“We're whores, and we love to fornicate!” John Lehr shouts, once again. He's yelled some version of that same phrase about half a dozen times in the last hour or so. Lehr is dressed in drag, as are his fellow cast mates in Quick Draw, a comedic Spaghetti Western series for Hulu premiering today. In a scene they're filming on a cloudy March day in Malibu, the characters are in disguise, engaging in a Trojan Horse-like attempt to infiltrate their enemy's camp.
“We call her bucket,” one faux prostitute says of another. In the next take it's “commode,” in another, “mop” — all wacky innuendo for sexual orifices.
Quick Draw is the lovechild of Lehr and director Nancy Hower, who met long ago in the L.A. club scene back when Hower fronted the alternative rock band Wench. “We used to party a lot,” Lehr says, smiling widely. Now, they write and produce together, most recently on TBS' 10 Items Or Less.
But the process for writing Quick Draw, for which they're both executive producers, runs a bit differently than their scripted series. Since it's improv, they keep the dialogue loose, opting instead for a system in which the plot points are “beated out.” (The actors have to hit those points, then move on.) Lehr runs the “front of the house,” in a sense, managing the actors as they ad lib the scenes, and Hower runs production. Together, they guide the actors through each scene, building the story.
The result is what Hower calls essentially CSI: Dodge City: Lehr plays Sheriff John Henry Hoyle, who leaves Harvard to fight crime in a small Kansas town circa 1875. Says Hower, “We thought it would be fun to be watch somebody put together how one solves a crime when you don't have the elements that we have today. [In Quick Draw w]e don't have DNA. We don't have fingerprints. You're constantly going by these antiquated systems like phrenology, which basically meant saying, 'OK, we're going to take a look at the shape of someone's head and decide if they're a criminal or not.'”
Such ridiculous methodology naturally leads to hijinks, but that doesn't mean the circumstances aren't rooted in research. Hower and Lehr did their homework on crimes of the day, and how they were solved. Without giving too much away, Hower reveals that cracking a case eventually involves a steam-powered vibrator, which were actually used at the time. “I'm sure when you watch the show and see a steam-powered vibrator, you're going to go, 'they made this up.' But we didn't.”
Most importantly, says Hower, the mystery element creates a storyline that keeps viewers coming back. She hopes the audience will come for the comedy, and stay to find out whodunnit.
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