggie have successful careers in entertainment, writing and directing. There are movies in the works, including an animated feature titled “Hibernation,” about a bear that can’t fall asleep and a “sci-fi rom-com” that they are excited about. But they admit the chances of a sequel to “Mystery Team” are pretty slim. Just to bring Aubrey Plaza and Donald Glover back to redo their kissing scene would now cost millions of dollars.

“Mystery Team” reportedly cost less than a million dollars to make, small even by indy standards, and IMDb reports that it earned less than a tenth of that.

So, back at the Waterworks Café, I have to ask Dan and Meggie, “Was it a failure?”

“So many ways it failed,” says Dan. “I can’t count them.”

“We were 24 and stupid,” says Meggie. “I think there were a lot of ways we could have planned it better, scheduled it better.”

“Written it better, filmed it better. If I watch it today, all I can do is see the ways it could be better,” says Dan.

“I think everything is a combination of success and failure,” says Meggie.

Dan pauses to think, and adds, “When we were at Sundance with ‘Mystery Team,’ I saw some Q&A with Guillermo del Toro, and I’m going to attribute him with the quote, though maybe it was taken from someone else. He said, ‘You lose yourself in success, but you find yourself in failure.’”

“In what way did it succeed?” I ask.

“If someone saw it and laughed at the jokes and enjoyed it, that’s a success,” says Meggie.

“It was something we’d been dreaming about our whole lives,” says Dan. “That it actually exists, that’s a success, because it almost didn’t so many times. I heard a quote once that any movie that gets made is a miracle. I think that’s true.”

So, all it took was a miracle.

Mystery solved.

Locations, Locations

Never has an indy film made better use of the Manchester area for locations. Along with some North End neighborhoods, the following businesses were immortalized by “Mystery Team.”

Bunny’s Superette on Webster Street stayed “open” late for the filming of key scenes.

Shot at night, Reeds Ferry Lumber in Merrimack becomes a more mysterious environment.

Stadium Ten Pin (now Spare Time Bowling) added a little “Lebowski” to “Mystery Team.”

Many of the crucial exterior scenes were shot in Derryfield Park, across from the Puritan.

Strip club of many names, once Mark’s Showplace and now The Gold Club, was briefly Ponytail’s.

"Mystery Team" Memories

Bobby Moynihan

You and a number of your fellow cast members were players in the Upright Citizens Brigade. What was that like?

Matt [Walsh] was someone we all looked up to. Still do. He created something that gave so many people a purpose, lifelong friends and a career. I will always be forever grateful. I have been involved with UCB since 2000. I was on the last improv team, Police Chief Rumble, at the original theatre. It’s weird to think of a life without UCB at this point.

In what way was the shared experience with UCB important to the making of “Mystery Team?”

In those days, we were all so hungry. We just wanted to hang out and talk about and do comedy. That’s why I loved the Derrick guys so much. They were motivated. A lot of people at UCB would say “Oh, I’m working on this project! Will you do it?” and then they would never do it. But the Derrick guys were always making sh*t happen. One of the videos I did with them I still get asked about on a weekly basis. We shot it 15 years ago!

So your car broke down on your way to NH and the director’s mom had to ferry you up?

Dan’s mom was a delight and a wonderful conversationalist. I remember getting there very late and arriving at a base camp that was a house and they had food in the garage. It seemed super-professional and I was surprised. They had real cameras!

Any sentimental attachments to “Mystery Team,” any lessons learned from it?

I always loved working with the guys from Derrick. As far as lessons learned? Work with people who make you laugh and check your oil regularly.

Finally, what do you remember most about New Hampshire?

I was there for about 10 hours. At night. So I would say if you have the chance to be a passenger in Dan Eckman’s mom’s car for a nighttime drive through New Hampshire, you should jump at the chance. You may even learn a thing or two.

Aubrey Plaza

“Mystery Team” was your first full-length movie. Is it special to you in any way?

You never forget your first! Yes, it was so special to me. And such a special time in my life. I was surrounded by my friends and comedy mates from New York. I was in the same class at NYU as the Derrick Comedy group, so it was really cool to work with them on something professional. It felt like we had gotten away with something while our parents were out of town.

Did you learn anything that has been useful to you as your career has taken off?

I learned so much it’s hard to remember anything super-specific. But, I would say that working with your friends is important, especially in comedy. I also learned a lot about the Applebee’s lunch and dinner menus as that was one of the only restaurants I could walk to from my hotel!

The young actress who played Brianna recalls that you had a crush on Donald Glover and were excited about the kissing scene you had with him. True?

Ha! What a little troublemaker. I have no recollection of this … but I was of course excited to work with Donald. He is the super talent of our times.

Any clues at the time that you were surrounded by so many people who were destined to succeed?

Looking back, I am not surprised that so many of that cast have succeeded. The Upright Citizens Brigade theater attracted only the best and this is where most of these people came from. I am just honored to be a part of that group and I am so happy for all of them.

Finally, what do you remember most about New Hampshire?

I remember the people. Everyone was so hospitable and welcoming. Which isn’t always the case when you’re taking over locations with a bunch of crew and equipment. And it was beautiful! Like I said earlier, I could only really walk to the Applebee’s, but that walk was full of trees and cute neighborhoods!

Where Are They Now – Continued

Many in the cast of Mystery Team are still working in the film and TV industry and quite a few have gone on to great success. Here’s a quick roster.

Donald Glover – Jason

Donald Glover seems to be everywhere lately, but he most easily found at award shows picking up trophies for his acting, writing and music. Among his recent projects are:

Atlanta (TV series) – writer/creator, executive producer and actor
Roman J. Israel, 2017 – Performer (as Childish Gambino) and writer
Spiderman: Homecoming, 2017 – actor as Aaron Davis
Get Out, 2017 – Performer and writer of “Redbone” (as Childish Gambino)The Martian, 2015 – actor as Rich PurnellCommunity
(TV series, 2009-2015)

Glover’s latest projects projects include:

“The Lion King,” 2019, as the voice of Simba
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” as Lando Calrisian, 2018
Deadpool (TV series), executive producer/writer 2018 (announced)

DC Pierson – Duncan

DC write and acts and has appeared in the TV shows “Kirby Buckets” and “Adam Ruins Everything” and in the movies “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” (2014) and “The To Do List,” (2013).  He recently appeared in an episode of the HBO TV series  “Here and Now.”

Dominic Dierkes – Charlie

Dominic writes and acts and is best known for his scripts for TV shows like “The Grinder” (2016), Ash vs Evil Dead (2015) and Workaholics (2012-2015). He’s currently writing for “The Mick.”

Aubrey Plaza – Kelly

Aubrey made her mark alongside Amy Poehler and Chris Pratt in “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015) and more recently in “Legion” and appearing in films like “Funny People,” “Scott Pilgrim vs the World,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Dirty Grandpa,” and “Ingrid Goes West.” She’s currently at work on a role in the animated feature “The Ark and the Aardvark”

Kay Cannon – Destiny

Kay has continued to act and write and has produced hit TV shows like “30 Rock,” “New Girl,” and “Girlboss” and wrote and co-produced the “Pitch Perfect” movies. She’s been hard at work on directing the film “Blockers” which opened in theatres in early 2018 and earned a 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Bobby Moynihan – Jordy

Bobby is most famous for his long run on the cast of Saturday Night Live (2008-2017) and for his voice work in “DuckTales” (2017) and Inside Out (2015). His voice currently appears in two TV series – “We Bare Bears” and “Nature Cat.”

Matt Walsh – Jim

Matt is a popular writer and actor, best known for his work in the HBO series “Veep” (2012-2017) and film roles in “Into the Storm” (2014) and “Due Date” (2010). He gets to play a romantic lead role in the upcoming feature film “Under the Eiffel Tower” (currently in post production).

John Lutz – Frank

John is a long-time writer for "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with Seth Meyers" and is a popular character actor in TV shows like “Shrink” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

Kevin Brown – Bouncer

Kevin has been busy as an actor, producer, writer and stand-up comic who is best known for his role as Dot Com from the TV series “30 Rock.” He’s had roles in lots of movies and will appear alongside Joan Jett in this upcoming release “Dinosaur.”

Ellie Kemper – Jamie

Ellie became famous for her role as Erin on “The Office” and her star has only grown brighter since with roles in movies like “Get Him to the Greek” (2010), “Bridesmaids” (2011), “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017), “Smurfs: The Lost Village” (2017) and as Kimmy in the Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” (2015-2018).

Props to This Guy

Nick Lareau says he was “discovered” on Craigslist for the unpaid job of assisting Production Designer Lisa Myers. Things happen fast on an independent film set, especially when you have talent, and quickly he was promoted to Assistant Property Master, “and actually got paid,” he says. One of his first tasks was to build the Mystery Team’s detective stand (pictured here). He eventually fabricated two of them, one that he helped pack up for the filmmakers to showcase at Comicon. 

Two other noteworthy “props” he made to the film are less charming but still essential to the story. Lareau devised both the ghastly contents of a toilet bowl in the pivotal strip club scene and the vomit that Duncan, the boy genius (DC Pierson), spews on Jason (Donald Glover) and Kelly (Aubrey Plaza) in a romantic kissing scene. For anyone aspiring to become a property master on a film set, he offers his formulas for toilet poo and barf that actors can actually handle.

“The toilet was filled with lemonade and chocolate syrup,” he says. The finishing touch, to provide a little “substance” to the mix, took some research, but he found the perfect material. “You know those really cheap chocolate brownies you can buy at the checkout counter?” he asks. “They’re soft, but really dense so you can mold them and they look just like poo!” So when Duncan is forced to reach into the bowl to fish out a ring that had been “deposited” there by a stripper, most of his disgust was simply acting. That’s movie magic at work.

Prop vomit has unique challenges, since it at least must go into the mouth of one actor and quite often winds up on other actors, by design or accident. Lareau says the solution is to make it delicious. He used a combination of butterscotch pudding  for the liquid portion and to add the appearance of something partially digested he mixed in oatmeal cookies. “It was all edible,” he says. “We didn’t want to make anyone actually vomit.”

Bon appétit.

Categories: Features, Music & Movies