'Arrested Development': Jessica Walter and Jeffrey Tambor dish on the new season

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Image Credit: Sam Urdank/Fox

Mother’s Day was more than a week ago, and Father’s Day is still a few weeks away, but now is the perfect time to recognize two of the most amusing, least attentive parents around: the chilly, vodka-rocked Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), and unscrupulous fallen real-estate titan George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), who was just here a minute ago but seems to have disappeared. The pair — along with those seven other maladjusted family members — return to comedic duty on May 26, as Netflix releases 15 new episodes of Arrested Development, with each installment catching us up to speed on a particular family member.

Check out our behind-the-scenes story of how this beloved comedy came back to life, and scroll down for bonus quotes from Walter and Tambor, who understood the questions and responded to them.

On how optimistic they were that the show would be revived in some form
TAMBOR: “Even when there wasn’t much murmuring going around, I always said that [we would reunite]. And I always believed it…. It seemed to get stronger after we left the air, and people old and young seemed to be able to recite it backward and forward, so, I mean, just do the math. You’d have to be pretty callous for it not to go forward.”

WALTER: “I live in New York so I’m out and about and hustling and bustling. There isn’t a day that goes by that [fans don't say] ‘Hey! Arrested Development! We love that!’ Through the DVDs, people have found the show and are more enthusiastic about it than ever. And I thought: ‘Maybe this is going to happen.’…. [But] I never believe these things till wardrobe calls. Even if your name is on the dotted line. When wardrobe calls, you know it’s a go.”

On the first on-set cast reunion in Lucille’s penthouse
TAMBOR: “Everyone broke into applause when Mitch [Hurwitz, the show's creator] said hello. It was quite moving that that particular ship was coming into harbor. We started rehearsing the scene, and the camera went to each character. I remember looking at Portia [de Rossi], Will [Arnett], and David Cross across from me, and I went ‘My goodness. It’s not five minutes ago and here we are. Not a hiccup. Nothing.’ This is not what I would call a highly sentimental group and we were delighted to be in each other’s company. Everyone roots for each other. It’s a big admiration society. It was something I knew was going to happen but when I saw it, it was just incredible. There was a real pleasure, a real glee on the set.”

WALTER: “It was surreal. We just about fainted. Suddenly seven years has passed, you’re back with the same people that, except for the kids, look the same, sound the same, [have] the same laughs, the same personas…. It was very moving because the show means so much to me. I feel like this show really gave my career a little jump start. And I’ve been lucky, I’ve always been working, but the idea of getting a second chance to do this wonderful character with these wonderful actors — how many people get a chance to have that experience?…. It was just very, very special. Of all my memories of things I’ve done in my career, that was definitely a highlight. I’ll never forget it.”

On the intense shoot, during which scenes were sometimes rewritten or even written on the set
WALTER: “It was very exciting. Sometimes you’d get a scene the night before, and then you were in the makeup trailer — and this happened a lot — and they’d say, ‘You know, this scene has been rewritten…’ And you’d get another scene, after you’d learned the old scene. It keeps you on your toes, you know? I think Portia [de Rossi] said, ‘We’ll either be doing our best work or our worst.’…. Not only did I feel like ‘Wow, here we are,’ like we had never stopped, but also, ‘Here we are, having more fun and being more creative than the old days.’ It was very collaborative. Mitch is very good at letting us contribute.”

On how the vibe of shooting this season felt different than the old ones
WALTER: “We’re all seven years older. We’re all better people, wiser and more experienced as actors. And it made for a much more relaxed atmosphere, as well as not having a studio hanging over your head and having to worry about notes. Every single person there was in a much better place, and no small part of it due to Arrested Development, the original show.”

TAMBOR: “I’m actually more excited about this format, because I think we get to swing a little more. We get to dance a little more. It gives us a little more wiggle room. The easel is different, and I felt that. And also, there’s this little undercurrent that wasn’t there before. We have a fan base that is much bigger now and that elevates you a little bit, in terms of support as you walk onto the set. We’re a little more confident now because we know it works and we know it’s loved.”

On what viewers can expect from Lucille
WALTER: “If there’s a scale of 1-10 for Lucille, she’s a 10, in terms of at her very lowest, worst self…. She reveals and entertains talents she did not know she has!”

On what viewers can expect from George Sr.
TAMBOR: “My character is on an interesting journey of self-discovery, which took him to Mexico and shady, shady places…. He’s got to do some fast moving. Fear index is high. He’s got to be creative. He will be tested in his most Darwinian sense. He’s got a lot of juggling to do.”

On the future of the franchise
TAMBOR: “If there’s anywhere near the ardor that we had for putting this on, I am so confident that there will be a movie… I don’t believe this is 15 and out. No way.”

On how fans will receive these episodes
WALTER: “I pray they’ll like it. I pray…. I think they’re going to be very happy. Very, very happy. Happier than they’ve ever been.”

TAMBOR: “Why am I not worried? I’m not. I’m confident. I felt this way about The Larry Sanders Show, too. When we were about to come out, I went, ‘Everything is going to be just nice.’ Because I was so confident in Garry, and I feel the same way about this. If something is good, it communicates, and I think that’s what they’ve done here. It’s a Herculean effort on everyone’s part.”

On how fans should watch these episodes, which are being released all at once
TAMBOR: “Probably the same advice I would give somebody who is about to do their SATs: Get a lot of rest, eat well and show up on time.”

WALTER: “They should watch four in a row. Take a break. Have a sandwich and soda. Because they’ve already had popcorn while they were watching. And then go back to watching. Four more. I would say eight in a day, and practically in two days they’ll see the whole thing.”

On what the return of Arrested Development represents
TAMBOR: “It’s a rediscovery at the right time. I’m so pleased that the audience is going to be reunited with their family. They deserve their show. We’re giving them their show back… It’s just right. The sun is in the right position, the water in the back. It’s the perfect time.”

WALTER: “It was just a blessing to have the opportunity to work with these people again, on a character that I love, with brilliant writers. It was absolutely an astounding dream come true. A fantasy.… It’s so sad when it’s over. It’s like that Broadway saying: ‘I love you, honey, but the season’s over.’ And the fact that it wasn’t over. And maybe it isn’t over yet. We should do a movie.”

Read more:
‘Arrested Development’: Inside the cult comedy’s comeback
‘Arrested Development’: Creator Mitchell Hurwitz talks new season, movie and… bees
‘Arrested Development’ season 4 trailer: Too hot to handle!
‘Office’ star John Krasinski to appear on ‘Arrested Development’
Ben Stiller to guest on ‘Arrested Development’
‘Arrested Development’: The writers’ room was like a ‘psycho killer’s apartment’
‘Arrested Development’ sneak peek: Buster and Lucille get closer than ever

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