Due mostly to scheduling conflicts, several actors on Netflix's 15-episode Arrested Development reboot were forced to shoot alone in front of a green screen; their parts were then edited into scenes with other characters in post-production, according to two sources close to the production.
It's highly unusual for an ensemble show to shoot characters separately — but then again, there's not much that is usual about this season of Arrested Development. Each episode is centered on a separate character, and the only character that appears in every episode is Jason Bateman's Michael Bluth.
Rivals Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) and Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli) share the screen in at least one scene in the new season, but the characters, who are shown interacting in a restaurant, were not in the same room together, according to one source.
For that scene, the source described Hurwitz reading, off camera, Walter's parts while Minnelli filmed her lines. The footage was later combined with footage Walter filmed alone. The result, says this source, is a mixed bag.
"It does look kind of like the Austin Powers stuff — you can tell that it was green screened," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A second source told BuzzFeed that Henry Winkler, who plays the Bluth family lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn, was green-screened into the majority of his scenes. But, the same source added, "I've gotten to see a couple episodes and I didn't notice any problems. It wasn't the most extensive scenes, but everything I've seen, the post-production team did a great job with, so I wouldn't say I'm worried — I'd say I'm curious."
The effect of the green screen visually was less jarring than its effect on the rapport between actors, according to the first source.
"I think the reason most people like the [original] show is because it's off-the-cuff and improvised. You can really see that the actors and extras really, really like working with each other," this source said. "For a different show it wouldn't be such a big deal, but because of the nature of the comedy, and the writing, and the direction, [green screening] is something that I think is not a good idea — and I think a lot of fans would agree that they'd rather it not be made if it is not going to be made in the same style."
Earlier this year, Mitch Hurwitz explained that the way the series was set up was necessary because many of the original actors were already committed to other film and television projects by the time shooting began. "The only way we could get everybody together for what we'll call loosely an anthology or a series was to kind of dedicate each episode to a different character's point of view," he explained to the Television Critics Association in January.
Representatives for Netflix, 20th Century Fox, Jason Bateman and Mitch Hurwitz did not respond to requests for comment.