There’s an amazing new show on TV that you have to check out, only it can’t be found on TV. Hulu’s first original scripted series, “Battleground,” from J.D. Walsh, Hagai Shaham (“The Details”), and Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “500 Days of Summer”) has become one of the best new series of the year, regardless that it’s never touched a moment of linear television. After Fox turned down the show, Hulu stepped in and made a huge leap into original content. On the eve of the finale, (which will go live on Hulu at midnight tonight) we spoke with the star of the show Jay Hayden (who plays Tak) about the show’s creation and the obsessed fans he interacts with across the social web.
Hulu’s had an interesting few weeks. Positive news about their 2 million “Plus” subscribers and investment in new content, and not so positive news that they might eventually have to force users to authenticate that they have a cable service has dominated headlines. Content remains king as usual in TV and the half hour mocku-dramedy about a Senate campaign has the perfect mix of love triangles, election tension, quirky Office-type characters and a leading star that is having the time of his life making history with five-year-old Hulu. Hayden plays the campaign manager, Chris “Tak” Davis, who you equally root for and then hate all at the same time.
Lost Remote: How did Battleground become Hulu’s first original scripted show?
Jay Hayden: Last spring I did a pilot and the day it didn’t get picked up I got an email from J.D. Walsh the creator, who I had known a year and a half earlier. I came in and read [for Battleground]. He said If I ever sell this, he’ll call me.
I had a lot of questions, but the script for Battleground was so good. I wanted to go in and talk about it. My manager and agent were more nervous. I went in and talked to J.D. He told me they’re going to put themselves on the map as a network. No one gathers around the TV at 8 o’clock on Wednesdays anymore. Everyone watches TV on their own time,whether its DVR, streaming it to their iPads, or whatever.
Hulu will jump on stage as a legit network and we’re going to be a huge part of that. We’re going to be on the wild wild west frontier of their coming out party. This show is going to be a great show and if you believe in it and we’d like to cast you, he told me. I knew J.D., and wanted to work with Mark Webb. Once I met with Hulu and talked to them about it, I felt like I was working on the ground floor of Facebook. All they wanted to do was support the show. They didn’t want to meddle. [They said] we believe in you as story tellers, go make your show.
When they came out to visit us on set, it wasn’t like a network where you can be fired at any moment. They came out and said the show looks awesome, you are doing great. The show is a dramedy. It’s not your basic half hour comedy. There’s a bit of both. There’s a mix of a lot of different things. It let us try new things on set and improv things.
LR: How has social media played a role in getting the show attention? How are you using it?
Hayden: The audience is definitely the people of social networking – that watch their shows on their phones, iPads, computers, laptops. It’s really cool, when they tweet or Facebook me or send me messages. Its not like hey we watched your show. It’s, I needed to contact you and tell you something, I love this show. That’s the kind of audience we want. [They tell me things like] I go to Hulu as soon as its on at midnight, I watch it, I watch it again, I need it again…
LR: The show’s about an election, has timing of the real election paid off?
Hayden: We shot 13 episodes and got back in late December. I cant give enough credit to J.D. and his staff and the editors and sound, design, and Hulu. I think J.D. hasn’t seen the sun since December, since he’s been in the editing bay since then. He’ll ask me what the weather out there is like.The timing is perfect because politics is on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The last episode of season one is this Tuesday. The day of the election. We’ll find out what happens to Senator Samuels. Will come down to last minute. There are a lot of things happening. We have a lot of information that the audience has been waiting for. A lot of great character stuff.
LR: Will there be a second season?
Hayden: [I'm] very cautiously optimistic that we are going to come back with a second season. You never know in terms of the powers that be. We were in NY at the upfronts with Hulu and only heard the nicest things from the execs. I think they’re very excited.
LR: Where did you film? How was this different than shooting for traditional TV?
Hayden: Entirety of season one in Madison, Wisconsin, which by the way is beautiful, until you hit November, then it’s cold.
[We filmed] 13 episodes in two months, the work schedule was crazy. J.D. and I had a running joke that we were in acting camp. Literally when we finished a scene, we moved onto the next scene [instantly]. I watch the show and don’t even remember shooting those scenes. We would average, 10-11 pages per day – you’re accomplishing a ton. I just guest starred on The Glades. Their average, we would shoot 6 or 7 [pages], which was a lot.
J.D. was like we need to get done before the holidays and before the snow hits the ground. That exhaustion that you would die to do it again. I talk to all my cast mates, we remember going back home studying our scripts having a glass of wine. We all can’t wait to go back.
LR: What were you doing before Battleground?
Hayden: I did a pilot for Spike. I wasn’t allowed to do anything until we got picked up or not. They made a business decision and decided they were not going to do scripted, instead reality. The next day I went in for Battleground.
LR: What kind of things to fans tweet at you? What are the funniest?
Hayden: We know when people watch the show if we can get eyeballs on the show we have them as the audience. They say I sat down to watch two episodes, I ended up watching 11. I get, hey – I love Battleground and can I just say one thing, I say what, did Cole kill you? Cole killed you? The number thing, did Cole kill me?
Females are always asking, why are you so bad to your wife. Most of the time they tweet to me. Why is Tak such a bad husband, why aren’t you better to your woman.
LR: Does your real wife watch the show?
Hayden: My wife has trouble watching the show. She says, every time I watch an episode, I cant help but turn it off and not like you that night. I can tell you, she doesn’t watch the show on date night. She loves the show, is super supportive.
I couldn’t have more fun playing Tak.
- Adidas sees huge spike in social TV activity from commercial
- An inside look at Epitome Pictures' social TV strategy for 'Degrassi'
- How CNN and SnappyTV created social TV producers for the debates
- Social activity from BET's 'Hip Hop Awards' [infographic]