SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers from the finale of “Party Down,” currently airing on Starz and streaming on the Starz app.
The team behind “Party Down” have been lying through their teeth, and for good reason.
All this time, while promoting the third season of the cater-waiter cult comedy — which returned to Starz 13 years after its initial cancellation — the cast and co-creators have fielded questions about the absence of Lizzy Caplan, the only original star to not appear in Season 3.
“Lizzy was booked throughout the entire window that we had,” creator and EP John Enbom previously told Variety. “She was very bummed that she was not able to join us. And we were bummed, too — we really liked working with her.”
But they were hiding a trick up their sleeves, as Caplan makes a shocking cameo at the end of the season’s sixth and final episode. “I can’t believe that they were able to keep it a secret,” Caplan marveled about the post-credits scene in an interview with Variety. “There are no secrets these days!”
In the scene, Henry (Adam Scott) is prepping food at a Hollywood press junket when in walks Casey (Caplan), who in the time between Seasons 2 and 3 has become a famous actor. Casey is out in L.A. to promote her “terrible” new show, “The Stabilizer,” and, after her chance encounter with her ex-flame, promises to hang out with Henry next time she’s in town, “which will be very soon because I’m about to quit this fucking thing.”
Caplan, along with Enbom and co-creator Rob Thomas, spoke with Variety ahead of the finale to dish on how they shot the surprise cameo in one day — and to tease how Casey might play into a potential Season 4.
Lizzy, your absence from Season 3 of “Party Down” was widely publicized. Was your cameo always intended to be a surprise for fans?
Lizzy Caplan: Yes, it was always meant to be a surprise. I, too, can’t believe that they were able to keep it a secret. There are no secrets these days! And it wasn’t like this Fort Knox vibe on set, where people were having to lock up their phones. It was a whole New York crew, and everyone kept their mouths shut! So the cynical side of me is like, “Well, nobody fucking cares!” But the uncynical side is like, “Aren’t humans generous?”
Was it tough for you to keep it a secret?
John Enbom: We have been rabid — Adam Scott, I think, as much as anyone — about wanting to keep this a secret. In every office memo, Adam is adding, “Let’s not let this get out.” Trying to keep this a secret has been the subject of dozens of emails, I’d say.
Caplan: It was actually easy for me to keep it a secret. I just decided not to tell anybody. I mean, I literally just told my sister five minutes ago. What would be the point of telling anybody? What would be the point of having that information? You would want to tell other people. So I just decided not to tell a single soul, and it was surprisingly easy.
How were you able to fit this post-credits scene into your schedule? Was it shot in one day?
Caplan: I was in New York — we shot it in one day. We also shot this other scene, which was papparazzi footage of Casey and her new boyfriend. We shot that segment for quite a while outside of Central Park. There were definitely paparazzi catching wind of what was happening, but no one said anything. Even they kept their mouths shut. The producers were thinking they’d maybe show that scene at the beginning of the season, showing that Casey is off in New York and with this new guy. But that would have ruined the surprise. So luckily they didn’t use any of it. But in retrospect it was kind of risky to shoot that.
Rob Thomas: Adam had a strong opinion that if people saw fresh footage of Lizzy in Episode 1, they would be crafty enough to figure out that we shot more.
In the post-credits scene, it’s really just you, Lizzy, with Adam Scott. Were you able to reunite with some of the other cast while on set?
Caplan: No, because we shot it in New York it was just a small splinter unit. Just Adam, Ken [Marino] and our producers flew in. It was this wonderful getting to tip my toe back into it, while also being wildly jealous that that was the only thing I got to dip.
The “Party Down” superfans are gonna say, “Well, if Lizzy could do this scene, why couldn’t she give us a whole episode?!?”
Caplan: It was all we could do. We really managed to shoehorn this in. I was committed to “Fleishman Is in Trouble” in New York, and I was more than willing to travel on off-days to come back to L.A. and make “Party Down” happen. But with COVID, they really didn’t want anybody traveling anywhere. It was heartbreakingly impossible. So I just hoped that [the “Party Down” team] ended up making something so wonderful that Starz would have no option but to pick it up for a fourth season. I have to say, having watched all the episodes, I fully believe they did their job.
C’mon, Starz! Pick it up for a fourth season.
Would you return to the series if it does get renewed?
Caplan: For sure. There is no universe in which I wouldn’t be in the fourth season of “Party Down.” They would have to tie me to the train tracks to keep me away. I don’t think they know anything about a renewal.
Have there been talks about a fourth season?
Enbom: No, that comes from the Hope Springs Eternal department.
Thomas: I was gonna say the Wishful Thinking department.
Enbom: Before we knew Lizzy wasn’t available, the first impulse we had was the idea of Casey and Henry meeting again for the first time at Kyle’s party [in Episode 1 of Season 3]. That was going to be a starting point for the season, and once that went away, we were still craving that moment: what it might be like for them to run back into each other. That’s what excited us from the very beginning, and we remain excited about it. So if anyone is listening out there… Starz…
Season 3 ends on a cliffhanger, with Casey saying she wants to quit her acting gig. How might she fit into future “Party Down” episodes?
Caplan: I am lucky that I wouldn’t be tasked with trying to figure out how to bring Casey back. It’d be tricky. But I haven’t seen much stuff about an actor who “made it” but feels totally stifled and unhappy in her job. That would be really interesting to put her in a group of people who are still striving in different ways.
Thomas: Henry and Casey is probably what we would hang a Season 4 on. It’s one of the better comedy romances on TV. We would love to get back to that.
Lizzy, what was it like watching Jennifer Garner step in as Henry’s love interest?
Caplan: Surprisingly it was a lovely viewing experience. She was so good, so funny, so charming, so beautiful. She — and all of the new cast — genuinely elevated the show.
I asked John about this already, but I want to get your take. Do you think “Party Down” is a cynical show?
Caplan: I think it’s so sad and beautiful but, ultimately, definitely optimistic. That is show business. There aren’t many industries where you can be deep in your 40s and still one phone call away from it happening for you. In that way, I feel like the show can go on and on and on forever.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.